U.S. spies paid $100,000 to shady Russian who promised them stolen cyberweapons and dirt on Trump

I’m amazed this story is being dumped online Friday night. The New York Times is reporting that last September American spies agreed to pay $1 million to a shady individual who promised dirt connecting President Trump to Russia and also stolen NSA cyberweapons:

After months of secret negotiations, a shadowy Russian bilked American spies out of $100,000 last year, promising to deliver stolen National Security Agency cyberweapons in a deal that he insisted would also include compromising material on President Trump, according to American and European intelligence officials.

The cash, delivered in a suitcase to a Berlin hotel room in September, was intended as the first installment of a $1 million payout, according to American officials, the Russian and communications reviewed by The New York Times. The theft of the secret hacking tools had been devastating to the N.S.A., and the agency was struggling to get a full inventory of what was missing.

Several American intelligence officials said they made clear that they did not want the Trump material from the Russian — who was suspected of having murky ties to Russian intelligence and to Eastern European cybercriminals. He claimed the information would link the president and his associates to Russia. But instead of providing the hacking tools, the Russian produced unverified and possibly fabricated information involving Mr. Trump and others, including bank records, emails and purported Russian intelligence data…

The Russian claimed to have access to a staggering collection of secrets that included everything from the computer code for the cyberweapons stolen from the N.S.A. and C.I.A. to what he said was a video of Mr. Trump consorting with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room in 2013, according to American and European officials and the Russian, who agreed to be interviewed in Germany on the condition of anonymity. There remains no evidence that such a video exists.

The CIA was shown a 15-second clip of a man talking to two women in a hotel. The Russian claimed the man was Trump but that couldn’t be confirmed and there was no audio to identify a voice. At some point, the CIA ended the deal after the Russian failed to deliver any cyberweapons. The CIA was also concerned about the optics of buying dubious dirt on the president.

The Russians are also particularly eager to cast doubt on the federal and congressional investigations into the Russian meddling, American intelligence officials said.

Part of that effort, the officials said, appears to be trying to spread information that hews closely to unsubstantiated reports about Mr. Trump’s dealings in Russia, including the purported video, whose existence Mr. Trump has repeatedly dismissed.

Rumors that Russian intelligence possesses the video surfaced more than a year ago in an explosive and unverified dossier compiled by a former British spy, and paid for by Democrats. Since then, at least four Russians with espionage and underworld connections have appeared in Central and Eastern Europe, offering to sell kompromat that would corroborate the dossier to American political operatives, private investigators and spies, American and European intelligence officials said.

American officials suspect that at least some of the sellers are working for Russia’s spy services.

The Times seems eager to conclude this is an attempt to undermine investigations into Russian meddling but isn’t it also a response to the collusion-mania around the Trump administration? Democrats have spent a year suggesting the truth about collusion was just around the corner and here come a bunch of shady Russians offering to sell them all the proof they need.

Also, not to jump to conclusions here, but if these shady figures with connections to Russian spies are offering a video like the one mentioned in the dossier, doesn’t that suggest the one mentioned in the dossier might also be the work of shady people connected to Russian spies? I suppose one possibility is that the video is completely real and Russia is just trying to help us out by offering it. The other possibility, which seems quite plausible, is that this has all been an attempt to create chaos in the American political system. For a time that effort was aimed at damaging Hillary Clinton. Now it seems to be aimed at damaging President Trump.

Finally, last September the Times published a detailed story saying a group called the Shadow Brokers had begun posting stolen NSA cyberweapons online. It was unclear at the time if someone had hacked into the NSA or if a mole had simply walked out with the information. Either way, why would the NSA think that one Russian could hand over the weapons that had been stolen/hacked when they knew some of the material had already been used/posted online? Wouldn’t they assume the digital materials had already been copied and spread to others? In the end, what they got were materials the Shadow Brokers had already released online. It sounds like they got taken.