"It didn’t begin in 2016, this goes way back": New documentary ‘Active Measures’ unravels Trump-Russia links

Russiagate has seemingly begun to lose steam with a significant number of American voters as they struggle to comprehend the Trump-Russia nexus.


                            "It didn’t begin in 2016, this goes way back": New documentary ‘Active Measures’ unravels Trump-Russia links

The Trump-Russia scandal is the most widely-covered story under Donald Trump’s presidency and likely the most perplexing, riddled with a complex web of dates, names and financial ties. The controversy, currently being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, has seemingly begun to lose steam with a significant number of American voters as they struggle to comprehend the Trump-Russia nexus.

And that is one of the prime reasons why filmmaker Jack Bryan thought of creating a film which breaks down Trump’s links to Russia, surprisingly dating back to years before anyone thought that an American real estate tycoon was nurturing hopes of the United States presidency.

Real estate developer Donald Trump (R) and architect Adrian Smith unveil an artists rendition of Trump Tower Chicago at a news conference September 23, 2003 Chicago, Illinois. The 90-story building, was expected to be finished in 2007, and to house office, apartment, and hotel space.(Getty Images)
Real estate developer Donald Trump (R) and architect Adrian Smith unveil an artists rendition of Trump Tower Chicago at a news conference September 23, 2003 Chicago, Illinois. The 90-story building, was expected to be finished in 2007, and to house office, apartment, and hotel space.(Getty Images)

“There has been a good coverage on the links, but people weren't really adjusting to it,” Bryan tells Meaww. “There were just a lot of names, it was confusing to people because they thought it all started in 2016. So what we decided to do was to go back to the origins of how this began, because if you understand that then you can understand what is happening in the American politics today.”

Bryan’s unsettling documentary ‘Active Measures’ thoroughly maps the Russian efforts to influence world events, particularly the United States 2016 presidential elections through Trump to portray how the possible collusion is the most exhaustively choreographed scandal in the country’s political history.

Bryan says that when his team started researching about Russiagate, they struggled to find a starting point.

“One of the difficulties we faced while making the documentary was to find a starting point. During the research there would come a point where we thought this is where the connections begin, then we’d find something else which would force us to bring the starting date to earlier,” the filmmaker says.

“So we decided to start with the first clear act of illegality, which is when Trump sold an apartment to David Bogatin, a Russian mobster in 1984, who was involved in money laundering. The reason that the Russian mob was attracted to the Trump Tower was that it was the second building in New York wherein shell companies could purchase units without identifying themselves, so it was a perfect vehicle for money laundering,” Bryan adds, stressing the need to understand that the Russian government and the Russian mafia go hand in hand, and the mob essentially follows the government’s bidding.

A doorman stands in front of Trump Tower along Fifth Avenue on August 14, 2017 in New York City. (Getty Images)
A doorman stands in front of Trump Tower along Fifth Avenue on August 14, 2017 in New York City. (Getty Images)

The documentary details that Trump had started thinking about the presidency long before he actively began to campaign in 2015. “The first indication you see of Trump thinking about running is mid to late 80s. The Czech secret police had begun monitoring Trump because his wife, Ivana Trump, is Czech,” Bryan says.

“The intelligence services received their signals which made them conclude that Trump was thinking about running in 1988. He talked about the presidency in the 80s, in 2000 he almost ran, so there was a lot of talk of him running, then again in 2012, and all this ultimately led to his 2016 candidacy. That Trump was going to run for the president had been in the zeitgeist since at least the early 90s and he had been discussing it privately since at least mid 80s,” the filmmaker adds.

Bryan adds that by the time Trump started to run for the presidency, he was already a part of the Russian network.

Donald Trump and Ivana Trump attend The Eric Trump 8th Annual Golf Tournament at Trump National Golf Club Westchester on September 15, 2014 in Briarcliff Manor, New York.
Donald Trump and Ivana Trump attend The Eric Trump 8th Annual Golf Tournament at Trump National Golf Club Westchester on September 15, 2014 in Briarcliff Manor, New York.

“Trump was already in Russia’s radar by 2015. In the 80s he's sort of laundering money loosely, then 90s he goes bankrupt, in the early 2000 the Russian mobster start moving into the Trump organization and start getting feed capital for him and then that relationship develops throughout the 2000. By 2013, he is working with Russian oligarchs, he is praising Putin on television publicly and has been for years, so he is one of their guys, he was part of their network by 2013, when he started throwing his hat for the presidency,” the filmmaker says.

‘Active Measures’, a term for political warfare actions conducted by the Russian security services to influence world events, also includes high-profile interviews of personalities who closely knew the Russian President Vladimir Putin and to what extent he can go to retain control. Some of the remarkable guests in the documentary include former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the late Arizona Senator John McCain.

Bryan, talking about why he included Senator McCain, says: “Without McCain's voice, this film wouldn't have been complete. He has been an amazing defender of democracy and an adversary to Putin's aggression. Without his voice and knowledge, we wouldn't have been able to tell the story. He has been an amazing soldier for this country. His voice was an incredibly important in the documentary.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) leaves a meeting where a new version of a GOP healthcare bill was unveiled to Republican senators at the U.S. Capitol July 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. The proposed bill aims to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) leaves a meeting where a new version of a GOP healthcare bill was unveiled to Republican senators at the U.S. Capitol July 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. The proposed bill aims to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

With Mueller catching up to significant possible colluders in the Trump campaign, including the president’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Trump is seemingly perturbed and many Republicans fear that he could take some drastic measures. The Republican president also recently criticized his close aide Attorney General Jeff Sessions for bringing charges against two Republican congressmen. Experts say that Trump’s criticism could likely make a case for his impeachment.

Bryan says that he finds the probe into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with the Russians very fascinating, and says, “I think we all want to know where this investigation is going.”

“I think there is also one essential part to remember as well is that it is not just Mueller anymore, what he has done is very smart and clever, and essential. He has spread the investigation out. The southern district in New York is handling a lot of Cohen stuff, a lot of the Russian mob stuff. The New York state is handling a lot of the Trump foundation and that because it involves his kids and he can't pardon state charges, so it's safe. It's also the Virginia eastern district and there are a couple others which are popping here and there. So his legal troubles and our ability to understand what's going to happen is not just going to come from the Mueller investigation, it's an assortment of it all.”

US President Donald Trump stands in the colonnade as he is introduced to speak to March for Life participants and pro-life leaders in the Rose Garden at the White House on January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. The annual march takes place around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court decision that came on January 22, 1974.
US President Donald Trump stands in the colonnade as he is introduced to speak to March for Life participants and pro-life leaders in the Rose Garden at the White House on January 19, 2018 in Washington, DC. The annual march takes place around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court decision that came on January 22, 1974.

When asked whether he thinks his documentary could negatively affect Trump in any way, the filmmaker says that he hopes it does. He adds that after watching the film, the American voters will know how they have been lied to.

“I hope it affects him. We are educating people and they'll understand when and how they have been lied to. They can see through the lies and make an informed decision for themselves. I imagine this will have negative repercussions on Trump. I will be happy if people would just have a better understanding of what is happening in their country.”