Dr. András Göllner’s essay is the first installment of a two part series in HFP.
It was during the 2016 Presidential election campaign, and for the first time in American electoral history, that a hostile foreign power, aided and abetted by one of the candidates, was able to decisively intervene and significantly influence the outcome of an American election.
American public opinion, the mass and social media, the political establishment and, the country’s secret services, are bitterly divided about the veracity of the relationship between the Russian secret services and Donald Trump’s campaign team. Most commentators claim that even if conclusive evidence of collusion were to be found, it is well nigh impossible to prove, that the relationship had any tangible impact on the outcome of the election.
This first, of a two part series, summarizes some fresh evidence about the nature of the collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign. It will provide some empirically verifiable evidence of the electoral impact of the Russian leaks, in the context of the strategic aspirations of the Trump campaign.
We do not claim to have any insight into the evidence at the disposal of the FBI about the alleged collusion between the Trump team and the Russian secret service. What we have, is evidence, that the FBI is forbidden by law to investigate, because it lies outside the territory of the USA.
This series argues that the place where the FBI, Congress, and the American mass media should be looking for evidence, about the collusion between senior Trump staffers and the Russian secret service is not in America, but in far away Hungary, a member of NATO, the European Union, and a champion of Vladimir Putin in the West.
Our investigation has uncovered „the smoking gun” about the relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russian secret services. It shows that the connection between the Russian secret services and the Trump campaign is not a direct one. It did not run through the Russian embassy in the US or through the spies that have been expelled by Obama. It did not run through New York City or Moscow, or in conversations between campaign staff and the Russian ambassador to the US. It ran through Budapest, which is the European Headquarters of Putin’s FSB. Budapest was the „bridge” between the Trump campaign and the Russian secret service.
Some of our evidence is well known. It is known, for example, that the Russians and the Trump campaign had identical strategic interests. They both wanted to position Hillary Clinton as a „crooked and untrustworthy” candidate. What has not been known, up to now is, that the unacknowledged architect of this grand strategy was the notoriously secretive Arthur J. Finkelstein, a long time New York associate of Donald Trump, going back to the Roy Cohen days.
Finkelstein is perhaps the most bitter opponent of Hillary Clinton amongst a small circle of pro-Republican campaign gurus, and a frequent flyer to many of the capitals where Putin is seen as a hero. Finkelstein introduced Paul Manafort years ago to Putin’s pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs, who use their corporate hats, to advance Putin’s fortunes abroad. Finkelstein also had a big hand in Manafort’s addition to the Trump team. Finkelstein has also served as chief political strategist for the past 10 years, to Putin’s most loyal follower in the Western alliance – the Hungarian PM, Viktor Orbán. Finkie, as Orbán is fond to call him, also works for some of the most notorious autocrats of the former Soviet Republics, and always indirectly, so his pay-masters can’t be easily identified – a skill that he passed on to Trump’s ex-campaign chairman, Manafort.
As Steven Bannon confessed to the Hollywood Reporter, after the elections, polling and visceral messaging, a Finkelstein specialty, played a critical part in the Trump campaign. It is not a coincidence, that the campaign’s senior pollster was Tony Fabrizio, who learned his craft on Finkelstein’s knees. Virtually the entire top tier of the Trump campaign, including Roger Ailes and Roger Stone, have close personal ties to the man, who is known worldwide, as „The Merchant of Venom”.
While Finkelstein has been consciously kept out of the Trump campaign’s limelight, the campaign worked from his playbook, and that playbook had an important, hitherto unseen chapter on the art of dealing with Russia’s secret services. This series argues, that the Trump campaign had not only criminal intent (aiding and abetting Russian hacking of a political opponents’s confidential data base) but benefited from its criminal activities, by cornering the political market. (As our evidence about Finkelstein’s role in the campaign began to gather momentum, Finkelstein became unreachable. His friends and associates say, that he is undergoing chemotherapy for lung cancer. We hope this is not yet another Finkelstein maneuver to throw people off his scent. We wish him speedy recovery so we can ask him directly, what he was doing on „the Budapest Bridge”.)
Putin’s Trojan Horse and the Trump campaign
During the past 7 years, and much of it thanks to Finkelstein’s successful Hungarian consulting practices, Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s current PM, managed to transform this small Central European country into a pale shadow of it’s former democratic self. Orbán, by his own admission, is Putin’s most supportive champion inside the Western alliance and the first and only Western leader to publicly endorse Trump as a candidate. By conservative estimates, Budapest is home to approximately 1000 members of the Russian secret service, most of them in the possession of Hungarian passports provided for by Hungary’s pro-Russian Ministry of the Interior. (These passports can be had for a hefty fee -300,000 Euros a pop – and after waiting only 30 days, which allows no time for a thorough vetting of the applicant. If passports were to be given to foreign aliens under such circumstances in the US, Homeland Security would be purged from top to bottom. In Canada, the minister would have to resign. In Hungary, this „passport business” has been subcontracted out to some of the most corrupt people in Viktor Orbán’s immediate entourage.)
The Hungarian government’s corrupt passport system, enables Russia’s top operatives to work and travel without any restrictions within the EU, and more importantly, to travel to the USA without a visa. Hungary’s bank laws provide an impenetrable financial shelter to those who are dealing with Putin’s secret services. Orbán’s Ministry of the Interior provides a protective umbrella against internet and telephone snooping. It is no coincidence that Europe’s most notorious right-wing populists, anti-Semites and anti-Muslim radicals, such as Holland’s Gert Wilders and Britain’s Nick Griffin, have established residences in Hungary. It is no coincidence that Putin is a frequent secret visitor. It is also not a coincidence that Finkelstein has a home in Budapest, and was, until recently, in weekly contact with Vladimir Putin’s most loyal Hungarian surrogate, Viktor Orbán.
Finkelstein and Orbán’s top Hungarian strategist, Árpád Habony, have a London based joint company, close to the headquarters of Wikileaks. The Russian leakage of embarrassing information about Hillary Clinton, was coordinated through Budapest, and London, and was designed to lower Clinton’s trustworthiness at pre-planned moments during the campaign. Clinton’s trustworthiness ratings, her public opinion support plumeted, on average, 5% points after each well timed leak, and especially during the closing stages of the campaign. These leaks dominated the news cycles at critical junctions in the campaign. Carefully orchestrated, they drove the all important pro-Trump social media (Facebook, Snapchat, twitter) that left the Clinton campaign grasping for air in the critical battle ground states. Arguing that the leaks had no concrete effect on the outcome of the election in the targeted states, is equal to saying that birds can fly without wings.
Some argue, that one of the reasons why Paul Manafort, Carter Page, and Roger Stone offered to voluntarily testify before the congressional committee is, that they were not the principals in the transactions, that took place on „the Budapest bridge”. We argue, that their eagerness to testify early has an entirely different explanation. They simply wanted to get through the congressional screening process early, before the proverbial brown matter hits the fan, and before the learning curve of the congressional investigators goes up a notch.
Who were the principals on „The Budapest Bridge” the FBI and Congress should investigate particularly closely, apart from Arthur Finkelstein ? The investigations should include Jo Anne Barnhart, Finkelstein’s close personal friend, and managing director of the Hungarian government’s secretive lobby arm in the US, the „Magyar Foundation”. It should include another Finkelstein protegé, and Hungarian lobbyist, ex-congressman Connie Mack IV. The latter is the recipient of a 5 million dollar contract, through a third party, to promote Putin’s Hungarian disciple in America. The Congressional investigators should also talk to Senator Sessions’ right hand man during the campaign, J.D. Gordon, who travelled six times to Budapest, and considers Putin’s Trojan Horse as one of the finest leaders within the Western alliance. Last, but not least, the FBI and the Congressional team should investigate Sebastian Gorka, Bannon’s „terrorism expert” and a man with a 15 year connection to anti-American, pro-Russian, pro-Iranian radicals in Hungary.
In our second installment, we shall provide some empirically verifiable evidence about Gorka’s Hungarian associates, and his 15 year track record in Hungary as an enemy of democracy and the rule of law. That alone should make for his rapid exit from his strategic position in the White House. Our own findings fully support the call of three American senators – Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Ben Cardin of Maryland – who, on March 17, sent a joint letter to the US Justice Department asking the agency to look into whether Gorka “falsified his naturalization application or otherwise illegally procured his citizenship.” We will argue, that Trump’s senior campaign associate, failed to disclose the full extent of his neo-fascist, anti-American, anti-Democratic political ties in Hungary prior to being given American citizenship. By marrying an American multimillionaire, a Trump campaign donor with connections in high places, Gorka managed to secure access to the White House on behalf of forces, that, are diametrically opposed to America’s national interests.
In our second installment we shall provide further evidence of „the smoking gun” in the Trump campaign, and in Mr. Gorka’s closet.
To be continued in HFP on Friday…
About the Author of this series
András B. Göllner split his time between Budapest and Montreal from 1990 until 2010, as a senior political-economic advisor, on governmental transparency. He organized the current Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán’s first visit to Canada, and learned, through close personal contact, about many of his corrupt practices. He conducted the first and only study (financed by USAID) that looked inside the operations of the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior, which today, works arm in arm with Russia’s secret services. He is an internationally recognized expert on Central European politics, has a PhD in Economics from the London School of Economics, published 3 books, and dozens of articles, in such well known English language media as The LA Times, The Huffington Post, The National Post, or the Montreal Gazette, to name just a few. He is a regular contributor to the Hungarian Free Press. His current status is Professor Emeritus, at Montreal’s Concordia University.