Multiple sources with links to UK intelligence report that Russian corruption of the Brexit vote is far worse than previously thought. The referendum on remaining part of the EU received so much illegal foreign money and influence from Russia, these sources say, that UK intelligence is minded to recommend to Theresa May's government that the Brexit vote be redone, as it is not thought that the vote was 'free and fair'. This term is often used in Great Britain to describe a legitimate election process.
It is illegal under UK electoral law for foreign nationals and entities to spend sums of money influencing domestic votes. The Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act, sources said, was quite clear on the illegality of such donations.
This reporter broke the story, last year, that the same Russian entities that were pushing botnets for Trump were pushing them for Brexit, and for Marine le Pen and Viktor Orban. The level of money and the reach of the fake bots and targeted data funded by Russia, using Cambridge Analytica, sources said, was so great that MI5 and MI6, the UK's versions of the FBI and CIA, did not believe that the Brexit referendum could have been said to have been 'free and fair'.
Sources cautioned, however, that an absolute decision had not yet been made and that the Prime Minister and her government opposed a revote. Reasons for this included both the public reaction, and the fact that it is thought that any second vote is likely to have the same final result as the first one. Sources with links to both UK and US intelligence also believed, however, that there was major anxiety within the British government - among all major parties - of politicians' links to the Russian state being exposed.
The resulting scandal could be worse than the 'MPs' expenses' scandal of 2009, which caught hundreds of MPs up in a corruption probe over petty larceny paid for by taxpayers, where British politicans charged personal items as 'expenses' necessary for their work to the public purse.
Sources were aware that Russian money had flowed into more UK electoral processes than just the Brexit vote. Russia piled into the Scottish independence referendum on behalf of the SNP; the former SNP leader, Alex Salmond, has just accepted a chat show on the UK version of Russia Today, Putin's state propaganda channel. In America, Russia Today have been forced to register as foreign agents under FARA (the foreign agents' registration act).
Russia has also backed Jeremy Corbyn, in an apparent fit of anger towards Theresa May for the UK's assistance to the US intelligence community; and UKIP, the party led by Nigel Farage. UKIP's leaders are under an active USIC investigation for colluding with Russia in the matter of Donald Trump's election campaign. We plan a further report on Nigel Farage shortly.
Several sources with knowledge of the matter indicated that the intelligence community was not likely to be swayed by political considerations from making its recommendation. Analysis was not merely based on logging the amount of money and the number of social media profiles affected, they said, but on SIGINT, or signals intelligence - that is, recordings and other legal interceptions of politicians, Russian agents and assets, and of tracking laundered money, including by tracking the use of bitcoin, that flowed from Vladimir Putin into the Brexit referendum.
GCHQ, as we have previously reported, recorded Steve Mnuchin, Donald Trump and others at Trump Turnberry on June 24th, 2016, the day after Brexit. All attending that event and the weekend with Mr. Trump that followed it were under constant surveillance, sources said. At that weekend, the deal outlined at Trump Tower on June 9th, 2016, was finalized - Trump would alter policy in America, on both sanctions and Ukraine, in exchange for Russia's help in hacking the election. Brexit and Cambridge Analytica were crucial to 'proving' to Trump that Putin and his assets could hand an election victory, against the odds, to the GOP's candidate. Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer were crucial links in Putin's twin assaults on the UK and US electoral systems; they were heavily involved with UKIP, Cambridge Analytica, Brexit and then the Trump campaign.