Vladimir Putin personally authorised a secret spy agency operation to support a “mentally unstable” Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election during a closed session of Russia’s national security council, according to what are assessed to be leaked Kremlin documents.
The key meeting took place on 22 January 2016, the papers suggest, with the Russian president, his spy chiefs and senior ministers all present.
They agreed a Trump White House would help secure Moscow’s strategic objectives, among them “social turmoil” in the US and a weakening of the American president’s negotiating position.
Russia’s three spy agencies were ordered to find practical ways to support Trump, in a decree appearing to bear Putin’s signature.
By this point Trump was the frontrunner in the Republican party’s nomination race. A report prepared by Putin’s expert department recommended Moscow use “all possible force” to ensure a Trump victory.
Western intelligence agencies are understood to have been aware of the documents for some months and to have carefully examined them. The papers, seen by the Guardian, seem to represent a serious and highly unusual leak from within the Kremlin.
The Guardian has shown the documents to independent experts who say they appear to be genuine. Incidental details come across as accurate. The overall tone and thrust is said to be consistent with Kremlin security thinking.
The Kremlin responded dismissively. Putin’s spokesman Dmitri Peskov said the idea that Russian leaders had met and agreed to support Trump in at the meeting in early 2016 was “a great pulp fiction” when contacted by the Guardian on Thursday morning.
The report – “No 32-04 \ vd” – is classified as secret. It says Trump is the “most promising candidate” from the Kremlin’s point of view. The word in Russian is perspektivny.
There is a brief psychological assessment of Trump, who is described as an “impulsive, mentally unstable and unbalanced individual who suffers from an inferiority complex”.
There is also apparent confirmation that the Kremlin possesses kompromat, or potentially compromising material, on the future president, collected – the document says – from Trump’s earlier “non-official visits to Russian Federation territory”.
The paper refers to “certain events” that happened during Trump’s trips to Moscow. Security council members are invited to find details in appendix five, at paragraph five, the document states. It is unclear what the appendix contains.
“It is acutely necessary to use all possible force to facilitate his [Trump’s] election to the post of US president,” the paper says.
This would help bring about Russia’s favoured “theoretical political scenario”. A Trump win “will definitely lead to the destabilisation of the US’s sociopolitical system” and see hidden discontent burst into the open, it predicts.
The Kremlin summit
There is no doubt that the meeting in January 2016 took place – and that it was convened inside the Kremlin.
An official photo of the occasion shows Putin at the head of the table, seated beneath a Russian Federation flag and a two-headed golden eagle. Russia’s then prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, attended, together with the veteran foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov.
Also present were Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister in charge of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency; Mikhail Fradkov, the then chief of Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service; and Alexander Bortnikov, the boss of the FSB spy agency.Nikolai Patrushev, the FSB’s former director, attended too as security council secretary.
According to a press release, the discussion covered the economy and Moldova.
The document seen by the Guardian suggests the security council’s real, covert purpose was to discuss the confidential proposals drawn up by the president’s analytical service in response to US sanctions against Moscow.