- Which organizations or people were key to connecting the Russians and the Americans during the 2016 US Presidential election subsequent transition?
- Which links/relationships may be the conduits of collaboration or collusion or conspiracy?
- Which network paths connected Trump to Putin? There was no direct connection between them prior to the 2017 Inauguration.
- Which network paths were used to transfer information/money/data from one side to the other?
- Which individuals and which paths were key to the whole operation?
|Figure 1 – Trump and Putin Associates: People and Organizations|
How many Russians have interacted with Trump business and political associates before, during and immediately after the 2016 election? Fifty (50) American individuals had links to sixty-five (65) Russian individuals creating many possible paths for information and resources to flow in the network. These 115 individuals created 143 links/bridges across country borders (USA-RU).
Figure 2 shows only those nodes(people) where a Russian interacted with an American. The network in Figure 2 is a subset of the larger network in Figure 1. There are only a few grey links in Figure 2 because we have removed the other nationalities and the connections within/inside each group that are seen in Figure 1. You don’t see the Russian-Russian, nor the American-American ties, just those connection between the two countries.
A one step path is a direct connection between two friends, colleagues, or co-conspirators. A – B is a one step or a direct relationship. Adding a link to A – B gives us A – B – C which is a two-step path between A and C. We have the original one step path of A – B, and we have a second direct one-step path of B – C. Combined, these form a two step path, with B as the intermediary/connector. Using this process we can build paths of any length. A – B – C – D is a 3-step path involving four nodes. Count the links/dashes to get a quick idea of the length of a path.
In most of our networks, whether it is with colleagues or friends, we want to be as close to others as possible. We want many direct relationships, and if those are not possible, then we want to keep our network paths as short as possible. Yet, in covert networks, the schemers do not want to have direct ties between the main parties. They do not want to show an obvious and direct quid pro quo. They want indirect paths so that they can have plausible deniability or intermediaries they can blame when a conspiracy is exposed.
Participants in covert networks look to build indirect quid pro quo  — paths of influence that are not obvious, and are harder to detect and prove. In networks, distance (longer paths) can deceive, and that is an advantage to the builder of the covert network. Unfortunately, distance also distorts and delays, so the covert schemer cannot build very long network paths to hide behind. They must limit their key paths of trust to one or two intermediaries, or in rare cases three. In covert networks intermediaries are either trusted or threatened — problems of obedience and understanding amongst the intermediaries arise when the network paths get too long. In addition, a large number of people with some insight to the conspiracy is dangerous if the conspiracy is ever discovered. The leaders of the conspiracy need to find a balance between long and short paths of communication to carry out their conspiracy.
The builders of the covert network will use more that one path to communicate, but they will probably limit the used paths to those that contain the most highly trusted intermediaries that have a history of prior communication. Leaders need to trust their intermediaries, and the intermediaries need to trust each other and know how to best communicate. This usually requires some prior history between the two parties on each side of a link. The message flow will be faster, smoother and more accurate between people that have experience/context communicating with each other. The Trump Tower meeting of June 9, 2016, is a good example of using trusted intermediaries via indirect paths to arrange/coordinate an important meeting.
Having the data of who is connected to whom, allows us to do all sorts of network analysis.  We can find all of the indirect paths from Trump to Putin or vice versa. Running our network algorithms we find over 500 indirect paths (with one to three intermediaries) between Trump and Putin. Of course all of these paths are not used to communicate/conspire between the two sides, but it does give us an indicator of what is possible. With all of these possible paths of interaction between the two groups, communication is not a coincidence. These 500+ indirect paths in Figure 1 contained many intermediaries — dozens of which showed up again and again. Are the repeating intermediaries the most trusted links by both sides? Possibly so. They were the connectors that were used repeatedly. They were probably both trusted and well-located — the right person(s) in the right place at the right time. Of the 500+ possible paths between Trump and Putin, less than 20% were actually utilized, or attempted — and of those, only 5% were relied upon.
We looked at the collection of indirect paths and found 49 intermediaries that appeared most often on all network paths between Putin and Trump. Those people show up in the map below. Figure 3 shows just the network paths between Trump and Putin that contain these 49 key intermediaries. Figure 3 is a subset of the larger network in Figure 1 — showing the important indirect paths between Trump and Putin before the Inauguration. This map is colored the same as the first map — red nodes are Russians, blue are Americans, yellow nodes are Ukrainians and the green node is a European.
|Figure 3 – Network Paths and Trusted Intermediaries Between Putin and Trump|
- Paul Manafort
- Michael Flynn
- Jared Kushner
- Sergey Kislyak
- Michael D Cohen
- Oleg Deripaska
- D J Trump Jr
- Dmytro Firtash
- Viktor Yanukovych
- Alexander Torshin
- Rick Gates
- Viktor Vekselberg
- Roman Abramovich
- Aras Agalarov
- Ivanka Trump
- Sergey Gorkov
- Carter Page
- Igor Krutoy
Roger Stone’s recent indictment  shows us his involvement in getting the hacked Democratic emails. Stone’s main interaction was with Guccifer 2.0 (a cut-out for the Russian GRU) and direct and indirect contacts with WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, who were distributing the hacked emails shared by Unit 26165 and Unit 74455 of the Russian Intelligence Service: GRU. Figure 4 shows who in addition to Roger Stone and Guccifer 2.0 possibly participated in this project. The highlighted lines in Figure 4 show the shortest possible path of communication. Longer paths may also have been used to bridge both sides.
- Maps show the big picture of what is known about Trump-Russia interactions, before the 2017 Inauguration, based on data gathered by journalists and federal/state investigators.
- Denials by Trump and his associates that they had nothing to do with Russia before and during the 2016 election are visibly false. Figure 2 makes that explicit.
- Communication patterns between Trump & associates and Putin & associates match communication patterns/frequency found in many corporate mergers where two organizations are coming together and actively coordinating and working on common goals. These two groups exhibit communication patterns of collaborating organizations.
- If the interactions and communication between the Trump and Putin camps were just “normal business ties," why were they constantly denied, hidden, minimized, and lied about? Patterns in the network reveal that this was not a normal business project.
- Pattern of interaction shows typical pattern found in covert/corruption networks that is trying to hide its true intent. Leaders do not interact, while their underlings do. Leaders maintain unexpected distance and seek plausible deniability. Their aim is to execute an indirect quid pro quo. In a normal business project, leaders first interact to create agreement and set objectives, and then their staffs execute the project. The leaders are never visibly excluded as participants in the project. There is a direct tie between the leaders during the project.
- In Figure 2 Trump has more connections with Russians than any one of his associates!
- Once he became the official Republican party candidate, and started receiving regular intelligence briefings, Trump was warned that the Russians may try to infiltrate his campaign. Trump did not report, nor seek assistance, with the many Russian direct and indirect interactions with his 2016 campaign. Trump kept praising Wikileaks though it had been already reported that the source of the Democratic emails was the Russian GRU.