Trump: Russia Investigation

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

13 thoughts on “Trump: Russia Investigation

  1. What’s the Big Deal if Team Trump Commits “Process Crimes?”

    Former FBI agent and now Yale law professor does a good job of explaining this in her thread below. (The NYT op-ed is also good.)

  2. Trump Might Try to Fire Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, and Why That’s a Big Deal

    From New York Times: Secret Memo Hints at New Republican Target: Rod Rosenstein

    Below is a thread that explains the potential rationale for firing Rosenstein, and why that rationale is highly dubious:

    And here’ s a thread explaining why firing Rosenstein would be a big deal, as significant as firing Mueller:

    Edit: How to Evaluate If Devin Nunes’s Memo Actually Points to a Real Scandal

    More granular details about how to judge the Nunes’s memo: Five Questions the Memo Must Answer by Asha Rangappa.

    Edit (1/30/2018)

    What the heck?! Why won’t he? So Nunes might be working with the White House, which is under FBI investigation, on a memo that suggests the FBI and DOJ is too political? If this is true, this would be the second time he has worked with the White House to cast doubt on the investigation. What the heck? (Speaker Ryan says FBI needs to be “cleansed” so don’t look to him to put a stop to this dangerous farce.)

    Edit (1/31/2018)

    Schiff is a Democrat, co-chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), so take this with a grain of salt (although he seems way more credible than Nunes, which I guess isn’t saying much). If true, this doesn’t sound good; the word “farce” comes to mind, again:

    Edit (2/10/2018)

  3. Sounds Like Trump Administration Has Decided Not to Implement Sanctions Bill

    Today was the deadline. This only strengthens the impression that either Trump is compromised or has a quid-pro-agreement; it certainly doesn’t weaken it.

    Edit

    David French, from National Review, has a different take: Trump Waiver of Russi Sanctions Proper and Prudent, For Now

    Recap of the News Relevant to Russia Investigation

    Edit (1/30/2018)

    I don’t know if this creates a constitutional crisis, but this is a serious matter. Also, how can Trump do this without any explanation, given that he’s being investigated for conspiring with the Russians to interfere in the 2016 election; that the Russians have a quid pro quo agreement with him or information to blackmail him? How can this be acceptable?

    Edit (1/31/2018)

    Coincidence?

  4. The Ten Undisputed Facts About the Russian Investigation That Strongly Suggest It’s Not a Witch Hunt

    Axios has a list here. It’s a fast read.

  5. One bit of evidence cited by those who believe FBI have been going after Trump for political reasons seems to have taken a hit

  6. Doing Little to Protect Elections from Russian Interference

    As far as I know Trump WH doing little to nothing. This seems like an obvious and huge red flag, given everything else we know. What are some good reasons Trump and his administration isn’t leading on protecting our elections?

  7. From the NYT: American Spies Paid $100,000 to Russian Who Wanted to Sell Material on Trump

    Edit

    I tend to agree with this:

    Edit (2/10/2018)

    What McMullin, former CIA guy, says here falls in line with another former CIA guy, John Sipher, writes about here Sipher calls this strategic deception, and it seems like Sipher anticipated what’s happening above (although not that Trump would be assisting):

    As I’ve written recently, I believe that collusion is possible and that the much-maligned Steele dossier is more right than wrong. However, I also suspect that it will be very hard to prove. Into this atmosphere Russian intelligence will certainly look to frame the narrative to fit their interests. They may, for example, provide a false lead suggesting collusion with the Trump campaign, only to pull the rug later to try to discredit the whole investigatory enterprise. Or they may allow the release of a false and weak form of kompromat on the President to suggest they don’t have anything stronger. Who knows what exactly their craft will deliver to a segment of the population ready to believe a certain narrative.

  8. Mueller indicts 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities accused of violating federal laws in order to interfere with U.S. elections and political processes

    This news is just breaking so many comments may be wrong, but I’m going to post some things that have stood out to me so far. I’ll probably be adding and updating this post a lot. Here’s the indictment.

    (Re: the above. This isn’t just about expression ideas in the public square during an election.)

    (This^ too.)

    (Important note: These are indictments, not convictions. They may not have occurred; they may not be proven in a court of law.)

    Edit: Trump tweets about Mueller indictment, and reporter fact checks the tweets (2/18/2018)

  9. Non-nefarious Explanation for Trump’s Behavior

    If the pattern holds, Trump won’t say something strong. The question is, why? Is there a innocent or a non-nefarious explanation for this? Here are the two best possibilities I can come up with:

    1. Trump really wants better relations with Russia, because he believes this is in the best interests of the U.S. Because of this, he is reluctant speak harshly against Russia, especially publicly, knowing that doing so will hurt his ability to develop a good relationship with them.

    2. To strongly condemn Russian for their interference is tantamount to conceding that Russia helped Trump win the election–that Trump’s victory was somehow at least partially due to Russia and not Trump’s efforts, alone. In other words, Trump’s ego is not allowing him to admit that Russia interfered, and his ego is also preventing him from retaliating against Russia and protecting the nation.

    Of these two possibilities, #1 looks the best, but it’s weakened by what we know of Trump. Since when is he so diplomatically deferential? Actually, if Putin has lavished praised on Trump, it’s believable that Trump would not want to say anything negative about him. And there’s a decent chance that’s exactly what Putin and other Russian diplomats have done.

    If you combine #2 with this–i.e., Trump’s ego doesn’t allow him to admit the Russians interfered and helped him win–then maybe this provides a non-collusion explanation for his behavior. (Still, this wouldn’t explain contacts between members of his campaign and Russia–especially his son seeking Russians to get dirt on Clinton, or discussing campaign tactics with wikikleaks.)

  10. Pro Trump Response to Mueller’s Recent Indictment

    I believe getting different perspectives is important, so I’m going to include some responses from pro-Trump individuals:

    From The Washington Examiner: A Non-Alarmist Reading of the Mueller Russia Indictment by Byron York

    York seems to have two objectives: 1) To argue that the Russian interference didn’t really have a significant impact; 2) Because of that, creating an equivalence with Pearl Harbor is inappropriate. Also, he makes a quick note at the end that he believes Trump administration is not doing nothing to protect the upcoming election, but only makes a vague reference to IC addressing this now.

  11. An Odd Commentator in the Trump-Russia Investigation

    That would be Masha Gessen. Gessen is a New Yorker writer, living in the U.S. since 2013. I say “odd” because she’s written some good pieces on surviving in an autocracy, but she’s also been quite dismissive of the Russian interference and the idea of collusion. I find her certitude and almost disdain for Americans who think this a bit strange. But because she has this view, I think she has value (even though I disagree with her). For example of this dismissivness, see here and here

    By the way, in the first link (a New Yorker article), Gessen writes a slightly condescending section directed at Americans, but I feel like it can actually apply to her as well:

    To understand what happened in 2016, we have to understand, among other things, how Russians perceived their own efforts. Perhaps the hardest thing for humans to do is to imagine the world as it is imagined by others. We tend to confuse acting in accordance with the goals and values of the society in which we live with rationality; we tend to confuse intelligence with thinking in accordance with those goals and values. And, of course, we are always inclined to see events as predetermined—and we are almost always wrong. An event as shocking as Trump’s election demands that the forces that may (or may not) have contributed to his victory be rendered suitably monstrous in retrospect.

    One other thing. Gessen’s views seem to stem from a relatively unique narrative. From what I recall the narrative is that Americans are exaggerating the significance of Russian interference, primarily as a psychological denial of deeper, inherent problems in American society–problems that are the real cause for Donald Trump’s electoral victory.* That is, Russian interference, Trump colluding or being compromised by Russia is fantasy.

    That Americans would not want to admit painful reasons for Trump’s electoral victory is believable to me. I also think the problems in America are more of a reason Trump won than Russian interference, but that doesn’t mean Russian interference or collusion with the Trump campaign didn’t occur.

    (*By the way, I want to also mention another narrative from an anti-anti-Trumper, Mike Doran. His narrative is the Russia collusion story is really a function of resentment from Never Trump conservatives–particularly political class. They resent that Trump didn’t ask them to join his administration, they resent that Trump proved them wrong by winning, and they resent that their predictions of disaster hasn’t really born fruit. Doran seems to think that Trump really isn’t as bad as Never Trumpers claim–they’re just blinded by their resentment and even hatred of Trump. (Never mind that there might actually be many vaild reasons to strongly object to and oppose Trump.)

    Edit: Interesting Skeptic (2/22/2018)

  12. Paul Manafort

    There’s a terrific Atlantic profile of Manafort, someone who would be a great subject for a Scorsese bio-pic (played by Paul Sorvino). If you don’t want to read the article (which is long), you can listen to an interview with the author, Franklin Foer, on Fresh Air:

    A few brief comments:

    1. Trump should never have hired this guy, and doing so is failure of properly vet someone. Maybe Trump didn’t believe he would win, so he didn’t care who he hired. Still, I don’t think that rationale would exonerate Trump;

    2. The last paragraph in the article is a killer:

    Last year, a group of Manafort’s longtime friends, led by an old Republican hand named Bill Greener, tried to organize a cadre of surrogates to defend Manafort from the allegations against him, including the worst one: that he collaborated with a hostile foreign power to subvert the American democratic process. Manafort’s old partner Charlie Black even showed up for a meeting, though the two had largely fallen out of touch. A few of the wheel men from the old firm wanted to help too. Yet, when volunteers were needed to go on TV as character witnesses, nobody raised his hand. “There wasn’t a lot to work with,” one person contacted by this group told me. “And nobody could be sure that Paul didn’t do it.” In fact, everything about the man and the life he chose suggests that he did.

    This only strengthens the impression that many in the Trump campaign, possibly Trump himself, saw the campaign as a way to gain something personally from it. And maybe they behaved in reckless ways because they were confident Trump would lose–in which case the media scrutiny on the campaign would dissipate soon after the election, and they likely wouldn’t be caught. (Still, that calculation doesn’t seem all that wise.)

  13. Good summary and case for collusion

    From Politico Why You Shouldn’t Be a Russiagate Skeptic

    This does’t even mention emails between Donald Trump Jr. and wikileaks, or Trump calling on Russia to hack/release emails, while also praising wikileaks–all of which are also an examples of collusion.

    Edit

    This is actually a pretty good summary of what might of have happened:

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