When the Orbis dossier, otherwise known as the Christopher Steele dossier (and sometimes known as the Watersportsgate dossier) first made the news, there were many derisive remarks from people who felt obligated to pooh-pooh the pee-pee allegations.
Now, however, a growing number observers take the dossier seriously. Why? Because CIA and MI6 took it seriously -- and because we learned that the man who put it all together was former British spy Christopher Steele, a highly respected figure within his field.
Yesterday, the Telegraph published a bombshell report
which identified one of Steele's sources as high-ranking FSB officer Oleg Erovinkin.
Oleg Erovinkin, a former general in the KGB and its successor the FSB, was found dead in the back of his car in Moscow on Boxing Day in mysterious circumstances.
Erovinkin was a key aide to Igor Sechin, a former deputy prime minister and now head of Rosneft, the state-owned oil company, who is repeatedly named in the dossier.
At first, we were told that the Erovinkin death was a suicide -- or perhaps a heart attack. But now the theory of murder seems more likely.
The primary source for the Telegraph story is an unusual fellow named Christo Grozev, identified as an expert on Russian security matters. If you'd like to know more about him, go here
Christo Grozev for many years supervised the radio operations of a public US company in CEE and Russia. Currently owns and operates national radio stations in the Netherlands and Ukraine. Christo is a senior researcher at Risk Management Lab, a think-tank with a focus on security threats at New Bulgarian University (Sofia). In his work he focuses on Russia-related security threats and weaponization of information.
In his photo, he looks like he's saying "The name's Grozev. Christo
Grozev." Not many hours ago, he issued a tweet which gently chided the Telegraph's treatment of his material:
I appreciate Telegraph's coverage of my Erovinkin story, but note I presented a hypothesis; while paper's angle is somewhat sensationalist.
I appreciate any writer who understands the need to keep speculation separate from the provable. That said, Grozev's lengthy investigation into the Erovinkin affair (so far, he has published only the first of two parts) is pretty damned persuasive
Like everyone else, Grozev was initially suspicious of THAT dossier, though he eventually became persuaded that Steele was onto something. At first, he had a difficult time believing that Steele had acquired sources "with such broad scope of access to Kremlin insiders – including to head of Rosneft and former PM Igor Sechin, presidential adviser Sergei Ivanov, Foreign Ministry officials, and even to Putin himself."
Many problems becomes resolved once we stipulate that Steele somehow acquired the trust of Oleg Erovinkin. From the dossier:
Speaking to a trusted compatriot in mid October 2015, a close associate of Rosneft President and PUTIN ally Igor SECHIN elaborated on the reported secret meeting between the latter and Carter PAGE, of US Republican presidential candidate's foreign policy team, in Moscow in July 2016.
Erovinkin fits the bill perfectly. I'm not sure that anyone else does.
You should re-read this section of the report, because the recently-deceased Erovkin appears to be the man behind an absolutely explosive accusation:
In terms of the substance of their discussion, SECHIN's associate said that the Rosneft President was so keen to lift personal and corporate western sanctions imposed on the company, that he offered PAGE/TRUMP's associates the brokerage of up to a 19 per cent (privatised) stake in Rosneft in return. PAGE had expressed interest and confirmed that were TRUMP elected US president, then sanctions on Russia would be lifted.
(Emphasis added.) Forget the pee-pee claim, folks; by this point, that's all water under the bridge. So to speak. If the Orbis dossier is right -- and I now consider it a credible piece of work -- Trump's Big Payday constitutes the real
The current debate over the emoluments clause of the Constitution all comes down to this.
If Trump took a massive pay-off to give Russia what it wants, we have an impeachable offense. No question about it. Kellyanne won't be able to spin this
. Even the most obdurate Trump fan will be forced to admit that Agent Orange must be removed.
As things stand, Erovinkin
was removed. With Steele's source out of the way, it may become difficult to establish with 100 percent certainty that a quid-pro-quo was ever offered to Trump.
Grozev subtly suggests that Erovinkin may not have been the only victim of the Steele dossier:
At 14:23 Moscow time, one of Russia’s most subservient news outlet with a first-at-the crime-scene reputation – Life.ru, ran the sensationalist headline: “Sechin’s Chief of Staff Killed in Downtown Moscow”. I caught a glimpse of this headline in real-time, as I have a browser alert for breaking news from Life.ru. I remember being particularly startled by the headline, as only a week earlier, a Russian mid-level diplomat had been found shot in the head, with two bullets, in his Moscow apartment. The working hypothesis of the investigation was reported to be “accidental homicide or suicide”. Did I mention the two bullets?
Actually, it's not unheard-of for suicide victims to shoot themselves in the head more than once. If the first shot is not fatal -- as has been known to happen -- there is only one way to end the pain.
Here is the Russian-language news story
on the diplomat's death. I have not run it though Google Translate yet.
If you still doubt that Erovinkin was Steele's source, consider:
Steele’s source for the alleged Carter Page/Sechin convo must have fulfilled three mandatory criteria:
s/he must have been credible enough TO STEELE for him to risk including this bombshell – knowing it would result in heavy doses of skepticism, potentially detrimental to his reputation.
s/he must have been trusted enough by Sechin to be able receive access to this uniquely sensitive information.
assuming a “strictly-need-to-know” principle, such information must have inevitable had to be shared with him/her, due to his/her function.
It seems safe to conclude that Erovinkin fulfills, probably uniquely, all three conditions. His career heritage alone (as Chief of Kremlin’s innermost secrets between 1994 and 2008) makes him a source of unparalleled reliability – if you can get him. That takes care of (1). (2) is self-evident.
In relation to (3) – the alleged, highly sophisticated equity-for-no-sanctions scheme, would require sophisticated planning, structuring and implementation in utmost secrecy. It would be unthinkable that Sechin might do any of this without the aid of his most trusted treasurer.
Thus, IF Steele’s direct source was truthful, it is extremely highly likely that the ultimate source had been Erovinkin.
The more I think about it, the more inescapable the conclusion seems: A top FSB man was murdered because he knew too much. Putin plans to keep Trump right where Russia wants him.
I suggest that we all keep an eye on Grozev's column.