Let’s put the word ‘collusion’ aside for a moment… and let’s instead use the word ‘seduction.’Timothy Snyder, Professor of History, Yale University; Author, The Road to Unfreedom
HBO released the trailer for Agents of Chaos, a two-part documentary directed by Emmy(R) and Academy Award Winner Alex Gibney (“Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” “The Inventor: Out For Blood In Silicon Valley“) that promises a revealing look at Russia’s interference into the 2016 election. The documentary will debut Wednesday, September 23 (9:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO, with part two airing the following evening at the same time, ahead of the November elections.
The film is a product of years of reporting on Russian interference in the 2016 election. With never-before-seen footage inside the Russian troll farms, and videos unearthed from the Russian deep web, the film digs deep into the sophisticated plans to undermine democracy, raising the alarm for the American public, but also proving that these “agents of chaos” weren’t Russians alone; they were also key players in the United States who, through venality, corruption or circumstance, furthered Putin’s goals, with a vulnerable and unsuspecting American public as their target.
Featuring subjects who have never before gone on-the-record, as well as those who have now agreed to speak at length, Agents of Chaos includes interviews with lead prosecutor for the Mueller Investigation Andrew Weissmann; former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe; former CIA Director John Brennan; Trump campaign advisor Carter Page; Trump business associate Felix Sater; Margarita Simonyan, Editor-In-Chief of Russian State News Agency; NSC Senior Director Celeste Wallander, who believes the anti-Clinton hacking operation – led by the GRU, Russia’s Military Intelligence – was approved by Putin himself; and cyber conflict researcher Camille François, who explains how the IRA, Russia’s online influence agency, intended to weaken democratic institutions in the U.S. and create chaos by exploiting existing divisions, using Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Instagram.
Agents of Chaos features the following ground-breaking accounts, many of which have been confirmed by the recent bipartisan report released by the Senate Intelligence Committee on August 18, 2020:
- An in-depth cinematic account of Paul Manafort’s secret communications with Russia during the campaign from the man who brought him down – Robert Mueller’s lead prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann. Manafort’s actions were, in the words of the recent Senate report, “a grave counterintelligence threat [that] created opportunities for the Russian intelligence to exert influence over… the Trump Campaign.”
- Revealing insight into how the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation into Trump campaign officials really started – not as a partisan scheme to attack Trump, but rather as a reaction to reports that the Trump campaign knew about Russian hacking of the Democrats at a time when only the FBI was aware that the hacks had occurred. As former acting director of the FBI Andrew McCabe recounts, the irony of the “witch hunt” narrative is that “there’s no organization in DC that had more of an impact on helping Donald Trump get elected than the FBI.”
- The revelation that the FBI investigation did not start with the Russian military hack of the Democratic organizations in March 2016, but that the FBI had been watching the attackers hack people around the globe since December 2014.
- An illuminating account of the inability of the Obama administration to blunt the attack, despite the best efforts of many national security officials to respond to what was happening.
- An in-depth portrait of the troll factory and its owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a.k.a. “Putin’s Chef.” The trolls were not just kids playing pranks on Facebook, but rather a professionally staged campaign to pit Americans against each other using tools the trolls had developed while helping to start a war in Ukraine.
- A dramatic and detailed account of the creation of the Steele dossier, the memos claiming a well-developed conspiracy between Trump and Russia, featuring interviews with the man who commissioned the dossier, the FBI leader who oversaw an investigation that relied on it, and the alleged spy on the Trump campaign staff that it targeted. Rather than a Democratic plot against Trump, we find out that the investigation that led to the dossier started with Republican funders and was overseen by an ex-journalist, Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, who had spent years investigating the Clintons for the Wall Street Journal.
- The behind-the-scenes story of the negotiations during the 2016 election campaign to build Trump Tower in Moscow as told by Felix Sater, the man Trump entrusted with getting the deal done in Russia.
Building on his acclaimed oeuvre tackling far-reaching and provocative issues, Gibney delves into the complex labyrinth of internet warfare, raising salient questions about the extent of Russia’s meddling in the American democratic election process and asking at what point does a foreign power’s meddling in our sovereignty constitute warfare, and at what point does American encouragement of foreign interference begin to look like treason? Clearly and thoroughly mapping the intricate web of deceptions and interventions that occurred during the last election, Agents of Chaos takes a hard, clear-eyed look at our vulnerabilities as a nation and at the uncertainties surrounding our electoral processes, and draws a frightening conclusion about the very real possibility of it all happening again.
By puncturing conspiracy theories from all sides of the political spectrum, the film offers a much more nuanced interpretation of what happened in 2016. There wasn’t one conspiracy to interfere illegally in the election – there were many – and the confusion and secrecy surrounding all of the many actors and events has made it difficult to discern the truth.