So, my thoughts on this big Trump intel report leaked by BuzzFeed:
The bit about Alpha is understandable as anyone would anglicize the name that way. Barvikha *does* have dachas set aside for top officials, even if cooks and maids live there, too, as well as oligarchs.
But there are way more important oddities in this report:
o Claim that Rossotrudnichestvo, a state agency to cultivate emigres and foreigners abroad, is some kind of "parastate" agency or "cover" -- it *is* a state agency, like the Soviet Friendship Committee. So it's not very secret and wouldn't be use for a covert meeting although it's used to find agents of influence. Also, Cohen denies he was in Prague, and it's a long way to drive from Italy. Czech Republic could be asked to confirm or deny.
o Carter Page denied he met Rossneft CEO Igor Sechin (and why would someone as important as Sechin meet with a lowly maybe-advisor to Trump?). But what's odd about the claims for that meeting are that Sechin would have offered Page/Trump the 19% of shares in Rosneft that eventually went to Qatar and Glencore. It just doesn't make sense that Sechin would offer these shares to an American real estate mogul without cash for investment (it was expensive) not even in the oil business. RBC was sued by Sechin for reporting that the government warned BP, which already owns shares in Rosneft off this deal, and it was frequently rumored to be shopped to "Asians" or proxies for Rosneft/Russia itself. It just doesn't seem plausible that it could ever have been offered to Americans in any form, especially these Americans. And to get Trump onside, they wouldn't need to force him to spend money he didn't have on an oil company in Russia where he would stick out like a sore thumb.
o Most weird of all to me is the notion that presidential administration spokesman Dmitry Peskov was handed this very sensitive dossier on Trump kompromat [compromising material] to manage, and then overdid it. It makes no sense to have the PR voice of the presidential administration handling a dossier that he himself didn't publicize (unless as part of his office's job telling state media what to write and not write) and wouldn't have compiled as part of his job description in the first place. Intelligence would have done that. It's plausible that Ivanov, in the PA, as a trusted KGB crony of Putin's might have had this job "outside the usual channels," but the claim is that he was "backed by the SVR" then (not the FSB, which would have had to gather the kompromat inside Russia) and that this dossier went "from the MFA to Ivanov/SVR to Peskov". All just very weird. Intelligence just doesn't work that way. Then the claim is that Ivanov was removed from his job over this blowback. Well, interesting because it *was* sudden and nobody knows why, but really? Very bizarre. Perhaps that's the reason it is authentic -- but equally could be the reason it's fake, because the authors don't realize how the Kremlin works.
Perhaps this is a very garbled version of a story that does involve Ivanov as handling the Trump dossier. Even after he was fired, Ivanov was sent out to do spin control on the "Russia wants Trump as president" story, walking it back. That was both evidence that Ivanov was still very much in favour in the Kremlin and that the Kremlin needed to dial the story back. But the wild bungling and overplaying of hands that needed only a slight nudge to be effective -- the main message of this report -- don't add up as a Russian M.O.
o The part that has the most attention is the least substantiated, someone as important as Trump orders prostitutes who do golden showers in the presidential suite, and they all disappear and are silent after bribes? Really? Seems bizarre and meant as a red herring. Trump is very careful to surround himself with aides and lawyers that keep scandal away. We're to believe that he'd be indiscreet enough in Russia to hire prostitutes?
o The most important aspect of this report is not whether it is true or flawed but the use to which it has been put -- notably by the US intelligence community in confronting Trump and trying to get him to believe he could be compromised by the Russians. Obviously, it's easier for the IC to use a thing like this than its own real reports.
Or it could be a Russian disinformation operation of its own, as now total chaos has broken out in the media, with calls for the FBI to investigate Michael Cohen, and him saying he was in Italy, and at his son's baseball games in the US not in Prague.
o The point is, this agents' network of a figure close to British intelligence exists. That means it is available to UK intelligence which cooperates with US intelligence. The US may have its own sources or the same sources.
o The sources have very high access and that seems surprising, then, that they end up in a report that is shopped around widely like this. Because with some digging, any of them could be exposed. Who is that Russian emigre in the Trump camp? Is that Felix Satter or somebody else?
o All in all, this report "can't be unread," as a colleague put it. It will remain indelibly part of the landscape. I wonder what Russian pundits think of this theory of Ivanov and Peskov, would love to hear their assessment.