Friday Reads: Scumbag BluesPosted: July 20, 2018
Good Afternoon Sky ancers!
The New York Times pinged me with this choice morsel this morning! I don’t often quote malicious dictators, but when I do, I make certain it’s because they are colluding with what has slunk in to the oval office on the wings of vultures and their obviously brain dead carrion.
Let me just remind you of a quote yesterday. This one being from the Director of Intelligence, former Indiana Senator Dan Coates.
Coats made it clear he was totally in the dark about Trump’s meeting with Putin: “I don’t know what happened in that meeting. I think as time goes by and the President has already mentioned some of the things that happened in that meeting, I think we will learn more. But that is the President’s prerogative.”
He also said Trump hadn’t asked him for advice before the meeting: “If he had asked me how that ought to be conducted, I would have suggested a different way, but that’s not my role. That’s not my job. So it is what it is.”
He made clear he had no doubt about the Russian President’s role in the country’s interference efforts. “I think anybody who thinks that Vladimir Putin doesn’t have his stamp on everything that happens in Russia is misinformed,” he said.
We should all just mail our pass codes the Russian Federation Spy Agency and hang it up. He’s selling us out.
So, the debate continues over if KKKremlin Caligula is malevolent towards the United States and commiting Treason, so stupid he doesn’t get that what he’s doing is commiting Treason against the United States, or that his fee fees and self-identity cause him to commit Treason against the United States because he’s just one big raging malignant narcissist who can’t get beyond his Id.
Why? And a bigger WTF is the behavior of elected Republicans and their shrinking, ever-more-stupid base of religious extremists and angry white men.
Does it even do any good to ask Why anymore when the germane question is how do we get the fuck out of this assuming Republicans are the party of Enablers.
‘Why the President is so nice to Putin, even when Putin might not want him to be?’ Adam Parker–writing for the New Yorker–interviewed Keith Darden, an international-relations professor at American University who has studied the Russian use of kompromat and believes Trump acts like one of its targets.
But, Darden explained to me, kompromat is routinely used throughout the former Soviet Union to curry favor, improve negotiated outcomes, and sway opinion. Intelligence services, businesspeople, and political figures everywhere exploit gossip and damaging information. However, Darden argues, kompromat has a uniquely powerful role in the former Soviet Union, where the practice is so pervasive, he coined the term “blackmail state” to describe the way of governance.
Kompromat can be a single, glaring example of wrongdoing, recorded by someone close to the Kremlin and then used to control the bad actor. It can be proof of an embarrassing sex act. Darden believes it is unlikely that sexual kompromat would be effective on Trump. Allegations of sexual harassment, extramarital affairs, and the payment of hush money to hide indiscretions have failed to significantly diminish the enthusiasm of Trump’s core supporters. But another common form of kompromat—proof of financial crimes—could be more politically and personally damaging.
Trump has made a lot of money doing deals with businesspeople from the former Soviet Union, and at least some of these deals bear many of the warning signs of money laundering and other financial crimes. Deals in Toronto, Panama, New York, and Miami involved money from sources in the former Soviet Union who hid their identities through shell companies and exhibited other indications of money laundering. In the years before he became a political figure, Trump acted with impunity, conducting minimal corporate due diligence and working with people whom few other American businesspeople would consider fit partners. During that period, he may have felt protected by the fact that U.S. law-enforcement officials rarely investigate or prosecute Americans who engage in financial crimes overseas. Such cases are also maddeningly difficult to prove, and the F.B.I. has no subpoena power in other countries. If, however, someone had evidence that proved financial crimes and shared it with, say, the special counsel, Robert Mueller, other American law-enforcement officials, or the press, it could significantly damage Trump’s business, his family, and his Presidency.
There is already inkles of kompromat coming from the Michael Cohen camp today. It’s the the Trump paid off hookers sort of evidence that is sitting in the busy hands of the Mueller team. Trump beat the “grab ’em by the pussy” revelation easily so it’s unlikely the kind of thing that triggers Trump.
Investigators discovered recordings made by Michael Cohen that include then-candidate Donald Trump talking about making a payment to a former Playboy model, sources familiar with the matter confirmed to ABC News.
The recordings were found as part of the raid on Michael Cohen’s home office and hotel carried out earlier this year in New York, the sources told ABC News.
The New York Times first reported the news of the recordings.
The Playboy model in question is reportedly Karen McDougal, who has previously claimed that she had an affair with Trump. The White House previously denied McDougal’s claims.
Cohen is under criminal investigation by New York federal prosecutors in a case that’s separate from the one that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is pursuing.
Sources said that investigators were looking into Cohen’s personal business dealings as well as those with Trump’s alleged mistresses and media organizations as well as the 2016 campaign.
Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, confirmed in a telephone conversation on Friday that Mr. Trump had discussed payments to Ms. McDougal with Mr. Cohen on the tape. He said the recording was less than two minutes long and claimed that the president had done nothing wrong.
Mr. Giuliani said there was no indication on the tape that Mr. Trump knew before the conversation about the payment from the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., to Ms. McDougal.
“Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance,” Mr. Giuliani said.
The men discussed a payment from Mr. Trump to Ms. McDougal — separate from the Enquirer payment — to buy her story and ensure her silence, Mr. Giuliani said. That payment was never made, Mr. Giuliani said, adding that Mr. Trump had told Mr. Cohen that if he were to make a payment related to the woman, to write a check rather than send cash, so it could be properly documented.
Mr. Cohen’s lawyers discovered the recording as part of their review of the seized materials and shared it with Mr. Trump’s lawyers, according to three people briefed on the matter.
What did trigger D’oh Drumpfen Fuhrer was Dan Coates, Andrea Mitchell, and audience uttering nervously laughs over the news that no one has debriefed the two people at the Helsinki “Spy going home to his Master” Summit.
“Coats has gone rogue,” one senior White House official told the Post.
The optics are particularly damaging. Coats appears to be laughing at the president, along with an audience of intellectual elites. Plus, since the moment is only 35 seconds long, it’s likely to get a lot of play tomorrow on cable news — a venue Trump is obsessed with.
Thus, White House aides are worried that Trump will see the remark as a personal betrayal, which he cares far more about than the scandals that plague many staffers. Axios reported that sources close to Trump are “already speculating about whether Trump ends up firing Coats. Per a source with knowledge, Trump has never had much affection for Coats.”
Firing Coats, a respected two-time Republican senator from Indiana who tends to stay out of the headlines, would turn the Helsinki debacle into an even bigger scandal (though it’s hard to imagine most Republican lawmakers doing anything to counter Trump).
For what it’s worth, Coats suggested that he wants to stay on the job, and the interview wasn’t some effort to provoke Trump into firing.
“Are there days when you think, ‘Well, what am I doing?’ Yeah,” he said, when asked if he’s ever considered resigning. “But there’s lot more days saying, “You know, the mission here is critical. And to be able to be a part of it, be able to feel like you’re giving something back to your country — it’s a reward … As long as I’m able to have the ability to seek the truth and speak the truth, I’m on board.”
Still, we have to ask the big question: WTF is wrong with Republicans? What are they all covering up and why? Michelle Goldberg answers the question.
Perhaps, rather than covering for Trump, some Republicans are covering for themselves.
Last Friday, Robert Mueller, the special counsel, indicted 12 members of Russian military intelligence for their interference in the 2016 election. The indictment claims that in August 2016, Guccifer 2.0, a fictitious online persona adopted by the Russian hackers, “received a request for stolen documents from a candidate for the U.S. Congress.” The Russian conspirators obliged, sending “the candidate stolen documents related to the candidate’s opponent.” Congress has, so far, done nothing discernible to find out who this candidate might be.
Then, on Monday, we learned of the arrest of Maria Butina, who is accused of being a Russian agent who infiltrated the National Rifle Association, the most important outside organization in the Republican firmament. Legal filings in the case outline a plan to use the N.R.A. to push the Republican Party in a more pro-Russian direction.
Butina, 29, appears to have worked for Alexander Torshin, a Russian politician linked to organized crime who is the target of U.S. sanctions. She developed a romantic relationship with Paul Erickson, a conservative operative close to the N.R.A. (Court filings cite evidence it was insincere on her part.) Erickson, in turn, wrote to a Trump adviser in May 2016 about using the N.R.A. to set up a back channel to the Kremlin.
The young Russian woman clearly understood the political significance of the N.R.A. In one email, court papers say, she described the central “place and influence” of the N.R.A. in the Republican Party. Through her pro-gun activism, she became a fixture of the conservative movement and was photographed with influential Republican politicians. A Justice Department filing quotes Torshin as comparing her to another young, famous Russian agent: “You have upstaged Anna Chapman. She poses with toy pistols, while you are being published with real ones.”
If the N.R.A. as an organization turns out to be compromised, it would shake conservative politics to its foundation. And this is no longer a far-fetched possibility. “I serve on both the Intelligence Committee and the Finance Committee,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, told me. “So I have a chance to really look at this through the periscope of both committees. And what I have wondered about for some time is this whole issue of whether the N.R.A. is getting subverted as a Russian asset.”
The events of the last week or so are convincing Russiagate skeptics even. Something is desperately wrong here. This is Blake Hounshell writing for Politico.
And why does Trump inevitably return to questioning the irrefutable evidence that Russia meddled in the 2016 election? We can dispense with the explanation, conveyed anonymously by senior administration officials, that “his brain can’t process that collusion and cyberattacks are two different things.” We can also forget about the widely held theory that he views the various Russia investigations as a threat to the legitimacy of his election, and therefore a devastating blow to his sense of self-worth.
Or, at least, neither offers a sufficient explanation for why Trump consistently parrots Russian talking points on NATO, the American media, U.S. troop deployments, Ukraine and the legitimacy of the postwar liberal order. What does any of that have to do with his tender ego? Do we really think Trump has an informed position on, say, Montenegro’s history of aggression? Could Trump find Montenegro on a map?
Nor is it credible to point to actions his administration has taken that are “tough on Russia.” Trump has questioned proposals to supply the Ukrainian government with anti-tank missiles and sniped at Congress for wanting to impose fresh sanctions on Moscow.
What about my argument that Trump was constitutionally incapable of keeping a secret? That, too, is no longer operative. Since I first wrote, we’ve learned that Trump—a skinflint who once had his own charity pay a $7 fee to register his son for the Boy Scouts—was willing to shell out $130,000 of his own money to hush up a fling with a porn actress, Stormy Daniels. And he still hasn’t copped to sleeping with her, despite the discovery of their nondisclosure agreement and contemporaneous evidence that the affair really happened. None of this leaked out until well after the election, proving that Trump is indeed capable of keeping his yap shut when he wants. Not convinced? How about the fact that Brett Kavanaugh’s name didn’t leak out as Trump’s latest Supreme Court pick until minutes before the announcement?
We are both drinking Badoit sparkling water, which Kissinger has specifically requested. I sense I am losing my battle to get him on to Trump — or failing to detect his hidden message. Is he saying we are underestimating Trump — that, in fact, Trump may be doing us the unacknowledged service of calming the Russian bear? Again, there is a pause before Kissinger answers. “I don’t want to talk too much about Trump because at some point I should do it in a more coherent way than this,” Kissinger replies. But you are being coherent, I protest. Please don’t stop. There is another pregnant silence. “I think Trump may be one of those figures in history who appears from time to time to mark the end of an era and to force it to give up its old pretences. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he knows this, or that he is considering any great alternative. It could just be an accident.”
By now Kissinger has abandoned his halfhearted stabs at the fish. I know he has briefed Trump. He has also met Putin on 17 occasions. He reports the contents of those meetings to Washington, he tells me. I try a different tack. To whom does Trump compare in history, I ask. This also fails to do the trick. Kissinger goes off on a tour d’horizon of the health of European diplomacy
I got a bad case of the Scumbag Blues. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?