By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (6/5/17)
Dear Fellow Reader,
I am 100% confident that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. Russia tried to influence the outcome of the election and the connections run deeper and are far broader than the election as an isolated event. As with any significant moment in history, this election is an intersection of many different forces that have coalesced around this event but the full story is both broader and more significant. And I trust the story will come out.
This week offered three key moments that add up to and underscore this certainty:
1) Jared Kushner’s attempt to establish a Russia back channel,
2) Trump’s firing of (then) FBI Director James Comey, and
3) Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s broadening of the Trump-Russia connection on two fronts to now include the grand jury criminal probe of Paul Manafort (Ukraine kleoptocracy; former Trump campaign manager) AND Mueller’s broadening to include the Mike Flynn (espionage; Trump’s former national security adviser) investigation.
As national security editor of The Guardian, Spencer Ackerman says, “SOMETHING is going on!”. Ackerman was interviewed by Intercept journalist Jeremy Scahill for the Intercepted podcast.
Ackerman’s longer explanation includes this:
“The moment that he (James Comey) has an active investigation into the President of the United States and the President of the United States’ allies, and the President fires the FBI director: that’s just on its face obstruction of justice. Now, with this Kushner story, it also looks on the face of it that a contributing factor to Trump trying to get Comey to stifle this investigation is to protect the President’s son-in-law.”
For a second opinion, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow does a consistently excellent job of tracking news and developments with Trump-Russia collusion. In the June 2 broadcast Maddow noted, “…we’ve been bushwhacking through the forest for a long time and came out into a clearing and we can see where we are; a landmark moment in this investigation”. Maddow’s comments offer the following insights and hopes:
“Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation expands in scope to include Manafort inquiry hopefully to address factual questions such as the Ukraine kleptocracy investigation by the FBI in alignment with Mueller. This is a long-standing investigation with FBI resources in Kiev.”
“Eastern VA grand jury that subpoenaed Flynn now rolled into Mueller’s inquiry; do these resources get folded in?
“Trump-Russia collusion – does this mean Mueller believes there is a link between the Flynn foreign payment investigation (espionage; Turkey and Russia), Manafort kleoptocracy investigation (Ukaraine)? Do all these resources get folded into Mueller’s investigative effort?”
Mueller “can investigate Trump-Russia collusion”, can he investigate witness intimidation, obstruction, perjury? While Maddow offers her assurance she also cautions that she’s waiting for Mueller’s confirmation of scope.
Let’s take a look at those three legs:
1) Trump Tried To Undo Russian Sanctions Week 1 – And Failed (For Now)
Two editions prior we reported on Jared Kushner’s attempt to establish a back channel with Russia. Remember, this is significant because: 1) it is a smoking gun for Trump-Russia collusion if the discussion was a quid pro quo – millions in Russian rubles for Trump family projects – and 2) the back channel would be set up using a Russian facility to go around US intelligence surveillance.
Is there a quid pro quo? Yes – there is a quid pro quo, the White House moved to undo Russia sanctions during the first weeks in office.
There was a battle between revoking the Russian sanctions or keeping them in place.
“There was serious consideration by the White House to unilaterally rescind the sanctions,” said Dan Fried, a veteran State Department official who served as chief U.S. coordinator for sanctions policy until he retired in late February. He said in the first few weeks of the administration, he received several “panicky” calls from U.S. government officials who told him they had been directed to develop a sanctions-lifting package and imploring him, “Please, my God, can’t you stop this?”
Fried said he grew so concerned that he contacted Capitol Hill allies — including Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the ranking minority member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — to urge them to move quickly to pass legislation that would “codify” the sanctions in place, making it difficult for President Trump to remove them.
Obama’s former assistant secretary of state Tom Malinowski added, “it would have been a win-win for Moscow”.
“Real estate analysts told ABC News that Jared Kushner’s first major acquisition, a Fifth Avenue office tower signifying his family’s move from New Jersey into Manhattan real estate, is shouldering a $1.3 billion in loans coming due in two years, and it is not bringing in sufficient rental income. An attempt by Kushner to broker a deal with a Chinese company to refinance and redevelop the building fell through shortly after the election.”
2) Comey To Testify – Firing Is Obstruction Of Justice?
Former FBI Director James Comey is set to testify about his conversations with Trump prior to Trump’s firing of Comey. There is some question of whether the White House will invoke executive privilege and block his appearance, but even if this were to happen Comey has already publicly offered his summary statement of his planned testimony: Trump had pressured Comey to end the Russia investigation prior to being fired. And Trump has already publicly acknowledged that he fired Comey over the Russia investigation.
“Mr. Comey’s testimony would be the most sensational moment to date in a controversy that has engulfed the Trump administration from its beginning. Congress and a Justice Department special counsel are investigating whether Mr. Trump’s associates colluded with Russia to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.”
3) Mueller’s Expanded Scope To Include Michael Flynn Investigation – Flynn is under investigation not only for Trump campaign ties to Russia but also his paid work as a lobbyist for Turkey. As previously reported, Federal prosecutors in Virginia have issued a subpoena to Flynn. Mueller is now taking over the Virginia grand jury investigation.
3) Mueller’s Expanded Scope To Include Paul Manafort Investigation – The FBI has been investigating Manafort’s ties to former Ukraine president Yanukovych (who fled to Russia) for almost a year. It is a bad sign for Trump to now have the Manafort investigation rolled into Mueller’s scope.
There is SO much more … if not for limits of time and space…
Poor Russia Makes a Few Modest Requests…
Putin now makes his own statements allowing for Russian hacking of the US election: Putin: Maybe Russians Hacked US Election, But “Patriotically Minded” Russians – We Russians Are The Victims
Or maybe moere incredibly, Russia DEMANDS the return of the diplomatic compounds seized by the Obama adminikstration as part of retaliatory sanctions for Russian hacking of the US election – and Trump says, “looking into it”. These are Russian spy and signal intelligence facilities for monitoring closely US communications. And Trump is looking into returning them to the Russians?
Malcolm Nance, an MSNBC terrorism analyst and retired Navy officer, said, “It is absolutely baffling why the president of the United States in the middle of all these controversies, still seems to genuflect to Moscow.”
Russian is ‘seeking’ the return, but warned of ‘counter measures’ if these facilities were not returned soon.
Putin Pulls A ‘Trump’ Responding Angrily To Megyn Kelly When She Asks Trump-Russia Questions – He Yanked His Earpiece Out Twice
Kelly, now with NBC News, interviewed Putin in St Petersburg a few days ago and confronted Putin about Russian intrusion. While Putin largely stays on the Putin-Trump message, he did react angrily to questions a few times.
“…and what President Trump has been saying…just show me the quote where he said he won because of Russian intervention,” he finished before popping the ear piece back in. “I don’t remember him saying so.”
Kelly, not backing down, said, “[Trump] finally came around to say, ‘I think Russia did it’ and he said, ‘I don’t think he’ll do it again.’”
We could talk about Sen. Al Franken’s “all points to collusion” comment while there is new news of YET ANOTHER undisclosed Session meeting with Russian ambassador Kislyak.
Or we could look at ‘What did Pence know and when did he know it?’.
We could look at how Trump’s recently named lawyer Marc Kasowitz is also representing Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska (closely linked to Manafort), and Sberbank, the Russian state controlled bank represented by Gorkov (Russian spy) in the Kushner meeting.
One of President Donald Trump’s personal attorneys was a lead attorney to defend Russia’s largest state-run bank against claims that it helped a granite-mining company raid and kill off its main competitor in the Russian market.
Marc E. Kasowitz is representing OJSC Sberbank of Russia, which is accused in US federal court of conspiring with granite company executives — including Russia’s former minister of economy and trade — in what the plaintiffs say amounts to a “textbook case of Russian corporate raiding.”
Learn more about Trump’s legal legion…
- Meet The Hard-Charging Lawyer Trump Tapped To Defend Him In Russia Probe
- Russian Once Tied to Trump Aide Seeks Immunity to Cooperate With Congress
With that – until the next edition … or next Trump scandal.