What I’ve Been Saying About Trump and Russia

Back in March 2017 I wrote a post titled “Why the Trump-Russian Connection Is a Big Deal (and It’s Not the Election).” I speculated, based on circumstantial evidence, that the real issue was that Trump was being controlled, possibly blackmailed, by Putin, and that Russian influence is steering Trump’s nonsensical foreign policy.  To this day I find people, including lefties, who are certain the whole collusion thing is just Hillary Clinton’s excuse for losing the 2016 election, but we’ve moved beyond the election a long time ago.

So now the New York Times is reporting that after Trump fired James Comey, the FBI initiated an investigation into whether Trump was secretly working on behalf of Russia. It makes interesting reading but it tells us little we didn’t already know, except for the investigation itself. At Lawfare, Benjamin Wittes writes an intellligent analysis asking “What if the obstruction is the collusion?” In other words, the obstruction case and the collusion case are all tangled up together and are not two separate things. Which is what I’ve believed all along.

Martin Longman writes,

It’s frustrating because Wittes’s piece is essentially a giant mea culpa– on behalf of himself and on behalf of the media in general. It’s at once a recognition and an apology for having gone about the analysis of the Russia investigation the wrong way from the beginning.  Its basic insight is that the Russia investigation has never really been bifurcated into collusion and obstruction of justice components, but has all along been primarily a counterintelligence investigation with criminal components.  To go just a bit deeper, Wittes seems to be realizing for the first time that Trump’s efforts to obstruct the investigation may be little more than an element of the underlying problem, which is that Trump has been working on the behalf of Russian interests all along. For this reason, his obstruction is just as much about protecting Russia as it is about protecting himself.  Or, in other words, the Obstruction Was the Collusion.

To be sure, there is some genuine news in the New York Times piece. We learn about specific events at specific points in time. We learn how investigatory decisions were made and what prompted them. But the central revelation, as shocking as it may be, really should not come as a surprise. The American intelligence community suspects that Donald Trump is compromised by the Russians.

Seriously. Is that so hard? I realize the smart people who get listened to may have to be more cautious about making accusations than I do, but to act as if this is the first time he’d thought of it is kind of shocking.

See also Aaron Blake at WaPo:

The Times outlined a number of other events that played into the obstruction case and could have fed further suspicions about Trump’s motivations, including his pro-Russia and pro-Putin campaign-trail rhetoric and his public request that Russia try to obtain Hillary Clinton’s emails. The GOP also altered its platform on Ukraine in a more pro-Russia direction.

What hasn’t been outlined, though, are the proposed back channels between the Trump team and Russia.

A month before Comey was fired, The Washington Post reported that Trump ally and Blackwater founder Erik Prince had proposed a secret channel of communication between Trump and Moscow at a Jan. 2017 meeting in the Seychelles with a Putin representative. The FBI was also presumably aware at the time (because it monitors the calls of Russian officials on U.S. soil) that then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak had told his superiors in Moscow that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had proposed a back channel during the transition period. (The Post reported this shortly after Comey’s firing.) …

…For similar reasons, Trump’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki last year has also raised eyebrows. He met privately with Putin for two hours, with nobody but interpreters present, and apparently nobody in the American government really knows what they discussed. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats even seemed to express concern about the lack of information. “I’m not in a position to either understand fully or talk about what happened in Helsinki,” Coats said afterward. Why Trump would need to keep things so under wraps has always been curious.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that Trump is innocent but too stupid to avoid stumbling around and doing things that make him look guilty.

18 thoughts on “What I’ve Been Saying About Trump and Russia

  1. We should never underestimate the depth, height, and/or the width of Agolf Twitler's* stupidity. 

    He's not smart, but he is shrewd.

    Nor should we ever underestimate his greed.

    And not just or money.  But for attention – which he commands rather easily – and respect – something he never did, or ever will, get! 

    The narcissist in him believes he should get whatever he wants.  And that he can get away with anything!

    But if anyone doubted that tRUMP is a wholly owned subsidiary of Putin and Russia, review his behavior when Putin is near him.  tRUMP acts like a little boy awaiting Dads arrival.  "Will Daddy be pleased with Little Donnie, or upset with him?" "Treats?  Or smacks?"

    And tRUMP has been acting like that even BEFORE he decided to run! 

    So if anyone still had any lingering doubts about whether or not his behaviour with Russia was because of stupidity or compicity  – even  after tRUMP's obsequious performance at Helsinki – today's NY Times article should end any  and all doubts! 

    After he fired Comey, the FBI started investigating where tRUMP's loyalty lay – with America or Russia?   

    tRUMP's only loyalty, is to tRUMP.

     His only loyalty should be to the US Constitution.

     

    * I stole this from a commenter at another site. 

  2. Wittes’s piece is essentially a giant mea culpa– on behalf of himself and on behalf of the media in general. It’s at once a recognition and an apology for having gone about the analysis of the Russia investigation the wrong way from the beginning.

    I don’t follow the NYT, but other people who do, that I’m reading today, are more or less saying this. It was the NYT’s genius editorial judgment during the election that placed way too much emphasis on Butter Emails (a cute saying that I like), and much less on the alarm bells ringing around Trump World.

    Of course, it’s entirely possible that Trump is innocent but too stupid to avoid stumbling around and doing things that make him look guilty.

    MSNBC has been all over this revelation in the NYT, and some of the guests they bring on from the FBI have been instructive. There’s an entire range of behaviors when it comes to being compromised, from being an unknowing dupe to full understanding and cooperation, and everything in between.

    The nagging question for me and so many others: Why have so many people around Trump lied when it comes to Russia, to the point of committing felonies and going to jail. The number of people caught in this pattern and the degree to which they lie is astonishing. There’s a big dark secret that’s waiting to be revealed.

  3. Moonbat, you make a good point in the last paragraph which I'd like to expand on. Others are invited to chime in to list anyone I forgot. The point you make is the number of people around Trump who have lied about the campaign connections to the Russians. And WHY?

    Manifort – Lied bout his connections to Ukraine dictator (now living in Moscow) and his connections to a Russian financier. In the election Manifort sent internal polling info to that Russian. (If not to help in the Russian social media disinformation campaign, why does a Russian need polling info?)

    Sessions – Lied about meeting the Russian Ambassador. If I recall, one of the meetings was at the GOP convention. Lots of questions about the softening of the GOP stance on Ukraine. Who brokered it.

    Flynn – Lied about meeting with Russian Ambassador (He keeps showing up.) WHY did he lie? The meeting to promise that Trump would reverse Obama sanctions was in poor taste, but not very illegal. WHY LIE?

    Don Jr. – Lied about the meeting with Russians at Trump Tower. Put his name to a lie President Dipship wrote about reason for the meeting.  

    Papadopoulous – Bragged about knowing of the Emails which the Russians stole before the theft was public. Tried to broker a meeting between Trump and Putin. Went to jail for lying about the incident.

    Kushner – He may not have lied if/when he was questioned but Kushner was with the Russian Ambassador (did they ever make him an official member of the campaign team?) to ask about "back channel communications" and Russian equipment which the CIA could not penetrate.

    Eric Prince – Met with Russians on the other side of the globe to talk about setting up a "back channel" with the Russians. (Secret communications with Russians is recurring theme. What does Trump need to say to Moscow that the State Dept. can't know about?)

    Cohen – Trump's 'fixer' was the point man in negotiations for Trump Tower Moscow. He lied to Congress about the dates of the negotiations which stretched well into the campaign while Trump was declaring no Russian connections. Later Cohen coordinated with Trump lawyers re his lies.

    Roger Stone – He's had to walk back testimony about his contacts with Russians (he forgot) and with the creep from Wikileaks who is a Russian agent who coordinated the dumps of stolen emails.

    Carter Page may or may not have lied. He's been under FISA watch for a long time for his Russia connections – before he became a Trump advisor. He's bragged that he's got inside-the-Kremlin connections and travelled to Russia during the campaign. (Not in an official capacity, he says.) 

    That's an even ten. Who have I left out? All these people lied or were deceptive about their Russia connections. The question is WHY so many people connected with Trump not only have links to Russia but feel compelled to risk jail lying about the links. The volume of links is obvious. The question is why.

  4. "To this day I find people, including lefties, who are certain the whole collusion thing is just Hillary Clinton’s excuse for losing the 2016 election, but we’ve moved beyond the election a long time ago"

    I mostly here that from Trumpers. Some lefties don't want to admit the Russian campaign collusion because they just plain hated Hillary and didn't want to admit that she may have had some help losing the election? Either way Trump was useless to Russia without becoming president so the rigging of the election was essential in my mind. Russia I suspect has its teeth into a whole shit load of American politicians (not the least McTurtle), our campaign finance system is after all about as corrupt as it could possibly be, what should we expect?

  5. Either way Trump was useless to Russia without becoming president so the rigging of the election was essential in my mind.

    I disagree with that. Russia is playing a long game. Even if Trump had lost the Russians would have established an important element in their quest to destabilize our democracy. Trump would have been a key figure in stoking distrust in our system of government and exacerbating existing divisions. Trump proved his worth to the Russians with his birther campaign and his sowing of divisions targeting the Hispanic demographic. Had Trump failed to be elected he still would be set in place to augment or perhaps supplant Rush Limbaugh as a big bloviating bag of shit that would tickle the ears of millions of angry citizens while retaining an air of respectability.

     His veneer as a successful businessman and negotiator would still be intact, and he'd have the added protection of people believing that his failed candidacy was only the result of a corrupt political system and his having the courage to tell it like it is. Had Trump lost the election he would have been a bigger asset to Putin than he currently is. Putin would have had a pre programmed mouthpiece to spread political disinformation and the idea that we can all get along and prosper if we just forget history and geopolitical ambitions.

     Putting aside all of Trump's negative qualities, the one quality in Trump that I suspect Putin values the most is that he's a stooge. Trump's love for money and burning need for validation makes Trump the perfect stooge for Putin.

  6. Let's assume this is true. Would you rather have the puppet of a foreign government running the show or have President Pence? Given the ineffectiveness of the orange puppet, I'll hold.

  7. Swami: " Had Trump lost the election he would have been a bigger asset to Putin than he currently is "

    I'm not so sure about that, out of office Trump could do very little from a policy perspective, he certainly would be a huge blow-hard but talking shit doesn't necessarily get sanctions removed or troops pulled from Syria or NATO weakened, etc. Having Trump in the oval office makes life a bit tricky for Putin but me thinks he'd rather have the big bag of shit in the white house than sitting in Trump Tower?

  8. This story becomes larger and larger because of a change in perspective, a change in the way we are looking at the facts of the past.  First, the Russians had, in all probability, a plan B.  This was the plan if Trump lost.  This plan (speculative but probable) could have been more damaging.  The FBI certainly suspected this plan as the three right wing terrorists arrested and since prosecuted from southwest Kansas admitted that their planned actions where to be triggered by and timed to a Hillary victory.  That they were serious was evidenced by a half of metric ton of ammo in their possession.  Oh and the FBI had already infiltrated the hate organization which surrounded the principles in this case. So the existence of plan B is not much of a stretch and has evidential factual support. Still many details of the plan remain unknown and any Russian connection conjecture.  

    But Trump won.  This was always a possibility, and Russia certainly had a follow up on plan A.  Delay and deny Russian influence in the election using the power of the president and compromised others seems now clear with the change in perspective.  Here we must speculate a bit more, but suspects exist.  The NRA has many politicians in their pockets, this we know.  If (we can work with this as hypothetical) Russian money, in large amounts, was funneled through the NRA and appeared in campaign coffers many became complicit.  Knowing or unknowing, a huge political problem for many big players.  They got automatically compromised and forced to play along.  My guess is money flowed many ways, and Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Russia have received most favored nation status from Trump so are therefore suspect.  Keeping the money flow or flows secret had to be recognized as a potential problem and dealt with accordingly.  It is entirely plausible that throwing monkey wrenches into the FBI, with the help of the chief executive, makes sense to get a lid on this.  The Russian connection is much more evidenced here, as there were "more connections than Aeroflot".

    So obstruction of justice could have easily been the plan Trump and the Russians always had.  Call it names, a witch hunt will do.  Two words.  A two word message is best.  Dumb democrats.  They will believe Comey was fired because he botched the Hillary email thing.  Now we know the FBI suspected, at least at some level, that the obstruction was evidence of collusion.  A good call on their part one would think.  It has, though, if true, major national and international consequences.  If true, the main players have to feel trapped and desparate.  This is why conspiracies don't make sense.  Not because conspiracies are usually after the fact mental fabrications or too elaborate plots, but because of two flaws.  People talk.  Unintended consequences. Dumb conspirators never seem to learn these two things.

    The change in perspective or shift in thinking paradigm seems to have merit.  It makes all of this mess more sensible and simple.  Erratic actions can be explained without complex motives.   Lies can be viewed as a needed pattern of deception rather than a personal psychological problem of pathological lying.  Usually this is a good sign that the change in path is leading to understanding.  Some skepticism is needed, as the level of deception signals many are well vested in the present illusion.  They will never accept they have been duped and in some cases they could have real rational fears of being doped.  The Russians do have a history of using that tactic along with others.  

  9. Trump losing would have brought out the "she cheated" meme that his minions would have lapped up, perhaps to the point of violence. That would have been far more valuable to Putin. In the event, I imagine Putin is softly revealing his part in the corruption to do the same thing: call US legitimacy into question.

    Trump has, as it happens, been far more valuable than predictable to Putin with his disrespecting Europe and causing disrespect for our country, but that was not entirely a given – who would have predicted the Lyin' King would be THIS bad???

  10. uncledad ..The reason I say that is because Trump's willingness to propagate Putin agenda wouldn't be facing the same scrutiny that it is now. Also I believe that undermining our faith in our institutions with howls of fake news, the system is rigged, and need for total isolationism is far more destructive to our country than any short term gains Putin may have gotten with Trump where he is now.

    If Trump didn't win the election he still would have come away with a status of being a serious political voice and the knowledge that he knocked down the entire standing repuglican party. He's someone to be reckoned with even if he's just a big ignorant bag of shit blowhard.

  11. uncledad.. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying Putin hasn't used Trump effectively. What I'm saying is that Putin could have gotten better mileage out of Trump had he managed him better.

  12. uncledad – IMO, Putin hasn't used Trump effectively because Trump is so inept. He's incapable of subtlety – he doesn't lie convincingly. Trump is a liability in any covert operations. Putin is trying to keep 

  13. (cont.) Trump alive as an asset for as long as possible. The more interaction there is (the more Putin asks from Trump) the sooner Trump's cover is blown and Trump is removed from the board game.

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