Examining alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election and possible collusion between Moscow and Trump campaign.
Editor’s note: This film is no longer available to view online.
Filmmakers: Pascal Vasselin & Jacques Charmelot
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According to top US intelligence officials, Russia interfered in the 2016 US election. President Vladimir Putin, they say, developed a clear preference for Donald Trump over his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, so Russia’s intelligence services stole and leaked thousands of Clinton’s emails to discredit her.
Two weeks before his inauguration, they briefed Trump, but he rejected their conclusions. He didn’t want his victory to be questioned.
The US intelligence agencies maintained their findings and partially released them to the public. According to them, Putin had ordered an influence campaign to help Trump win the election.
“I think very few documents that I can remember would have had the political weight, the political influence of this particular document,” said former CIA director John McLaughlin. “This was the first time that a major covert action, major clandestine action against the United States, at the very heart of our democratic process, had been detected.”
knowingly cooperate with a hostile foreign power to take over the leadership of the United States?”]
Only three days after the intelligence report, a new classified document made headlines: a confidential report written by ex-British spy Christopher Steele on secret links between Trump and his businesses and the Russians. It claimed Moscow had been helping Trump all along with a regular flow of intelligence and that the Russians had compromising material on him.
“The main point of the Steele dossier that there was an ongoing attempt by the Russians to get close to the Trump campaign, is undisputed at this point,” said Mieke Eoyang, national security expert and former congressional staff member. “He doesn’t like the fact that the press said it, but it’s out there.”
With the Steele dossier made public, Trump’s battle with the press intensified.
During his first weeks at the White House, he was on the defensive. Trump’s newly-appointed National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, was exposed making false statements about his contacts with Moscow and the Russian embassy in Washington. The press revealed it – and Trump had to retreat and dismiss Flynn.
Flynn was the first victim of the battle of Washington, but the question remained: what are the relations between Trump and Moscow?
“Did he [Trump] knowingly cooperate with a hostile foreign power to take over the leadership of the United States?” asked Eoyang.
In 2017, the Department of Justice appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to lead an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. If investigators can prove secret agreements and disabilities of the judiciary, it could lead to Trump’s impeachment.
“Politics just don’t play any role in his [Mueller’s] calculations, so he is all about finding the truth and doing it under the rule of law so he’s a man of integrity,” said John Pistole, former deputy director of the FBI.
As the Mueller investigation progresses, finding the truth continues to test the pillars of the American political system; the independence of justice, the freedom of the press, and the rule of law.
Battlefield Washington constructs a timeline of a two-year confrontation between President Trump, US intelligence, the Department of Justice, Congress and the media.