‘The Obama administration was attempting to disseminate that material widely across the government in order to aid in future investigations’ – The Baltimore Sun
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today released 42 pages of heavily redacted State Department documents containing classified information that was provided to Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and outspoken critic of President Donald Trump. The documents show Russian political interference in elections and politics in countries across Europe.
According to a March 2017 report in the Baltimore Sun: “Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin received classified information about Russia’s involvement in elections when the Obama administration was attempting to disseminate that material widely across the government in order to aid in future investigations, according to a report Wednesday … Obama officials were concerned, according to the report [in The New York Times, below], that the Trump administration would cover up intelligence once power changed hands.”
In March 2017, former Obama Deputy Asst. Secretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas admitted that there was surveillance of President’s Trump’s campaign and leaking of intelligence information. She encouraged people in the administration and on the Hill to “get as much intelligence as you can before President Obama leaves … I became very worried because not enough was coming out into the open and I knew that there was more … That’s why you have the leaking.”
In a section of the documents provided to Cardin titled “Political Parties” and marked as sensitive, Russia reportedly sought to foster relationships with groups in Germany, Austria, and France, to include paying members to travel to conferences in Crimea and Donbas “where they stoutly defend Russian policy.”
The following section titled “Pro-Kremlin NGOs and Think Tanks,” also marked as sensitive, discusses the Russian government funded Caucasus Research Network, which helped to spread anti-EU and NATO reports throughout the region. Also discussed is the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative, which was founded by Natalia Veselnitskaya. The Initiative was reportedly “working to erode support for the Magnitsky Act (which imposes sanctions on … gross human rights violations). The organization screened an anti-Magnitsky film at Washington’s Newseum in June.”
The Magnitsky Act attracted public attention earlier this year when it was reported Veselnitskaya obtained a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. with the purpose of seeking to undermine the act. It was reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to repeal the act at least in part because it targeted top Russian officials who had committed human rights violations and were the beneficiaries of a $230-million tax fraud that Magnitsky exposed.
“These documents show the Obama State Department under John Kerry gathered and sent its own dossier of classified information on Russia to Senator Ben Cardin, a political ally in the U.S. Senate, to undermine President Trump,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Judicial Watch will pursue information on who pulled this classified information, who authorized its release, and why was it evidently dumped just days before President Trump’s inauguration.”
Judicial Watch obtained the documents in response to a May 9, 2017, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch vs U.S. Department of State (No. 1:17-cv-00852)). The suit was filed after the State Department failed to respond to a March 2, 2017, FOIA request seeking:
- All records provided by any official, employee, or representative of the Department of State to Senator Ben Cardin, any member of his staff, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and/or any Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff member regarding, concerning, or related to efforts by the Russian Government to affect, manipulate, or influence any election in the United States or any foreign country from November 8, 2016 to present.
The New York Times on March 1, 2017, reported:
There also was an effort to pass reports and other sensitive material to Congress. In one instance, the State Department sent a cache of documents marked “secret” to Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland days before the Jan. 20 inauguration. The documents, detailing Russian efforts to intervene in elections worldwide, were sent in response to a request from Mr. Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, and were shared with Republicans on the panel.
According to the documents, Russia’s actions in the nation of Montenegro were intended to disrupt the October 2016 nationwide elections:
On election day, countless citizens, including Embassy staff, received spam text messages from several countries, including Great Britain and China. The text messages alleged that the DPS [Democratic Party of Socialists, the ruling party in Montenegro] was conducting fraudulent activities on the polling day, such as paying for votes. … At the same time, many portals experienced massive cyber denial of service attacks, including CdM.me, a main news portal, CDT, a key CSO monitoring the elections, and the DPS website itself. … Hacker made multiple attempts to enter the administrative part of CdM’s website, disabling infrastructure, and bringing down servers …
The documents also reveal that Russia aggressively used the media to influence public opinion in the Czech Republic:
We have seen a significant increase in the number of on-line media servers that tout an alternative take on local and international developments than the mainstream media. In the Czech Republic these online media servers are almost exclusively run by Czechs who can often be described as pro-Russian. And while many informed Czech observers believe the influence of Russian disinformation is overstated, they also contend that Russia actively seeks exacerbate fissures within Czech society tapping into dissatisfaction within some segments of Czech society over the socioeconomic return of the EU experiment.
The documents note that some countries resist Russian interference.
Estonia has adopted a “zero tolerance” approach to illegal activities by Russian intelligence operatives.… Every year Kapo, the Estonian domestic intelligence service, puts out a public review of major cases, publicly naming organizations and individuals that are suspected of working with the Russians.