Thursday Reads: Trump Russia, Giuliani’s Meltdown, and Other News

Good Morning!!

Last night I was thinking about when Obama was president and we would have days when there was nothing earth shattering in politics to talk about. There would be quiet Fridays and weekends with no significant news about the government. Now there are terrifying crises in the government every single day, including weekends. If only we could go back to those relatively peaceful times! Instead we have Trump.

This morning, there are so many significant stories, that I can’t possibly get to all of them, so I’ll begin with this stunning headline from Wired: Trump Must Be a Russian Agent; The Alternative is Too Awful, by Garrett Graff.

It would be rather embarrassing for Donald Trump at this point if Robert Mueller were to declare that the president isn’t an agent of Russian intelligence.

The pattern of his pro-Putin, pro-Russia, anti-FBI, anti-intelligence community actions are so one-sided, and the lies and obfuscation surrounding every single Russian meeting and conversation are so consistent, that if this president isn’t actually hiding a massive conspiracy, it means the alternative is worse: America elected a chief executive so oblivious to geopolitics, so self-centered and personally insecure, so naturally predisposed to undermine democratic institutions and coddle authoritarians, and so terrible a manager and leader, that he cluelessly surrounded himself with crooks, grifters, and agents of foreign powers, compromising the national security of the US government and undermining 75 years of critical foreign alliances, just to satiate his own ego.

In short, we’ve reached a point in the Mueller probe where there are only two scenarios left: Either the president is compromised by the Russian government and has been working covertly to cooperate with Vladimir Putin after Russia helped win him the 2016 election—or Trump will go down in history as the world’s most famous “useful idiot,” as communists used to call those who could be co-opted to the cause without realizing it.

At least the former scenario—that the president of the United States is actively working to advance the interests of our country’s foremost, long-standing, traditional foreign adversary—would make him seem smarter and wilier. The latter scenario is simply a tragic farce for everyone involved.

We’re left here—in a place unprecedented in American political history, wondering how much worse the truth is than we already know—after four days of fresh revelations in the public drip-drip-drip of the Russia investigation. The past two months have seen the public understanding of the case advance into almost unthinkable territory. Now we’re simply trying to figure out how bad things really are.

That’s about it. And will be eventually learn that a large proportion of Republicans in Congress are also either compromised by Russia or too stupid to see that their president is? After all, they did vote yesterday to lift sanctions on Paul Manafort’s buddy Oleg Derapaska’s businesses.

And did you see Rudy Giuliani’s meltdown on CNN last night? In case you missed it:

Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: Rudy Giuliani just contradicted nearly all the Trump team’s past collusion denials.

President Trump’s legal spokesman Rudolph W. Giuliani on Wednesday night appeared to grant the possibility that members of Trump’s campaign did, in fact, collude with the Russians during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

And in the process, he contradicted dozens of previous denials that both the Trump team (and Trump himself) have offered.

“I never said there was no collusion between the campaign or between people in the campaign,” Giuliani told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, before getting cut off.

“Yes, you have,” Cuomo said.

Giuliani shot back: “I have not. I said ‘the president of the United States.’”

But while Giuliani himself might not have assured that nobody on the campaign colluded, others including Trump sure have. In fact, the Trump team has moved the goal posts on this question no fewer than 10 times after initially denying any contact at all with “foreign entities.” Trump has said dozens of times that there was “no collusion,” full stop. This appears to be the first time anyone has acknowledged the possibility that someone colluded without Trump’s knowledge.

Read the rest for a list of Rudy’s successive walkbacks on whether there was collusion with Russia in the Trump campaign. Is this just a response to the many revelations about Paul Manafort or is Trump getting ready to throw Don Jr. under the bus? From Raw Story:

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s stunning interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night is still making waves, and a CNN panel agreed on Thursday morning that it could spell big trouble for Donald Trump Jr.

While discussing Giuliani’s latest admission that there may have been some collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian government agents, host John Berman asked whether Trump Jr. should be worried that his father is preparing to throw him under the bus for potentially conspiring with a hostile foreign power.

“Would you be nervous if you’re Donald Trump Jr. or Jared Kushner?” Berman asked. “Did Giuliani just send a signal that… the president’s legal defense team isn’t here for you?”

“That’s what I heard,” replied New York Times reporter Astead Herndon. “Everyone under [Trump’s] level can now be considered fair game, if we’re talking about the political signaling.”

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent discussed Giuliani’s meltdown with attorney Neal Kayal.

Former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal told me that this appears to be a tacit admission of serious vulnerability — as well as an effort to lay the groundwork for a last-ditch defense of Trump, should more come out. It also makes the nonstop claims that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is leading a “witch hunt” look ridiculous.

“They’ve been saying for two years that this is a witch hunt,” Katyal told me. “As a lawyer, given the recent revelations, Giuliani now has to pivot and outline the next line of defense.”

“This is straight out of the organized-crime playbook,” Katyal continued. “The boss says, ‘There was no conspiracy.’ Then prosecutors prove there was a conspiracy between your subordinates and a criminal organization. Then the defense shifts to, ‘Okay, there was a conspiracy, but the boss didn’t know anything about it.’”

Sargent also asked Obama’s white house counsel Bob Bauer about Giuliani’s statements.

Bob Bauer, the White House counsel under former president Barack Obama, told me that Giuliani “must have some continuing hope” that Mueller cannot prove Trump knew about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, which Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Manafort attended in the expectation of gaining dirt on Hillary Clinton produced by the Russian government.

That seems unlikely, given the latest from The New York Times on Trump’s black box meetings with Vladimir Putin: Trump and Putin Have Met Five Times. What Was Said Is a Mystery. The story recounts the meetings and phone calls Trump has had with Putin, beginning right after he was elected. But here’s the highlight of the story:

The inaugural meeting [in Hamburg, Germany] came at a sensitive time. Mr. Trump’s team learned that day that one of the biggest secrets of his presidential bid was about to become public: At the height of the campaign, his son, son-in-law and campaign chairman had met at Trump Tower with Russians on the promise of obtaining dirt on Mrs. Clinton from the Russian government. Mr. Trump’s team was scrambling to respond to a request for comment by The Times.

Mr. Trump’s meeting with Mr. Putin that day lasted more than two hours. Afterward, Mr. Trump took his interpreter’s notes and instructed the interpreter not to brief anyone. Mr. Tillerson told reporters that the leaders discussed everything from Syria to Ukraine, but he also described “a very robust and lengthy exchange” on the election hacking.

A few hours later, Mr. Trump sought out Mr. Putin again during a dinner for all the leaders. Videotape later made public showed Mr. Trump pointing at Mr. Putin, who was seated across and down a long table, then pointing at himself and then making a pumping motion with his fist.

Mr. Trump later told The Times that he went over to see his wife, Melania Trump, who was sitting next to Mr. Putin, and the two leaders then talked, with Mr. Putin’s interpreter translating. No American officials were present, and the White House did not confirm the encounter until more than 10 days later, after it was independently reported.

Here’s the shocker:

The day after the two meetings, as Mr. Trump was on Air Force One taking off from Germany heading back to Washington, he telephoned a Times reporter and argued that the Russians were falsely accused of election interference. While he insisted most of the conversation be off the record, he later repeated a few things in public in little-noticed asides.

He said that he raised the election hacking three times and that Mr. Putin denied involvement. But he said Mr. Putin also told him that “if we did, we wouldn’t have gotten caught because we’re professionals.” Mr. Trump said: “I thought that was a good point because they are some of the best in the world” at hacking.

Asked how he weighed Mr. Putin’s denials against the evidence that had been presented to him by Mr. Comey; John O. Brennan, then the C.I.A. director; and James R. Clapper Jr., then director of national intelligence, he said that Mr. Clapper and Mr. Brennan were the “most political” intelligence chiefs he knew and that Mr. Comey was “a leaker.”

Later on the same flight Trump dictated a statement to the NYT about Don Jr.’s meeting with Russians at Trump Tower.

Mr. Trump huddled with aides to decide how to respond to the emerging story by other Times reporters about the Trump Tower meeting. He personally dictated a misleading statement, saying the meeting was about Russian adoptions without admitting that it was actually intended to accept Moscow’s aid for his campaign, as emails obtained by The Times later documented.

You may have seen this footage from the dinner in Hamburg, in which Trump signals to Putin and then clenches his fist. Was he signaling that he needed to talk to Putin about the NYT story?

More stories to check out:

Michael McFaul at The Washington Post: Sorry, but Trump is not ‘tough on Russia’

The Wall Street Journal: Poll-Rigging for Trump and Creating @WomenForCohen: One IT Firm’s Work Order.

The Epoch Times: EXCLUSIVE: In Closed-Door Testimony, Papadopoulos Identified Alleged Spy in Trump Campaign.

The Daily Beast: Rick Gates Tells Mueller About Trump Team’s Dealings With Israeli Intelligence Firm.

The Washington Post: North Korean spy chief’s visit to Washington shrouded in mystery.

CNN: Trump is fraying nerves inside the Pentagon.

Raw Story: Stephen Miller was writing SOTU to blame Democrats for shutdown — until Nancy Pelosi pulled the rug out: report.

So . . . what stories are you following today?

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66 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Trump Russia, Giuliani’s Meltdown, and Other News”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    • quixote says:

      “Deny a platform” What nonsense. If Agent Orange told the media he was going to sniffle in the Oval Office they’d be there, covering it.

      And the bit about he’s either a Russian agent or a useful idiot? That’s not an exclusive or. All the evidence says he’s both.

      • NW Luna says:

        Yes. He’s both.

        …compromising the national security of the US government and undermining 75 years of critical foreign alliances, just to satiate his own ego.

        How can anyone doubt this?

        • Enheduanna says:

          I was leaning toward useful idiot, but I think you and quixote are right.

          And I’m so sick and tired of every day seeing his tweets with misspelled words. Sloppy, lazy and zero dignity. Who wants to see him make a fool of himself slurring the SOTU address and sucking in his teeth? Pelosi is doing him a favor.

      • Gregory P says:

        1st thing I thought when reading that is there are no mutually exclusive options here. It is why they picked Trump in the first place.

  2. NW Luna says:

    IG: Trump administration took thousands more migrant children from parents

    The Trump administration separated thousands more migrant children from their parents at the U.S. border than has previously been made public, according to an investigative report released Thursday, but the federal tracking system has been so poor that the precise number is hazy.

    The report estimates that thousands of other youngsters were taken starting early in the Trump administration, months before the government announced it would separate children in order to criminally prosecute their parents, through late last spring.

    Among other things, the DHS report found that 860 migrant children were kept in Border Patrol holding cells longer than three days, and that inadequate steps were taken to track the identities of children too young to talk

    Heartless, and I wonder if it’s even worse than what just came out.

    • bostonboomer says:

    • quixote says:

      “inadequate steps were taken to track the identities of children too young to talk”

      😯

      So they were separating “children too young to talk” from parents.

      Children too young to talk.

      May God have mercy on us.

  3. NW Luna says:

    The past two months have seen the public understanding of the case advance into almost unthinkable territory.

    What’s shocking to me is how many appear to have slept through the last 3-4 years of news about Trump’s actions. There was certainly enough evidence much earlier than that if they’d cared to investigate rather than repeat Republican talking points about Hillary’s emails. (snarls again, and not for the last time)

    • dakinikat says:

      The problem is that it’s not like this should really surprise any one or be unthinkable. There was evidence of it by the time Trump was headed towards the nomination.

  4. NW Luna says:

    Quite the difference between the House and the Senate. I also wonder if Senate Republicans heard more outrage over their vote than expected.

    In rebuke to Trump administration, more than 130 Republicans join House Democrats to oppose lifting sanctions against Putin ally

    The 362-53 vote registers formal House disapproval of plans to relax sanctions against companies controlled by Russian President Vladimir Putin ally, Oleg Deripaska, and comes despite last-minute appeals by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. A similar measure narrowly failed in the Senate this week, despite 11 Republicans breaking ranks to vote with Democrats.

  5. dakinikat says:

    How on earth does Trump think sticking Ghouliani out there for interviews helps?

    • lililam says:

      1. It adds to the absurdity and chaos on which Trump thrives.
      2. It appeals to the countless observers who have no sense of logic, let alone history or justice.
      3. It provides a perverse rallying cry.
      4. Or maybe trump really doesn’t care, because it makes no difference.

  6. dakinikat says:

    • Gregory P says:

      I’ve read estimates that the wall would actually cost in excess of $70 billion. You know, once you get the hook in then it gets milked. Then there is maintenance and of course no easily penetrable wall is complete without a battalion or two to guard it. All the things they could do and actually do to make the border secure will have to be done just to protect the wall. It is going to be a colossal money pit without much benefit.

  7. dakinikat says:

  8. NW Luna says:

    Women have stamina!

    • quixote says:

      I saw that! I don’t even understand how that is physiologically possible. Not that a woman wins an ultramarathon. Women have better physical endurance than men, on the whole. (To say nothing of meantal and emotional endurance, but that’s another whole thesis.)

      But that she could do that while nursing. The physiological demands on her body beggar my imagination. Plus she stopped for that! The time lost beggars my imagination too.

      In effect, she won that ultramarathon while hopping part of the way on one foot!

      • NW Luna says:

        She was probably not lactating to the volume needed by a newborn, since the child was a bit over 1 year. Still, that’s a definite extra strain on the body.

        Winning by 12 hours is stupendously amazing.

  9. Enheduanna says:

    Luna – just saw this at Susie’s:

    http://susiemadrak.com/2019/01/17/luna-eclipse-this-weekend/

    Super Blood Wolf Moon – We may see that here in ATL – partly cloudy to clear!

    • teele says:

      He really thinks he is Emperor Donnie the First. What a weak, pathetic little man he is.

      • NW Luna says:

        Plus he revealed the itinerary and that the 2nd in line to the Presidency was going to be in a war zone.

        She was also meeting with NATO leaders to try to reassure them about the US’ actions.

  10. dakinikat says:

  11. dakinikat says:

  12. Riverbird says:

    Of course that idiot Chris Cillizza has something to say:

    “To be clear: Pelosi is far from blameless here. Her move to deny Trump his platform for the annual “State of the Union” address — which she couched in concerns over the ability of the Secret Service to ensure everyone’s safety amid the 27-days-and-counting government shutdown — was a totally political move designed to embarrass the President.”

    • bostonboomer says:

      From what I read, there are a lot of preparations for the SOTU and many of the people who would do them are furloughed, the rest aren’t be paid. She didn’t deny him the platform, just said it should be postponed until the government is functioning.

  13. OG says:

    Speaker of the House and all congressmen should stay in Washington and pass a budget. This is no time for a seven day junket outside the country.

    • NW Luna says:

      It wasn’t a junket. It was a trip to meet with NATO leaders/our allies and to meet with military leaders and to thank troops for their service.

      The House has passed a budget. The Senate voice-voted to pass a budget. McConnell then backtracked and refuses to let the Senate do a conventional vote on the measure they approved by voice. A wall is a hugely expensive and hugely ineffective way to try to get border security. Both House and Senate versions had money for more effective border security.

      • OG says:

        Whatever you want to call it, it should not happen. Congressmen should stay in Washington until a budget bill has passed both houses, gone to the president to be signed, with either his signing it or congress overuses his veto and the government opens back up. When that happens they can go on their.

        • teele says:

          I think your view would most profitably be directed toward Senator Mitc McConnell, of Kentucky. His mailing address is:

          317 Russell Senate Office Building
          Washington DC 20510

          He is the bottleneck, and it is ridiculous to suggest that other members of Congress sit on their hands until Mr. McConnell screws his balls on and decides to do the job he was elected to do rather than jockeying for position in the royal court of King Don.

          • OG says:

            I have been complaining loudly to my own two senators but you may be right. Complaints should also go to Mitch directly, and to Chuck and Nancy as well.
            AFobald, Nancy snd Mitch are all billionaires or married to billionaries. Chuck may be also, I have not checked on him but I am sure he is well off. Neither of them have anything to lose and neither appears to care less.

          • OG says:

            Checked on the net worth. None are billionaires and Chuck is not a millionaire, although at nine hundred thousand he comes close.

      • NW Luna says:

    • Gregory P says:

      There already is a budget passed. You know the one that was approved by a 98-2 margin in the Senate, sent back to the house for approval and then back to the Senate where our good Senate majority leader refuses to allow a vote on it. This is ENTIRELY a government shutdown perpetrated by 2 people Trump and McConnell. Believing otherwise is beyond asinine.

      • OG says:

        Democrats could join the republicans and get a bill through congress and open the government any time they want to.

        We have two groups of children playing chicken, pouting, blaming each other and refusing to compromise to save their egos while the government is shut down.

        • NW Luna says:

          There have already been compromises to the budget. There is, however, *no* reason to approve a budget that has billions of dollars going for a useless and racist project which would turn into a bottomless hole of corruption. Trump is the one pouting.

          • OG says:

            The cost of the shutdown has already exceeded the extra funds not agreed to. They were four billion apart and the cost of the shutdown has already passed that with no end in sight. This is no way to save money.

          • NW Luna says:

            Trump said he was proud to shut down the government. He owns it. You don’t give in to a temper tantrum — that just teaches the brat to have more tantrums to get his way.

          • bostonboomer says:

        • bostonboomer says:

          How would they get a bill passed when Mitch McConnell won’t bring it to the floor and now he is closing down the Senate for 10 days. You are blaming the wrong people OG.

          • OG says:

            I thought I was blaming everybody in congress. That includes Mitch. He does not get off the hook either.

            Mitch knows there are not enough votes on the senate to over ride the veto. There also not enough votes in the house to over ride a veto. The house is farther from an over ride than the senate.

            Eventually there will be s coalition of democrats and republicans to impeach Trump and remove him from offic or over ride his veto. We are more near to that point in the senate than in the house.

            Pressure will have to come from the votes or the big donors or both to break the logjam. When things get bad enough it will happen. It not this week and not next week.

          • Gregory P says:

            But you are clearly wrong OG, the Republican party had 2 full years to implement whatever they wanted but they didn’t. This clearly has nothing to do with Pelosi other than an attempt to discredit her and Congress and to grab more power for the Executive branch.

          • Fannie says:

            Right on, he is blaming the wrong people. Nine bills have been passed by those democrats sword in on Jan 3, 2019. Not one was signed on by the senate. The senate has not offered any bills. However, before the shutdown, they had a voice vote, and one dickhead name Paul Ryan refused to take it up.

          • NW Luna says:

            McConnell has enough votes to pass a bill — the bill they passed earlier with the voice vote.

    • bostonboomer says:

      They have already passed 8 appropriation bills. The trip was for oversight, part of their duties. They were going into a war zone, which Trump is afraid to do. After they tried to go commercial, Trump leaked the details of that and they had to cancel for the safety of themselves and other passengers. Read this thread for details.

      • Gregory P says:

        This whole fiasco isn’t about the “wall” anyway. If they wanted it they could have passed it at any time the last two years. This is about trying to bully and belittle Nancy Pelosi and to try and lay all of their failures the last 2 years onto her. This is also about misogyny and manipulating others. It is also about distracting the American people from what is really going on with the Executive branch and how they are systematically looting the treasury. It is about obfuscating the truth. It is about discrediting Congress, the FBI and the Judicial Branch. This is a slow moving coup that is about destroying the USA and sparking a civil war. All of it brought to you by the Russian government with help from buffoons.

  14. NW Luna says:

    Leaked memo shows deliberate plans to create a border crisis.

    Tonight, in a bombshell NBC News report, [Sen Merkley] revealed a previously secret document that shows the Trump Administration deliberately plotting to create a crisis at the southern border. The memo, dated December 2017, details deliberate plans to implement a family separation policy as a deterrent to would-be asylum seekers and lays out strategies to increase detention of migrant children. Despite many statements by the President and senior political appointees to the contrary, this document proves that the administration was in fact intentionally and deliberately planning all along to separate families and create a crisis on the southern U.S. border.

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