Trump: Russia Investigation (4)

Trump: Russia Investigation (1)
Trump: Russia Investigation (2)

Trump: Russia Investigation (3)

Trump Parroting Russian Propaganda

Rachel Maddow identifies Trump’s comments that parrot Russian propaganda. Worth watching.

Why is Trump spouting Russian propaganda? He must have (or had) aides and advisers telling he was doing that. Why doesn’t he stop? Why does he seem to believe the propaganda and Putin over his American staff? Even if Russia doesn’t have leverage over Trump, at best, Trump doing this has to be problematic and worrying.
http://www.village-idiots.org/category/trump/

1/4/2019

Here’s the entire Deadline White House segment. It’s worth watching in my opinion.

1/25/2019

Here’s a montage of Trump citing wikileaks:

9/3/2020

21 thoughts on “Trump: Russia Investigation (4)

  1. First thought: It’s insane that the FBI was investigating a sitting U.S. President for secretly working with an adversarial country.

    Second thought: Trump supporters are going to say the FBI was out to get Trump. This would be a concern of mine, too, but one thing I’d examine is if there is any compelling reasons to justify such actions. Without these reasons, then that would suggest the move was political. But there seems to be so many compelling reasons for opening an investigation. Indeed, there are so many, thinking of them all is difficult. Here’s a few the Times mentions:

    Mr. Trump had caught the attention of F.B.I. counterintelligence agents when he called on Russia during a campaign news conference in July 2016 to hack into the emails of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump had refused to criticize Russia on the campaign trail, praising President Vladimir V. Putin. And investigators had watched with alarm as the Republican Party softened its convention platform on the Ukraine crisis in a way that seemed to benefit Russia.

    and

    In the months before the 2016 election, the F.B.I. was also already investigating four of Mr. Trump’s associates over their ties to Russia. The constellation of events disquieted F.B.I. officials who were simultaneously watching as Russia’s campaign unfolded to undermine the presidential election by exploiting existing divisions among Americans.

    There’s so much more as well.

    Here’s a third thought: The Congressional GOP and conservative media are truly betraying the country. They are ignoring so many significant red flags, putting their party ahead of the country.

    Edit

    Wittes takes focuses on something from the Times piece I should have emphasized, and explores the implications of this–namely, Trump’s actions that could constitute obstruction of justice, could also be seen as a national security threat because an act like firing Director Comey was a way to interfere with investigating and understanding Russia’s interference in the election and the way this posed a threat (which includes Americans or Russians assisting in the process).

    He makes some other points as well, but I’m too lazy to summarize.

    Edit

    The recent news doesn’t surprise me, but confirmation that FBI opened counter-intel investigation against a sitting president reminds me how insane everything is.

    I will step back and try to take a reasonable approach at the possibility that Russia has suborned the POTUS to act in their interests, and he’s aware of this or not….Again, let me acknowledge taht uttering these words, seriously entertaining this idea, seems insane, and I’m sure makes me sound unhinged. But look at a few points:

    1. If we imagine someone like this, in what ways would they be acting different from Trump? To say it another way: Is there any evidence to provide make this claim plausible? If there is little or no evidence, then, yes, you could call me unhinged. But if there is quite a bit of evidence and reason to suspect Trump of being an agent, then you can’t really dismiss the notion;

    2. Trump has done things that has served Russia’s interests (e.g., undermining NATO, EU; used divisive rhetoric for domestic issues, etc.), but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s under the Russia’s influence. Trump could be doing these things for legitimate or benign reasons. Maybe he genuinely believes undermining NATO, unless they pay more for their defense, is in the interests of the U.S. Maybe he believes that being nice to Putin and getting along with Russia is also in the best interests of the country.

    OK. If this is the case, here’s what I would need to see. First, I would need him to explain the reasons these things are so critical. He’s has to show that he has good reasons for doing this. (It’s better to get along versus not getting along with Russia is not a good reason), and the burden on him is greater given that he has refused to release his tax forms or divest his business. If he had done both that would help us see that he was trustworthy and not in a position to profit or be blackmailed with regard to his approach to Russia. He also was not upfront about trying to build a hotel in Russia, which was an effort that was ongoing during the campaign. There are other reasons, and all of these reasons make his position a tough sell.

    Second, I’m sure advisers and Republicans have made him aware of Russia’s approach to undermining our country. He has to know this, but he has basically chosen to ignore it and continue to behave in ways that help undermine the country. Perhaps one could argue that Trump’s narcissism, rather than being under Russian influence, explains his behavior. That’s possible, but it does’t preclude Russian influence. Moreover, I’m not sure narcissism absolves Trump–he’s still behaving in ways that assists Russia achieve it’s objectives, in spite of people around him telling him that he’s doing so. If he can’t explain why this is in our country’s best interest–if he doesn’t really try–then it doesn’t seem that much different than if he was under Russian influence.

    Edit

    I saw a comment on twitter about knowing whether Trump is acting on his best interests or the country. My comment: It’s extremely difficult, or impossible to know, and that’s largely because Trump has refused to release his tax forms and divest his best. The degree of trust we have to give him is unreasonable, and it’s unwarranted because he has not behaved in way to earn that trust; really, it’s just the opposite.

    1/13/2019

    Thread from Clint Watts, former FBI Special Agent:

    Regarding this NYT story from this weekend, imagine you are a FBI Agent working Russian counterintelligence in 2016 and you witness the following:

    – you witnessed Russian hackers targeting a wide swath of Americans including the DNC, DCCC, former Secretary of State & a Presidential candidates staff

    – someone previously targeted by Russian Intelligence joins the Trump campaign and then appears on a stage in Moscow supporting Russia policy and speaking negatively of US policy

    – A Presidential candidate hires a new campaign manager whose not been in the business in the states for years, but has been seen pushing a Russian agenda in Ukraine and has Russian intel contacts

    – an Australian official contacts you and says the Russians have stolen emails of a Presidential candidate & may want to give them to the candidate’s competitor

    – a Russian lawyer & others tied to Russian government visit a Presidential candidate’s son in the candidate’s building in NYC

    – Candidate Trump stands on a stage and calls out Russia and asks about emails from his competitor, says they will be rewarded if they have them and release them

    – website that’s released sensitive & classified documents from US for years, helped deliver a US insider to The Kremlin, begins publishing document & emails during Dem convention, content you know was stolen by Russia. Site administrator once hosted a TV show on Russia State TV

    – A strange, unexpected policy change occurs at RNC convention, the change is a less supportive position toward Ukraine and is advantageous to Russia
    11 replies 123 retweets 556 likes

    – candidate’s campaign manager goes on CNN and asserts a false terrorist attack in Turkey, one tied to and advanced by Russian propaganda

    – during this time, you watch a campaign associate tweet with a Russian account that’s pointing people to stolen documents from the opposing campaign. The campaign associate predicts something will happen to the opposing campaign manager- his emails are later released

    – as Election Day approaches, Presidential candidate makes allegation, without evidence, voter Fraud & Election Rigging, Russia propaganda echoes this, social media accounts associated Kremlin do the same, at same time, you watch Russian Hackers hit state election infrastructure

    -After election, current President issues sanctions against Russia, but the incoming National Security advisor makes calls to Russian officials from 3rd country, when approached for clarification post inauguration, the advisor lies about contents of phone call w/Russian officials

    I’m almost sure there is a lot more to add. Various members of the campaign lied about contacts with Russia–Don Jr., Jeff Sessions, and Mike Flynn (who also has sketchy contacts with Russia, and given that Obama advised Trump to not select him as National Security Adviser, I have to wonder if FBI had other alarming information about Flynn). If Trump campaign never told FBI about contacts with Russian representatives, even after being warned, that would be a huge red flag as well. Jared Kushner, who has outstanding debts, spoke with the Russian Ambassador who set up a meeting with former Russian bank president. (The bank and the guy also have red flags.) Trump was also casting doubt on US intelligence community’s claim that Russian was interfering. Trump wouldn’t say negative things about the Russian President. Trump also didn’t release tax forms or divest his business. I’d also be surprise if FBI (and US IC) didn’t know Trump’s financial situation, or at least see red flags about where his money was coming from, interactions with Russian organized criminals, signs of money laundering.

    Watts has added more to the thread since my previous post:

    During summer fall leading into the election, you receive raw intelligence from highly reliable source whose proven invaluable on other investigations. source provides intelligence on Russia’s efforts to support a presidential candidate, the info is consistent with other info

    Before inauguration your bosses, your leaders from all intelligence agencies brief president elect on classified info showing Russia influenced the election on behalf of President elect. President elect rejects intelligence from all your superiors and suggests Russia innocent

    From the summer of 2015 all the way through the election and after inauguration, you watch as the candidate, president elect and now president offers overt effusive support for Vladimir Putin who you know has been helping the President get elected.

    Shortly after inauguration, your new commander-in-chief spouts false information about Polish aggression toward Belarus. This is not supported by the Intelligence community you are in, and the only source for this viewpoint is Russian propaganda

    During this period, the President inexplicably and repeatedly asks your boss if he’s under investigation with regards to Russia, despite your boss and other intel heads going out of their way to brief the President about Kremlin efforts to potentially compromise & manipulate him

    While Congressional committees investigate Russian interference, the President fires your boss for his handling of an email investigation into the President’s opponent, an investigation that helped elevate the President rather than hurt him

    You later find out a draft memo from President to your boss regarding his firing cited the Russia investigation

    The President then goes on national television and in an interview says he fired your boss because of the Russia investigation

    A week after firing your boss, the President invites Russian leaders into the Oval Office, Russian photographers capture the moment, but US media is not allowed to observe. President then brags to Russian leaders about firing your boss

    Sometime during the spring, if you’re not already aware, you read a news story alleging the President’s son-in-law may have sought a way to communicate with Russia via a back channel not monitored by you and your colleagues
    16 replies 785 retweets 4,115 likes

    During summer, you watch the President attend NATO summit and shove Montenegro PM, in an Interview claim Montenegro is aggressive, might start a war. This mirrors Russian propaganda & you know Russia backed covert operation destabilize Montenegrin election

    For next year, either you, your colleagues and your organization, FBI, are discredited by President. He mixes true and false information in public disclosures which you are not allowed to respond to. If you do respond, your accused of leaking and could be fired or even jailed

    Documents & information from confidential sources you’ve pledged to protect, are selectively leaked into public through those who are supposed to provide government oversight. These inappropriate disclosures make your job as an investigator nearly impossible & hurts your sources

    At some point during the summer or before, you learn that the President’s son was receiving & responding to direct messages from website that was releasing emails stolen from the President’s opponent by Russia

    1st two years President’s term, you watch him take a negative, adversarial stance toward NATO and particularly Germany. This strains your relationship with your most valuable intel partners, your Counterterrorism agent colleagues depend on them & they help fight war on terror

    Over next 2 years, President aggressively seeks meetings with Putin who helped elect him. Need for meetings is not clear. one President meets in private with Putin for 2 hours without witnesses but translator. To this day, you, your bosses don’t really know what was discussed

    President emerges from private meeting with Putin and on world stage in Helsinki accepts and validates Russian denials about election interference & rejects years of your teams intel work. This badly damages your reputation and partner trust with your organization

    Separately, your President publicly discusses a Russian proposed partnership on cyber security, this insane concept is mind boggling to you as an investigator as you’ve just spent years tracking these same Russians who just attacked your country

    Even further, your President publicly mentions a possible exchange where Russian investigators might interview and interrogate you and other Americans about their attack on you and America. A crazy, frightening and bizarre threat to you as a civil servant.

    Throughout your investigation into Russian interference, you watch as your President’s attacks on the Special Counsel, Justice Department & FBI are amplified and spread in America by the very Russian troll social media accounts and state sponsored propaganda you are investigating

    Throughout the Special Counsel indictments, hearings and trials, you watch the President and his legal team publicly interject, discredit witnesses and discuss pardons, all subverting the rule of law and justice which you’ve dedicated your life to protect and defend

    You either know or learn a parallel investigation shows Russians representing a bogus Russian gun rights movement penetrated the political party hosting members who’ve tried to discredit you – you recognize this as a TEXTBOOK espionage/influence op you learned at FBI academy

    After two years, the Attorney General over you, who appropriately recused himself from Russia investigation, is fired for seemingly no clear reason after taking public lashings from the President

    Your AG is replaced by an acting AG whose unqualified for position, has limited experience justify such high level appointment, you’ve watched him on TV discrediting your agency and your team’s investigation despite seeing none of evidence or knowing anything Russian influence

    The same month, the President’s personal lawyer pleads guilty in federal court and says he continued negotiations throughout almost the entire Presidential campaign for a Tower in Moscow. This is in opposition to President’s public denials.

    You read public reporting that the best apartment in the Moscow Tower project pursued by the President’s business was offered to Russia’s President Putin, the same Putin your President always sides with over you and your agency, the Putin who helped your President win

    You either knew or learned through a redaction error that the President’s campaign manager was alleged to have lied about providing polling data to a Russian whom he owed money, via a former Russian GRU contact
    17 replies 487 retweets 2,708 likes

    Wrote thread through day from memory without web searches, I’m sure I missed a lot, & this is all on the public, can’t imagine what it must feel like to serve FBI during this investigation,we clearly don’t know everything Mueller team knows, I imagine there is much more to learn

    Special Counsel investigation must continue, this is a crisis, this is a national emergency

    1. The constraints that Trump imposed are part of a broader pattern by the president of shielding his communications with Putin from public scrutiny and preventing even high-ranking officials in his own administration from fully knowing what he has told one of the United States’ main adversaries.

      As a result, U.S. officials said there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years. Such a gap would be unusual in any presidency, let alone one that Russia sought to install through what U.S. intelligence agencies have described as an unprecedented campaign of election interference.

      (emphasis added)

      Later,

      Former U.S. officials said that Trump’s behavior is at odds with the known practices of previous presidents, who have relied on senior aides to witness meetings and take comprehensive notes then shared with other officials and departments.

      The article implies that this practice is exclusive to Putin. I’m not sure if this is accurate, but I don’t recall reading anything explicit in the article.

      1/14/2019

      Interesting insights into why the note taking of meeting with foreign leaders, especially of an adversarial country, is important.

    2. Some think this is damning. I’m not sure if I’d go that far, but it would have bee better if he added an emphatic, “No!”

      1/14/2019

      Here he provides a clearer answer.

      I agree with Bharara:

  2. Interesting article. Here’s the basic premise:

    It would be rather embarrassing for Donald Trump at this point if Robert Mueller were to declare that the president isn’t an agent of Russian intelligence.

    The pattern of his pro-Putin, pro-Russia, anti-FBI, anti-intelligence community actions are so one-sided, and the lies and obfuscation surrounding every single Russian meeting and conversation are so consistent, that if this president isn’t actually hiding a massive conspiracy, it means the alternative is worse: America elected a chief executive so oblivious to geopolitics, so self-centered and personally insecure, so naturally predisposed to undermine democratic institutions and coddle authoritarians, and so terrible a manager and leader, that he cluelessly surrounded himself with crooks, grifters, and agents of foreign powers, compromising the national security of the US government and undermining 75 years of critical foreign alliances, just to satiate his own ego.

    I’m not sure if I agree with everything think in this article, but the idea that Trump not being an agent would actually not speak well of Trump is something that resonates with me. If Trump is an agent because of blackmail or a desire to personally profit from the relationship, while these motives cast him in a bad light, they are understandable, and in the case of blackmail, maybe (maybe) we could have some degree of sympathy.

    But if Trump is doing everything primarily because he is an autocrat and/or a mob boss at his core–that he understands and approaches leadership and governing like a tyrannical dictator or mob boss, and that he is totally ignorant of and/or has an aversion for Constitutional system of government and liberal democratic ideals–this would, in some ways, cast him in an even worse light. And not only Trump–it would also cast our electorate in a bad light.

    But the groups that would, does, come out looking the worst are Congressional Republicans, Republican party, Fox News, and other conservative pundits that have supported Trump. Either way, they have wittingly or unwittingly supported, protected, and empowered a president that was either a Russian agent or an authoritarian.

  3. edit

    What’s the best–most innocuous explanation–for Trump’s attempt to discredit the Mueller investigation, especially if Trump is actually innocent? Some ideas:

    1. That’s just Trump’s style–he’s fighting back. But why would he fight back if he were innocent? If you’re innocent you don’t fight back by smearing Mueller’s integrity, dangle pardons to witnesses, ask your FBI director to drop an investigation on your recently fired National Security Adviser (for lying about Russian contacts). Is he just offended by the idea that he’s being investigated? If that’s true, that makes him some like a monarch or dictator–e.g., “How dare you question whether I cooperated with Russians to win the election!” He’s not above the law, and while he may claim this is a baseless investigation, there’s too much evidence and details that suggest otherwise. He should never have publicly called on Russia to release emails; he should have stopped trying to build a hotel in Moscow, or at least he should have been transparent. The list goes on.

    2. Suppose Trump believes the investigation is primarily a political act. If he cares about the country and institutions like the DOJ and FBI, he would be careful about undermining the trust of those agencies. Based on his actions, he doesn’t really care, or is completely oblivious to the damage he’s doing–both are damning. It suggests he cares primarily about himself and not the important institutions in our country.

    Additionally, the fact that Russia is attempting to undermine Mueller investigation should give him pause, too, shouldn’t it? Yeah it should–except we already know that he and his campaign made attempts to work with Russia to win the election and the Russians actually did interfere.

  4. U.S. Withdraws from INF Treaty with Russia

    I don’t know anything about this treaty (except in involves nuclear weapons). I don’t know if the comments below are accurate or not, but it’s something to consider:

  5. Understanding Russian money-laundering and corruption is a critical contextual information to understanding the significance of the Trump-Russia matter. The article below describes the way Russia became this way and the way the U.S. has aided efforts to laundering money, not only from Russia but other countries as well. Perhaps the bigger point of the article is that corruption from Russia and other countries have also had a corrupting influence on our country, even before Trump became the president. Worth reading.

    Here’s an excerpt about the CIA chief in Russia, who testified to Congress in the late 90s:

    American officialdom, Palmer believed, had badly misjudged Russia. Washington had placed its faith in the new regime’s elites; it took them at their word when they professed their commitment to democratic capitalism. But Palmer had seen up close how the world’s growing interconnectedness—and global finance in particular—could be deployed for ill. During the Cold War, the KGB had developed an expert understanding of the banking byways of the West, and spymasters had become adept at dispensing cash to agents abroad. That proficiency facilitated the amassing of new fortunes. In the dying days of the U.S.S.R., Palmer had watched as his old adversaries in Soviet intelligence shoveled billions from the state treasury into private accounts across Europe and the U.S. It was one of history’s greatest heists.

    and

    The United States, Palmer made clear, had allowed itself to become an accomplice in this plunder. His assessment was unsparing. The West could have turned away this stolen cash; it could have stanched the outflow to shell companies and tax havens. Instead, Western banks waved Russian loot into their vaults. Palmer’s anger was intended to provoke a bout of introspection—and to fuel anxiety about the risk that rising kleptocracy posed to the West itself. After all, the Russians would have a strong interest in protecting their relocated assets. They would want to shield this wealth from moralizing American politicians who might clamor to seize it. Eighteen years before Special Counsel Robert Mueller began his investigation into foreign interference in a U.S. election, Palmer warned Congress about Russian “political donations to U.S. politicians and political parties to obtain influence.” What was at stake could well be systemic contagion: Russian values might infect and then weaken the moral defense systems of American politics and business.

    Americans shouldn’t be only concerned about donations to politicians–but any donations to institutions, private businesses, and any prominent individual from Russia or any corrupt country. Anyone that takes money can be corrupted, and the danger is that these entities will work for the interests of Russia and other countries, either through the influence of money or even blackmail.

  6. What is known:

    Trump hasn’t released his tax forms or divested his business (even though he claimed to put the latter in a “blind trust”).

    Trump was trying to get a hotel built in Russia, which extended into the 2016 campaign.

    Trump has been strangely deferential to Putin, even publicly disagreeing with the U.S. intelligence’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

    Counter-intel investigation on Trump campaign and Russia, as far as I know, is still ongoing and status of Trump and members of his campaign is unknown (i.e., not in the clear).

    Congressional GOP, the party that ostensibly valued national security, doesn’t seem to care about any of this.

  7. Lavrov in the White House–Again!

    So crazy and outrageous. I believe Trump met with Lavrov without the press. I don’t if Trump without any U.S. officials, too. Crazy. Trump and the GOP are Putinists.

    Here’s Trump in June in Osaka making light of Russian meddling in the 2020 election. It’s the opposite of protecting the election.

  8. Trump told his guests that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign because the United States did the same in other countries,…

    and

    For some White House officials struggling to understand Trump’s obsession with Ukraine, the Hamburg meetings were a turning point.

    Three former senior administration officials said Trump repeatedly insisted after the G-20 summit that he believed Putin’s assurances that Russia had not interfered in the 2016 campaign. The officials said Kelly, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all tried to caution Trump not to rely on Putin’s word, and to focus on evidence to the contrary that U.S. intelligence agencies had collected.

    Over the next several months, Trump privately told aides on several occasions that he believed Ukraine had interfered and tried to help Clinton win the White House, former officials said.

    “The strong belief in the White House was that Putin told him,” one former official said.

    This article chronicles how White House staff and IC repeatedly tried to convince Trump that a) Russia interfered in the 2016 election and b) Ukraine did not. US officials were perplexed about why Trump had such difficulty letting go that Ukraine interfered.

    What are the possible explanations for this?

    –Trump’s narcissism preventing him from accepting that Russia interfered (and helped him win), while also making the false story that Ukraine helped Clinton being too hard to resist;

    –Trump maybe also wants to please Putin because he wants future business;

    –Russia has compromising material on Trump;

    –Trump has an authoritarian mindset and admires Putin and wants Putin’s respect and admiration.

    Any other plausible explanations? All these above are awlful. I think they all equal to him being grossly unfit and a national security risk.

  9. Newly unredacted portions of the Mueller report show that Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and Michael Cohen told investigators Stone had promised the campaign damaging revelations by WikiLeaks. from Buzzfeed News

    The new revelations are the strongest indication to date that Trump and his closest advisors were aware of outside efforts to hurt Clinton’s electoral chances, and that Stone played a direct role in communicating that situation to the Trump campaign. Trump has publicly denied being aware of any information being relayed between WikiLeaks and his advisors.

    Salient points to remember with regard to this:

    1. My understanding is that U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) has designated Wikileaks as a Russian cutout. That is, Russian will give Wikileaks information that will damage politicians or institutions to achieve Russian goals. Wikileaks releases the information and Russia can deny involvement.

    2. U.S. IC has repeatedly said Russian goals are to weaken the U.S. be exacerbating divisions. Also, Putin wanted to politically damage Hillary Clinton.

    3. The recent news shows that Trump was that people in his campaign or associated with his campaign (e.g., Roger Stone) were communicating with outside groups to get info that would hurt Clinton. (I believe Stone communicated with Guccifer 2.0, who turned out to be tied to Russian military intelligence. Don Jr. had discussions via email with wikileaks about campaign strategy as well. And of course, they met with the Russian lawyer to get dirt on Clinton.)

    If this is not collusion this is at least attempts at coordination with Russia or Russian cutouts to win the election. (Trump and his campaign never told the FBI and lied about this afterwards as well.)

    4. Trump has not revealed his taxes, divested his business, and was attempting to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. (I believe the attempt ended in June 2016.)

    If this applied to any presidential candidate, this should end their candidacy. Just think if Joe Biden said, “Russia–or China, Iran, North Korea–if you’re listening, if you find recordings, texts or emails from Trump’s phone, please release them,” and then had members of his campaign contact representatives or cutouts of these countries, discussing ways to beat Trump–and never telling the FBI about this, and lying about doing these things later. All this would be wrong and really bad for our elections and our democracy. Someone who cared about our country would never do this. Someone who did this doesn’t love our country, is not deserving of our trust, and is completely unfit to be the POTUS.

  10. Trump Keeps Taking Russia’s Side and We Don’t Know Why from Jonathan Chait of the New York Magazine

    On August 2, 2020, this remains true, and I think this is one of many things that will confound future generations. How could we tolerate this situation? Why weren’t there investigations? Why was the public so complacent about this?

    In any event, Chait makes a good observation about the difference between Trump’s treatment of Russia and Germany.

    The distinction between how Trump processes Germany’s self-interest and Russia’s self-interest is telling. If Germany has done something Trump deems contrary to American interests — sell us too many high-tech goods, or fail to maintain a large enough army — he treats it as an offense requiring punishment. If Russia has done something against American interests — arm a radical militia we’re fighting — he simply accepts it as natural. Self-interest is an excuse for Russia, but not for Germany.

    He goes on to point out two odd aspects of Trump’s approach to Germany. First, punishing Germany by pulling out troops seems to be Trump’s idea–it’s not something pushed by people in his administration or even Fox News pundits. Second, driving a wedge between the U.S. and Germany is a Russian goal. Chait says more:

    And Trump could have merely framed his decision as a budget-saving move, or a desire to increase the troops’ presence elsewhere in Europe. Instead he presented his decision specifically as a punishment for America’s ally.

    What explains this? Maybe Trump just really likes Putin specifically and autocrats in general, while he doesn’t get along with liberal democratic leaders. On some level this is plausible. It’s believable that the values and principles embraced by the latter, particularly to the rule of law and democratic institutions that can constrain a leader, would alienate and even annoy Trump, while Trump would get along with leaders with an authoritarian/illiberal approach (e.g., hostility towards a free press, anti-corruption laws, a system of checks and balances, etc.) But this explanation is still damning.

    Additionally, it’s not mutually exclusive from the hypothesis Trump is compromised by Putin–or that he wants to curry favor in hopes of helping his business.

    As Chait says, Trump could do a lot to weaken this hypothesis if he released his tax forms–and I would add–divest his business. But he has done neither. Therefore, a very reasonable suspicion remains. And I think it’s remarkable that the GOP has tolerated this.

    Trump also knew about this:

  11. The the final volume of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election released today

    I’ve only seen bits and pieces of this, and while none of this is new revelations, the Senate report, the only bi-partisan Congressional investigation (according to the WaPo article below) reconfirms important and damning details about Trump and his campaign–important because William Barr is in the process of trying to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the investigation. Here are some conclusions (from a WaPo article) that should be considered in light of Barr’s efforts.

    The volume, released Tuesday, states that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort worked with a Russian intelligence officer “on narratives that sought to undermine evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election,” including the idea that Ukrainian election interference was of greater concern.

    Note that Trump and his congressional supporters, during the impeachment trial, also pushed the idea that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election–an idea Dr. Fiona Hill urged members of Congress not to promote, as it was a false, Russian talking point. Takeaway: Trump and his supporters are promoting false, Russian propaganda–helping the Russians.

    On this last point, consider what Sen. Richard Burr (R), who used to chair the committee said,

    “One of the Committee’s most important — and overlooked — findings is that much of Russia’s activities weren’t related to producing a specific electoral outcome, but attempted to undermine our faith in the democratic process itself,” he said in a statement. “Their aim is to sow chaos, discord, and distrust. Their efforts are not limited to elections. The threat is ongoing.

    (emphasis added)

    Undermining faith in our democratic process–sowing chaos discord–that’s a Russian goal. By promoting Russian talking propaganda, Trump and his supporters are aiding the Russians. And when Trump and his supporters casts doubt on the election results, he’s helping the Russians achieve these Russian objectives.

    Now, I want to acknowledge that there can be legitimate concerns about the integrity of the elections. But if the POTUS and his supporters know that Russians are attempting to undermine the integrity of it, if they were responsible they would be more cautious in how they raise these concerns. I would also expect them to warn Russia not to interfere. Trump has not only not done that, he’s indicated he’s open to this, if it helps him win. All of this in my view warrant impeachment and removal–and I would seriously consider doing it now.

    The report also states that Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, who met with Manafort, the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and his son-in-law Jared Kushner at Trump Tower in 2016, had “significant connections” to the Kremlin. The information she offered to them was also “part of a broader influence operation targeting the United States that was coordinated, at least in part with elements of the Russian government,” the report states.

    (emphasis added)

    We have email (or texts) between Trump Jr. and this lawyer, with Jr. expressing enthusiasm if the lawyer had dirt on Hillary Clinton. The Trump campaign met in Trump Tower about this.

    Trump and his supporters insist there was no collusion. How are these two examples not examples of collusion? My understanding is that collusion is not a legal term, so it’s not like these two things fail to meet the legal definition. Put aside that word–there’s ample evidence of cooperation, seeking assistance, coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian contacts.

    It should be noted that thet report did point out criticisms of the FBI’s handling of the investigation as well:

    But the panel also found that the FBI’s handling of Russian threats to the election were “flawed,” and that the FBI gave “unjustified credence” to other allegations regarding Trump’s Russia ties that were made in a dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, “based on an incomplete understanding of Steele’s past reporting record.”

    I suspect these are the details Barr and Trump supporters will use to de-legitimize the investigation. To me, the facts about Manafort, the meeting at Trump Tower overshadow the mistakes that the FBI made. And while I’m not saying those mistakes are OK, who thinks that the investigation wasn’t warranted, that it was a hoax?

    There are also other damning facts like Roger Stone’s interaction with wikileaks and Russian GRU officer (Guccifer 2.0); members of the Trump campaign not telling the FBI about these contacts and lying about them.

    Here’s one about Roger Stone and wikileaks:

    How is this not collusion?

    Also, the following is why US IC believes wikileaks is a front from Russian intelligence operations:

    And this:

    Edit

    Senator McConnell’s tweet today regarding the report:

    This is rich. The POTUS is also part of “the others.” But McConnell and other congressional Republicans either sit by or actively help the POTUS undermine critical Democratic. I will also forever remember McConnell threatening to say that Obama was trying to tip the scales of the election when Obama asked all the Gang of 8 to speak out against Russian interference. He put the party ahead of the country to a degree that I find almost traitorous. He’s one of the most despicable Americans in my lifetime.

    8/20/2020

    Hard evidence at last that shreds Trump’s lies about a Russia ‘hoax’, David Ignatius WaPo op-ed highlights portion of the Senate report, a report that Ignatius rightly emphasizes was lead by Senate Republicans.

    A shocking finding was that the Kremlin sought to use this network even after the election to hide its dirty work. Read this passage and consider what it tells us about Trump and his apologists: “The Committee observed numerous Russian-government actors from late 2016 until at least January 2020 consistently spreading overlapping false narratives which sought to discredit investigations into Russian interference.”

    One goal of this coverup was to “promote the narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 U.S. election,” the Senate report says. Sound familiar? It should. This lie has been voiced repeatedly by Trump and his defenders. Participants in the deception included Manafort, Kilimnik, Deripaska and others, the Senate report says — but the real purveyor in chief of the disinformation operation was Trump himself.

    8/21/2020

    Thread from Lincoln Project, summarizing the ramifications of the Republican-lead Senate report on Trump-Russia in the 2016 election.

    The Senate/Russia story isn’t getting nearly enough pick up and the Senate GOP isn’t taking a hit for it.

    Let’s change that.

    Thread.
    G.O.P.-Led Senate Panel Details Ties Between 2016 Trump Campaign and Russia
    A nearly 1,000-page report confirmed the special counsel’s findings at a moment when President Trump’s allies have sought to undermine that inquiry.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/18/us/politics/senate-intelligence-russian-interference-report.html
    The #RubioReport shows definitively that @marcorubio and members of the @SenateGOP understood that @realDonaldTrump’s campaign was in touch with Russian intelligence during the 2016 campaign.

    #TheyKnew
    That means #TheyKnew the Trump campaign, Bannon, Manafort, Kushner, Don. Jr, all them, had inappropriate contacts with Russian operatives when the @SenateGOP acquitted @realDonaldTrump of abusing his office.

    #RubioReport
    It was no mistake that @marcorubio was made Chairman of the Senate Intel Committee. @senatemajldr and @realDonaldTrump needed someone who would soft-sell the #RubioReport’s findings.

    Who better than #LittleMarco?

    #TheyKnew
    Someone should ask @marcorubio (again) why he made sure to strip out provisions in American law that would require presidential campaigns to inform the FBI and DOJ of contacts by foreign governments.

    #TheyKnew #RubioReport
    Why?

    Because @realDonaldTrump, @VP, @jaredkushner are doing it again in 2020. They will gladly take help from anyone who will help them retain power, even in the face of probable/likely electoral defeat this November.

    #TheyKnew #RubioReport
    Now @RonJohnsonWI (@SenRonJohnson) is carrying water for Russia again. He’s planning to smear @JoeBiden with fabricated intelligence he received from Russian-backed Ukrainians.

    Don’t be surprised by #RussianRon’s September Surprise.

    #TheyKnew #RubioReport
    Remember #RussianRon? He spent the Fourth of July 2018 in Moscow. Maybe all the #MayDay flights were booked. @RonJohnsonWI (@SenRonJohnson).

    #TheyKnew #RubioReport
    Each one of these Republican senators violated their oaths, their consciences and their responsibilities.

    But it’s worse now.

    We’ve criticized their silence on @realDonaldTrump’s actions and words.
    What the #RubioReport makes plain, though, is that #TheyKnew, and they’ve known all along, that Trump is unfit for office.

    And they’ve helped him stay there.

    Side note:

    Below is Rubio’s response to the report, which I find repugnant. I’ll explain below:

    Rubio is play semantic games with the word “collusion,” almost to an Orwellian degree. Bottom line: Rubio knows the actions of Trump and his campaign were wrong–and even disqualifying. But he decides to down play what they did, giving cover to Trump–putting his party over the country.

    As an aside, Rubio is an example of doing politics in the wrong way. There are some politicians that do politics wrong by being too idealistic or even too ideological. For pragmatic reasons, this is not the way a politician should operate–they won’t get anything done and likely won’t be re-elected. But Rubio and others like him are at the other end of the spectrum. While good politicians need to sometimes make compromises, even bending important principles and ideals, at times, there are limits–there are lines that should not be crossed. Rubio flip-flops, moving from one claim to its opposite, way too easily and frequently. And now he’s crossing a line that should never be crossed. I’ll never consider him as a serious presidential candidate, and I think he should be voted out of office.

    1. This is dang good question to ask:

  12. The most compelling, least irrational-sounding, explanation for Trump’s behavior towards Putin

    WaPo has a write-up of Michael Cohen (“Trump’s fixer”) upcoming book. There are quotes and details that I’m sure will cause a stir, at least to some degree, but I’m going to focus seemingly less sensational details, which, if true, create a plausible reasons for Trump’s behavior towards Russia. In short, it comes down to two things: 1) Trump admired Putin for his wealth and the way he ran Russia and 2) he wanted to kiss up to Putin in the hopes of financially benefited from this.

    Here are the relevant quotes:

    On Russia, Cohen writes that the cause behind Trump’s admiration of Russian President Vladimir Putin is simpler than many of his critics assume. Above all, he writes, Trump loves money — and he wrongly identified Putin as “the richest man in the world by a multiple.”

    Trump loved Putin, Cohen wrote, because the Russian leader had the ability “to take over an entire nation and run it like it was his personal company — like the Trump Organization, in fact.”

    What this amounts to is: Trump admires autocrat. And given how he speaks and behaves, it seems clear to me that he’s trying to emulate Putin (and wants Putin to admire him). It would be interesting to if a reporter asked Trump if he values Putin’s opinion and advice on how to govern.

    Whether he really admires (“loves”) Putin or not, that’s largely speculative and I’m not sure it’s entirely critical. What’s more important is what we’ve seen and heard from Trump suggests an authoritarian approach to governing that is not compatible with U.S. system of government. If this is accurate, this should absolutely be made clear to American voters. Is this what they want in a president?

    According to Cohen, Trump’s sycophantic praise of the Russian leader during the 2016 campaign began as a way to suck up and ensure access to the oligarch’s money after he lost the election. But he claims Trump came to understand that Putin’s hatred of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, dating to her support for the 2011 protest movement in Russia, could also help Trump amass more power in the United States.

    The idea that Trump approached the 2016 election as a way to enrich himself afterward–via “sucking up to Putin”–is really compelling to me. If I’m not mistaken Trump would do things that would seem like he didn’t care about winning. Maybe he didn’t want to win, and didn’t think he would. This also explains why his campaign was relatively reckless with their various contacts with Russian representatives (although I think there’s a strong possibility that they were clueless and actually didn’t think they were doing anything wrong). When they lost, no one would care or investigate thoroughly. But they won.

    The quoted paragraph below follows right after the quoted paragraph above:

    “What appeared to be collusion was really a confluence of shared interests in harming Hillary Clinton in any way possible, up to and including interfering in the American election — a subject that caused Trump precisely zero unease,” Cohen writes.

    Cohen doesn’t say that Trump wasn’t trying to win, so if he was trying to win then the paragraph makes sense. Trump wants to hurt Hillary because that helps him win the election (i.e., amassing more power), and realizes the Russians want to hurt Hillary–or he realizes they want to help Trump.

    Put aside the terms collusion and conspiracy. Trump and Russia has common interests, and Trump accepts, even actively encourages, any that can help him. And this is regardless if Russians ultimate goals are to hurt the U.S. How is this not betraying the country?

    And something similar seems to be happening now in the 2020 election.

    Cohen asserts that another reason that Trump consistently praised Putin was to fulfill his long-held desire to slap his name on a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. Cohen says the Trump Tower plans called for a 120-story building in Red Square, including 30 floors devoted to a five-star hotel with an Ivanka Trump-branded spa and Trump restaurants, and 230 high-end condominiums for Russian oligarchs and leaders.

    The plan, Cohen adds, was to give the penthouse apartment to the Russian president for free, in part “as a way to suck up to Putin.”

    “The whole idea of patriotism and treason became irrelevant in his mind,” Cohen writes. “Trump was using the campaign to make money for himself: of course he was.”

    (emphasis added)

    This goes back to being nice to Putin to help Trump’s current and future profits. The one thing I want to point out is the section in bold. That statement resonates with me in relation to the recent Atlantic article–Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’

    In the article some of those interviewed mention their belief that Trump can’t see beyond purely transactional relationships. If you’re not financially profiting, you’re a “sucker” and a “loser.” If Cohen’s account and the hypothesis above are accurate, then this is an example of Trump treating the election as purely in a transactional way. That is, he’s using the election primarily for financial gain–even at the expense of the nation’s interests. The thing is, there is evidence of this since the election. He never divested his business (even though he acted as if he did), and he’s been using the office to enrich himself ever since. Donald Trump really seems to be putting his personal wealth ahead of the country.

    Finally, I would add the hypothesis above is not mutually exclusive from the Russians having kompromat or financial ties with Trump.

    P.S.

    I would guess that if Cohen doesn’t have recordings of what he claims Trump says (about Christians, his supporters, racists remarks, etc.), what he writes may have very little impact. And even with recordings, I wouldn’t be too surprised if Christians and his followers wouldn’t change their minds.

    P.P.S.

    I just saw this excerpt from the book which is so over-the-top nuts that I had to laugh in disbelief:

    Can this really be true? If so, you gotta question is mental condition.

    OK, here’s a clip of the video, which came out in 2012:

    It seems like this was for something to be aired (for 2012 RNC?)–I was under the impression he just did it for himself without every intending to air it. Not good, but far less crazy than I originally thought.

  13. In the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t seem like a big deal. But given everything else we know about Trump-Russia, this does raise some questions:

  14. This strongly suggests collusion between Trump (via Giuliani) and Russia has been going on since December 2019.

    White House was warned Giuliani was target of Russian intelligence operation to feed misinformation to Trump from WaPo

    It seems like Giuliani didn’t listen to the warnings. Same with Trump.

    Officials’ warnings about Giuliani underscore the concern in the U.S. intelligence community that Russia not only is seeking to reprise the disinformation campaign it waged in 2016, but also may now be aided, unwittingly or otherwise, by individuals close to the president. Those warnings have gained fresh urgency in recent days. The information that Giuliani sought in Ukraine is similar to what is contained in emails and other correspondence published this week by the New York Post, which the paper said came from the laptop of Hunter Biden and were provided by Giuliani and Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s former top political adviser at the White House.

    The Washington Post was unable to verify the authenticity of the alleged communications, which concern Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine and China.

    In a text message on Thursday, Giuliani said that he was never informed that Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russian lawmaker in Ukraine whom he met on Dec. 5 in Kyiv, was a Russian intelligence asset. Giuliani said he “only had secondary information and I was not considering him a witness.” But Giuliani met again with Derkach in New York two months later, hosting him on his podcast, and he has promoted Derkach’s unsubstantiated claims about the Bidens, describing Derkach as “very helpful.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *