Search result for 'jared kushner'.


Another Foreign Policy Unforced Error: Jerusalem

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Trump Maladministration

Following Trump’s slurred announcement that the U.S. Embassy in Israel would be moved to Jerusalem, the State Department updated its Worldwide Caution alert to be sure Americans traveling abroad know there are Terrorists Out There. Of course.

Trump had absolutely no idea why the move to Jerusalem might be problematic.

President Trump did not completely grasp the ramifications of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, several advisers told The Washington Post.

Trump wanted to seem “pro-Israel” and focused on “making a deal,” two advisers told the Post.

According to the newspaper, some administration officials voicing their support for the decision included Vice President Pence and adviser Jared Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law.

Others, though, advocated against the move, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Trump on Wednesday recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced plans to relocate the U.S. Embassy there.

WaPo:

The decision to shake off warnings from senior officials such as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and align himself instead with prominent proponents of the move, including Vice President Pence and major donor Sheldon Adelson, underscored the president’s determination to break with past policy and keep a key campaign pledge — despite the potential risks to U.S. interests in the region and the goal of Middle East peace.  …

… Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, had supported the move from early in Trump’s candidacy, and Pence, who is to visit Israel this month, told Trump that his base would love the decision, something the president liked to hear.

An important outside voice advising Trump to make the leap was [Sheldon] Adelson’s, according to several people familiar with the two men’s conversations. At a White House dinner earlier this year, Adelson made the issue a main topic, one person said. In the months that followed, Adelson periodically asked others close to Trump what was causing the delay and expressed frustration, these people said. …

… “It’s insane. We’re all resistant,” said one Trump confidant who recently spoke to the president about it. “He doesn’t realize what all he could trigger by doing this.”

While Trump appeared to have made up his mind, he continued to solicit input, two White House officials said, even asking random acquaintances about the Middle East in recent months. Several advisers said he did not seem to have a full understanding of the issue and instead appeared to be focused on “seeming pro-Israel,” in the words of one, and “making a deal,” in the words of another.

The WaPo article goes on to say that the announcement had nothing to do with any peace process, but rather was mostly about Trump wanting to keep a campaign promise. Of course, it was a stupid promise because moving our embassy to Jerusalem helps neither Israel nor the United States.

Presidents need to be able to play multi-dimensional chess. Trump can’t manage one-dimensional tic-tac-toe without screwing it up.

Juan Cole:

Some sections of the crazy quilt that makes up the Trump administration want to push Iran back out of the Arab world and weaken it, in support of Israel and Saudi Arabia. Those actors have just been handed a big setback by Trump’s slurred and crazed announcement that he will move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and recognize it as the capital. …

… It isn’t that everyone doesn’t already know that Washington is on board with screwing over the Palestinians and humiliating the Arabs. But Trump just flaunted it in everyone’s face.

But let us consider the Saudi cold war with Iran. Given the open Saudi signals of cooperation with Israel against Tehran and given the Al Saud’s embrace of Trump, Riyadh is implicated in the Jerusalem decision whether they like it or not. In the propaganda wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iran just got a big boost.

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani called up Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan and the two agreed that Jerusalem is the permanent capital of Palestine. Turkey is majority Sunni, while Iran is a Shiite republic. Any attempt to block Iran’s influence would have to aim at instigating bad relations between these two, among the most populous and wealthy countries in the Middle East.

Trump managed to bring Turkey and Iran together by what they called his “wrong” and “illegal” action. In fact, Rouhani called for all 56 Muslim-majority countries to make a stand against the US. Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that Jerusalem will always be Arab and Islamic. The country’s Leader, Ali Khamenei, also weighed in, pledging to organize the Muslim world for a response. So now the Iranians (not Arabs) are the champions of Arab nationalism, while Saudi Arabia and Egypt are supine. So Trump is helping make Iran a leader of the Muslim world. Good job.

Charles Pierce:

People who believe that the president* is a dealmaking genius—or, more precisely, the people who are paid to tell him they believe it—likely will see this move as a clever ploy to shock both sides into serious negotiations. Sensible people, however, will see this move as a man who fingerpaints with botulism. World leaders, of course, are basically aghast. Even Jared Kushner’s new pals, the Saudis, consider this a reckless idea. From Haaretz:

“Any U.S. announcement on the status of Jerusalem prior to a final settlement would have a detrimental impact on the peace process and would heighten tensions in the region,” Saudi Ambassador Prince Khalid bin Salman said in a statement. “The kingdom’s policy – has been – and remains in support of the Palestinian people, and this has been communicated to the U.S. administration.”

Jared Kushner is, of course, dumber than a bag of hammers, and the fact that this walking tribute to privileged cluelessness is in charge of our Middle East policy ought to scare the stuffing out of all of us. Politico reports that Kushner — who pushed for the move of the embassy — has no clue why this would jeopardize his good relations with the Saudis or threaten any negotiations regarding the Palestinians.

With the exception of Benjamin Netanyahu, world leaders have expressed strong condemnation of Trump’s move. And, truly, it was an unforced error. I’m not aware of any pressure being put on Trump to mess with the status quo. He did it because he wanted to.

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Is Mueller Closing In?

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Trump Maladministration

It sure seems so

President Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the F.B.I. about conversations with the Russian ambassador last December, becoming the first senior White House official to pledge cooperation in the special counsel’s wide-ranging inquiry of election meddling.

Documents released as part of Mr. Flynn’s plea agreement show that his pre-inauguration discussions with Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, about foreign policy were part of a coordinated effort by aides running Mr. Trump’s transition into the White House. In at least one instance, federal prosecutors say, Mr. Flynn was directed by a “very senior member” of Mr. Trump’s presidential transition team.

So what exactly did Flynn lie about?

He’s charged with lying about conversations he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on December 22nd, 2016 and on December 29th, 2016.

In the first set of conversations, Flynn apparently asked that Russia either delay or defeat a resolution in the United Nations Security Council. Flynn lied to the FBI about whether Russia ever described their response to this request to him, claiming that they did not.

In the second set of conversations, Flynn requested and received assurances that Russia would not respond strongly to President Obama’s announcement that he was placing new sanctions on Russia in retaliation for their meddling in our election. He dishonestly claimed not to remember that Russia had made these assurances to him.

In return for pleading guilty to these charges, Flynn will be expected to cooperate with the investigation. If he doesn’t do so satisfactorily those other charges, including the kidnapping charge which also implicates his son, could be reintroduced.

 Flynn did not make these contacts on his own initiative.

Flynn’s stipulation of the facts underlying his December 2016 conversations with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. At least one of those two conversations Flynn undertook at the direction of a “very senior” transition official, the stipulation says.

The documents do not say who directed Flynn to discuss sanctions with Kislyak — a conversation Flynn later reportedly lied about to Vice President Mike Pence, a lie that was the stated reason that Trump fired Flynn in February. But Flynn’s statement, following his Friday guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with Mueller’s probe, shows that the transition team, at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, was informed at every stage of his discussions with Kislyak.

Who was this “very senior” transition official who gave the order? Nobody really knows. Bloomberg speculates that it was Jared Kushner. Others are reporting that it was Trump himself.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is expected to testify that President Trump instructed him to contact Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, according to a report by ABC News.

Flynn is saying that Trump “directed him to make contact with the Russians,” ABC’s Brian Ross said Friday, just moments after Flynn entered a guilty plea for lying about his contact with Russians during the presidential transition period.

Oh, let it be true, please …

Or, it could have been Pence. Josh Marshall:

The first point to note is that Flynn was the person running the Trump foreign policy operation. That is what a modern National Security Advisor does. From everything we know, it’s what Flynn was doing in the latter months of the campaign and certainly during the transition. In other words, it’s not clear that there was anyone in the campaign who outranked Flynn on foreign policy matters. Other than the President-Elect or conceivably the Vice President-Elect, Flynn is the guy who would do the directing rather than getting direction.

Let’s walk through this again.

The “senior official” is the one who talked with Flynn about how to handle his discussions with Kislyak about the sanctions. It was the “very senior member” of the transition who specifically told Flynn to contact foreign governments about the Israel resolution at the UN. The language is very specific about the direction. “On or about December 22, 2016, a very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team directed FLYNN to contact officials from foreign governments…”

The ‘very’ in “very senior member” seems like an almost over the top effort to convey just who it was the prosecutors are talking about. It’s hard to see that that is not either Pence or President Trump, though it also strikes me as perhaps a bit too coy to refer to the incoming President as a member of transition team.

See also Mother Jones. And there’s more …

Flynn clearly kept the President’s team in Mar-A-Lago fully up to date about his conversations with Kislyak, in more or less real time. There were repeated calls with the “senior official” about Kislyak. Critically, after the full round of calls with Kislyak, Flynn “spoke with senior members [note the plural] of the Presidential Transition Team” about his conversations with Kislyak. …

… The clear takeaway is that basically all of Trump’s top advisors, including the President and almost certainly Vice President Pence, were in the loop about these calls even if they did not themselves speak to Flynn directly.

All this may account for why Trump’s behavior has been more erratic than usual lately.

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The Trump Campaign: Too Screwed to Collude?

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Trump Maladministration

In light of Jeff Sessions’s testimony today, I call your attention to Paul Waldman’s commentary:

Unlike his boss, who claims he possesses “one of the greatest memories of all time,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a man who gazes into the past and sees only a fog of out-of-focus associates and half-remembered events. But in his testimony today before the House Judiciary Committee, Sessions may have hit on the new Trump administration defense for the Russia scandal, one that can be applied to almost any future revelation.

Its essence is that the Trump campaign was such an ungodly, bumbling mess that it was simply incapable of colluding with the Russians in their campaign to undermine Hillary Clinton, help Donald Trump get elected, and generally disrupt and discredit the American electoral system.

As weaselly a defense as that may seem, it contains a good bit of truth. With each new revelation about the campaign’s contacts with Russia, a picture is filling out. It’s one not of a well-organized collusion conspiracy, but instead of a bunch of nincompoops engaging in a kind of ongoing, ad hoc, fitful sort-of-collusion, one that involved lots of meetings, lots of emails, and lots of contacts between various Russians with Kremlin connections and people at different levels of the campaign. Whether it fits your definition of “collusion,” it was one heck of an incompetent conspiracy.

Yesterday the Atlantic published some private direct messages sent through Twitter between Julian Assange and Donald Trump, Jr.  What struck about these is that Junior seemed to have no clue what to do with Assange. Assange clearly was trying to rope Junior into collusion. Junior didn’t always respond, as if he wasn’t sure who Assange actually was, but he was too dim to have realized he should have nothing to do with Assange and did go along with some of his suggestions.

See also Charles Pierce:

To get back to Junior, however, how stupid do you have to be to get involved even marginally in something like this? Assange believes in nothing but himself. He’d sell Junior to the Somali pirates if he thought that would advantage him in some way. No game is worth that candle. And you can see how desperately WikiLeaks wanted to keep Junior on the string. (That request for the president*’s tax returns, so that WikiLeaks could publish them and thereby establish a neutral bona fides for future anti-Clinton news dumps, is positively Machiavellian—and it would’ve worked, too.) And now, in another perfectly predictable development, those emails are in the hands of congressional investigators. Apologies, again, to Eric Trump, who heretofore will be known as The Smart One.

Anyway, Paul Waldman continues:

There was the meeting that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort had with Russians connected to the Kremlin on the promise of dirt about Hillary Clinton. There were the contacts multiple Trump officials like Papadopoulos and Carter Page had with Russians, and the fact that others within the Trump campaign were likely more aware of these contacts than we had been led to believe. Among other things, Papadopoulos was told that the Russians had “thousands of emails” that could prove damaging to Clinton, before the Russian hacks came to light; we still don’t know whom in the Trump campaign he relayed that juicy tidbit to. And I promise you, there will be more revealed about Michael Flynn; the fact that Trump was so incredibly eager to protect him after he left the White House is a flashing red light.

And Julia Ioffe reports on secret correspondence between Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks, which was essentially acting as an agent of the Kremlin during the campaign (and may still be to this day). Perhaps most striking, when WikiLeaks released a batch of information, it wrote to Trump Jr. suggesting that his father tweet about the revelations, which Trump did just 15 minutes later.

So to review, this appears to be what happened in that case: 1) Russia hacks the emails of Democrats, including Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. 2) Russia passes some of what it finds to WikiLeaks for public release. 3) WikiLeaks asks Trump’s son to promote the release. 4) Trump urges media to focus on WikiLeaks’ findings.

Was that a violation of the law? Maybe not. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump Jr.’s defense will be, “Hey, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing!”

You know, they probably didn’t. Take Michael Flynn, for example. Today Sessions, whose infamous lack of recall suggests brain damage, had to deny that he knew anything about Flynn’s alleged plan to kidnap U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and return him to Turkey, where he is wanted to stand trial for being the “mastermind” behind an attempted political coup in 2016. In exchange for Gulen, Flynn would have been paid $15 million. And this was while Flynn was part of the Trump campaign.

Flynn brings us to another dim bulb named Steve Bannon. During the time Chris Christie was in charge of the transition, Christie wanted to keep Flynn completely away from the administration. Gov. Beachball may be an asshole, but he’s not an idiot. But Nancy Cook wrote at Politico,

But when Christie was fired from his transition perch on Nov. 11 — replaced by soon-to-be Vice President Mike Pence — Flynn and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon celebrated by tossing binders full of potential personnel picks, carefully culled by Christie’s team, into trash bins with a sense of ceremonial glee.

And do we want to talk about Stephen Miller? If that boy has an IQ in triple digits I’m the Tooth Fairy. Josh Marshall wrote last week:

According to the Times, Miller is the “senior policy advisor” referenced in the Papadopoulos court documents. He was the only unnamed player still unidentified. This means that Miller was one of the top Trump advisors Papadopoulos was keeping posted on his efforts to set up meetings between Russian officials and Trump campaign officials, perhaps even (preposterous as it may seem) a meeting between Trump and Putin himself. …

… Miller came to Trump via Jeff Sessions. He was a top staffer to Sessions in the Senate. By 2016 he had risen to Communications Director. And when Sessions endorsed Trump in late February 2016 he brought Miller into the Trump circle. As a speechwriter and advisor, Miller played a key role taking Trump’s instinctive racist-nationalist politics and aligning it with the comparable policy mix Sessions had been pushing, with no great luck, in the Senate for years. Here’s an interesting look at the relationship.

We still don’t have a terribly good explanation of how Jeff Sessions got on the Russia bandwagon, how he ended up having as multiple private conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak over the course of 2016, including one private meeting in Sessions’ senate office in September. Miller seems like at least one likely conduit. At a minimum, Miller getting updated on Papadopoulos’ adventures makes it much less credible that Sessions knew nothing about the channels opening up between the campaign and Russia.

And of course, in the center of this nest of nincompoops is the Mega Moron himself, Donald Trump, who is something like a perfect storm of idiocy. “Dimmer than a 5-watt bulb,” this guy says. Bob Mueller, save us.

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Noted in Passing

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Trump Maladministration

The Rapture was yesterday. So far, nobody has turned up missing.

Stupid is as stupid does:

Presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has corresponded with other administration officials about White House matters through a private email account set up during the transition last December, part of a larger pattern of Trump administration aides using personal email accounts for government business.

Kushner uses his private account alongside his official White House email account, sometimes trading emails with senior White House officials, outside advisers and others about media coverage, event planning and other subjects, according to four people familiar with the correspondence. POLITICO has seen and verified about two dozen emails.

Some people don’t like to do what they’re told.

NFL players used the national anthem to show their defiance to President Donald Trump’s criticism, with at least 100 players kneeling or sitting in protest and one team staying in the locker room.

Most teams in the early afternoon games locked arms in solidarity. At least three team owners joined their players.

If Colin Kaepernick gets an NFL job soon, he should send Trump a thank you card.

It looks like Angela Merkel has been elected to a fourth term.

It looks like there are three definite Republican nos on the new atrocity health care bill, McCain, Paul, and now Cruz. And Susan Collins sounds like a no to me, too.

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The Great Democratic Reboot: Why I’m Underwhelmed

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Trump Maladministration

So the Great Democratic Reboot was rolled out today. Let me express why I am underwhelmed.

First Mistake. The Reboot was announced with an op ed by Nancy Pelosi in the Washington Post and an op ed by Chuck Schumer in the New York Times.  The CNN story has a photo of Schumer and Pelosi together. I’m not seeing it in many other places.

This would have been a nice time to put some other faces forward, especially faces from Rust Belt or other states that aren’t already solid blue. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio might have been a good choice.  Or how about Al Franken of Minnesota? He’s great on the teevee. I was looking at a list of Democratic senators and realized there are several I’ve never heard speak, ever. Same thing with the House Dems. Isn’t in time for the old guard to let some of the younger people be The Face of the Party?

Instead, we get the same old faces who have spoken for the party since Reconstruction — a senator from New York and a congresswoman from San Francisco. And the Dems need to realize that in red country, people especially hate Pelosi. I acknowledge that isn’t fair to Pelosi, but it is what it is. If you want to reach voters who are not loyal Democrats already, don’t put Pelosi’s face on the message.

Second Mistake. The messengers probably won’t matter, however, because the news is focused on Jared Kushner’s testimony to the Senate investigators today. The Reboot will come and go with most of the nation not noticing.

Third Mistake. The Rollout features three main ideas: One, the Dems commit to creating 10 million full-time, good-paying jobs in the next five years, or I assume in whatever five-year period follows implementation of the Democratic plan to do this. Two, Dems will fight monopolies and big corporate mergers. Three, they pledge to lower the cost of prescription drugs.

Excuse me while I yawn. If you have trouble falling asleep, skip the Ambien and just read the Great Democratic Reboot to yourself. It’s non habit forming, I promise.

Now, I’m not saying these are not worthy goals; of course, they are. But to working-class folks this is going to come across as more blah blah blah.

Jeff Stein wrote at Vox:

Not everyone will be thrilled with this strategy. Centrists in the party may worry that this tactic risks making Democrats look like far-left ideologues, and argue that the party lost last fall because its leader was already seen as too far to the left for most voters.

That anyone would consider those three points to be “far left” tells you how out to lunch too many Democrats are.

And those closer to the Bernie Sanders (I-VT) wing of the party will charge that Democrats have still done little to shake their ties to elite donors and should much more firmly embrace universal programs, like a single-payer health care model and free college tuition for all.

I wrote last week why I thought Democrats ought to be making all the noise they can about health care right now. Another shovel-ready issue Dems ought to be talking about is infrastructure.  The Reboot plan does mention infrastructure, but IMO it should be more prominent.

The U.S. is sitting on a $4 trillion infrastructure time bomb, the BBC says, as our roads and bridges and dams and tunnels and the power grid and airports and public transportation systems rot from underfunding and neglect. Why aren’t we putting the nation to work fixing this stuff? This is something tangible and understandable; vague bleats about jobs in a generic sense comes across as empty promises.

Democrats may think they already tried to sell that idea back in 2009, but most people here in red state land heard little about it except that it would cost a lot of money. The big block to the plan, of course, is that it would be a big outlay of tax dollars (although once the bridges have collapsed and the roads are no longer drivable, we’ll end up spending more to rebuild them).  Donald Trump promised an infrastructure plan, but what little he ever trotted out amounted to tax incentives to private companies to fix infrastructure, which frankly makes no sense to me.

Other criticisms I’ve heard about an infrastructure plan is that the nation is short of skilled workers to carry it out. Okay, so train them. Also, all this rebuilding would take many years. Sounds like a feature, not a bug.

Back to health care — it’s criminal that the Dems don’t mention health care in their plans except for prescription drug prices.  And I had read they were going to endorse a $15 / hour minimum wage, but neither Schumer nor Pelosi mentioned that. Cold feet?

There are a lot of other policies I’d like to have seen, like maybe a pledge that next time the financial sector crashes the economy, people will be prosecuted for it. But IMO it’s more effective to pick one or two tangible programs to sell to people than a laundry list of vague intentions.

If Democrats think that just injecting some buzz about a rigged economy into their rhetoric is going win people over — especially with the same old faces delivering the message — I don’t think so.  And they’re going to have to get bolder, and more specific, and be willing to point out Republican failures in starker terms.

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Highlights of Trump’s Interview in the New York Times

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Trump Maladministration

These are direct quotes from Trump.

So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.

What the hell does that mean?

So I told them today, I don’t want to do that. I want to either get it done or not get it done. If we don’t get it done, we are going to watch Obamacare go down the tubes, and we’ll blame the Democrats. And at some point, they are going to come and say, “You’ve got to help us.”

They’re more likely to say, “You own this, dude.”

This health care is a tough deal. I said it from the beginning. No. 1, you know, a lot of the papers were saying — actually, these guys couldn’t believe it, how much I know about it. I know a lot about health care. [garbled] This is a very tough time for him, in a sense, because of the importance. And I believe we get there.

Again, what the hell does that even mean?

I have had the best reviews on foreign land. So I go to Poland and make a speech. Enemies of mine in the media, enemies of mine are saying it was the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president.

I don’t recall anybody saying that.

She was sitting next to Putin and somebody else, and that’s the way it is. So the meal was going, and toward dessert I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there I said hello to Putin. Really, pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about — things. Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption.

They talked about adoption? Why do I find that unlikely?

Here’s a longer bit:

SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?

HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?

TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t — I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make — from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years [crosstalk].

SCHMIDT: But if he was outside that lane, would that mean he’d have to go?

[crosstalk]

HABERMAN: Would you consider——

TRUMP: No, I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia. So I think if he wants to go, my finances are extremely good, my company is an unbelievably successful company. And actually, when I do my filings, peoples say, “Man.” People have no idea how successful this is. It’s a great company. But I don’t even think about the company anymore. I think about this. ’Cause one thing, when you do this, companies seem very trivial. O.K.? I really mean that. They seem very trivial. But I have no income from Russia. I don’t do business with Russia. The gentleman that you mentioned, with his son, two nice people. But basically, they brought the Miss Universe pageant to Russia to open up, you know, one of their jobs. Perhaps the convention center where it was held. It was a nice evening, and I left. I left, you know, I left Moscow. It wasn’t Moscow, it was outside of Moscow.

HABERMAN: Would you fire Mueller if he went outside of certain parameters of what his charge is? [crosstalk]

SCHMIDT: What would you do?

[crosstalk]

TRUMP: I can’t, I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen.

Headline from today’s Bloomberg News: Mueller Expands Probe to Trump Business Transactions

The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. …

…FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. …

…Agents are also interested in dealings with the Bank of Cyprus, where Wilbur Ross served as vice chairman before he became commerce secretary. They are also examining the efforts of Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and White House aide, to secure financing for some of his family’s real estate properties. The information was provided by someone familiar with the developing inquiry but not authorized to speak publicly.

The roots of Mueller’s follow-the-money investigation lie in a wide-ranging money laundering probe launched by then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara last year, according to the person.

Not enough popcorn in the world …

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It’s a Conspiracy, Folks

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Trump Maladministration

This Lawrence O’Donnell segment from last night is worth watching —

Among other things, people being interviewed in the clip above discuss how the people behind the July 9, 2016 meeting are all old business associates of the Trump family. There are videos in circulation showing the old man at a party with several of them.

While this week’s revelations have focused on Junior, the dots all connect back to Jared Kushner. We found out about the meeting because Jared Kushner’s lawyers amended his Form SF-86, a questionnaire that is part of the application for national security clearance. Kushner initially submitted the form last January and was soon found to have “forgotten” a lot.

Kushner’s aides have previously told the Times that he holds an interim security clearance, which Sean Bigley, a federal security clearance attorney at Bigley Ranish, LLC described to TPM as a “golden ticket” that provides government employees with “the full level of access” needed for an applicant to perform his or her role.

Kushner’s failure to disclose dozens of contacts with foreigners, including the CEO of a Russian state-owned bank and the Russian ambassador to the United States, have prompted Democrats to call for his interim clearance to be reviewed or pulled entirely. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday dodged questions about whether Kushner still had it.

When the Times first broke the news of Kushner’s omissions in April, Gorelick [Kushner’s lawyer] told the newspaper that they were made in error. Kushner submitted his lengthy SF-86 form prematurely on Jan. 18, Gorelick said at the time, and his office informed the FBI the next day that he would be providing additional information about his foreign contacts.

“Amending” the form isn’t unusual, the article says, and Kushner probably won’t get in trouble for initially filing an incomplete one. But there’s more.

Yesterday, McClatchy reported that Kushner’s role in the campaign has drawn attention

Investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation – overseen by Jared Kushner – helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states – areas where Trump’s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton, according to several people familiar with the parallel inquiries.

Also under scrutiny is the question of whether Trump associates or campaign aides had any role in assisting the Russians in publicly releasing thousands of emails, hacked from the accounts of top Democrats, at turning points in the presidential race, mainly through the London-based transparency web site WikiLeaks. …

… By Election Day, an automated Kremlin cyberattack of unprecedented scale and sophistication had delivered critical and phony news about the Democratic presidential nominee to the Twitter and Facebook accounts of millions of voters. Some investigators suspect the Russians targeted voters in swing states, even in key precincts.

Russia’s operation used computer commands knowns as “bots” to collect and dramatically heighten the reach of negative or fabricated news about Clinton, including a story in the final days of the campaign accusing her of running a pedophile ring at a Washington pizzeria.

One source familiar with Justice’s criminal probe said investigators doubt Russian operatives controlling the so-called robotic cyber commands that fetched and distributed fake news stories could have independently “known where to specifically target … to which high-impact states and districts in those states.”

It gets juicier.

Among other things, congressional investigators are looking into whether Russian operatives, who successfully penetrated voting registration systems in Illinois, Arizona and possibly other states, shared any of that data with the Trump campaign, according to a report in Time.

“I get the fact that the Russian intel services could figure out how to manipulate and use the bots,” Virginia Sen. Mark Warner told Pod Save America recently. “Whether they could know how to target states and levels of voters that the Democrats weren’t even aware (of) really raises some questions … How did they know to go to that level of detail in those kinds of jurisdictions?”

The Russians appear to have targeted women and African-Americans in two of the three decisive states, Wisconsin and Michigan, “where the Democrats were too brain dead to realize those states were even in play,” Warner said.

To those who are certain the Trump/Russians stole the 2016 election, I would like to point out that if the Clinton campaign hadn’t been so brain dead, there would have been fewer vulnerabilities to exploit. Ultimately, it was Clinton’s election to lose, and she lost it. She might very well have lost it had the Russians done nothing at all. Historians will probably be arguing the point for the rest of eternity. But this is about something bigger than who won the election.

Back to Jared Kushner — this is from an article published in the New York Times this morning:

While Donald Trump Jr. has been on the firing line, the meeting with Ms. Veselnitskaya could arguably be a bigger distraction for Mr. Kushner. As a senior adviser to the president, he is involved in several of the administration’s most sensitive foreign-policy issues, from China to the Middle East peace process. His involvement in the meeting led reporters to ask the White House whether he still held his security clearance.

Also under scrutiny is how forthcoming Mr. Kushner was with his father-in-law about the nature of the June meeting. He met with Mr. Trump to discuss the issue, according to advisers to the White House, around the time he updated his federal disclosure form to include Ms. Veselnitskaya’s name on a list of foreign contacts that Mr. Kushner was required to submit to the F.B.I. to obtain a security clearance.

Mr. Kushner supplemented the list of foreign contacts three times, adding more than 100 names, people close to him said.

Mr. Kushner played down the significance of the meeting and omitted significant details, according to two people who were briefed on the exchange. They said Mr. Kushner informed the president that he had met with a Russian foreign national, and that while he had to report the name, it would not cause a problem for the administration.

Another official said Mr. Kushner’s assurance to the president was based on the fact that nothing came of the June meeting.

Meanwhile, the old man appears to be in a kind of denial. He has been saying that his son did nothing wrong, but earlier today in Paris he blamed Loretta Lynch for allowing the Russian attorney into the country. So, it’s all Obama’s fault.

Even weirder, though, is that according to the New York Times article linked above, Trump believes the worst is over.

The fierce criticism of a meeting between Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and a Kremlin-linked lawyer in June 2016 has left the president by turns angry, defensive and protective but ultimately relieved that for now, the worst appears to be over, people who spoke to him said Wednesday.

Oh, sweetums, I doubt the worst has even started yet. We’ll know what the worst is when we hear from the Mueller investigation, and that may take awhile.

I want to close with something Josh Marshall wrote yesterday, which is that the Trumpettes don’t seem to understand what kind of trouble they are in.

The abiding sense I get is not simply that they don’t know the magnitude of the legal threat but that they don’t understand the nature of the threat either. Again and again they seem to think the legal vulnerability can be trumped by good news cycles or getting the press to focus on some other individual.  They don’t seem to get that a big, sprawling federal investigation like this, untethered from the political chain of command and led by one of the top law enforcement professionals of his generation, trundles onward with a perfect indifference to whether you win the morning or kill it in 10 or a 100 different news cycles. Those things just don’t matter. And yet my sense at least is that Jared Kushner thinks he is helping himself by knifing his brother-in-law – as though if Don Jr is at the center of a media firestorm for a few days, Mueller will just forget about him.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about. This is from Mike Allen’s morning Axios email.

The view in Kushner’s orbit is that the brutal new revelations are more P.R. problems than legal problems. And if he makes progress with his Middle East peace efforts, perceptions would be very different.

Again, this strikes me as a profound and dangerous naïveté. These are certainly not PR problems. Prosecutors, meanwhile, really don’t care how well you’re doing on the policy front. But even if you grant the nonsensical premise – that grave legal problems can be managed with good PR or even substantive policy successes – this is an inane statement.

Yeah, and how hard can it be to broker peace in the Middle East anyway? It’s not like anybody ever really tried before, is it?

New York’s business and media world is a cockpit of vipers. It’s hard to say anyone who comes out of that world is green or wet behind the ears. But Washington DC, and especially big federal criminal investigations, are different. It does not prepare you for that. If you look at Trump’s own career, there’s a persistent pattern. Get into a jam and you call in the lawyers, make threats, threaten lawsuits. If someone gets in your way you bleed them for years in court. If things go bad, you settle and move on. There’s also the tabloids. They look vicious. But they can also be deeply pliant for the rich. Landing a blow by planting a nasty story in the Post is a persistent theme of Trump’s racket for decades. Being a longtime informant for the FBI solves other problems. Having a problem with a disloyal? Fire them and threaten retribution. There’s probably an NDA already in place. They can be dealt with.

Kushner, notoriously, bought The New York Observer as one of his first gambits after taking over the family business when his dad headed to the big house. But he reportedly used the paper as a tool to attack business enemies. Kushner’s interest in the Observer has always struck me as of a piece with Trump’s modus operandi with the New York tabloids.

Because of the President’s damaged personality and perennial and chronic anger it can seem like he’s different, that he gets the magnitude of the situation. I don’t think he does. Every reverse is because he’s being treated unfairly or let down by Reince Priebus or Steve Bannon or now his loyalist lawyer Marc Kasowitz. The problems won’t go away because his staff can’t stop the leaks. In a situation like this there aren’t a lot of people you can effectively buy or destroy. This is a legal world that Trump has very little experience with.

A big federal investigation like this is like a broad lava flow. It moves slowly but it is unstoppable. It burns and crushes things in its wake. And things too big or unburnable it just covers over. The little antics and PR gambits mainly do not matter. Key players in this mix don’t seem to appreciate that.

I wish the lava flow would move a little faster. Do read all of Josh Marshall’s piece. And see also Paul Waldman, “The Trump White House Is a Confederacy of Dingbats.”

Update: See also Nicholas Kristof, “All Roads Now Lead to Kushner.” I had forgotten about Kushner’s plan to set up a secret communications channel with the Russians.

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Donald Trump, Jr.: How Stupid Is He?

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Trump Maladministration

Although nobody comes out and says it, after Junior voluntarily admitted that he took a meeting with a Russian lawyer because she had promised information that would help his father’s campaign, the biggest question of the day must be, how dumb is this kid, anyway? 

The New York Times had a story that began this way —

President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.

The meeting was also attended by the president’s campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kushner recently disclosed the meeting, though not its content, in confidential government documents described to The New York Times.

But instead of denying that the meeting had anything to do with getting dirt on Hillary, Fredo Trump admitted it.

I was asked to have a meeting by an acquaintance I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant with an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign. I was not told her name prior to the meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to attend, but told them nothing of the substance. We had a meeting in June 2016. After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.

Apparently, in Junior’s mind there was no collusion, since (he says) the Russian lawyer had no useful information. But he took the meeting with the Russian lawyer in the expectation that she would provide information to help the Trump campaign. Whether the information was of any actual use is beside the point.

Andrew Prokop writes for Vox,

Trump Jr. has already changed his story about this meeting several times — first claiming he had no such meeting, then claiming it was about the topic of Russian adoptions, and only now admitting he agreed to take it because an “acquaintance” he met when Trump’s Miss Universe pageant was held in Moscow told him this person “might have information helpful to the campaign.”

This report comes after a pair of Wall Street Journal scoops revealing that a Republican operative contacted Russian hackers in an effort to obtain Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails — and that the operative suggested that Trump adviser Michael Flynn was involved with his effort.

Together, these stories provide our first real indications that high-level people on Trump’s team attempted to work with people tied to the Russian government to get information that could impact the campaign and hurt Clinton’s chances.

We don’t know if the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, was acting on behalf of the Russian government. We don’t know, really, what information she may have provided. Everyone involved insists that Donald Trump himself knew nothing about any of this. But Junior’s own admission tells us that he and other high-level elements of the Trump campaign were open to collusion with foreign nationals on behalf of the campaign, which is, by some accounts, a violation of federal campaign law.

And Jonathan Chait wrote,

Trump Jr.’s latest defense is that while he sought damaging information from Veselnitskaya, she failed to deliver any. However, the timing of events around this meeting is instructive. The hacker Guccifer announced the theft of Clinton emails the month before, and Guccifer’s only publicly known connection to Russia was his use of Russian proxy servers. But three days after the meeting with the Trump campaign, Julian Assange, Putin’s pass-through publishing source for email hacks, announced, “We have upcoming leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton … We have emails pending publication, that is correct.”

The most interesting follow-up question is, what was the nature of the damaging information that Veselnitskaya promised? Stolen emails, perhaps?

See also Josh Marshall:

The Times reports that they got the information from “three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.” They apparently talked after the release of the first story. This is highly, highly significant. Needless to say, advisors to the White House are not in the business of taking highly damaging stories and volunteering new information which makes them catastrophically damaging. The only reason a President’s allies ever do something like that is either to get ahead of something much more damaging or get a first crack at shaping the public understanding of something much more damaging. There’s really no other explanation. We don’t know yet what drove them to volunteer such highly damaging information. Five of them did it. It wasn’t a matter of one person going rogue.

Junior claimed the real purpose of the meeting was to enable U.S. adoptions of Russian orphans. Back to Jonathan Chait:

One of the Russian government’s highest priorities is to repeal an American law, named after a murdered Russian dissident who exposed corruption at the hands of Vladimir Putin, which allows financial penalties for Russian human-rights violators. Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with the Trump campaign, is spearheading this effort. Russia retaliated for the hated law by suspending American adoptions of Russian children: A discussion of adoption inherently implies a discussion of favors to be granted to Putin’s regime.

So there may be some truth to the adoption story, but that hardly makes it innocent. Obviously, Putin will want a quid pro quo. And this was before the election, never mind the inauguration.

And, as Josh Marshall wrote also, Junior’s claim that he thought that the DNC and Hillary Clinton might be colluding with Russians is preposterous. It’s the sort of excuse somebody with very little imagination might come up with, though.

See also Donald Trump Jr. just contradicted a whole bunch of White House denials of Russian contacts.

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Fables and Falsehoods: When Lefties Fall for Fake News

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Trump Maladministration

I hope everyone enjoyed Father’s Day. I was kind of out of it yesterday and didn’t pull myself together to post anything. But now I’m back.

“Fake news” is a vast topic, but I want to zero in on something I see going on among leftie websites and social media. An Atlantic article from February discussed the increasing tendency of online lefties to share “fake news,” defined as “online stories that look like real journalism but are full of fables and falsehoods.” Some days social media is one link to a fake news story after another.

As the Atlantic article says, fake news on the Left and Right are not equivalent. Leftie fake news usually is not deliberate propaganda. Usually it exploits wishful thinking. It’s a headline blurting out something we may want to be true, so people can’t resist clicking on it. The story itself may not deliver what the headline promises, however.

For example, a story being spread around today is headlined “Donald Trump wants to resign.” If you read the actual article, you find a lot of filler copy that finally gets to a quote pulled out of Politico

“But Trump, too, is cognizant of the comparison to Nixon, according to one adviser. The president, who friends said does not enjoy living in Washington and is strained by the demanding hours of the job, is motivated to carry on because he ‘doesn’t want to go down in history as a guy who tried and failed,’ said the adviser. ‘He doesn’t want to be the second president in history to resign.’”

That’s it. That’s the entire “scoop,” and it’s neither original nor does it actually say that Donald Trump wants to resign. It says he’s miserable at the job, yes, but that he doesn’t want to resign. This example is mostly innocuous, but going by social media comments the headline caused a lot of people to believe Trump is about to resign.

This is right up there with last year’s number one fake news story on the Left, that Hillary Clinton was about to be indicted. Any day now. Just you wait and see. Any day now …

Sometimes there’s a headline with no story — see “Donald Trump Is Going to Prison.” There’s no story; just the author’s prediction. This kind of story comes closer to being a hoax than propaganda, but the point of it is to get people to click on the link and thereby earn the site owners advertising revenue.

The people who write these sites (such as Bill Palmer of Palmer Report, who also happens to be a jerk, IMO) are not “journalists” even in a broad sense of the word. They do no legwork, make no phone calls, cultivate no sources. They pull out pieces of news stories published in legitimate news sources, wrap them in a lot of extra verbiage to plump them and make them look more substantial, slap an incendiary headline on them, and hit publish. Then they wait for the clicks to come in.

Sometimes these fantasies are unintentionally hilarious. Louise Mensch and Claude Taylor of Patribotics came up with this one last month:

Multiple sources close to the intelligence, justice and law enforcement communities say that the House Judiciary Committee is considering Articles of Impeachment against the President of the United States.

Sources further say that the Supreme Court notified Mr. Trump that the formal process of a case of impeachment against him was begun, before he departed the country on Air Force One. The notification was given, as part of the formal process of the matter, in order that Mr. Trump knew he was not able to use his powers of pardon against other suspects in Trump-Russia cases. Sources have confirmed that the Marshal of the Supreme Court spoke to Mr. Trump.

It was reported this week that Mr. Trump had texted Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn the message ‘Stay strong’. This might be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate a witness, sources say.

Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein met with the House Judiciary Committee this week in closed session.

The authors have previously reported exclusively on Patribotics that a sealed indictment exists against Donald Trump.

And, of course, that’s now how this works. That’s not how any of this works. Give David Frum credit for a sense of humor:

Also, too:

Probably not remarkably, this episode appears to have done nothing to hurt Louise Mensch’s credibility with her fans, who insist she is always right.

I guarantee you can bleeping make up something absolutely ridiculous out of whole cloth, write about eight paragraphs of mostly filler text that doesn’t actually say anything, and with the right headline it will go viral in hours. Here are some headlines you can use — “Trump Spends Three Hours a Day Diddling Himself, Sources Say.” How about “Secret Court Declares Hillary Clinton Election Winner.” (or) “Hillary Clinton Sues DNC to Force Her Name on 2020 Ballot.” Take your pick on that. “Bernie Sanders Working With Trump to Undermine Democrats.” I believe I’ve seen that one, actually.

One area where there is genuine propaganda going on is in the Russian hacking story. As I wrote a few days ago,  I keep running into lefties who sincerely believe this whole Trump-Russia thing is just something like a false flag operation being run by Clinton supporters in media and government. And you can find all kinds of “news” stories providing, um, alternative facts supporting that position.

Basically, wherever there’s a strongly held opinion, someone somewhere will set up a fake news site to cater to it. These days a professional-looking news site can be set up for practically nothing. It’s a fairly simple, and completely legal, way to make some money. I wish I were unethical enough to do it myself.

Image found at https://modernliberals.com/the-palmer-report-is-not-news-and-its-an-insult-to-the-left/clickbait-kitten-palmer-report/

But beside misinforming people, fake news sites also are parasites. They rip off work done by actual reporters and leech revenue that should go to organizations paying the salaries of actual reporters.

And yes, as a blogger I rip off a lot of work done by others, too, but I don’t pretend The Mahablog is a news site. If I ever stumble across an actual scoop I’ll let you know, though.

Josh Marshall wrote this week,

Early this week, Time Inc. laid off 300 employees across its properties. On Wednesday, Huffpost laid off 39 employees. Then later that day Vocativ, another digital media site, laid off its entire editorial staff. Huffpost’s layoffs were part of a much larger retrenchment (2,100 layoffs) at Oath, the new company which combines what used to be Yahoo and AOL.

That’s just this week. If the quality of journalism is suffering, part of the reason is that the news business model is in a state of flux these days. Newspapers, once the backbone of journalism, are going the way of the horse and buggy. Over the past several years all manner of news bureaus have had to cut staff. Television news appears to be holding steady, but much of television news is less news reporting and more opinion programming, which is a lot cheaper to produce. Years ago cable news filled up with programs featuring party hacks yelling at each other. Actual in-depth journalism is a rare thing.

So I’d like to ask people to be more careful about who you link to. If you find a story with a promising headline, pay attention to the website it’s hosted in. Have I heard of this site? How can I tell if it’s legitimate?

If it seems to be a newspaper, is it a real newspaper? Fake newspapers abound on the web.  One way to check is to find out what city it’s published in; a real newspaper will be mostly local news, so the location should be immediately obvious.  If the location isn’t obvious, assume it’s fake.

Is it The Onion (not fake, but satire)? Is it Jared Kushner’s Observer (Kushner uses it to troll lefties)?

If you aren’t sure about the source, can you corroborate the basic story by finding it in other sources? If it’s real news, multiple sites will pick it up the same story pretty quickly. If the story appears no where else, assume it’s fake.

If the story is just quoting another news source, do the world a favor and link to the original news source. Let the news medium that actually did the legwork get the clicks. Don’t let the parasites win.

Does the writing seem to take a while to get to the point? That’s usually fake news; real journalists put the meat of the story in the first sentence or two.

That said, an online news source isn’t necessarily “fake” if it publishes perspectives different from yours. If you refuse to use news media that do not perfectly reflect your views, that’s another kind of problem, and a serious one. But it’s your problem.

 

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The Trump-Russia Collusion Scandal Is Not About Hillary Clinton

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Trump Maladministration

I’ve been arguing for months that the Russian hacking story needs to be taken seriously apart from whatever one felt about the election. I’ve also been saying all along that there’s no clear indication that anything the Russians did made any difference, and Clinton probably would have lost anyway.

I’m bringing this up now because I keep running into people who sincerely believe this whole Trump-Russia thing is just something like a false flag operation being run by Clinton supporters in media and government. One of these geniuses just told me James Comey obviously is part of this conspiracy. Um, James Comey? The guy who probably did cost Clinton the election? The whackjobbery is strong with this one.

Clinton supporters do like to bring up the Russian hacks as one of their many excuses for why Clinton’s loss was not her fault, but frankly, that’s bogus, also. As I’ve said, there’s no clear indication that anything the Russians did cost Clinton the election. There were so many factors that cost Clinton the election that it’s just about impossible to point to any one that made any measurable difference — with the possible exception of James Comey’s October 28 letter to Congress about Clinton’s damn emails. That does seem to have hit Clinton’s poll numbers hard.

And at this point, to believe the “false flag” theory one would have to believe that Glenn Greenwald and the crew at The Intercept are Clinton trolls. I don’t think so.

There are five major investigations going on right now into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia — two investigations in the Senate, two in the House, and one being led by special counsel Robert Mueller. Russian interference in the election is only one items on their agenda. They’re also looking into the circumstances that led to Michael Flynn’s dismissal as national security adviser, any inappropriate connections between Trump campaign and staff and foreign governments, leaks to media, and attempts to impede investigations of all that.

We don’t know what all Bob Mueller is doing, but he’s still staffing up. This just in

On the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, special counsel Robert Mueller has been quietly and methodically building the equivalent of a small US attorney’s office — a team of formidable legal minds who’ve worked on everything from Watergate to Enron, unlikely to leave any stone unturned.

The hires include top criminal prosecutors.  These include Michael Dreeben, considered one of the top criminal prosecutors in the U.S. Mueller is serious, and he has no particular ties to the Clintons that I can find. It may be months yet before we know where he’s going with his work.

Aside from the election, it seems just about every part of Trump’s real estate business, plus any associates one ever hears about, has ties to Russia. This is particularly critical, since Trump still is making money from that business, and genetically compromised offspring Eric admitted that he shows his father profit reports.  (Today the Washington Post published a story saying that Trump lawyer Marc E. Kasowitz has ties to Russia, for pity’s sake. )

Eric Trump said in an interview aired early Tuesday that sharing profit reports with his father “doesn’t blur the lines” in separating the family business from President Trump’s administration.

“You’re allowed to show that and remember the president of the United States has zero conflicts of interest,” Eric Trump told ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Zero.”

Some of those profits may be from money laundering for the Russians. Trump is extremely vulnerable to abuse-of-office and corruption charges, whether he realizes it or not. And then there are the many associates, such as his out-of-his-depth son-in-law Jared Kushner, who might as well have an “R” for rotten stamped into his forehead.

So, yeah, this is a big deal, and it’s a big deal that has nearly nothing to do with Hillary Clinton.

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