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Prague spied on Trump in late 1980s, seeking US intel

FITTING THE BILL:The KGB in the 1980s circulated a list of traits that it sought in potential assets, including vanity, narcissism, marital infidelity and poor analytical skills

The Guardian, PRAGUE

The former Czechoslovakian State Security (StB) stepped up its spying campaign against Donald Trump in the late 1980s, targeting him to gain information about the “upper echelons of the US government,” archive files and testimony from former cold war spies reveal.

The StB carried out a long-term spying mission against Trump following his marriage in 1977 to his first wife, Ivana Zelnickova. The operation was run out of Zlin, the provincial town in southwestern Czechoslovakia where Zelnickova was born and grew up.

Her father, Milos Zelnicek, gave regular information to the local StB office about his daughter’s visits from the US and on his celebrity son-in-law’s career in New York. Zelnicek was classified as a “conspiratorial” informer. His relationship with the StB lasted until the end of the communist regime.

New archive records obtained by the Guardian and Czech magazine Respekt show the StB’s growing interest in Trump after the 1988 US presidential election, won by George H.W. Bush.

The StB’s first directorate responsible for foreign espionage sought to “deepen” its Trump-related activity.

A former StB official, Vlastimil Danek — tracked down to the village of Zadni Arnostov, where he lives in retirement — confirmed the Trump operation.

Addressing the matter publicly for the first time, he said: “Trump was of course a very interesting person for us. He was a businessman, he had a lot of contacts, even in US politics.”

“We were focusing on him, we knew he was influential. We had information that he wanted to be president in future,” Danek added.

He said his senior colleagues at StB headquarters in Prague were also focused on Trump.

“It wasn’t only us who paid attention to him. The first department of the StB were interested in him. I don’t know if the first directorate shared information on Trump with the KGB. I can’t verify or deny,” he said.

“I don’t want to tell you any more details. It’s a past I would like to forget. I don’t want to have any problems,” he added.

The files do not say whether the Soviet Union ordered or shaped the decade-long StB Trump operation, but Czechoslovakian spies routinely shared secrets with KGB colleagues and the Moscow-based security agency had a large liaison office in Prague. Many StB officers also worked directly for the KGB, known as “the friends.”

In summer 1987, Donald and Ivana Trump visited Moscow and Leningrad, following a personal invitation from the Soviet ambassador in Washington, Yuri Dubinin. The trip was arranged by Intourist, an undercover KGB outfit.

Soon after returning from Moscow, Trump announced he was thinking of running for president. That presidential bid failed to materialize.

In October 1988, on the eve of the US election, Ivana Trump visited her parents in Zlin, known at the time as Gottwaldov.

According to the files, she “confidently” predicted Bush’s victory to her father, who in turn passed the tip to local StB officers.

“The outcome of the election confirmed the veracity of this information,” StB field agent Lieutenant Peter Sury wrote in a document dated Jan. 23, 1989, and marked “secret.”

The prediction came “from the highest echelons of power in the US,” it said.

Ivana was “not only a well-heeled US citizen,” but moved in “very top political circles,” Sury said.

He listed a number of “action points” that might be taken. They included remaining in “conspiratorial contact” with Zelnicek. The StB’s goal was to gain more information about US foreign policy, politics and economy, plus “the activities of America’s intelligence agencies.”

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