Tuesday Reads: The “President” Is In Thrall To A Hostile Foreign PowerPosted: July 17, 2018
Yesterday the illegitimate “president” of the U.S. betrayed our country while standing next to Russia’s Vladimir Putin in on the world stage. The Republicans in Congress so far have refused to do anything to provide oversight over this “president.” Will they finally take action now? Probably not. (NOTE: the rest of the images in this post are what I hope are calming paintings.)
At this point, our only hope is Robert Mueller’s investigation, which seems to be moving along pretty rapidly. Mueller recently indicted 12 Russian GRU military officers for hacking the DNC, the DCCC, and Clinton campaign email accounts. Then yesterday, a Russian woman, Maria Butina, was indicted for being a spy.
A Russian woman with ties to a senior Russian government official was charged in Washington on Monday with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation, including by building ties to the leadership of the National Rifle Association and other conservative political organizations.
Maria Butina, 29, who recently received a graduate degree from American University, was arrested Sunday in the District and made her first appearance in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson, where she was ordered held without bond.
Butina was allegedly assisted in her efforts by a U.S. political operative who helped introduce her to influential political figures. That person was not charged and is not named in court papers, but the description matches that of Paul Erickson, a GOP consultant who sought to organize a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Alexander Torshin, Butina’s Russian colleague and a former Russian senator, at a May 2016 NRA convention.
Read more details at The Daily Beast: Russia-NRA Arrest: This Is as Close as It Gets to Collusion.
It’s also possible that Paul Manafort could be working on a plea deal.
The judge overseeing Paul Manafort‘s federal court case on charges of tax evasion and bank fraud in Virginia delayed proceedings in a surprise move on Monday afternoon. According to legal experts familiar with the federal court system, this could be an indication that Manafort is about to cut a plea deal….
The delay may or may not have caught the prosecution and defense off guard–but was certainly a shock to those watching the events unfold from a distance. According to the publicly-accessible court docket, no party had submitted a request for such a delay and there was also no indication of an official court notice being filed as of late Monday afternoon.
Many legal observers noted that this was a strange turn of events with the trial fast approaching; several even indicated that this last-minute interruption could signal Manafort’s last-minute willingness to flip.
Read the rest at the link.
Yesterday was a day that will certainly go down in history. We saw an American “president” stand next to the Russian dictator and completely surrender our country’s values. And this followed on a disastrous trip in which the “president” horribly damaged our relations with our traditional European allies. Reactions:
Josh Marshall at TPM: The Worst Case Scenario Has Been Obvious for a While.
If you’re a regular reader, you know that I’m pretty cautious in my arguments, cautious on a lot of fronts. I can be aggressive in how I frame those arguments. I sometimes speak in hyperbole. But in basic judgments I’m quite cautious. Something is fundamentally wrong here. There is no reasonable explanation for the simple facts we see other than that Russia has some kind of hold over President Trump.
I know that sounds wild and I have a very hard time sometimes quite believing it myself. But it’s so overwhelmingly obvious that we need to get real with ourselves and recognize what is happening. I don’t know what the specific details are. I don’t know whether Russia has some compromising information on the President, whether they have enticed him with personal enrichment. I truly don’t know. But none of the standard explanations – truculence, trolling, anger over questioning the legitimacy of his election – none of them remotely add up as an explanation. In the future, when we know more details, we will have a difficult time explaining how any serious people continued to think there could be an innocent explanation.
Brian Buetler at Crooked Media: Trump and Putin Colluded in Public.
President Trump hosted a bilateral press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday and colluded with him on a global stage.
In examining such a varied and unhinged performance, it’s important to filter out background noise, which tells us nothing new, and isolate new and specific signs of corruption that can’t arguably be characterized as twisted forms of statecraft.
Trump has left a key under the mat for Putin to meddle in future elections on behalf of Republicans, and continued to welcome more interference today, with Putin standing by his side, but this time he hinted that he’d be willing to reciprocate for such illegal assistance by allowing Putin to breach American intelligence.
The press conference went fully off the rails near the end, when rather than defend the U.S. election system against Russian meddling, Trump spouted anti-Democratic conspiracy theories, and cut the legs out from under his intelligence chiefs—particularly Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats—by accepting Putin’s election-sabotage denials over their conclusions.
Coats, et al, “said they think it’s Russia,” Trump noted. “I have President Putin,Cl he just said it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
Because Trump humiliated his own cabinet, he has revived questions about whether his comments will prompt resignations, or whether his aides and allies will remain complicit in Russian cyberattacks on the American political system. But our predicament is actually bleaker than that, and the fact that Republicans in Congress will almost certainly do nothing about what just happened effectively guarantees that Trump and Putin will soon consummate a new corrupt bargain to further subvert American democracy.
Click on the link to read the rest.
Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: Trump Shows the World He’s Putin’s Lackey.
No matter how low your expectations for the summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin on Monday, it was hard not to be staggered by the American president’s slavish and toadying performance.
On Friday, the Justice Department indicted 12 members of Russia’s military intelligence service for a criminal conspiracy to interfere with the 2016 election and hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The same day, Trump’s director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, gave a speech about America’s vulnerability to cyberattacks, particularly from Russia. “I’m here to say, the warning lights are blinking red again,” he said, comparing the threat to the one that preceded Sept. 11.
But standing beside Putin in Helsinki on Monday, Trump sided with the Russian president against American intelligence agencies while spewing lies and conspiracy theories. “He just said it’s not Russia,” he said of Putin’s denials. “I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be.” Continuing in a free-associative fugue, he asked, “What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the D.N.C.?” referring to a debunked right-wing claim about a former Democratic I.T. staffer. “What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? Thirty-three thousand emails gone, just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn’t be gone so easily.”
Perhaps the most sinister part of the news conference was Trump’s seeming openness to a deal in which F.B.I. investigators could question people in Russia in exchange for letting Russians question Putin critics in America. Putin referred specifically to associates of his arch-nemesis Bill Browder, a businessman (and British citizen) who has succeeded in getting seven countries, including the United States, to pass laws punishing Russian oligarchs suspected of corruption. (The Russians who met with members of the Trump campaign at Trump Tower in June 2016 wanted to discuss this law, the Magnitsky Act.)
Read more at the NYT.
Mark Lander at the New York Times: Trump Sheds All Notions of How a President Should Conduct Himself Abroad.
President Trump, who gleefully defies the norms of presidential behavior, went somewhere in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday where none of his predecessors have ever gone: He accepted the explanation of a hostile foreign leader over the findings of his own intelligence agencies.
Mr. Trump’s declaration that he saw no reason not to believe President Vladimir V. Putin when he said the Russians did not try to fix the 2016 election was extraordinary enough. But it was only one of several statements the likes of which no other president has uttered while on foreign soil.
He condemned the Justice Department’s investigation of his campaign’s ties to Russia as a “disaster for our country.” He suggested that the F.B.I. deliberately mishandled its investigation of Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee. And he labeled an F.B.I. agent who testified about that investigation before Congress as a “disgrace to our country.”
In the fiery, disruptive, rules-breaking arc of Mr. Trump’s statecraft, his assertions during a news conference with Mr. Putin marked a new milestone, the foreign policy equivalent of Charlottesville.
More at the link.
A few more reads, links only:
Max Boot at The Washington Post: We just watched a U.S. president acting on behalf of a hostile power.
The Washington Post: ‘Very much counter to the plan’: Trump defies advisers in embrace of Putin.
The Daily Beast: The Republican Party Is Now the Blame America Party.
MSNBC just reported that Trump’s daily intelligence briefing has been cancelled. I’m not sure what that means.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Please post your own thoughts and links in the comment thread below.