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

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.

Thread below:

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.)

3/29/2018

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.

Edit

Ivanka Trump Was In Contact With A Russian Who Offered A Trump-Putin Meeting

In November 2015, Ivanka Trump told Cohen to speak with Klokov, according to the four sources. Cohen had at least one phone conversation with the weightlifter, they said. It is not known what the men discussed over the phone, but they exchanged a string of emails that are now being examined by congressional investigators and federal agents probing Russia’s election meddling.

In one of those emails, Klokov told Cohen that he could arrange a meeting between Donald Trump and Putin to help pave the way for the tower. Later, Cohen sent an email refusing that offer and saying that the Trump Organization already had an agreement in place. He said he was cutting off future communication with Klokov. Copying Ivanka Trump, the Russian responded in a final brusque message, in which he questioned Cohen’s authority to make decisions for the Trump Organization. Frustrated by the exchange, Ivanka Trump questioned Cohen’s refusal to continue communicating with Klokov, according to one of the sources.

BuzzFeed News was shown the emails on the condition we do not quote them.

35 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)

    1. This all seems like a sham. The pretense the GOP will use is that Rosenstein is taking too long to give them information. I can’t help but see this as GOP protecting Trump (maybe some of themselves) from the Mueller probe.

      If the GOP really cares about oversight over DOJ and other executive branches, they would be investigating EPA, possible foreign emoluments going to Trump’s businesses, among many other things. This is one of the reasons this feels like a sham to me.

  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?

    1. See the thread below for important details.

  4. Is the Russian Investigation a Witch Hunt?

    The ten undisputed facts about the Russian investigation that suggest it is not.

    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?

    3/8/2018

  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.)

    3/21/2018

    With regard to point #1, here’s the interview that contains Trump speaking about what seems to be his vision for dealing with Russia (in the 80s).

    The passage describes the circumstances of the interview. I’ll explain why I posted it afterward:

    Forty-eight hours before our scheduled lunch, Donald Trump called to cancel it. He’d had severe second thoughts, he said, about the advisability of revealing the extent of his involvement in the delicate—and explosive—subject I’d wanted to discuss with him.

    “I’m dealing at a very high level on this,” he said. With people in Washington. In the White House. There was too much at stake for him to risk the wrong kind of exposure on The Subject.

    The Subject has itself been the subject of considerable delicate pre-lunch negotiations between Trump and the magazine. Trump was enthusiastic when he first heard I wanted to focus on The Subject.

    That’s great, he said: The Subject is far more important than any development deal he’s ever done, than any deal of that sort he’ll ever do. The life-or-death nature of The Subject transcends mere real estate. He’s pursuing it as if it were the biggest deal of his life. The Ultimate Deal.

    “The Subject” and “the Ultimate Deal” refer to a deal with Russia. Here’s how it would work:

    t’s a deal with the Soviets. We approach them on this basis: We both recognize the nonproliferation treaty’s not working, that half a dozen countries are on the brink of getting a bomb. Which can only cause trouble for the two of us. The deterrence of mutual assured destruction that prevents the United States and the USSR from nuking each other won’t work on the level of an India-Pakistan nuclear exchange. Or a madman dictator with a briefcase-bomb team. The only answer is for the Big Two to make a deal now to step in and prevent the next generation of nations about to go nuclear from doing so. By whatever means necessary.

    “Most of those [pre-nuclear] countries are in one form or another dominated by the U.S. and the Soviet Union,” Trump says. “Between those two nations you have the power to dominate any of those countries. So we should use our power of economic retaliation and they use their powers of retaliation and between the two of us we will prevent the problem from happening. It would have been better having done something five years ago,” he says.

    At an earlier part of the article, Trump hints at what would be done if economic sanctions didn’t work:

    “I think you have to come down on them very hard economically or whatever way,” Trump says. “I think the solution is largely economic. Because there are so many of these countries that are so fragile and we have a vast power that’s never been used. They depend on us for food, for medical supplies. And I would never even suggest using it except on this issue. But this issue supersedes all other things.”

    He pauses.

    “I guess the easy thing would be to say you go in and clean it out.”

    “Like the Israelis did with the Iraqi plant?”

    “I don’t necessarily want to advocate that publicly because it comes off radical. And you know, without a lot of discussion prior to saying that, it sounds very foolish and this is why I get very concerned about discussing it at all.”

    Is Trump’s vision for U.S.-Russia relations essentially what was described above? I don’t know. But one thing that comes to mind is the way Trump wants to impose steel tariffs, about how he mentioned the importance of the steel industry, and I recall hearing critics say Trump is governing as if we live in the 1970s. Could it be that his ideas really never expanded since the 70s and 80s? Maybe that’s hard to believe, but I can’t rule that out.

    But what I’m really curious about is the genesis of these ideas. How’d he come to this notion? I’d want to know if he talked to anyone about this, if anyone else agreed with him about that. It would be especially noteworthy if he had conversations with foreign nations about this concept.

    In any event, maybe Trump is wedded to this vision–maybe it’s a kind of dream for him. If he could pull this off, then he would prove that he was a great–maybe the greatest–negotiator of all time. I’m not sure if I’m crazy, but the idea doesn’t seem that far-fetched to me. It would be a relatively benign explanation.

    There’s also a quote that might shed light on Trump’s tweets in reference to his approach to Putin:

    Somebody who has the ability to make a deal. Because there’s a deal there to be done absolutely. But not by the present players,” he says, referring to current American negotiators and Reagan negotiators. “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.”

    That being smooth and charming is the key to closing an important deal in international relations seems fanciful and naive. You can be the smoothest talker, but if the terms aren’t in the interests of the other country there won’t be any deal. Additionally, in the current situation, Russia/Putin would have to be a good partner, someone we could reasonable trust and actually have shared interests. As far as I know, Russia views the U.S. as it’s primary adversary; I think our system of government is one of the reasons for that. In other words, Putin is an autocratc/kleptocrat. It’s hard to see how a partnership, in U.S. interests, is viable or wise.

    But if we assume that Trump has this dream of forming an alliance with Russia, and you combine that with a naive, inept understanding of diplomacy, would that explain Trump’s behavior? I think it might. Having said that, I don’t think this explanation is mutually exclusive from more nefarious explanations–Trump may realize the Russians have compromising material on Trump (or his family). Also, he encouraged Russia to interfere, made public comments that suggest he didn’t think getting information from Russia was wrong (“Anyone would do it.”)–and he could did things that he knew Russia would like (e.g., removing sanctions, changing GOP platform; Manafort would have known), believing that this would put them in their good graces, leading to some type of benefits later. This makes sense in the context that Trump and his team wouldn’t win. After many of these objectives failed, maybe Trump is falling back on his old dream?

  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:

    3/28/2018

  14. Russia Still Has Not Paid a Price for Interfering in Our Election

    This, along with not implementing the last sanctions law, continues to be really disturbing, especially since Trump campaign cooperated to some degree with Russia in the last election, and the lingering questions about whether Trump is compromised or not. If Trump isn’t compromised or doesn’t have a quid pro quo with Russia, it seems like he’s OK, or even wants them to interfere, thinking that they will help him and the Republicans.

    OK, maybe it’s not as bad as it seems:

    “It hasn’t been enough”

    Watch this:

    3/6/2018

  15. Communication Between Trump Campaign and Wikileaks

    The article above is also useful for the timeline between Stone and Wikileaks.

    And from November 2017:

    7/31/2018

  16. Mueller eyes charges against Russians who stole, spread Democrats’ emails

    “Eyeing” is the key word–Mueller hasn’t actually issued the indictment yet. The question is, why was this information leaked, and why now? There’s speculation that when Mueller issues an indictment, it could include Putin, Russian foreign intelligence, people in wikileaks, and Americans who aided them. If Mueller indicts these people and any of them are from team Trump, that’s close to the ball game.

    Edit

    The Just Security article below points out that the Democratic memo (countering Nunes’s memo) mentions that the “Russians previewed to Papadopoulos that they could help with disseminating these stolen emails.” Papdopoulos worked in the Trump campaign, and I believe he’s been indictment. (I think he has a plea deal.) The article goes on to explain the significance of this:

    A legally important question is what the Trump campaign did after the Russians previewed that they could help disseminate the stolen emails. If Trump campaign officials consulted with the Russians on their plans to disseminate the emails, it could involve direct violations of campaign finance laws (see the statement below from leading election law expert Paul Seamus Ryan). If Trump campaign officials gave tacit assent or approval or support, it could directly implicate them in the “conspiracy to defraud the United States” by evading the Federal Election Commission—the very conspiracy for which Mueller has already indicted thirteen Russian officials (see the statement below by former White House official and also top election law expert Bob Bauer). If Papadopoulos intentionally encouraged the Russians and if he was instructed to do so by other campaign officials, they could be liable as accomplices (see statements below from law professors and former federal prosecutors Barbara McQuade and Alex Whiting). The Trump campaign as an organization could also be criminally liable (see statement below from McQuade). Finally, if members of the Trump campaign tried to conceal the facts of a crime (potentially including either the original DNC hack or the dissemination of the stolen emails) they could be guilty of “misprision of a felony” (see statements below by former federal prosecutors including Renato Mariotti).

    To me, even this should be damning, whether it’s illegal or not. If Hillary Clinton did this, I’m pretty sure the GOP would be in an uproar and likely be looking to impeach her. The bigger question: Would they be justified in doing so? Would any Congress be justified in impeaching any POTUS, Republican or Democrat, for doing the same thing? I think so–or at least we’re certainly moving in that territory. I think the act is especially egregious given that Russia is an adversary seeking to undermine our democracy and cause chaos in our society. If Team Trump (or any American) assisted Russia efforts like releasing stolen emails to damage a presidential candidate and cause chaos, they’ve done something seriously wrong, whether they broke any laws or not, in my opinion.

    I’ll end with this passage:

    So what do we know about Trump associates’ actions subsequent to the Russians’ previewing their plan to disseminate the stolen emails? Rep. Schiff highlighted the potential connections with Donald Trump’s calling on the Russians to hack and disseminate Clinton’s emails, and Don Trump Jr.’s positive response to being offered dirt on Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” One could add to those instances Don Jr.’s direct communications with WikiLeaks, Roger Stone’s communications with Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks, and the head of Cambridge Analytica reaching out to Wikileaks to help release Clinton emails. There is, of course, also a long series of former Trump campaign officials’ misleading federal authorities about the campaign’s contacts with the Russians, and recent reporting that Hope Hicks allegedly said that Don. Jr. emails “will never get out” in discussions with President Trump about releasing a false statement to cover up the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians.

  17. Amazing Report of What Happened in the 2016 Election

    If you haven’t read much about Russian interference in the 2016 election and the way the U.S. Government responded to it,
    I highly recommend the article below. Incredible reporting and organizing of everything we know so far, and adding a few new tidbits, like the one in the tweet below. The title suggests the article is about Steele, which it is, but it’s also a summary/timeline of key events with regard to Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    The article is really long, and I quoted passages below that have stood for me (emphasis added):

    “It was as if all criminal roads led to Trump Tower,” Steele told friends.

    .

    This was in response to a previous report Steele worked on involving Russian organized criminal activity. One or more of the key players resided in Trump Tower.

    In April of 2016, not long before he took on the Fusion assignment, he finished a secret investigation, which he called Project Charlemagne, for a private client. It involved a survey of Russian interference in the politics of four members of the European Union—France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Germany—along with Turkey, a candidate for membership. The report chronicles persistent, aggressive political interference by the Kremlin: social-media warfare aimed at inflaming fear and prejudice, and “opaque financial support” given to favored politicians in the form of bank loans, gifts, and other kinds of support. The report discusses the Kremlin’s entanglement with the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the French right-wing leader Marine Le Pen. (Le Pen and Berlusconi deny having had such ties.) It also suggests that Russian aid was likely given to lesser-known right-wing nationalists in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. The Kremlin’s long-term aim, the report concludes, was to boost extremist groups and politicians at the expense of Europe’s liberal democracies. The more immediate goal was to “destroy” the E.U., in order to end the punishing economic sanctions that the E.U. and the U.S. had imposed on Russia after its 2014 political and military interference in Ukraine.

    Masha Gessen has asked why foreign interference in an election is a big deal. The passage above (if accurate) should make that clear–or at least I should hope that people like Gessen could see that authoritarian regimes funding and assisting extreme candidates and using social media to heighten extremist views–doing both to exacerbate existing divisions should not be allowed. I hope that they can see a difference between this type of activity and activity to promote democracy in authoritarian regimes. These aren’t morally equivalent activities in my view. (I also think there’s a big difference between trying to tear a part a country and preferring a candidate or policy would be in line with your country’s interests.)

    One question particularly gnawed at Simpson (of GPS Fusion). Why had Trump repeatedly gone to Russia in search of business, yet returned empty-handed? Steele was tantalized, and took the job, thinking that he’d find evidence of a few dodgy deals, and not much else. He evidently didn’t consider the danger of poking into a Presidential candidate’s darkest secrets. “He’s just got blinkers,” Steele’s longtime friend told me. “He doesn’t put his head in the oven so much as not see the oven.”

    Within a few weeks, two or three of Steele’s long-standing collectors came back with reports drawn from Orbis’s larger network of sources. Steele looked at the material and, according to people familiar with the matter, asked himself, “Oh, my God—what is this?” He called in Burrows (his partner at Orbis, their consulting firm), who was normally unflappable. Burrows realized that they had a problem. As Simpson later put it, “We threw out a line in the water, and Moby-Dick came back.”

    On whether “Deep State” in cahoots with Democrats, out to get Trump:

    For all the Republicans’ talk of a top-down Democratic plot, Steele and Simpson appear never to have told their ultimate client—the Clinton campaign’s law firm—that Steele had gone to the F.B.I. Clinton’s campaign spent much of the summer of 2016 fending off stories about the Bureau’s investigation into her e-mails, without knowing that the F.B.I. had launched a counter-intelligence investigation into the Trump team’s ties to Russia—one fuelled, in part, by the Clinton campaign’s own opposition research. As a top Clinton-campaign official told me, “If I’d known the F.B.I. was investigating Trump, I would have been shouting it from the rooftops!”

    And

    At this point, a Clinton foreign-policy adviser, Laura Rosenberger, who had held various positions at the National Security Council and at the State Department during the Bush and Obama Administrations, grew seriously alarmed. She’d already noticed that Trump had pro-Russian positions on many issues, which seemed to her to be inexplicably outside the Republican mainstream. She’d also been struck by Trump’s hiring of Paul Manafort, who had worked as a political consultant for pro-Kremlin forces in Ukraine. Trump’s team then appeared to play a role in modifying the G.O.P. platform so that it better reflected Russia’s position on Ukraine policy. “It was all beginning to snowball,” she told me. “And then, with the e-mail leaks, it was, like, ‘Oh, fuck’—excuse my French—‘we are under attack!’ That was the moment when, as a national-security adviser, you break into sweats.”
    Rosenberger, meanwhile, had no idea that the Clinton campaign had indirectly employed a Russia expert: Steele.Orbis’s work was sealed off, behind a legal barrier. Marc Elias, the attorney at Perkins Coie who was serving as the Clinton campaign’s general counsel, acted as a firewall between the campaign and the private investigators digging up information on Trump. It’s a common practice for law firms to hire investigators on behalf of clients, so that any details can be protected by attorney-client privilege. Fusion briefed only Elias on the reports. Simpson sent Elias nothing on paper—he was briefed orally. Elias, according to people familiar with the matter, was flabbergasted by the dossier but wasn’t sure what to do with the allegations. “Sex stuff is kind of worthless in a campaign,” Simpson told me. In the absence of live accusers or documentary evidence, such material is easy to dismiss, and can make the purveyor look sleazy.

    One thing I’d wonder, though: Wouldn’t Elias report what he’s getting to the Clinton campaign–if not the sex stuff, surely the Russian interference stuff. Indeed, I find it hard to believe that the Clinton campaign didn’t know anything from the Fusion report.

    Timeline:

    After the D.N.C.’s e-mails were hacked, Mook went on TV talk shows and pointed the finger at Russia, but, he says, his comments were often dismissed as “spin.” On Jake Tapper’s “State of the Union,” he declared, “What’s disturbing to us is that experts are telling us that Russian state actors broke into the D.N.C., stole these e-mails, and other experts are now saying that the Russians are releasing these e-mails for the purpose of actually helping Donald Trump.” Tapper then interviewed Donald Trump, Jr., who ridiculed Mook’s accusation as “disgusting” and “phony”—even though it’s now known that, just a few weeks earlier, he had met at Trump Tower with a Russian offering dirt on Clinton.

    ***

    In England, Steele kept cranking out memos, but he was growing anxious about the lack of response from the F.B.I. As the summer wore on, he confided in an American friend, Jonathan Winer, a Democratic lawyer and foreign-policy specialist who was working at the State Department. Steele told him that Orbis sources had come across unsettling information about Trump’s ties to Russia. Winer recalls Steele saying that he “was more certain of it than about any information he’d gotten before in his life.” Winer told me, “Chris was deeply disturbed that the Kremlin was infecting our country. By hacking our computers and using WikiLeaks to disseminate the information—it was an infection. He thought it would have really bad consequences for the U.S. and the U.K., for starters. He thought it would destabilize these countries. He wanted the U.S. government to know. He’s a very institution-oriented person.”

    During the previous two years, Steele had been sending Winer informal reports, gratis, about raw intelligence that he’d picked up on Ukraine and related areas while working for commercial clients. Winer, who encouraged Steele to keep sending the reports, estimated that he had received more than a hundred and twenty of them by 2016. He and others at the State Department found the research full of insights. Winer recalls Victoria Nuland, the top official overseeing U.S. policy on Russia, expressing surprise at how timely Steele’s reports were. A former top State Department official who read them said, “We found the reports about eighty per cent consistent with other sources we had. Occasionally, his sources appeared to exaggerate their knowledge or influence. But Steele also highlighted some players and back channels between Russia and Ukraine who became important later. So the reports had value.”

    By all accounts Steele is a well-respected, credible and reliable source of information, so to me him saying that he ‘was more certain of it than about any information he’d gotten before in his life’ is a really big deal.

    More on evidence against a “deep state” conspiracy:

    When Kerry was briefed, though, he didn’t think there was any action that he could take. He asked if F.B.I. agents knew about the dossier, and, after being assured that they did, that was apparently the end of it. Finer agreed with Kerry’s assessment, and put the summary in his safe, and never took it out again. Nuland’s reaction was much the same. She told Winer to tell Steele to take his dossier to the F.B.I. The so-called Deep State, it seems, hardly jumped into action against Trump.

    “No one wanted to touch it,” Winer said. Obama Administration officials were mindful of the Hatch Act, which forbids government employees to use their positions to influence political elections. The State Department officials didn’t know who was funding Steele’s research, but they could see how politically explosive it was. So they backed away.

    People can criticize these actions, but they show the opposite of Trump’s approach–namely, the actions show a respect for our democratic institutions and processes and put these ahead of their political position.

    Robert Hannigan, then the head of the U.K.’s intelligence service the G.C.H.Q., had recently flown to Washington and briefed the C.I.A.’s director, John Brennan, on a stream of illicit communications between Trump’s team and Moscow that had been intercepted. (The content of these intercepts has not become public.)

    Whoa—British intelligence has “illicit communication” between Russian and Trump’s team that hasn’t been public

    Inside the Clinton campaign, John Podesta, the chairman, was stunned by the news that the F.B.I. had launched a full-blown investigation into Trump, especially one that was informed by research underwritten by the Clinton campaign. Podesta had authorized Robby Mook, the campaign manager, to handle budget matters, and Mook had approved Perkins Coie’s budget request for opposition research without knowing who was producing it. Podesta and Mook have maintained that they had no idea a former foreign intelligence officer was on the Democrats’ payroll until the Mother Jones article appeared, and that they didn’t read the dossier until BuzzFeed posted it online. Far from a secret campaign weapon, Steele turned out to be a secret kept from the campaign.

    ***

    Wood, an unpaid informal adviser to Orbis, and Steele agreed that McCain, the hawkish chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, should know what was going on. Wood told me, “It was simply a matter of duty.” Steele had gone to him before the election for counsel. They’d discussed the possibility that Steele’s sources in Russia were wrong, or spreading disinformation, but concluded that none of them had a motive to lie; moreover, they had taken considerable risks to themselves to get the truth out.“I sensed he was distinctly alarmed,” Wood told me. “I don’t doubt his good faith at all. It’s absurd for anyone to suggest he was engaged in political tricks.”

    This suggests that Steele considered if he was being played by his sources or that they were unreliable. Also, what I didn’t mention is that the a) Steele worked for MI6, working in Russia; b) his consulting firm developing contacts and other groups to help gather information. And again, Steele said “he was never more sure of any information he received in his life.”

    On December 9th, McCain handed Comey a copy of the dossier. The meeting lasted less than ten minutes, because, to McCain’s surprise, the F.B.I. had possessed a copy since the summer. According to the former national-security official, when Kramer learned about the meeting his reaction was “Shit, if they’ve had it all this time, why didn’t they do something?” Kramer then heard that the dossier was an open secret among journalists, too. He asked, “Is there anyone in Washington who doesn’t know about this?”

    On January 5, 2017, it became clear that at least two Washingtonians remained in the dark about the dossier: the President and the Vice-President. That day, in a top-secret Oval Office meeting, the chiefs of the nation’s top intelligence agencies briefed Obama and Biden and some national-security officials for the first time about the dossier’s allegation that Trump’s campaign team may have colluded with the Russians. As one person present later told me, “No one understands that at the White House we weren’t briefed about the F.B.I.’s investigations. We had no information on collusion. All we saw was what the Russians were doing. The F.B.I. puts anything about Americans in a lockbox.”

    Obama stayed silent. All through the campaign, he and others in his Administration had insisted on playing by the rules, and not interfering unduly in the election, to the point that, after Trump’s victory, some critics accused them of political negligence. The Democrats, far from being engaged in a political conspiracy with Steele, had been politically paralyzed by their high-mindedness.

    This is evidence of FBI (and DOJ) operating independently of the WH–something that Trump doesn’t seem to understand or respect. It’s the kind of thing that makes me respect and admire our system. When Trump shows little understanding and respect for this–that makes me angry.

    On whether Comey was out to get Trump:

    Trump later suggested that Comey had actually used the dossier to get leverage over him, but, according to the officials familiar with the meeting, Comey’s motive was to protect the President-elect. In fact, if Comey had wanted to use the dossier as leverage, he could have done so months earlier, before Trump was elected, since it had been in the F.B.I.’s possession.

    Some new information:

    One subject that Steele is believed to have discussed with Mueller’s investigators is a memo that he wrote in late November, 2016, after his contract with Fusion had ended. This memo, which did not surface publicly with the others, is shorter than the rest, and is based on one source, described as “a senior Russian official.” The official said that he was merely relaying talk circulating in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but what he’d heard was astonishing: people were saying that the Kremlin had intervened to block Trump’s initial choice for Secretary of State, Mitt Romney. (During Romney’s run for the White House in 2012, he was notably hawkish on Russia, calling it the single greatest threat to the U.S.) The memo said that the Kremlin, through unspecified channels, had asked Trump to appoint someone who would be prepared to lift Ukraine-related sanctions, and who would coöperate on security issues of interest to Russia, such as the conflict in Syria. If what the source heard was true, then a foreign power was exercising pivotal influence over U.S. foreign policy—and an incoming President.

    Remember, this is coming from a nation that wants to sow discord in our country.

  18. Individuals Cooperating with Mueller

    Here’s why this news might be a big deal:

    Mr. Nader, a Lebanese-American businessman who advises Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the effective ruler of the Emirates, also attended a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles that Mr. Mueller’s investigators have examined. The meeting, convened by the crown prince, brought together a Russian investor close to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia with Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater and an informal adviser to Mr. Trump’s team during the presidential transition, according to three people familiar with the meeting.

    Also,

    Mr. Dmitriev became a frequent visitor to Abu Dhabi, and Emirati officials came to see him as a key conduit to the Russian government. In a 2015 email, the Emirati ambassador to Moscow at the time described Mr. Dmitriev as a “messenger” to get information directly to Mr. Putin.

    3/7/2018

    Prince talking about the conversation above:

  19. Russians Dying Suspiciously

    The message being sent is clear: Traitors are never safe, anywhere. Wherever you are hiding, the Kremlin can find you and kill you (and your family). Neither is this problem restricted to Britain. In November 2015, Mikhail Lesin, the founder of RT and a onetime member of Putin’s Kremlin inner circle, died mysteriously in the heart of Washington, D.C. While the official verdict is that a drunk Lesin died of self-inflicted blunt-force trauma, that cover story is considered a bad joke by the FBI and American counterintelligence. Putin likely deemed Lesin a traitor and defector who was about to spill the beans about Kremlin shenanigans to the Americans, so he had him silenced.

    On a side note, this is worrisome:

    Although several of those deaths can be linked to Kremlin operatives, the British government has been relatively timid about making a fuss regarding the murders of Russians on its soil. Although British police and intelligence have pushed for a stronger response by London, that has not been forthcoming. The difficult reality is that enormous Russian investments in British firms and real estate have translated into political influence, and no British government has been eager to rock the boat over a few mysterious murders.

    (emphasis added)

    Takeaway, and this may be obvious: We’ve got to extricate ourselves from Russian money. Prominent individuals, in or outside of government, have to avoid Russian money like the plague, and we should be really wary of those who take Russian money.

    Some of the emergency workers who went to the scene where they were found also took ill, and one police officer “is now also in a serious condition in hospital,” Mr. Rowley said.

    Dang it. I hope this leads the Brits to take action.

    Then, again–we need to get more information and evidence. One thought occurred: Does Skripal have any enemies? Having said that, I’m leaning towards Russia.

    3/8/2018

    I haven’t read the article, but I’ve been meaning to.

    3/8/2018

    3/12/2018

    As far I know the POTUS hasn’t spoken out against Russia for this. He hasn’t enacted sanctions that Congress signed into law last year, either.

    WH Spokerperson, Sarah Sanders commenting:

    Specifically condemning Russia is like pulling teeth for Trump.

    Here’s Russian response to that:

    Not good, dang it.

    3/14/2018

    But the pattern resembles the way Mr. Trump has responded to the consensus finding of American intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections. He has allowed top advisers to condemn Moscow for its election meddling but personally has used equivocal language in saying he accepts the conclusion — and generally expresses no outrage or criticism of Mr. Putin.

    Trump’s tepid response is disturbing.

    3/16/2018

    3/26/2018

  20. Obstruction of Justice?

    The president said he had never ordered Mr. McGahn to fire the special counsel. Mr. McGahn replied that the president was wrong and that he had in fact asked Mr. McGahn in June to call the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, to tell him that the special counsel had a series of conflicts that disqualified him for overseeing the investigation and that he had to be dismissed. The president told Mr. McGahn that he did not remember the discussion that way.

    Mr. Trump moved on, pointing out that Mr. McGahn had never told him that he was going to resign over the order to fire the special counsel. Mr. McGahn acknowledged that that was true but said that he had told senior White House officials at the time that he was going to quit.

    4/13/2018

    7/31/2018

    Yep.

  21. Admittedly Nutty Theory on Trump-Russia

    I’m a little nervous expressing this line of thinking, because I know it makes me sound crazy. To be clear, I’m not saying that this hypothesis is true–only it’s a hypothesis that has come to mind. Perhaps, I wrote about it before, but this thread made me think of it again:

    If Trump truly has a “daddy complex”–that he is insecure and that he will try to impress father figure or a big brother figure that he admires–there’s a decent chance the Russians would have noticed this. I’m wondering if they used and channel this towards Putin. The Steele dossier suggests that the Russians were cultivating Trump at least five years before the election (and I believe he had contacts going back to the 80s). If Trump sees Putin as a father figure or big brother figure, it might explain his behavior. Is there anything wrong with this? Not necessarily, but if this dynamic is so strong that Trump puts this above U.S. interests, that is a big problem. But proving all of this would be extremely difficult.

    I should also note that part of this dynamic could involve financial assistance. Financial debt and compromising material aren’t mutually exclusive from the existence of this dynamic as well.

  22. The Narrative the Russians Push to Respond to Electoral Interference and the Americans That Push a Similar Narrative

  23. Trump’s deference and soft touch towards Putin

    Context: Kremlin recently poisoned ex-spy and his daughter in UK, also affecting a UK police officer. Putin recently won an “election.

    The arms race remark is odd, especially the “out of control” statement. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone mention that this is a major problem, especially with Russia. We don’t want nuclear weapons to proliferate, especially in countries that don’t have nuclear weapons now, and reducing nuclear weapons is a desirable objective. But both seem different from an arm’s race with Russia. Trump could be confused, and he could be conflating all of this.

    There are two other possible explanations that come to mind:

    1. I believe Trump has, for a long time (going back to an interview in the 80s), had this idea that the U.S. and Russia could join together and basically force all other nations to give up their weapons, leaving Russia and the U.S. as the only two super powers–in some kind of partnership. The idea is far-fetched on many levels, but I’ll mention one: partnering with an authoritarian regime that resorts to the type of information/hyper war tactics is a bad idea. As long as Russia ruled by authoritarian ruler operating in this way, they cannot be a trusted partner in my opinion.

    2. Trump could be trying to lay ground to justify his soft touch on Russia. To wit, if I’m not careful we could not only expand nuclear arm’s race, but we could get into nuclear confrontation. This argument seems like a bit of stretch, but Trump used Kremlin talking point about danger of World War III.

    Also,

    and

    And here’s how I feel about Trump congratulating Putin:

    Edit:

    Also,

    Trump also chose not to heed talking points from aides instructing him to condemn Putin about the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom with a powerful nerve agent, a case that both the British and U.S. governments have blamed on Moscow.

    What the heck?! This isn’t surprising, but I’m feeling shock and a bit of outrage at this information underscores Trump’s odd and objectionable position toward Putin.

    3/21/2018

    This is what I was referring to in point #1 above. Here’s the interview I was referring to. The idea is strange, and alarming. The U.S. and the Russia, with their power, ultimately will rid the world of nuclear weapons together. And if a country doesn’t want to, the implication is that they will use bully the offending country into complying.

    There’s a quote that might shed light on Trump’s tweets in reference to his approach to Putin:

    Somebody who has the ability to make a deal. Because there’s a deal there to be done absolutely. But not by the present players,” he says, referring to current American negotiators and Reagan negotiators. “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.”

    That being smooth and charming is the key to closing an important deal in international relations seems fanciful and naive. You can be the smoothest talker, but if the terms aren’t in the interests of the other country there won’t be any deal. Additionally, in the current situation, Russia/Putin would have to be a good partner, someone we could reasonable trust and actually have shared interests. As far as I know, Russia views the U.S. as it’s primary adversary; I think our system of government is one of the reasons for that. In other words, Putin is an autocratc/kleptocrat. It’s hard to see how a partnership, in U.S. interests, is viable or wise.

    4/15/2018

    4/16/2018

    Apropos of the WaPo story right above this:

    4/17/2018

    More about this:

    6/28/2018

    Response (The entire thread is worth reading.)

    More:

  24. Guccifer 2.0

    Why do we believe Guccifer 2.0 is a Russian intelligence officer (of the GRU)? Guccifer 2.0 claimed to by a lone, Romanian hacker. Cyber security experts were skeptical, but…

    Proving that link definitively was harder. Ehmke led an investigation at ThreatConnect that tried to track down Guccifer from the metadata in his emails. But the trail always ended at the same data center in France. Ehmke eventually uncovered that Guccifer was connecting through an anonymizing service called Elite VPN, a virtual private networking service that had an exit point in France but was headquartered in Russia.

    But on one occasion, The Daily Beast has learned, Guccifer failed to activate the VPN client before logging on. As a result, he left a real, Moscow-based Internet Protocol address in the server logs of an American social media company, according to a source familiar with the government’s Guccifer investigation.

    Also, I wasn’t totally aware that Guccifer 2.0 released more granular information:

    While the national election clearly interested him (“Democrats prepare new provocation against Trump,” he thundered in October 2016), Guccifer 2.0 reached down the ballot as well, posting documents from the Democrats’ national campaign committee on his WordPress blog. There, readers could find internal Democratic candidate assessments relevant to battleground states like Pennsylvania and Florida; internal assessments of key congressional districts, with granular analyses of their demographics; and campaign recruitment material.

    The GRU officer was eager to share this trove, as well. A GOP political operative in Florida, Aaron Nevins, DM’d Guccifer 2.0 a request for “any Florida based information” and received 2.5 gigabytes’ worth, according to The Wall Street Journal. The data, he enthused to Guccifer 2.0, was “probably worth millions of dollars.” A consultant for a successful Florida Republican congressional candidate told the paper, “I did adjust some voting targets based on some data I saw from the leaks.”

  25. On Pardoning Power of POTUS

  26. Also, Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (SPSCI) today announced that Putin’s efforts to interfere with elections was to help Trump and hurt Clinton.

  27. I don’t often read Mother Jones, but I’ve been in agreement with David Corn, and I recommend reading this.

    Corn briefly puts Trump’s “witch hunt” narrative side-by-side with the narrative that Trump sought and assisted Russian interference in the 2016 election. Here’s a synopsis of the latter:

    In 2016, Vladimir Putin’s regime mounted information warfare against the United States, in part to help Trump become president. While this attack was underway, the Trump crew tried to collude covertly with Moscow, sought to set up a secret communications channel with Putin’s office, and repeatedly denied in public that this assault was happening, providing cover to the Russian operation. Trump and his lieutenants aligned themselves with and assisted a foreign adversary, as it was attacking the United States. The evidence is rock-solid: They committed a profound act of betrayal. That is the scandal.

    Corn’s point is that this message isn’t been emphasized enough, and it’s getting lost in other scandals. I agree.

    Corn makes another important point that I agree with:

    Along with his shouts of “witch hunt,” Trump also incessantly declares, “No collusion.” This simplistic piece of shorthand aims at a straw man. Trump seems to be setting a bar that favors him: Unless evidence emerges that he personally met with Russian hackers, told them which Democratic Party emails to steal, and then provided guidance on how to release the material, then nothing wrong occurred. But the public record is already replete with serious wrongdoing committed by Trump and his aides. For example, after being secretly briefed in mid-August 2016 by the US intelligence community that Moscow was behind the hack-and-leak attack on the Democrats, Trump publicly claimed there was no reason to suspect the Russians.

    With his “no collusion” chant, Trump is like an embezzler who yells, “There was no murder”—and asserts that is the only relevant benchmark. Think of what Trump did during the campaign in this fashion: A fellow is standing on a sidewalk in front of a bank. He is told the bank is being robbed. He can see armed men wearing masks in the bank. Yet when people pass by and ask what is happening in the bank, he says, “There is no robbery. Nothing to see. Move along.” Even if this person did not collude with the robbers, he is helping the gang perpetrate a crime. And in Trump’s case, the criminal act was committed for his gain.

    Corn closes with this:

    The Russia scandal is the most important scandal in the history of the United States….An overseas enemy struck at the core of the republic—and it succeeded. Trump and his minions helped and encouraged this attack by engaging in secret contacts with Moscow and publicly insisting no such assault was happening. This is far bigger than a bribe, a break-in, or a blow job. And, worse, the United States remains vulnerable to such a strike.

    Yet the full impact of this scandal does not resonate in the daily coverage and discourse. In many ways, the media presents the Russia scandal mostly as a political threat to Trump, not as a serious threat to the nation. And many Americans, thanks to Trump and his allies, view it as a charade. All this shows how easy it is for disinformation and demagoguery to distort reality. That is a tragedy for the United States. For Trump—and Putin—that is victory.

  28. Thread that provides compelling evidence the Mueller investigation is not a witch hunt.

    1. Why is Trump take Putin’s and Xi’s advice, and why is he so reluctant to criticize Putin? Think about that question while reading the following McClatchy article:

      “The size and scope of these cash purchases are deeply troubling as they can often signal money laundering activity,” said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and a former federal prosecutor. “There have long been credible allegations of money laundering by the Trump Organization which, if true, would pose a real threat to the United States in the event that Russia were able to leverage evidence of illicit financial transactions against the president.”

      and

      Some of the buyers appeared to spend above market value — one of the signs, along with a lack of information about where the money comes from and properties sitting empty — that raises suspicion, said Elise Bean, former staff director of a Senate subcommittee that investigated money laundering.

      (emphasis added)

      Finally,

      Trump ignored calls after he was elected president to fully separate from his business interests and placed his holdings in a trust designed to hold assets for his “exclusive benefit.” He can receive money at any time without the public’s knowledge and retains the authority to revoke the trust. Trump earned at least $453 million and had assets valued at least $1.4 billion, according to his most recent financial disclosure statement, which covered the 2017 calendar year. But his licensing and management deals are private, making it difficult to determine how how much he makes from individual projects.

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