Thursday November 30, 2017

Trump-Russia 'scandal bigger than Watergate,' says author and reporter Luke Harding

Allegations of collusion continue to hang over Donald Trump's presidency.  Luke Harding, author of Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, And How Russia Helped Trump Win, weighs in on Trump's relationship with Russia.

Allegations of collusion continue to hang over Donald Trump's presidency. Luke Harding, author of Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, And How Russia Helped Trump Win, weighs in on Trump's relationship with Russia. (Mikhail Klimentiev/AFP/Getty Images)

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More than a year after the U.S. election, allegations of Russian interference continue to cast a shadow over the Donald Trump White House.

"This scandal is bigger than Watergate," The Guardian reporter Luke Harding told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"This is one group of Americans, basically, allegedly kind of seeking the help of a traditional enemy of the United States to try to discredit and chop the legs of political opponents. This is new territory."

During the election campaign, the Donald-Trump dossier, also known as the Steele dossier, began to circulate in Washington, outlining a conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign.

'It's collusion between Moscow and Donald Trump both during the U.S. presidential election' - Luke Harding

Former British spy Christopher Steele compiled the dossier and "kind of changed history," according to Harding, author of Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, And How Russia Helped Trump Win.

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'I can confidently tell you now that Trump will not, during his presidency, say anything unkind or nasty about Mr. Putin,' said The Guardian's Luke Harding. (Christian Jungeblodt/AFP/Getty Images)

"The last year has gone some way towards vindicating what he writes about which, put simply, is a conspiracy," said Harding.

"It's collusion between Moscow and Donald Trump both during the U.S. presidential election, but also as I write in my book, going back many decades before that."

Donald Trump's relationship with Russia goes way back, according to Harding.

Trump's first wife Ivana — who he married in 1977 —  was a citizen of what was then known as Czechoslovakia, Harding told Tremonti.

Harding said that de-classified documents from old Czechoslovakia spy files indicated that Czech operatives kept a very close eye on the Trumps in Manhattan.

'Very determined' effort to get Trump to Moscow in 1980s

Sources told Harding that, In 1987, there was a "very determined" effort to get Trump to Moscow.

At that time, according to Harding, it was early years of the Cold War, Soviet Union's Mikhail Gorbachev was in power, and Russian intelligence viewed the U.S. as a foe.

The head of the KGB, the Soviet's security agency, was sending orders to Washington and New York to recruit Americans, said Harding.

The kind of people that might make good KGB targets, according to Harding, were narcissistic, corruptible, interested in money, and were not necessarily faithful in their marriages.

"Donald Trump ticks every single box."

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United States President Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Asheville, North Carolina, during his presidential campaign. (Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

After the trip to Moscow, Trump took out ads criticizing then U.S. President Ronald Reagan's foreign policy and expressed his interest in running for president, according to Harding.

The Steele dossier alleged that about five or six years ago, Trump would supply the Russians with business information about oligarchs living in the United States.

Trump's 2016 presidential bid

When it came to the 2016 U.S. election, when did the Russians first know that Trump was running for president?

"I suspect they knew pretty early on," said Harding.

The allegations that Trump was sharing information with the Russians have not been proven, but Harding pointed out that the president has denied contacts with the Russians, and "it turns out that half of his cabinet were holding secret meetings with the Russians in 2016."

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and U.S. President Donald Trump during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Danang, Vietnam, Nov. 11, 2017. (Hau Dinh/Associated Press)

Trump and Putin

'Putin, he praises. He's practically the only human being Trump likes apart from his family.' - Luke Harding

Trump has aimed insults at world leaders, including Britain's Theresa May, but none have been directed at  Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Harding.

"Putin, he praises. He's practically the only human being Trump likes apart from his family."

The Steele dossier has alleged that the Russians have leverage — compromising information, according to Harding.

"It may be sex. It may be money … and maybe something else additionally. But we can say for sure that the Russian intelligence has a huge dossier on Donald Trump going back several decades," said Harding.

"I can confidently tell you now that Trump will not, during his presidency, say anything unkind or nasty about Mr. Putin."


This segment is produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal