By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (5/18/17)
Dear Fellow Readers,
President Donald Trump is his own worst enemy. I have not witnessed a more one-sided political night short of election results in my lifetime. Look at the front page of the NY Times or the Washington Post – you may never see any developing this laid out this starkly again.
devastating night for Trump, everyone in or near the White House and the GOP.
What rises from the ashes – because that is the discussion we will now all be having – is unknown. We cannot and should not rush ahead. There are always twists in the road. This one, especially.
Trump is determined to convince the free world that he cannot be trusted and he may have succeeded. Beginning with his habit of changing his story daily to breaking trust with US allies he seems set to stay his lyin’ course until even his most loyal supporters begin to question what is happening. There is so much that ONLY people closest to the various investigations could know, yet the news is overflowing with so much smoke and misdirection from Trump that he undermines the credibility of any denials.
If ALL of the accusations were to be proven wrong it’s likely that Trump will still have made it impossible to advance his political agenda – as we noted this past Monday, he’s a “Dead Man Lying”.
I find it useful to start again with John McCain’s quote, “…the Russian election story is a centipede and (to) expect another shoe to drop every few days”. Let’s collect and sort the cascade of shoes, slippers, boots, galoshes, and (of course) flip flops and see what we’ve got…
Given the news out late today (5/17/17), I’ll offer the lead and then follow with May 9 through May 17. It’s hard to stop editing, the news does not stop. No sooner did I make the edit and one more blockbuster rocketed out of nowhere.
Headline speaks for itself – this broke at roughly 5 PM Central. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein named Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russian meddling in the election. Mueller was Director of the FBI for twelve years under presidents Bush and Obama. Rosenstein gave the White House a 30-minute notice before he announced this made the announcement to the media.
Wednesday, May 17 – WOW! Washington Post Has A NEW BLOCKBUSTER – Majority Leader To Colleagues Last June: “Putin is Paying Trump. Paul Ryan: ‘Shut Up! Shut Up!’
Is the entire Republican leadership complicit? Is Ryan on the hot seat? What about Sen. Mitch McConnell? I’ve heard comments about this before today but nothing I felt should be repeated in this column until there was some form of substantiation.
A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress—House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy—made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“There’s two people I think Putin pays: [Rep. Dana] Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016 exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. […]
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.
Before the conversation, McCarthy and Ryan had emerged from separate talks at the U.S. Capitol with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, who had described a Kremlin tactic of financing populist politicians to undercut Eastern European democratic institutions. [emphasis added]
Wednesday, May 17 – Trump Team Knew Flynn Was Under Investigation Before He Even Came to White House
An amazingly, stunningly bad news night for all things Trump, including this:
“So Trump was asking Comey to stop the investigation of Flynn – way too late. Flynn was not hired or vetted by the Obama administration [Spicer looks foolish again] and Flynn came clean with Trump and team –he had secretly worked as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign – he was compromised and admitted to it. So even the Trump team assertions that they listened to Sally Yates (Acting AG at the time; warned the Trump team) but didn’t trust her, felt she was partisan. They already knew, and lied.”
Which means Pence knew and lied as well. Credit Rachel Maddow for being right again.
Here’s the recent build-up to today’s news.
Tuesday, May 9 – FBI Director Comey Fired: We’ve talked about this so I’ll just acknowledge the kerfuffle around Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s memo who later pushed back against being credited as the mastermind of Comey’s firing. And it’s worth acknowledging how Comey learned of his firing from a TV news segment while speaking in the Los Angeles FBI office.
Wednesday, May 10 – Trump Undoes the Rosenstein Justification: The next morning Trump tells reporters that he fired Comey because he wasn’t doing a good job. Trump effectively pulled the rug out from under Spicer, Sanders, Sessions, Pence and others who had defended the Rosenstein memo.
Wednesday, May 10 – Trump Hosts Russians at the White House: At the request of Putin, Trump welcomed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to a meeting at the White House. The meeting was closed to the US media, all pictures of the meeting are courtesy of Russian state media.
Wednesday, May 10 – Trump Shares Highly Classified Information With Lavrov and Kislyak: Trump shared highly classified information about an ISIS threat with the Russians, potentially exposing US intelligence sources on the ground in ISIS controlled territory. This action surfaced in a Washington Post article a few days after the meeting.
Thursday, May 11 – Trump Tells Lester Holt “I know I’m Not Under Investigation”: In a White House interview with NBC News Lester Holt Trump torpedoes the White House staff fiction that Trump was following Justice Department recommendations saying instead he had decided beforehand to fire Comey because of his investigation of Trump and campaign links to Russia: “I know I’m not under investigation,” Trump told Holt during the interview.
Friday, May 12 – Trump Warns Comey To Be Careful: Trump tweets out, “James Comey better hope there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” Some ask, isn’t that intimidation of a potential witness in a federal investigation? Good question.
Monday, May 15 – Lawmakers Want the Tapes: There are various demands to turn over the tapes, which are legally the property of the government (post-Watergate statute). Sean Spicer will only offer, “The president has nothing further to add.” Okay, then…
Monday, May 15 – Washington Post Story Says Trump Shared Highly Classified Information With The Russians: THIS is a big deal and some Republicans started to demand an explanation and distance themselves from the White House. In a now familiar pattern, the White House provides a spokesperson to deny the accusations; in this case it was national security adviser H.R. McMaster. But considering the wording of the denial it addresses issues that were not part of the original leaked story.
Monday, May 15 – Emirati crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan Visits The White House: So what, you ask?
Emirati crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan arranged a secret two-day January meeting in the Seychelles attended by big-money entrepreneurial mercenary Erik Prince (Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s brother; founder of Blackwater) on behalf of Donald Trump. This secretive meeting was arranged by Zayed and his brother, the UAE’s national security adviser. The meeting was with Russian government officials with the goal of establishing an unofficial back channel between Trump and Putin. The Seychelles meeting followed a December meeting in New York City attended by these two but also Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon. It is common practice for a government official of a foreign country to notify the White House (the Obama administration at that time) of any visit – this was not done, the prince’s visit was discovered as a result of his name appearing on a flight manifest.
The White House meeting was widely covered, but to Rachel Maddow’s credit, she was the only one I found connecting Zayed to the Seychelles meeting. Again worthy of repetition – the day after the Russians are in the White House at the request of Putin, Emirati crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan visits with Trump at the White House, the SAME person who set up the back channel between Trump and Putin.
If you are interested, here are some very nice pictures of Zayed with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Tuesday, May 16 – Trump Says He Had The Absolute Right To Share Information With The Russians: Again true to the pattern, Trump undoes the defense of his White House team, declaring he had the “absolute right” to share highly sensitive information with the Russians and then turned his attention to concern about who leaked the information.
Tuesday, May 16 – NY Times Reports That Trump Asked Comey To Stop Investigating Flynn: The New York Times quoted a memo written by former FBI Director Comey in which he noted, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
The White House denied the account. House Oversight Committee Chair Chaffetz said he was ready to subpoena Comey’s memo, saying he needed to see it “.”
Since we are now in new territory, here’s a link to an article on the Comey disclosure, here.
And for a great timeline of the history of Comey’s firing link here.
Wednesday, May 17 – Putin Says He Can Prove Trump Did Not Pass Russia Any Secrets: Russian President Putin said Russia is willing to hand over a transcript of the meeting with Trump, Lavrov and Kislyak as proof that Trump had not passed any secrets. This seems odd given Trump’s comments over the last few days. That horse is out of the barn. Trump tweeted that as president he has “absolute right” to give any information he wants to Russians or anyone else to fight terrorism.
Putin says he initially thought the debate about Russian meddling was ‘funny’ but now says Moscow is ‘concerned’. Putin goes on to comment (about US governance) on the dangers of the debate, the self-inflicted damage and the ‘stupid’ or ‘dangerous and unscrupulous’ choices.
The optics here continue to be horribly embarrassing to Americans – we have Trump’s White House meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak held at the request of Putin. Highly sensitive intelligence is shared with the Russians. The only photos that are available are from the Russian state media since US media was barred. A Russian official smugly jokes in the Oval Office about Comey’s firing. Putin offers up advice and perspective on how to get our house in order. And a clueless president who sees no problem with any of this.
Certainly this torches Eric Trump’s past assurances of the president’s independence from Russia following the 59 Tomahawk missiles fired into Syria.
Meanwhile our allies, quite understandably, question whether they can continue to share intelligence with us because of a lack of trust.
Wednesday, May 17 – New GOP Talking Points – Just Trump’s ‘Style’ When Asking Comey To Drop Flynn Investigation: Yep, true to form, a new line of defense for something that (at first) DID NOT HAPPEN. But now we are offered “it’s just the way Trump talks”, it isn’t obstruction of justice – it’s just his folksy, touchy-feely style. Ignore the fact that Pence and Sessions were asked to leave the room before Trump had this conversation with Comey, and forget the fact that Trump later admitted to firing Comey for not ending his investigation of ties to Russia.
Wednesday, May 17 – First GOP Comments About “Grounds For Impeachment”?: This may be a first, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), said that if the allegations are true, they constituted grounds for impeachment.
As we edit, it is 11 p.m. and May 17 is not quite over yet but up to this point, here are two timeline summaries of Russiagate events:
One final plain-vanilla Trump-Russia business link for this edition. A Russian bank, VEB, channeled urgently needed cash into a Trump hotel in Toronto. VEB is a US-sanctioned bank viewed as a vehicle for Russian government funding for important projects. Trump’s partner in the hotel and the source of the cash infusion is Alexander Shnaider, a Ukrainian oligarch. Check out Russian State-Run Bank Financed Toronto Trump Hotel Through Mystery Buyer.
In some parts of the world Russian funding of political campaigns is much more open – like Marie Le Pen’s candidacy in France. Yes, Le Pen and the far right political movement are both generously funded by Russian banks and endorsed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
(Commoner Call cartoons by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )