Rolf Mowatt-Larssen served for 23 years in the CIA including in posts overseas. He was also the chief of intelligence and counterintelligence at the Department of Energy, with responsibility for safeguarding our nuclear stockpile. He probably knows what he’s talking about when he discusses spycraft.
I feel like his grasp of the cast of characters involved here could be a little stronger, and that would only improve what looks like some pretty solid analysis. Overall, I think he’s got the basics right. The Russians were looking to cash in on an already friendly relationship with Trump, but they were cautious and used this meeting as a way to test out how far they could go. After the meeting was concluded, they probably looked carefully for any signs that it had been reported and when they discovered that the whole thing had been covered up, they had a lot of freedom of action. They immediately went ahead with plans to leak the DNC documents. They negotiated a change in the Republican Party platform. Soon after, they watched in enjoyment as Trump denied any meetings or relationship with them, which gave them extra leverage. Thereafter, they always had the option of threatening to reveal that Trump (and his surrogates) had been lying.
I believe, although cannot prove, that they had sent Manafort to Trump with a hard offer to refuse. Manafort would work on his delegate count for no pay. Michael Flynn was already compromised because he hadn’t notified the Pentagon that he was taking tens of thousands of dollars from the Kremlin to make appearances on the Russian Today (RT) network and badmouth the Obama administration. The Trump campaign was therefore compromised six ways to Sunday by the time the summer had begun.
There’s a much longer list of characters who might have compromised themselves. Carter Page was let go because his activities were too obvious. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, has all kinds of relationships with pro-Russian Ukrainians and may have had secret meetings with Russians in Eastern Europe. Michael Caputo actually worked for the Kremlin in the 1990s. Boris Epshteyn was born in Moscow and toes their line. There’s the whole Felix Sater element that no one should ever forget. Trump’s foul-mouthed lawyer Marc Kasowitz also has represented Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and Sberbank, Russia’s largest state-owned bank.
I feel like I’m only scratching the surface here, because there are others who were only loosely affiliated with the campaign who were clearly in contact with the Russians seeking and receiving everything from Clinton’s private emails to hacked Democratic and state voter files.
The overall picture is clear. Russia wanted Trump to win and Trump wanted Russia’s help. The collusion was explicit, some of it is well-documented, and the defense is now that anybody would have done the same.