Halfway into the Steele dossier, an ominous sounding memo appears. It’s found on page 13, and dated 5 August 2016. The heading is “Russia/USA: Growing Backlash in Kremlin to DNC Hacking and Trump Support Operations.” The content follows the title with one exception: mention of Turkey, an ally of the U.S., headed up by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The failed coup of Turkey and the subsequent arrests and purges by its president, do not figure into the speculation about Mike Flynn, the Mueller investigation or the “Trump Support Operations.” It’s not a red flag waving brightly.
Yet, that unsuccessful seizure of power might very well be the key to a series of interconnected crimes linking the Trump campaign and the Russian government. It could be the missing link between Mike Flynn, who awaits sentencing after a year of cooperation with the Special Counsel, and Dmitry Peskov, one of the Kremlin officials closest to Putin. And, nuclear power plants.
Let’s look at the memo passage. It is a snippet that includes two highly placed Kremlin players: Dimitry Peskov and Sergei Ivanov. Peskov is Putin’s press secretary and has served him for two decades. When Peskov speaks, it is the voice of Putin.
Ivanov was Putin’s chief of staff. He was effectively fired from that position with a demotion in September 2016, a power realignment that gave Peskov precedence in Putin’s circle of familiars. His fall from grace came a month after the Steele memo referenced here.
A look at the Steele passage focuses that shift in sharp relief:
Ivanov was angry at Peskov for his interference in America’s presidential campaign. He had gone too far. A few sentences later, a “source close to Ivanov” was talking of pulling Trump out of the presidential campaign, citing the media backlash in the U.S. Pondering that action is the closest evidence that the Kremlin’s authority over Trump was absolute. It had the power to pull him out of the presidential campaign.
This is a side issue but nonetheless significant. The Kremlin’s chief of staff lost his power play against the press secretary. That would be akin to John Kelly being shunted to a diplomatic post in Iceland after a showdown with Sarah Sanders.
The point is that Putin invested his capital in Peskov, the guy who engineered the DNC hack and the “wider pro-Trump operation,” and booted his chief of staff Ivanov, according to Steele.
The nexus between the Kremlin and Michael Flynn is at the tail end of the last excerpt:
Peskov’s position was not helped by a botched attempt by him also to interfere in the recent failed coup in Turkey…
Think back to what brought Michael Flynn under Mueller’s probe. It was November 2017 and The Wall Street Journal broke the story:
Mueller Probes Flynn’s Role in Alleged Plan to Deliver Cleric to Turkey
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating former White House national security adviser Mike Flynn’s alleged role in a plan to forcibly remove a Muslim cleric living in the U.S. and deliver him to Turkey in return for millions of dollars, according to people familiar with the investigation.
How do the events connect? How is Peskov’s botched interference in the Turkey coup and Flynn’s foiled scheme to kidnap a U.S. resident related?
What if they are the same thing? What if Peskov and Flynn were working in concert?
NEXT: Part 2 A Short History of Turkey, Russia and Power