A Couple British Spies Have A Little Chat About Mongo

John le Carre: And then there was the genetic inheritance I got from my father. This was a man who, while still being pursued by the police, or bankrupt, or Christ knows what, who had done prison time, then boldly stands as a parliamentary candidate. He had a huge capacity for invention. He had absolutely no relationship to the truth. He would come talk to me in the morning and I would challenge him, and 56bcb8491a00002d00ab2770in the evening he would say, “That’s not what I said to you.”

Sarah Lyall: Do you see parallels with President Trump’s view of the truth?

JLC: Exactly that. He is the most recent model. Before that it was Robert Maxwell. The parallels are extraordinary. My sister, too, we absolutely recognize the same syndrome. There is not a grain of truth there.

SL: Do you think the Russians really have something on Trump?

Ben Mcintyre: I can tell you what the veterans of the S.I.S. [the British Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6] think, which is yes, kompromat was done on him. So they end up, the theory goes, with this compromising bit of material and then they begin to release parts of it. They set up an ex-MI6 guy, Chris Steele, who is a patsy, effectively, and they feed him some stuff that’s true, and some stuff that isn’t true, and some stuff that is demonstrably wrong. Which means that Trump can then stand up and deny it, while knowing that the essence of it is true. And then he has a stone in his shoe for the rest of his administration.

It’s important to remember that Putin is a KGB-trained officer, and he thinks in the traditional KGB way.

JLC: The mentality that is operating in Russia now is absolutely, as far as Putin is concerned, no different to the mentality that drove the most exotic conspiracies during the Cold War. It worked then, it works now. As far as Trump, I would suspect they have it, because they’ve denied it. If they have it and they’ve set Trump up, they’d say, “Oh no, we haven’t got anything.” But to Trump they’re saying, “Aren’t we being kind to you?”

BM: And today you get this wonderful Russian lawyer woman [Natalia Veselnitskaya] who is straight out of one of our books, a character that is possibly connected to the Russian state. Who knows? They exist somewhere in that foggy, deniable hinterland. It’s called maskirovka—little masquerade—where you create so much confusion and uncertainty and mystery that no one knows what the truth is.

JLC: For Putin, it’s a kind of little piece of background music to keep things going. The smoking gun might or might not be the documents exchanged about the Trump Tower in Moscow. Then there’s the really seedy stuff in the Caucasus. There are bits of scandal which, if added up, might suggest he went to Russia for money. And that would then fit in with the fact that he isn’t half as, a tenth as rich as he pretends to be.

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