The Omnivore is trained (yes, by the United States Government) in Counter Intelligence. Here is a story: The number-one thing they teach you about defending from Russian intelligence--the first thing--is how they operate. Here's how:
A Sargent with a local unit gets in over his head. Maybe it's alcoholism. Maybe it's DUI. Maybe his wife divorces him and he needs money for the lawyers. Whatever it is, he needs money and he gets an offer: "Bring me the unit roster. We'll help with your debts."
Now, the "unit roster" is the list of guys in the unit. It's hardly sensitive information.
Or, well, except it is. That stuff is technically classified even though an enemy agent can figure it out just by hanging outside the base and seeing who goes in. In fact, for a long time, Russian Intel would send a congratulations letter to ever Counter Intel graduating class to prove they knew who they all were. At least The Omnivore's class was told that.
Anyway. The Sargent hands over the list--which can't really do any damage. He gets the money. It's all good, until, a little later, he gets a picture of him handing over the list.
Now they've got him. The USCMJ is severe if you are not a Secretary of State or a sitting president. Despite the fact that the enemy already had this information and that it's not all that useful anyway, if he comes clean he's fucked. So they've got him.
Now they want something useful.
Is this what happened to Donald Trump Junior?
Pros-And-ConsSo--this scenario--the one The Omnivore outlined above--is Spycraft 101. It's the "archetypal" scenario and it probably, today, doesn't happen all that often--or like that (kind of like how the police know when a tourist says that they were mugged by a guy going "Hands in the air--this is a stick-up" that the tourist is lying. Nobody says that anymore. The savvy tourist who gambled all his money and wants an excuse tells the cops the guy said "Wallet and watch"--or better, something unintelligible and pointed a knife at them).
Secondly, DTJ wasn't in any trouble. The basic scenario has you compromised already--which is why if you have a gambling or drinking problem and they find out they won't promote you. While the Trump team probably thought they were not likely to win the election in June, they were also not hurting for money or opposition research.
Finally, the set up is predicated on the idea that the Sargent knows he's doing something wrong--but does it anyway. While, yeah, it sure looks like Junior et. al. figured out it was wrong, at the time they all--all of them--walked right in to it. A classic set up would have involved some secrecy-drama to make sure that when the strings were pulled later, the participants knew they were endangered. The Omnivore doesn't think having like 8 people in the room makes for proper secrecy drama.
So The Omnivore's conclusion is that the target of the operation was probably not blackmail. That was, perhaps, a valuable side-effect.
So what happened?
Well, from what we know: The meeting happened, it is said Junior left with a folder of stuff--so we kind of need to know what was in it. Given what we can see, it certainly looks like an offer of collusion that was accepted. The story that "they had nothing" and that was that only makes sense if (a) you don't buy the GRU-Wikileaks connection--which, The Omnivore understands, isn't hypothetical in the Intelligence community. That's the quid.
So was there a Pro-Quo?
In the DTJ-was-set-up story you don't need one. Blackmail is its own end--eventually the Trumps pay up. However if we say this doesn't much look like a pure set-up then we have two possibilities:
- Trump hurting Hillary was an end in its own right. The goods were given with nothing expected in return because they didn't think Trump could win.
- The deal was made, expressly, with the idea that there would be repayment in terms of sanctions relief and other benefits. We can see that there (a) is a push from the White House for sanctions relief and (b) the Trump White House wants to give Russia back its spy-houses.
So we have plenty of potential pro-quo.
At this point what do we have that encourages us not to believe this happened? The word of the Trumps--but, of course, that word has been revised a whole hell of a lot recently. It's not good for much.