Monday Reads: Puppet! Puppet! Puppet!Posted: January 14, 2019
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
Putin’s puppet is in New Orleans today visiting the folks at the Farm Bureau’s convention whose idea of clean water and vague climate change concern pretty much lines up with the party of greed and irrationality. Yes we like clean water! Who doesn’t! But we don’t need no stinking regulations! Yes we like animals! We kill them all the time including those pesky things on the overrated Endangered Species Act list. And what, us? Cancer causing chemicals? That sounds like a lot of hippie BS to us.! Lots of folks here will be protesting. I’m wondering if any of the farmers attending will have awoken to the need for preparation H yet. If not, they’ll need it by the time they sit through whatever mishigas he spews.
So, the media is finally waking up to the notion that we have a Russian Potted Plant in the oval office. Yeah, like a former Secretary of State running for President telling them wasn’t enough. But, oops there it is!
From Max Boot at WAPO: we get this opinion piece: “Here are 18 reasons Trump could be a Russian asset”. There’s a fairly long list but here’s the top few points.
— Trump has a long financial history with Russia. As summarized by Jonathan Chait in an invaluable New York magazine article: “From 2003 to 2017, people from the former USSR made 86 all-cash purchases — a red flag of potential money laundering — of Trump properties, totaling $109 million. In 2010, the private-wealth division of Deutsche Bank also loaned him hundreds of millions of dollars during the same period it was laundering billions in Russian money. ‘Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,’ said Donald Jr. in 2008. ‘We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia,’ boasted Eric Trump in 2014.” According to Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s guilty pleaof lying to Congress, Trump was even pursuing his dream of building a Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign with the help of a Vladimir Putin aide. These are the kind of financial entanglements that intelligence services such as the FSB typically use to ensnare foreigners, and they could leave Trump vulnerable to blackmail.
— The Russians interfered in the 2016 U.S. election to help elect Trump president.
— Trump encouraged the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails on July 27, 2016 (“Russia, if you’re listening”), on the very day that Russian intelligence hackers tried to attack Clinton’s personal and campaign servers.
— There were, according to the Moscow Project, “101 contacts between Trump’s team and Russia linked operatives,” and “the Trump team tried to cover up every single one of them.” The most infamous of these contacts was the June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower between the Trump campaign high command and a Kremlin emissary promising dirt on Clinton. Donald Trump Jr.’s reaction to the offer of Russian assistance? “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
— The Trump campaign was full of individuals, such as Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and Michael Flynn, with suspiciously close links to Moscow.
From Strobe Talbott at Politico: “It’s Already Collusion. We don’t need news reports to tell us that Trump is giving Putin what he wants. Take it from this longtime Russia hand: It’s staring us in the face.”
America’s 45th president has accused his twelve predecessors, going back to Harry Truman, of making Uncle Sam “a sucker of the world.” In place of that legacy, he is shutting down America’s global franchise while building up literal and virtual walls.
In Europe, Trump has made it vastly easier for Putin to bury the Gorbachev-Yeltsin concept of partnership with the West and roll back what he sees as its incursion into Russia’s sphere of domination. Instead of shoring up key Atlantic allies, Trump is bullying and belittling them, thereby making them even more vulnerable to the rise of right-wing nationalists who now have a booster and exemplar in Trump.
Trump has an affinity for dictators—as he himself reportedly acknowledged only this week during a lunch with senators, “I don’t know why I get along with all the tough ones and not the soft ones.” He actually does know why: He’s a wannabe. He envies their unchecked power, use of intimidation and penchant for operating in secret, apparently because he doesn’t trust the advisers and agencies who work for him.
This weekend’s Post article zeroed in on the Trump-Putin “one-on-one” last July in Helsinki, without aides or note-takers. Gross, the State Department interpreter, was the only American other than Trump who knows what was said, and she is under wraps. Whatever Trump told his own staff afterward, it would be likely what he wants people to believe, especially if he is hiding something. Take his claim that he “couldn’t care less” if his conversation with Putin became public for what it is worth: nothing. What’s more telling was the smug look on Putin’s face and an uncertain one on Trump’s after the meeting.
The Russian interpreter, in any event, would have probably transcribed the tête-à-tête from memory and notes immediately after the meeting. Putin, moreover, is a skilled interrogator who would have back-briefed his inner team. As a result, the Russian side has yet another advantage in its handling of Putin’s admiring would-be friend.
Tom Nichols from USA Today writes this: “All signs point the same way: Vladimir Putin has compromising information on Donald Trump”.
For apparently the first time in history, the president of the United States himself was the subject of a counterintelligence investigation. This means that his ties to a hostile power were significant enough to overcome the high bar the FBI would have to clear to investigate any American for possibly being influenced or compromised by another country — much less its own chief executive.
We have also learned that the president has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal his discussions with an enemy foreign leader not only from intelligence and foreign policy figures in his own administration, but even from the senior officials of his own Oval Office. It should go without saying that he has tried, in this area as in so many others, to wall himself off from congressional oversight.
The president himself is always a reliable barometer of the importance of such revelations, and his panicky tweeting and a subsequent bizarre interview on Fox News(where else?) suggest that these reports are indeed bombshells.
The president’s enablers are dismissing all of this as just more of a Deep State conspiracy set in motion by an FBI aggrieved by the firing of James Comey. The enraged Trump opponents who call themselves the Resistance are convinced that this is evidence not only of Russian influence, but of a Manchurian Candidate who is now the Red President.
The Deep State story is nonsense. The Mole in the Oval image, meanwhile, is too extreme — but not as crazy a theory as it was a year or two ago. The president clearly has something to hide. As I have written many times over the past two years, it is highly unlikely that there is any innocent explanation for the remarkable frequency and depth of the Trump coterie’s interactions with Russia for some 30 years, and especially during the campaign.
While Trump is not an “agent” of the Russian Federation (too many people use this kind of language without knowing what it means to counterintelligence officials), it seems at this point beyond argument that the president personally fears Russian President Vladimir Putin for reasons that can only suggest the existence of compromising information.
This is Tara Palmari from ABC News: “Interpreter from Trump-Putin summit may be forced into congressional spotlight. Only one American was a firsthand witness to Trump’s summit with Putin.”
But a senior Democratic aide on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said a new report in The Washington Post has “changed the calculus.” It describes the president going to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Putin, including moves Trump allegedly took to seize notes from the interpreter at a meeting he held with Putin in Hamburg.
“This raises a new host of questions,” the aide said. “We’re looking into the legal implications of that and we’ll discuss our options. Our lawyers are sitting down with intel committee lawyers to hash it out.”
Trump denied Saturday that he was trying to conceal details from the meeting.
“I’m not keeping anything under wraps,” Trump told Fox News. “Anybody could have listened to that meeting, that meeting is up for grabs.”
Brett Bruen, who served as the White House director of global engagement from 2013 to 2015, said the move to interview Gross would be unusual but is within the scope of Congress’ oversight authority.
“I don’t ever recall an interpreter being subpoenaed — I don’t see how they wouldn’t be subjected like anyone else who is a government employee or contractor,” said Bruen, who served on President Barack Obama’s National Security Council staff.
The congressional transcripts obtained by CNN reveal new details into how the FBI launched the investigation into Trump and the discussions that were going on inside the bureau during a tumultuous and pivotal period ahead of the internal investigation and special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment.
Republicans view the officials’ comments as evidence that top officials at the FBI were planning all along to investigate Trump and that the probe wasn’t sparked by the Comey firing, according to a Republican source with knowledge of the interviews.
While the FBI launched its investigation in the days after Comey’s abrupt dismissal, the bureau had previously contemplated such a step, according to testimony from former FBI lawyer Lisa Page.
Peter Strzok, the former FBI agent who was dismissed from Mueller’s team and later fired over anti-Trump text messages, texted Page in the hours after Comey’s firing and said: “We need to open the case we’ve been waiting on now while Andy is acting,” a reference to then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe.
Page was pressed on the meaning of the message in her interview with congressional investigators, and she confirmed that the text was related to the Russia investigation into potential collusion.
Page told lawmakers the decision to open the case was not about “who was occupying the director’s chair,” according to a source. While FBI lawyers limited her answers about the text, she said the text wasn’t suggesting that the case couldn’t be opened with Comey as director.
“It’s not that it could not have been done,” Page told lawmakers. “This case had been a topic of discussion for some time. The ‘waiting on’ was an indecision and a cautiousness on the part of the bureau with respect to what to do and whether there was sufficient predication to open.”
The Epoch Times has Lisa Page’s interview here. You’ll remember that Trump was itching to get Page and Strzok fired and succeeded. After all, they were adulterous and said a few nice things about Hillary!
Included in the transcripts provided to us is information suggesting Brennan was aware of the so-called Steele dossier in early August 2016, and that he included information regarding the dossier in a briefing given to then-Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Other key points in Page’s testimony before Congress:
• The FBI appears to have considered investigating President Trump for obstruction of justice both before and after FBI Director James Comey was fired.
• Page says the DOJ refused to pursue “gross-negligence” charges against Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server to send classified information.
• FBI agent Michael Gaeta, head of the Eurasian Crime Squad, who received the dossier from former MI6 spy Christopher Steele in July 2016 is referred to in the transcript as Steele’s handler.
• The FBI maintained a previously unknown verification file for the Steele dossier. Congressional investigators didn’t previously know of its existence.
• John Carlin, the head of the DOJ’s National Security Division, was kept abreast of the FBI’s investigative activities through contact with then-Deputy FBI Director McCabe.
• Page worked directly for DOJ official Bruce Ohr for at least five years and had met his wife, Nellie, once.
• The role of FBI agent Jonathan Moffa and DOJ official George Toscas may have been greater than initially assumed.
I personally believe a lot of reticence to do anything to Trump by Republicans has to do with this Betsy Woodruff headling: “Kremlin Blessed Russia’s NRA Operation, U.S. Intel Report Says. When Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin brought NRA bigwigs to Moscow, it wasn’t a rogue mission. It was OKed from the very top, according to a report reviewed by The Daily Beast.” Republicans have literally gone from fearing reds under beds to being co-opted by by them. McConnell was the biggest recipient of laundered Russian money and held the purse strings for its dispersal.
The Kremlin has long denied that it had anything to do with the infiltration of the NRA and the broader American conservative movement. A U.S. intelligence report reviewed by The Daily Beast tells a different story.
Alexander Torshin, the Russian central bank official who spent years aggressively courting NRA leaders, briefed the Kremlin on his efforts and recommended they participate, according to the report. Its existence and contents have not previously been reported.
While there has been speculation that Torshin and his protegée, Maria Butina, had the Kremlin’s blessing to woo the NRA—and federal prosecutors have vaguely asserted that she acted “on behalf of the Russian federation”—no one in the White House or the U.S. intelligence community has publicly stated as much. Senior Russian government officials, for their part, have strenuously distanced themselves from Butina’s courtship of the NRA, which she did at Torshin’s direction.
The report, on the other hand, notes that the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was fine with Torshin’s courtship of the NRA because the relationships would be valuable if a Republican won the White House in 2016.
This should give you plenty of reading before we hear from Michael Cohen testifying before Congress. (updated)
Here’s what you need to know about Cohen’s committee appearance:
What day: The hearing is set for Thursday, Feb. 7.
What time: House committee hearings usually begin between 9:30 a.m. ET and 10 a.m. ET. The time for Cohen’s hearing has not been announced. Check back here for updates.
What channel: The hearing will be broadcast live on cable news channels.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Live from NOLA Convention Center!!!!