Former high-level officials submit 'unusual' Russia brief in lawsuit against Trump and Roger Stone
- Fourteen former national security, intelligence, and foreign policy officials recently co-wrote an amicus brief as part of a lawsuit brought against President Donald Trump and Roger Stone, his longtime adviser.
- Former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former NSA Director Michael Hayden were among the signatories.
- The brief explained how the Kremlin uses local actors to help amplify the scope and impact of its influence operations, such as the one it carried out on the US election in 2016.
Fourteen former national security, intelligence, and foreign policy officials who have served at senior levels in Republican and Democratic administrations recently co-wrote an amicus brief as part of a lawsuit brought against President Donald Trump's campaign and Roger Stone, Trump's longtime confidant.
The lawsuit was filed in July by three private citizens whose personal information was stolen in hacks of the Democratic National Committee and published by WikiLeaks. The plaintiffs have argued that the Trump campaign, Stone, "and those they conspired with arranged for the hacked information to be provided to WikiLeaks."
The Trump campaign and Stone have filed motions to dismiss the complaint. The plaintiffs responded to those motions on December 1. They laid out, among other things, a "motive to collaborate" between the campaign and Russia and points of contact during the election.
Former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former NSA Director Michael Hayden and 11 other former officials filed the amicus brief on December 8. Among the other officials were former Deputy National Security Adviser Avril Haines, former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, and former acting CIA Director Michael Morrell.
The brief was submitted in support of neither party, and the former officials emphasized in the document that they could not disclose classified information. But their message was clear: The Kremlin uses local actors to help amplify the scope and impact of its influence operations, such as the one it carried out on the US election in 2016.
The cut-outs can range from "the unwitting accomplice who is manipulated to act in what he believes is his best interest, to the ideological or economic ally who broadly shares Russian interests, to the knowing agent of influence who is recruited or coerced to directly advance Russian operations and objectives," the former officials wrote.
Cut-outs can be anyone, they explained, from journalists and academics to "prominent pro-Russian businessmen."
These local actors help the Kremlin further its foreign influence operations and "active measures" campaigns, they wrote. Those operations often involve the spread of disinformation and conspiracy theories and cyberattacks — all in an attempt to "undermine confidence in democratic leaders and institutions" and "discredit candidates for office perceived as hostile to the Kremlin."
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This type of brief is 'certainly unusual'
It is "certainly unusual" for a group of such high-profile former officials to write and submit a brief to a district court, said former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.
But it is a way for the former officials to "draw attention" to a particular issue that they believe is important for the public to understand, Mariotti said, even if the point they make "doesn’t really move us far down the road to establishing a conspiracy."
Michael Carpenter, who served as former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia and helped write the brief, said the goal was "to inform the court, and by extension the American public, about the subversive character of Russian 'active measures' campaigns."
"One of the key points we make," Carpenter said on Thursday, "is that active measures campaigns are almost always carried out using local actors, who enable Kremlin agents to get closer to their target and gather information on how best to achieve their desired goal (for example, establishing a corrupt relationship that can be later exploited for purposes of blackmail or manipulation)."
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a top Trump campaign surrogate, pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to FBI agents about the nature of his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak last December. A young campaign foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty in October to a similar charge.
Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Manafort's longtime associate Rick Gates, meanwhile, were indicted in October on charges that included money laundering, tax fraud, and failure to register as a foreign agent.
Much of Manafort and Gates' money, the government contended in court filings, came from Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs.
Read the full brief below:
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