Tuesday Reads: More Trump-Russia Shoes Drop (and Other News)

Good Morning!!

Breaking News Update: This story broke while I was writing this post:

NBC News: Cleveland Facebook Killer: Steve Stephens Dead in Car After Pursuit by Pa. Police.

The nationwide manhunt for Steve Stephens, the man accused of posting video of a murder to Facebook, ended Tuesday when his body was found in a vehicle in Erie, Pa., police said.

Pennsylvania State Police confirmed to NBC News that Stephens had been spotted by Pennsylvania State Police shortly before 11:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. After a brief pursuit, police said Stephens shot and killed himself.

A couple more shoes dropped this morning in the endless Trump-Russia saga.

Bloomberg reported more details about Blackwater founder Erik Prince’s involvement in the campaign and transition. Bloomberg’s sources tried to downplay the notorious Seychelles meeting between Prince and a Putin aide and confidant and claimed it had nothing to do with Trump. Prince was often in Trump Tower, but was sneaked in through the back way to avoid being seen.

Yet over a two to three month period around the election, Prince met several times with top aides as the incoming government took shape, offering ideas on how to fight terror and restructure the country’s major intelligence agencies, according to information provided by five people familiar with the meetings. Among those he conferred with was Flynn, a member of the transition team who joined the administration and was later dismissed, some of the people said. He discussed possible government appointees with people in the private sector, one person said. Prince himself told several people that while he was not offering his advice in any official capacity, his role was significant….

The meetings occurred in Trump Tower, the administration’s transition office in Washington and elsewhere, according to people familiar with them. In one informal discussion in late November, Prince spoke openly with two members of Trump’s transition team on a train bound from New York to Washington. He boarded the same Acela as Kellyanne Conway and they sat together. Joining the conversation at one point was Kevin Harrington, a longtime associate of Trump adviser Peter Thiel who is now on the National Security Council. They discussed, in broad terms, major changes the incoming administration envisioned for the intelligence community, as recounted by a person on the train who overheard their conversation.

The article also discusses Trump’s involvement with Peter Thiel who, along with Prince, made large contributions to a PAC run by Robert Mercer (who got Bannon and Conway involved in the Trump campaign).

A longtime critic of government defense and security policies, Prince advocated a restructuring of security agencies as well as a thorough rethink of costly defense programs, even if it meant canceling existing major contracts in favor of smaller ones, said a person familiar with the matter.

Newsweek has a story on Steve Bannon’s ideological ties to Russia.

Bannon, a former banker turned film producer and right-wing polemicist, has praised not only Putin but also a brand of Russian mystical conservative nationalism known as Eurasianism, which is the closest the Kremlin has to a state ideology. Eurasianism proclaims that Russia’s destiny is to lead all Slavic and Turkic people in a grand empire to resist corrupt Western values. Its main proponent is Alexander Dugin. With his long beard and burning blue eyes, Dugin looks like a firebrand prophet. His philosophy glorifies the Russian Empire—while Bannon and the conservative website that he founded, Breitbart News, revived the slogan of “America first,” which Trump later adopted in his campaign….

Yet Bannon and Dugin have common cause in the idea that global elites have conspired against ordinary people—and the old order must be overthrown. “We have arrived at a moment where the world is discovering a new model of ideologies. The election of Trump shows that clearly,” Dugin tells Newsweek.

Bannon, in turn, seems to admire Dugin—as well as Putin’s Russia—for putting traditional values at the heart of a revival of national greatness. “We, the Judeo-Christian West, really have to look at what [Putin] is talking about as far as traditionalism goes, particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism,” Bannon said at a Vatican-organized conference in 2014. “When you really look at some of the underpinnings of some of [Putin’s] beliefs today, a lot of those come from what I call Eurasianism.” Bannon declined to respond to Newsweek’s questions about his position on Russia and Dugin.

Bannon and Dugin’s speeches and writings indicate that their common enemies are secularism, multiculturalism, egalitarianism—and what Dugin calls the “globalized and internationalist capitalist liberal elite.” In both Bannon’s and Dugin’s worldview, the true global ideological struggle is between culturally homogenous groups founded on Judeo-Christian values practicing humane capitalism on one side and, on the other, an international crony-capitalist network of bankers and big business.

Bannon’s fix for the world is to revive the nation-state—precisely what Putin’s Kremlin is promoting as it backs anti–European Union candidates from Hungary to France. “I happen to think that the individual sovereignty of a country is a good thing and a strong thing,” Bannon told an audience of Catholic thinkers at the Vatican by video-link from the U.S. in 2014. “Putin is standing up for traditional institutions, and he’s trying to do it in a form of nationalism. [People] want to see the sovereignty for their country; they want to see nationalism for their country. They don’t believe in this kind of pan–European Union, or they don’t believe in the centralized government in the United States. They’d rather see more of a states-based entity that the founders originally set up, where freedoms were controlled at the local level.”

It’s not clear to me how Bannon can accept the obvious “crony-capitalism” of the Trump family crime syndicate.

There are more rumors than ever going around that indictments could be coming out of the Trump-Russia investigation, and it’s difficult to know what to believe. I’m just trying to be patient and keep an open but skeptical mind. I did come across a couple of interesting pieces on Rudy Giuliani and Carter Page respectively. They are both too long and complex to excerpt, but here are the links:

Grant Stern at The Stern Facts: Is Rudy Giuliani The Mastermind Behind The Trump Russia Dossier’s Massive Oil Deal?

From Bright Young Things, an interview with Carter Page that contains quite a bit of background information: A Conversation with Carter Page.

Also, Boris Epshteyn has a new gig on conservative radio: Sinclair Announces the Addition of Boris Epshteyn.

On the Kleptocracy front, Ivanka is reportedly cleaning up in the meetings she’s been attending.

The Associated Press: Ivanka’s biz prospers as politics mixes with business.

SHANGHAI (AP) — On April 6, Ivanka Trump’s company won provisional approval from the Chinese government for three new trademarks, giving it monopoly rights to sell Ivanka brand jewelry, bags and spa services in the world’s second-largest economy. That night, the first daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, sat next to the president of China and his wife for a steak and Dover sole dinner at Mar-a-Lago….

As the first daughter crafts a political career from her West Wing office, her brand is flourishing, despite boycotts and several stores limiting her merchandise. U.S. imports, almost all of them from China, shot up an estimated 166 percent last year, while sales hit record levels in 2017. The brand, which Trump still owns, says distribution is growing. It has launched new activewear and affordable jewelry lines and is working to expand its global intellectual property footprint. In addition to winning the approvals from China, Ivanka Trump Marks LLC applied for at least nine new trademarks in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Canada and the U.S. after the election.

The commercial currents of the Trump White House are unprecedented in modern American politics, ethics lawyers say. They have created an unfamiliar landscape riven with ethical pitfalls, and forced consumers and retailers to wrestle with the unlikely passions now inspired by Ivanka Trump’s mid-market collection of ruffled blouses, shifts and wedges.

Using the prestige of government service to build a brand is not illegal. But criminal conflict of interest law prohibits federal officials, like Trump and her husband, from participating in government matters that could impact their own financial interest or that of their spouse. Some argue that the more her business broadens its scope, the more it threatens to encroach on the ability of two trusted advisers to deliver credible counsel to the president on core issues like trade, intellectual property, and the value of the Chinese currency.

Some updates on the situation in North Korea:

Vanity Fair: Donald Trump Stumbles Toward War In East Asia.

How President Donald Trump intends to resolve the growing North Korean crisis remains unclear, though whether that is by design or reflects a lack of a coherent foreign policy is a matter of some debate. Over the past several weeks, as Kim has moved aggressively to advance his nuclear weapons program, the Trump administration has telegraphed a wide range of possibilities as to how the U.S. might respond. Last month, during his first major diplomatic tour of Asia, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declared that “the policy of strategic patience has ended” and that “all options are on the table” for dealing with North Korea. On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence repeated that line while making a surprise appearance on the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone separating the two countries, which have been locked in a military standoff since the suspension of the Korean War in 1953. “North Korea will do well not to test his resolve or strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region,” he added.

While the era of strategic patience may be over, the Trump administration is clearly taking some kind of strategic steps. Last week, the president announced that he had ordered an “armada” of military ships, including the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Carl Vinson and several nuclear submarines, to sail toward North Korea. NBC News reported that the National Security Council had presented Trump with a list of potential responses to North Korea, including moving missiles to South Korea or outright assassinating Kim. And while the White House quietly dismissed a subsequent report that Trump was prepared to launch a pre-emptive conventional strike if Kim reached for the nuclear trigger last weekend, as he had been expected to do, the president warned that the North Korean problem “will be taken care of” one way or another. On Monday, Pence also said that the U.S. would be open to securing the region “through peaceable means, through negotiations,” suggesting that Trump may be coming around to Beijing’s way of thinking.

The ambiguity of Trump’s warnings, combined with the credible threat that he might be crazy enough to see them through, has yielded some results. China appears to be working more closely with the U.S. then before to increase pressure on Kim—cooperation that Trump suggested on Twitter that he had bought by backing away from labeling China a “currency manipulator.” And Kim seemed to have called off his expected nuclear test—for now.

Is Trump embracing Nixon’s “madman theory” of foreign policy, or is he just plain crazy? It seems kind of a dangerous policy when you’re facing off against another madman.

A couple more links:

The Guardian: US military considers shooting down North Korea missile tests, sources say.

Vox: An expert warns that a preemptive strike on North Korea would lead to “very big war.”

What stories are you following today?

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44 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: More Trump-Russia Shoes Drop (and Other News)”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Sorry this is so late. Have a great Tuesday, Sky Dancers!!

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    It really is getting more difficult to sleep nights knowing what we do judging from just those links you have provided today, bb.

    The people in charge should never be this close to power: they are going to kill us one way or the other. Either by war or environmental unhitching of safeguards we are facing a danger from within.

    Trump is seriously unstable. Stupid, uninformed, ill prepared but a useful idiot to these people he would “gladly give away the store” to those who soothe and massage his inflate ego.

    Why nothing is being done to force him out is a mystery. The GOP leadership can get what they want from Pence who may be a religious freak but I don’t consider him insane in the same way as Trump.

    Where we are heading and eventually end up is in the hands of those who refuse to act.

  3. Enheduanna says:

    Thanks for the latest BB. I am suffering from tRump fatigue. I watched a bunch of Jesus documentaries last night which I recorded over Easter. I am fascinated by archaeological evidence from Biblical times – even though I’m an atheist.

    Today I’m on pins and needles due to the GA-06 house election. I expect Ossoff will face a runoff but it’d be nice to see him get 50% tonight.

    Fingers crossed!

  4. quixote says:

    Oh Jeebus. I laughed out loud at that bit about the Russian manifest destiny being to lead “all Slavic and Turkic people” away from that nasty “Western” corruption.

    Every time the Russians come over all helpful to the Uighurs and such by taking their land and ressources, the Turkic people respond with every weapon they’ve got. (Don’t get me wrong. When Turkic people had the upper hand in weapons, they were perfectly happy to pillage too. It’s been a while though.)

    And as for other Slavs, hell, even Belarus is trying to dreak away. The name of that country means “white Russians.” I.e. the Russians out of reach of the Mongol invasion. They’re *advertising* their Russianness and even they don’t want anything to do with this manifest destiny. All I can say is 😆

    And then I love this shit about Western corruption. Oh yes? Like the corrupt billions salted away in Western capitalist banks? Or the Western technology, without which those Turks would be right back at you? Or, maybe, do they just mean sex minus all the uptightness, but they’re too uptight to use the three-letter word?

    Anyway, back to read the rest of this excellent post.

    • NW Luna says:

      Yep, it’s the ol’ they’re corrupt but we’re the pinnacle of perfection, while covering up grifting under a veneer of patriotic extremism.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Trump was even lying about that aircraft carrier.

    Aircraft Carrier Wasn’t Sailing to Deter North Korea, as U.S. Suggested

    • Fannie says:

      He even said that the submarines were following the ship! The idiot should shut up, a president never but never gives away submarine locations!

  6. dakinikat says:

    Oh Wow
    Will The New York Times Ever Fix Its Clinton Problem?
    The paper of record has failed us in this regard.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    Mother Jones:

    Mike Pence’s Trip to Korean Border Featured Lots of Angry Staring. Leather Jacket Too!

    http://www.motherjones.com/media/2017/04/mike-pences-trip-korean-border-featured-lots-angry-glaring

  8. dakinikat says:

  9. dakinikat says:

  10. NW Luna says:

    Lookin’ good!

  11. NW Luna says:

    Hey JJ — notice the author!

    Why Didn’t Gender Meet Criteria For Inclusion In This WaPo Analysis?

    I set out to find the answer, and it shocked me. No, really.

    “During the 2016 presidential campaign, many observers wondered exactly what motivated voters most: Was it income? Authoritarianism? Racial attitudes?” the article opens, before proceeding through a creditable treatment of each of these three questions and what answers may be found in the latest American National Election Study. Why didn’t gender make the list?

    I don’t know about you, but I was there, in the USA, for the 2016 election cycle, and I definitely remember people raising the question of whether or not sexism or gender bias were factors — in the tone and style of coverage, in the outcome, in people’s reactions.

    View story at Medium.com

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      That is fucking cool…

    • roofingbird says:

      I liked this article. Abby references her point using information from 2007, when those questions regarding gender were surely needed. I read the Wapo article and couldn’t find the actual study. So I went to the pdf where the study group asked questions after the last election. There were questions on gender, including LGBTQ. However, taken as a whole, it appeared that the whole study was framed by topical questions is such a way as to represent something FOX news might have developed. Proportionately there were far more questions on race, than even healthcare. When you couch a black race question as “Black Lives Matter”, that sets a certain tone. There were no questions on infrastructure, aging, food, children, home health care, I didn’t see one on veterans, war. There was one asking about unions, a couple on equality, a list of income level of the respondent. They asked for permission for the first time to use and review the Facebook accounts of the respondents. They asked about Muslims, but not other religions in the same way, though I think there was one on fundamental christianity. There were several questions relating to Jews and and protecting Israel.

  12. NW Luna says:

    • dakinikat says:

      well, the run off will be interesting …

      • quixote says:

        Um, isn’t that like saying, “Oh well. They may have stolen that one. We’ll keep playing by the rules.”

        We were playing a board game, the Repubs lit the house on fire. We should be calling the goddamn fire department. All these curious indicators of weirdness in a few places that just happen to swing the results need criminal investigations. They need indictments if there’s even circumstantial evidence. Same as what can convict an arsonist. Then perp walks.

        Pushing on to the next phase of the board game is not actually an appropriate response to democracy going up in flames and cheating!

  13. dakinikat says:

    happy snoopy dance …

  14. dakinikat says:

    • dakinikat says:

      • quixote says:

        I have to say, a large part of me hardly cares what carefully, slowly, meticulously collected evidence the FBA comes up with now.

        The whole thing reeks of bigwigs who didn’t want something to happen (Clinton’s election in this case) so they study it to death.

        By the time they finally produce their precious results, we’re going to be so much further down the everybody-hates-everybody rathole the results will just be a museum piece.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Giuliani story is linked in my post. That’s the one I emailed you a couple of days ago.

  15. Enheduanna says:

    Wow! Ya’ll weren’t kidding about shoes dropping!