×

Filmmakers of ‘Active Measures’ Documentary Assert Donald Trump Has Been Putin’s Puppet for Decades

Watching Jack Bryan’s explosive documentary “Active Measures,” about Russia’s espionage program and the effect it had on the 2016 U.S. presidential election, could be likened to watching a 21st century version of Watergate.

The film, debuting at Hot Docs film festival in Toronto Monday, features archival footage and a bevy of interviews with key Washington figures including former CIA director James Woolsey, former United States Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, former F.B.I. special agent Clint Watts, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Via these interviews “Active Measures” constructs a powerful argument as to how Soviet modern warfare tactics – “active measures” — shifted the 2016 U.S. presidential elections and weakened Western democracy. The film also meticulously documents Trump’s problematic financial relationship with the Russian oligarchy that began decades ago.

“Russians have a particular type of mark who they go after,” explains one of the film’s interview subjects, senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “They go after somebody who has business resources, perhaps some shady morals so they are amenable to bribery or perhaps are in a difficult financial situation and (someone who) has political connections or aspirations. I’ve just described Donald Trump. He was the perfect mark for the Russians.”

Talking heads also point to New York’s Trump Tower as a “money laundering paradise” full of shell companies. Watts says that by Russia using cheaper tactics than traditional warfare – i.e. — propaganda, media manipulation and funding extremist groups – they were able to divide the U.S. in 2016. “By dividing a nation we can’t protect ourselves from threats within or without,” says Watts.

While Bryan as well as the docu’s producers, Marley Clements and Laura DuBois, are looking forward to the film’s HotDocs premiere, they are also aware that the movie’s subject matter could lead to personal safety issues, which is why the trio has hired a security team and are “watching what they drink.”

Why did you decide to make this film?

Bryan: This story is too big for one news article. So I really felt that people needed a (film) where they could sit down, watch from beginning to end and realize that this documentary is not about how evil Trump is. No. This was an operation. (Trump) had a problem with in his life and guys (from Russia) came in and solved it for him.” (Bryan is referring to Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1991.)

When did you start filming?

Bryan: We started the day after James Comey was fired in May 2017 until September 2017.

How did you fund the film?

DuBois: All of the money came from friends and family. We were really lucky that we had people who supported us and believed in what we were doing.

There is a lot of information packed into this documentary. Did you ever consider making it into a series?

Clements: Constantly. But when we finally decided to make it into a traditional feature doc we thought that maybe we can use cut scenes or stories for a future series or spinoff because there are so many parts of this that we really didn’t get to go into.

You interviewed a lot of key Washington figures including Hillary Clinton and John McCain. How did you convince them take part in the film?

Clements: We made sure to get as many diplomats and academics in the fold as we could to start out with because it felt to us when we made these bigger asks, like Hillary and John, they would feel much more comfortable that the people that they were in the trenches with were backing them up. It wasn’t just them going in by themselves.

What surprised you the most while making this film?

Byran: On the Trump side it was how far back (his relationship with Russia) went. On the Putin side, I was surprised at how broad the operation in 2016 was.

Did you reach out to Trump for an interview?

Bryan: No, but it was a serious point of consideration. But in the end we really didn’t want anybody on (his team) knowing what we were doing. We were a little nervous. Early on we had some threatening phone calls. So we decided to not tell anyone that we didn’t have to tell. Also to have someone (in the film) who I thought was going to lie and then go back and explain why he lied felt like a waste time.

What are you hoping audiences will take away from the film?

Bryan: My goal is to put it out there and really have people understand what happened. I hope that if people understand what happened they will use that to empower themselves and their decision-making. I also hope that there will be a lower tolerance for corruption and election meddling. In the long run I absolutely hope that we keep Vladimir Putin in check not just for what he’s doing to America and to Europe, but also what he’s doing to the Russian people.

Are you scared to release the film?

Bryan: We’re nervous but you kind of have to get past that very quickly. Listen, is it possible that a Russian mobster or Vladimir Putin will take offense and kill me? I guess it’s possible but it’s also unlikely. If it does happen though there are a whole lot worse things to die for.

More Politics

  • Kamala Harris

    Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Face Rematch in Next Democratic Debate

    Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris will have the opportunity to square off again in the second debate among Democratic hopefuls vying for their party’s nomination in the 2020 presidential election CNN, which will broadcast the next round of debates on July 30 and 31, televised a draw Thursday night that decided [...]

  • Jennifer Aniston and Tig Notaro Donate

    Jennifer Aniston and Tig Notaro Join Hollywood's Buttigieg Bandwagon

    Pete Buttigieg has built a devoted following in Hollywood over the last few months, helping him lead the Democratic field in fundraising for the second quarter. In a filing released Monday night, Buttigieg disclosed contributions from a bunch of bold-faced names, including Jennifer Aniston, Tig Notaro and Larry David. Buttigieg held numerous fundraisers in the [...]

  • Mary Bailey Steve D'Angelo, Jim Belushi

    Cannabis Industry Tackles Justice Reform With 'Last Prisoner Project'

    Jim Belushi is standing two feet away in the backyard of his spacious Brentwood home, honking a harp like he’s a Blues Brother back in sweet home Chicago accompanied by noted reggae band Rebelution’s Eric Rachmany and Kyle Ahern, who provide a 12-bar shuffle. There’s the sweet smell of skunk — and success — hanging [...]

  • Jeffrey Epstein

    Jeffrey Epstein Bail Decision Delayed, More Accusers Coming Forward

    Jeffrey Epstein won’t find out if he’s going to be released on bail until July 18, even as prosecutors argued that the multimillionaire businessman presents a flight risk and could endanger his accusers unless he remains in jail. At a hearing in Manhattan federal court on Monday, Epstein’s legal team said their client is willing [...]

  • Facebook Logo

    FTC Approves $5 Billion Fine Against Facebook for Privacy Violations

    The Federal Trade Commission voted to fine Facebook around $5 billion for violations of the FTC’s consumer-privacy rules, according to multiple media reports — the biggest privacy-related fine in the commission’s history. The $5 billion figure may be a record-breaker, but it represents less than Facebook reported in net profit ($5.43 billion) for the first [...]

  • United States Secretary of Labor Alexander

    Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta Resigning Amid Epstein Controversy

    Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta has tendered his resignation to President Trump after facing criticism for a plea deal he struck with billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in 2008 after Epstein was charged with luring teenage girls to his mansion for sex. According to the Los Angeles Times, Trump made the announcement Friday, telling reporters that Acosta [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content