All things related to the Trump-Russia investigation. To continue from previous threads, here’s something no the concept of collusion. I like this thread by Tom Nichols, specifically because it examines the nature of collusion and how this can be a big problem even if no laws were broken:
The thing is, you have to look at the whole problem of “collusion” from an intelligence viewpoint, not a legal one. If you’re worried about what someone has on you, and you act in ways that you think will prevent being outed, are you colluding? /1
This becomes an even more pressing question if the group that has bad stuff on you has communicated to you somehow (like, say, at a meeting) what it is they really want from you as a specific action. If you act in a way you ordinarily would not have, are you colluding? /2
Right now, what Trump’s haters believe, and what his cultists deny, is that the Russians and Trump had an *explicit* quid pro quo. “Do this or else.” It doesn’t have to work that way. /3
Now, in a legal sense, sure, you might want a straight up “Do X or Y happens to you.” But that’s not necessary if the target already knows the score all around: You know what we have, you know what we want, let’s talk like adults, no need for threats, etc. /4
The reality is that if anyone else had this much contact with Russians, this much lying about it, this much intermingling of finances, this much family involvement, they’d be considered a Grade-A security threat specifically because of such vulnerabilities. /5
This doesn’t mean “Tell me what you want me to do, Vladimir.” It’s far more subtle, and the people who want to see a direct quid pro quo are being unrealistic – and missing the real nature of the problem here. /6x
Edit: More Thoughts on Collusion (2/28/2018)
thread from Julian Sanchez
NSADIR Rogers’ remarks today do point up a problem with making everything about “collusion.” If there’s some secret phone call where Trump tells Putin “interfere away, we won’t do anything,” that’s “collusion.” 1/2
If instead he just tells USCYBERCOM to stand down, the signal to Russia is exactly as clear, and it pretty well guarantees continued interference, but I guess technically there’s no “colluding”. And yet… who cares? The effect is identical.
This tracks what I said months ago about “collusion” during the campaign, FWIW. If Trump minimizes & denies Russian interference when he has ample reason to know they’re helping & eagerly exploits all the help they offer… but there’s no secret phone call, is that “collusion”?
Maybe not. Is it a distinction anyone should particularly care about? Probably not.
I see that this could technically be true, but I have trouble conceiving of a real-world universe where the former exists without the latter.
Seems much more likely that collusion happened without blackmail – convergence of interest combined with Trump’s disregard for protocol.
— Adam Jentleson (@AJentleson) February 28, 2018
Thought: Let’s assume that Trump, in terms of his mentality, impulses, and values, is essentially an authoritarian; that is, he approached the campaign and governs now like an authoritarian ruler, or at least tries to. If this is true, then his rhetoric, actions, and goals would be in line with Russia’s (and other autocratic regimes). There wouldn’t need to be explicit agreement to collude. Trump would seek help from Russia to win the election–because that’s what an authoritarian ruler would do. The Russians would help him because they wanted to weaken Hillary Clinton and cause as much disruption in the U.S.* Nothing illegal here, but this would be really bad if true.
The thing is, there were a lot of contacts between the two parties, and a lot of lying about it. The Russians might also know things about Trump and other members of his team that can be used to blackmail them. The Russians need not have made explicit threats. So now Trump has to be wary of Russia, and that limits his behavior. At the same time, because Trump is essentially an authoritarian he would naturally see Putin as an ally….But that doesn’t explain his sycophancy toward Putin or the desire to form an alliance. He shows an affinity toward authoritarians like Erdogan, Duterte, Xi, but not to the same degree.
Trump and his team may also not have believed they were going to win, so they either tried to make deals with Russia or tried to do things they know would please Russia in exchange for some financial or other type of personal gain. This could have created compromising information.
(*A wilder theory is that over many years Russian cutouts/operatives have cultivated Trump–cultivating and encouraging an authoritarian conception of governance. It wouldn’t be hard as Trump seems to have that type of personality already. The Russians could have done this with several/many different prominent individuals, in the chance that those individuals would have a chance at winning political office. It would be a long-shot, but it might be worth the investment. When Trump ran for president, the Russians would help, knowing that Trump would run a campaign like an authoritarian (while subtly encouraging this) and thus cause chaos even if he didn’t win–and maybe it would be more chaotic if he lost.)
Trump advisers spent months convincing him to OK a plan to supply weapons to Ukraine.
Yet when Trump signed off, he told aides not to publicize his decision because it might agitate Putin, officials tell NBC News.
"He doesn't want us to bring it up."https://t.co/6kd390nZG7
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) March 29, 2018
The quote above reminds me of remarks I recently heard from a Trumpcast podcast, featuring Michael Isikoff and David Corn, co-authors of a new book, Russian Roulette. They make the point that Trump has wanted to build a Trump hotel in Moscow, and at some point, he really started to try and curry favor with Putin, saying really nice things about him, etc. They claim that the deal almost went through, but Putin invaded Ukraine and the West implemented sanctions, which blew up the deal. They speculate that this could be a reason Trump is opposed to the sanctions. That is, if Trump can remove sanctions, he’ll get a hotel deal in Moscow.
There’s something else Trump said in 1987 interview, criticizing Reagan and his team of diplomats with regard to negotiating with Russia:
“They have no smiles, no warmth; there’s no sense of them as people. Who the hell wants to talk to them? They don’t have the ability to go into a room and sell a deal. They’re not sellers in the positive sense.”
My takeaway is that Trump believes that in order to make a deal with someone you have to sweet-talk and charm that person, and I guess never say anything bad about them. Trump seems to think that if you do this, and you’re good at making deals, then a deal will be made. Maybe this is true in business, but in international relations, I’m skeptical it’s as simple as this.
In any event, putting these things together might explain why Trump never says anything bad about Putin. However, it doesn’t explain why building a hotel in Moscow is so important to Trump. Is it more important than building it in another city? Is it more important than getting commercial licensing in China or building a hotel there, or in India? Maybe it is, but this isn’t clear or obvious to me.
Also, none of this is mutually exclusive from the Kremlin having compromising material on Trump or his children.