Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Whirled News

… [I]t’s possible that the US waited to arrest him until they were done with their investigation, but these past interactions with western spooks suggest something else was behind the timing of his arrest. Similarly, the explanation offered by the Swiss lawyer — that the US only learned of Klyushin’s trip to Switzerland by an auspiciously timed hack of his phone — makes no sense, given the access to travel records the US would routinely have even without having someone targeted under Section 702, as Klyushin easily could have been.

The story leaves big questions about whether Klyushin wanted to be turned over or not. In addition to the open question about whether Klyushin told Russian authorities about the recruitment attempts, Bloomberg describes that Klyushin’s Swiss lawyer mailed his appeal of the extradition to the European Court of Human Rights rather than faxing it, with the result that the appeal arrived only after he had already been transferred to US custody.

But it’s hard to believe that Klyushin wanted to be extradited when he was arrested last March. That’s because his family returned to Russia at the end of their 10-day luxury vacation, which they wouldn’t have done if Klyushin had been planning to defect to the US (if one can start using the term again). So if Klyushin came to decide he wanted to be extradited over the nine months while he was held in Switzerland, he may have only come to that conclusion upon receiving more details about the charges against him, possibly including details that might expose him to the ire of the Kremlin…

There may be a better explanation for the timing than an auspicious hack, though. As described, Klyushin’s trip to Switzerland was likely his first trip to a US extradition partner after Merrick Garland was sworn in as Attorney General on March 11, 2021, eight days before FBI obtained the arrest warrant for Klyushin.

And while the US has documentary evidence that GRU did the hack, what they hadn’t yet obtained when DOJ obtained the indictment against Yermakov and other GRU officers in 2018 was something far more important: what Russia did with two sets of data — the campaign strategy and polling information turned over from Paul Manafort and the analytics stolen from Hillary through the entire month of September. There’s certainly reason to believe DOJ knows more now than they did in 2018. Last April (so shortly after the arrest warrant for Kluyshin), Treasury stated as fact that the information Konstantin Kilimnik obtained from Manafort did get shared with Russian intelligence, even while asserting that Kilimnik was himself a spook. But how that information was shared and what happened with it has not been made public.

And those are the kinds of questions you might not raise aggressively until after Trump was gone.

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