A former CIA officer says Trump's inner circle would have been easy targets for Russian intelligence -- even if it's still an open question whether they took the bait.
The former U.S. intelligence agent and author -- who writes under the pen name Alex Finley -- published an explanation of how spies identify and manipulate their often unwitting targets in an article for Politico Magazine.
"Generally, an intelligence officer looks for a person’s vulnerabilities and explores ways to exploit them" Finley wrote. "It usually comes down to four things ... the CIA has encompassed in an acronym, MICE: Money, Ideology, Coercion, Ego. Want to get someone to betray his country? Figure out which of these four motivators drives the person and exploit the hell out of it."
Finley said Russian security services would have been "derelict" if they didn't at least examine the possibility of turning someone close to Trump -- and he said the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Trump's son, son-in-law and campaign chairman and agents of the Russian government was clear evidence of those efforts.
The former CIA officer listed all the ways the president's and his associates could have been vulnerable to Russian spies.
Donald Trump: Ego
"Trump’s ego wanted to win and, he figured, everyone else wanted him to win, too," Finley wrote. "He was under the impression that everyone loved him and appreciated his greatness. Of course everyone wanted to help him win. If he accepted help from Russia, it’s possible he didn’t realize there was anything wrong with doing so."
Donald Trump Jr.: Money, Ego
"The most important thing for Junior was that daddy win, at any cost," Finley wrote. "The perks and business deals would be a nice bonus, but I don’t think Junior even equated those perks with aid to his father’s campaign. Why wouldn’t he accept help for his father’s campaign?"
Jared Kushner: Money, Coercion
"Kushner had a rocky entrée into Manhattan real estate," Finley wrote, pointing to his albatross $1.8 billion investment a high-rise tower at 666 5th Ave. "With payments due and business going badly, he was in a pickle. Perhaps the Russians had a great way for him to get out of that pickle."
Michael Flynn: Money, Ideology, Ego
"Flynn at this point would have made any foreign intelligence officer salivate," Finley wrote. "The man was vulnerable on several levels. His ego had taken a massive, public blow. He also firmly believed he was right, that he knew better than the president how to save the country from Islamic terrorists."
Paul Manafort: Money
"Anyone who has lobbied on behalf of leaders who range from Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko to the Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos to Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang likely has no set ideology or moral compass and is motivated primarily by making money," Finley wrote. "People like this make very good targets."
Felix Sater: Money, Coercion, Ego
"Trump’s former real estate partner (was) someone who really wanted to be part of the rich Moscow club but who lacked krysha or “roof” — the political protection — to be able to do it," Finley wrote. "He was, in the end, an outsider who really wanted to be an insider. Give this person the chance to say he is wheeling and dealing with Very Important People, and he will bend to your will."