So far in this series of pieces, I have attempted to demonstrate why I believe the official story of the poisoning of the Skripals doesn’t add up (Part 1). I have then pointed to some of the most significant pieces of the jigsaw, which have either been largely ignored or quietly forgotten (Part 2). And I then went on in Part 3 to show what I believe to be perhaps the key to the whole case; that Mr Skripal became agitated in Zizzis restaurant, not because he was physically unwell and suffering from the effects of poisoning hours earlier, but rather because he had an appointment to keep.
But before coming on to propose a theory of what may have happened, I need to first present a theory of why it might have happened. I emphasise the word theory, because that is all it is — neither more nor less. And of course, it could be well wide of the mark. Make of it what you will!
In a recent blog, Craig Murray, the former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, linked to a very interesting piece by Paul Gregory that appeared in Forbes in January 2017. Mr Gregory is Professor of Economics at Houston University, and research fellow at both the Hoover Institution and the German Institute for Economic Research, and he also has extensive knowledge about Russia and the Soviet Union. Here’s what he had to say about the so-called Trump Dossier, just a few days after it was published by Buzzfeed:
“As someone who has worked for more than a decade with the microfilm collection of Soviet documents in the Hoover Institution Archives, I can say that the dossier itself was compiled by a Russian, whose command of English is far from perfect and who follows the KGB (now FSB) practice of writing intelligence reports, in particular the practice of capitalizing all names for easy reference. It was written, in my opinion, not by an ex-British intelligence officer but by a Russian trained in the KGB tradition [my emphasis].”
Now, we know that there is a link between the apparent author of the Trump Dossier, Christopher Steele and Mr Skripal’s MI6 recruiter and handler, Pablo Miller. And we know that Miller and Skripal met regularly. Not only this, but we also know that there is a direct link between Steele and Skripaldating back to the late 1990s, early 2000s. There is, then, a clear link between the man credited (if that be the right word) with writing the Dossier, and a certain ex-Russian intelligence officer, who would have been trained in the KGB tradition (he was actually in the GRU), living in Salisbury. In fact, the Daily Telegraph helpfully pointed out this connection a day before the Government slapped a D-notice on reporting on the issue.
But is there another clue? I think there is. By itself, it would mean nothing, but it is an interesting possibility in connection with what I have just stated.
According to the Czech magazine, Respekt, Mr Skripal had links with Czech Intelligence. This included a meeting in Prague back in 2012, but there were also subsequent meetings where Czech Intelligence officers came to meet with him in Britain. We are not told when or where this took place, suffice it to say that there was an ongoing connection.
If we then turn to the Trump Dossier itself, we find this in the sections dated August and October 2016:
“Kremlin insider reports TRUMP lawyer COHEN’s secret meeting/s with Kremlin officials in August 2016 was/were held in Prague.
We reported previously (2016/135 and /136) on secret meeting/s held in Prague, Czech Republic in August 2016 between then Republican presidential candidate Donald TRUMP’s representative, Michael COHEN and his interlocutors from the Kremlin working under cover of Russian NGO Rossotrudnichestvo…
Speaking to a compatriot and friend on 19 October 2016, a Kremlin insider provided further details of reported clandestine meeting/s between Republican presidential candidate, Donald TRUMP’s lawyer Michael COHEN and Kremlin representatives in August 2016. Although the communication between them had to be cryptic for security reasons, the Kremlin insider clearly indicated to his/ her friend that the reported contact/s took place in Prague, Czech Republic.”
Mr Cohen has of course vehemently denied this claim, saying that he has never been to Prague. Whether he has or hasn’t is not for me to say, but it is in any case irrelevant to the point I am making. That point is this: Sergei Skripal had what looks like extensive connections with Czech Intelligence, and claims – whether true or false –, which presumably came from Czech sources, are found in the Trump Dossier.
Putting these three things together – the Steele/Miller/Skripal connection; the Czech claims in the Dossier; and the emphatic claim made by Paul Gregory that the Dossier itself was compiled by a Russian “trained in the KGB tradition” – then you can begin to see where this might be pointing.
Now, you’d think from the way the BBC and others have reported on Mr Skripal that he was just some old chap enjoying his retirement in the quiet city of Salisbury, where he was in the habit of frequenting local restaurants and pottering about in his garden. Yet his continued work for British Intelligence, which saw him travelling to the Czech Republic and Estonia in 2016 to meet with intelligence officers, paints a somewhat different picture. Also, remember this is a man who once sold out hundreds of his fellow countrymen in the late 1990s and early 2,000s for filthy lucre. The fact that he continued to work for British Intelligence after being settled in Salisbury suggests not only that there was not what you might call deep repentance, but also presents the possibility that he continued to be lured by the promise of cash.
And so one wonders whether the man who was bought for a price by MI6 back in the 1990s might have still been buyable after he settled in Salisbury. Might Steele, who had been commissioned by Fusion GPS on behalf of the Democrats to put together some dirt on Donald Trump, have asked Skripal to cobble something together? Might Skripal have used his contacts in places like the Czech Republic and Estonia to give it some semblance of credibility? Might Skripal have been swayed by the promise of more money to put together a Dossier full of salacious and unverifiable gossip?
And be in no doubt, the Trump Dossier is a Dodgy Dossier. I write this as someone who thinks that Donald Trump is a walking disaster area, and as someone who has no desire to defend him. Yet the fallaciousness of the Dossier, which has formed the basis of the attempts to smear and possibly impeach him, is clear, as Paul Gregory articulated well in his piece for Forbes:
“The Orbis dossier is fake news … [It] makes as if it knows all the ins-and-outs and comings-and-goings within Putin’s impenetrable Kremlin. It reports information from anonymous ‘trusted compatriots,’ ‘knowledgeable sources,’ ‘former intelligence officers,’ and ‘ministry of foreign affairs officials.’ The report gives a fly-on-the-wall account of just about every conceivable event associated with Donald Trump’s Russian connections … There are two possible explanations for the fly-on-the-wall claims of the Orbis report: Either its author (who is not Mr. Steele) decided to write fiction, or collected enough gossip to fill a 30-page report, or a combination of the two .”
Indeed, the whole thing has all the look and feel of having been written by a firm that wanted a payday, but never in their wildest dreams expected the contents of it to become public knowledge. And they never expected it to be revealed because they never expected Mr Trump to win the 2016 election. In the infinitesimally small chance that he did win, I don’t suppose it even occurred to them that it might be taken seriously by US Intelligence.
And so here is the supposition as to the “why” of this case: The Democrat Party paid Fusion GPS to dig up some dirt on Donald Trump. Fusion GPS contracted this out to British Intelligence, who put them on to Orbis Business Intelligence, a private security firm owned by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele. Steele took the money and farmed the project out to Skripal who, because of his knowledge of Russia and his contacts with intelligence agencies in other countries, could make it sound reasonably plausible, at least to those who were paying for it.
But then – and this like that bit in the Lord or The Rings when it says that the Ring came into the possession of the unlikeliest creature – the Dodgy Dossier somehow found its way into the hands of US Intelligence agencies, and instead of seeing it as the obvious fraud that it was, amazingly they took it seriously. So seriously, in fact, that it became what the then Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division, Peter Strzok, described in a text message to his mistress, Lisa Page, as “an insurance policy” – that is, insurance against the unthinkable happening and Donald Trump becoming President.
But of course the unthinkable did happen. Against all expectations, Mr Trump won, and suddenly that same “insurance policy”, full of salacious gossip and unverifiable information, took on a life of its own, with all of the Beltway talking about it, and then with Buzzfeed eventually releasing it into the public domain. And so what was meant to be a product with enough plausibility to satisfy those paying for it, became the foundation for the attempts to bring down a sitting President.
If the above is correct — and let me reiterate once again that it is simply a theory, not necessarily a fact — then Sergei Skripal, not Christopher Steele, was the main author of the Trump Dossier. If that was the case, isn’t it possible that he might have sought a payment to keep quiet about its origins and the nature of its contents? And isn’t it possible that there might have been others who would seek to keep him quiet by other means?
In the final part of this series, I’ll attempt to propose a theory as to what actually happened on the evening of 4th March in Salisbury.