President Donald Trump and his longtime confidante Roger Stone should not be able to claim that they were unaware of Russia's help in the 2016 election, a former CIA agent said this week.
In a column published by the Center for Public Integrity on Monday, a former CIA officer going by the pen name "Alex Finley" explained why both men cannot play dumb when it comes to Russian interference in the U.S. election.
"Trump’s disregard for rules and his quest for victories at all costs, especially those that fed his ego, are exactly the characteristics that a foreign intelligence service would find vulnerable to seduction and manipulation," Finley wrote. "It’s naïve to think Russian intelligence services didn’t do this kind of assessment on Trump, a prominent businessman who had long expressed an interest in getting into politics — and it’s naïve to think Russia didn’t know exactly how to maneuver him to its advantage."
"Proving Stone knew he was working with Russian intelligence might be impossible, because the intelligence operation was designed to make it impossible," Finley continued. "However, Team Trump did know that at least some of the help was coming from Russia."
According to Finley, Trump and his team "had good reason" to know that Russia was attempting to help the campaign.
Did Trump, who was in some ways a foreign affairs neophyte but had experience with international deal-making, know what he was getting into? It turns out that he and his team had good reason to be on the lookout for efforts at manipulation. They had received a counterintelligence briefing from the FBI in July 2016, which would have included warnings about Russian contacts.
Having had a counterintelligence briefing myself, I know Trump’s team would have been warned to be wary of any foreign approaches — particularly from traditionally adversarial countries like Russia — and to alert the FBI of any contacts. As we now know, the FBI had opened its counterintelligence investigation into Russian attempts to influence the election that same month.
"Instead of alerting the FBI, however, Team Trump consistently chose to hide its contacts, a set of decisions that has drawn repeated censure in Mueller’s probe," Finley noted. "There is such a cloud now over Trump’s connections to Russia, due to the lying as much as the actions themselves, that the American people wonder if Trump is acting in their interest or has been manipulated into following an agenda that serves others."
Read the entire column here.