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A Former Spy Lied To Reporters About His Work For The Republican Party

Ben Wickham, the chairman and a founder of Hamilton Trading, told BuzzFeed News and Politico that the Republican National Committee had paid it to do a security audit of the RNC headquarters. In fact, the company had mainly been paid for reports on Hillary Clinton. Wickham is a former CIA officer, and he employs a former KGB agent.

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Joshua Roberts / Reuters

The Republican National Committee hired a company to build intelligence dossiers about Hillary Clinton around the same time as the national convention.

An obscure Virginia company with ties to both U.S. and Russian intelligence deliberately misled reporters about its work for the Republican National Committee.

After the Republican National Committee paid an obscure Virginia company about $40,000 for “security” and “research services” last year, one of the company’s founders said the payments were for a report about the safety of the RNC headquarters.

“We did a security audit for the building,” Ben Wickham, a former CIA officer and chairman of the company, Hamilton Trading, told BuzzFeed News in February.

That was a lie, as the Washington publication Politico reported last week.

While a fraction of the $40,000 was for the security audit, the vast majority of the money went to produce two reports on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Politico reported last week. The firm’s work “tried to make the case that Clinton intervened in Bulgaria and Israel, respectively, on behalf of energy companies that had donated to the Clinton Foundation, according to people briefed on the reports.” The payments were delivered over the summer of 2016, when some of the biggest moments of the campaign happened, including the Republican National Convention.

Wickham did not return phone calls from BuzzFeed News on Tuesday. He told Politico that he misled reporters about the nature of their work because of a “nondisclosure agreement” with the RNC.

Wickham started the firm with another former CIA officer, John C. Platt, who died in January.

One member of the company is ex-KGB officer Gennadiy Vasilenko. Vasilenko was a rival of Platt’s during the Cold War, but the New York Times reported that the two men built a “remarkable and secret friendship” that spanned decades. It began when Platt was trying to recruit Vasilenko as a spy in the late 1970s and continued through Vasilenko’s detention by Russian authorities.

He was released to the United States in 2010 as part of a spy exchange.

Federal campaign finance documents show Hamilton Trading has never received other payments by a political operation, and other executives say the company “has provided operational intelligence services to private sector clients.” This includes counter-terrorism and surveillance training.

“I’m not denying that I wasn’t totally forthcoming, but I’m telling you why,” Wickham told Politico. “The security stuff that we did, which is legitimate, was not covered by any kind of a confidentiality agreement, so I can discuss that.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post misstated that Gennadiy Vasilenko compiled reports on Hillary Clinton.

Anthony Cormier is an investigative reporter/editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. While working for the Tampa Bay Times, Cormier won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting.

Contact Anthony Cormier at anthony.cormier@buzzfeed.com.

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