Monday Reads: Puppet! Puppet! Puppet!

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.

Here is some of the evidence suggesting “Individual 1” could be a Russian “asset”:

— 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.

CNN reporters highlight this transcript from the FBI:

 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!!!!


41 Comments on “Monday Reads: Puppet! Puppet! Puppet!”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Great roundup!

  2. OG says:

    What was that about McConnell and money laundering? Had not seen that before.

    • dakinikat says:

      GOP campaigns took $7.35 million from oligarch linked to Russia

      https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/08/03/tangled-web-connects-russian-oligarch-money-gop-campaigns

      Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.

      During the 2015-2016 election season, Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonard “Len” Blavatnik contributed $6.35 million to leading Republican candidates and incumbent senators. Mitch McConnell was the top recipient of Blavatnik’s donations, collecting $2.5 million for his GOP Senate Leadership Fund under the names of two of Blavatnik’s holding companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings, according to Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets.org.

  3. dakinikat says:

  4. dakinikat says:

    • Enheduanna says:

      And I’m sure he’s saying that in all good faith…..

      • quixote says:

        There’s apparently a sentence buried in Barr’s statement that he’s the one who decides what anyone (and I think he means including Congress) needs to know about Mueller’s report.

        Which is an “out” vast enough to sail a supertanker through.

  5. dakinikat says:

  6. bostonboomer says:

  7. quixote says:

    Well, Hillary Clinton and everybody here and Sarah Kendzior and Propane Jane and me and oh I don’t know just about everybody I bother to read, (seem to be a lot of women in that crowd), feels like we’re all screaming

    We knew this in 2016. It was out there. Hillary had a whole goddamn easy-to-understand video about. And, now!, after all the damage so far, some people are finally starting to notice and seem to be rather impressed with themselves for it.

    In a horrible way it reminds me of the Dump himself saying stuff like “Nobody knows this, but the Civil War was a war between the states.” (Or whatever similar grade school obviousness he’s spouted.)

    • dakinikat says:

      yeah. but it was just us wominz and all those people of color and not “the right” christians , etc …

    • NW Luna says:

      Infuriating and heartbreaking at the same time. I want to throttle all the media only just now saying Hu. Look at that 4 years ago, and then this 3 years ago, and this… Oh yeah, that is suspicious. Huh. How appalling that POTUS is a puppet. How appalling that (most of) the media are ignored this because “…any woman, just not that woman.”

  8. dakinikat says:

    • bostonboomer says:

      He knows about it.

      • RonStill4Hills says:

        Damned right he knows. The Muscovite Candidate has been a witting accomplice not a useful idiot. He an idiot but just not he type that can be excused for dumb-assery. And as for useful? Not so much. Not to our side anyway. As a walking talking act of sabotage maybe.

        I scream every time I hear someone decry the toxic partisanship. What did they think “Stronger together” was all about?

        There was a conspiracy to ignore everything but the “e-mails.” That happened to include “this guy is a Russian stooge”, which Hillary was saying out loud in plain language.

  9. dakinikat says:

  10. dakinikat says:

  11. dakinikat says:

  12. dakinikat says:

    • Enheduanna says:

      Ferchrissakes, again he can’t be bothered to learn what city he’s going to? Love the comment from the protester!

  13. dakinikat says:

  14. NW Luna says:

    Republicans have literally gone from fearing reds under beds to being co-opted by by them.

    This is what kept surprising me, but following the money explains it.

  15. NW Luna says:

    Nice to have my governor publicize the importance of this ruling that birth control IS healthcare.

    • quixote says:

      I understand that as a matter of practical politics people are just trying to use any means that comes to hand to help women retain some control over their lives. And I know it’s also true, birth control does have medical indications.

      But.

      We’re walking into another trap, like when we let the keep-’em-barefoot-pregnant-and-behind-the-plow cabal call themselves “pro-life.”

      The real point is that women have the same right as men to control their own bodies.

      The medical necessity of birth control or abortions is beside the point. I mean, you could use that argument for cattle because the agenda is to keep them alive. Being kept alive isn’t the point.

      The point is that (here I go, shouting again) we have the right to control our own bodies.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Exactly. Why don’t these people make that argument?

      • NW Luna says:

        Hmmm. Not sure I follow this. Being a clinician, I find the “birth control is part of basic healthcare” statement factual. Catholic healthcare orgs ban vasectomies as well as women’s birth control. Having basic healthcare helps us take care of our bodies (including whether we decide to conceive or not). The medical interventions of contraception and abortion methods enable us to have control over our own bodies.

        • quixote says:

          “enable us to have control over our own bodies”

          Exactly, Luna. But that’s not the same as medicine. Medicine can *enable* it, but unless it’s explicitly framed as a right, it’s not much good.

          It’s like “good” slaveholders who “allowed” the slaves to learn to read and didn’t split families.

          Actual citizens have control over their own lives. The fact that someone doesn’t want them to suffer, but still isn’t giving them control, is weak tea compared to having rights.

          I know your Gov is on the side of rights. What I’m complaining about is the framing making it about health. It. is. not.

          It has to be *framed* as an issue of rights. Otherwise it’s just arguing for better care of the domestics. It accepts the right’s thinking and is just fighting about details on their ground. And even if one wins some of the details, they can be chipped away over time because they aren’t rights.

    • dakinikat says:

      That’s so great to have a governor that supports women’s health issues. We’ve got a democratic governor and he’s hyper catholic on all of it …

  16. dakinikat says:

    Donald Trump and His Team of Morons
    Nobody left besides those with no reputation to lose.

    By Paul Krugman
    Opinion Columnist

    First up is Kevin Hassett, chairman of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, who was asked about the plight of federal workers who aren’t being paid. You don’t have to be a public relations expert to know that you’re supposed to express some sympathy, whether you feel it or not. After all, there are multiple news reports about transportation security workers turning to food banks, the Coast Guard suggesting its employees hold garage sales, and so on.

    So the right response involves expressing concern about those workers but placing the blame on Democrats who don’t want to stop brown-skinned rapists, or something like that. But no: Hassett declared that it’s all good, that the workers are actually “better off,” because they’re getting time off without having to use any of their vacation days.

    Then consider what Sean Hannity had to say about taxing the rich. What’s that? You say that Hannity isn’t a member of the Trump administration? But surely he is in every sense that matters. In fact, Fox News isn’t just state TV, its hosts clearly have better access to the president, more input into his decisions, than any of the so-called experts at places like the State Department or the Department of Defense.

    Anyway, Hannity declared that raising taxes on the wealthy would damage the economy, because “rich people won’t be buying boats that they like recreationally,” and “they’re not going to be taking expensive vacations anymore.”

    Um, that’s not the answer a conservative is supposed to give. You’re supposed to insist that low taxes on the rich give them an incentive to work really really hard, not make it easier for them to take lavish vacations. You’re supposed to declare that low taxes will induce them to save and spend money building businesses, not help them afford to buy new yachts.

  17. dakinikat says:

    Funding records secured by ABC News show that Trump shoved a large part of the record money raised for his inaugural right into his own pocket. “President-elect Donald Trump’s inaugural committee spent more than $1.5 million at the Trump International Hotel in Washington as part of an array of expenditures there and elsewhere, according to sources and internal documents reviewed by ABC News.”

    https://abcnews.go.com/beta-story-container/Politics/president-donald-trumps-inaugural-fund-spent-lavishly-dc/story?id=60361242&cid=social_fb_abcnp