Russia Monitor: Many, Many More Doors To Be Investigated


By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (6/12/17)

Dear Fellow Readers,

Thursday, June 8, 2017 former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence committee. Here is an excellent New York Times Page One summary of his remarks.

Trump Tried To Sink Inquiry, Comey Says

“‘Those were lies, plain and simple.’

‘I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting and so I thought it really important to document.’

‘Lordy, I hope there are tapes.’

‘I mean, the president of the United States, with me alone, saying ‘I hope this’ – I took it as, ‘This is what he wants me to do.’

‘I don’t want to make you – sound like I’m Captain Courageous.’

I made many notes to myself during and after the hearing. My overall thought is that the detail is interesting, but my primary take-away: I was impressed. Comey fielded 259 questions and there was virtually no grandstanding by the senators asking the questions. The questions reflected a variety of points of view and that’s how democracy should work.

I am encouraged. As a country we may have gotten caught with our pants down while knowing the Russians had and were hacking the election. It seems like our response at the time was naïve or maybe far worse. But the effort to get to the truth after the fact is gaining momentum and moments like this is what history is about.

We’re not just experiencing an investigation, it’s also about helping all of us achieve acceptance of the process and findings as fair. The investigation is the easier part.

Remember – we’ve come a long way since those not-so-distant Trump assurances of NO contact between his campaign and the Russians. Trump will mount a valiant rear-guard action but we’re already heading down the slippery slope. This was Round One – Comey sits out the next round but Trump will be in every round.


He Said, He Said

The summary of the stance between Comey and Trump could not be more dramatic. Comey puts country first; warning of the Russian attacks on our voting system: “They Will Be Back”.

Trump puts Trump first. I offer this as Comey’s view:

“It’s not a Republican thing or Democratic thing — it really is an American thing,” Mr. Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee. “They’re going to come for whatever party they choose to try and work on behalf of. And they’re not devoted to either, in my experience. They’re just about their own advantage. And they will be back.”

Here’s the Trump view:

““The president feels completely and totally vindicated,” Marc Kasowitz, an attorney representing Trump in the special counsel probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, said in a statement.”

Trump has only ever offered denial though we continue to move past each round of denial with more and more facts. While there has been bipartisan concern about what happened with our election, never once has Trump voiced concern about Russian involvement in the US election.

Comey says Trump lied. Trump says Comey lied. Okay, first it was Sarah Huckabee Sanders assuring us that Trump is “Not a liar”. Sanders was slammed by many Trump supporters for not providing a more robust defense.

Next it was Marc Kasowitz’s turn, Trump’s $1,500 an hour lawyer. A written statement by Kasowitz started by introducing himself as “‘Predisent’ Trump’s lawyer“.

More seriously he offered a ‘gotcha’ pointed at Comey, noting  that Comey had to have released information to the New York Times on November 12 because the article in question ran on November 12 – except the article he was referencing appeared on November 16, as explained by Comey. Hey, we deserve any entertainment sent our way. (Remember, last edition I reported Kasowitz’s own Russian ties to state controlled Sberbank and Oleg Deripaska.)

You might be tempted to say, so what about all of this – if you believed Comey beforehand you believed him after. And the same with Trump, who followed with his self-declared vindication before declaring Comey a leaker. I won’t dig into the ‘leaker’ accusation because this will run it’s own course, but this stems from a disclosure from Comey that he gave a copy of one of his memorandums to a friend with the intent of getting it into the hands of the New York Times; it was not a classified document and all relevant material has been provided to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Comey’s stated goal was the appointment of a special counsel, so maybe it worked.

People are hardened in their views. A Washington Post-ABC News poll before the hearing showed 61% of Americans believed Trump fired Comey to protect himself and 56% felt Trump was interfering with investigations. But like Republicans rising to the support of Rep. Greg Gianforte in Montana over an election-night assault on a reporter, the support for Trump is also solidifying.

For now – challenges of cognitive dissonance push us to strengthen our personal commitment to our preconceptions: I didn’t know I believed what I believe so strongly until you tried to tell me I was wrong.

Here’s a panel of viewers of the hearings in a deep Red part of Ohio: all Trump voters. In a nutshell: Comey lied, Trump is not a liar and if you believe neither lied it’s because of how the media feeds us information. That last part makes me smile since you’re watching live testimony without any narration.


MANY New Doors Opened

Comey’s comments as well as questions raised by various Senators opened new doors to investigation.

Is Trump guilty of obstruction? Comey has done a great job of making this part of Mueller’s purview.

Are there tapes of the Trump-Comey conversation(s)? We will find out, and, to quote Comey, “Oh Lordy I hope there are tapes”.

Will Trump testify under oath? He says 100% he will.

Did Pence know about Flynn before Flynn’s resignation? Comey says yes and points to specific dates.

Comey commented to Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) “if any Americans worked with Russia to compromise our elections-that is a very big deal”.

He then added, “And they will be back”.

When asked about his failure to carry forward his concerns about Trump/Sessions, Comey answered that he already knew Sessions would have to recuse himself.

The Christopher Steele dossier is now officially part of the scope of the investigation. Tired of “Trump’s crap”, Sen. Charles Grassley is considering issuing subpoenas for all relevant documents from the company that hired Steele. This dossier includes comments about Russian collusion and salacious behavior by Trump while in Moscow.

““Oversight brings transparency, and transparency brings accountability. And, the opposite is true. Shutting down oversight requests doesn’t drain the swamp, Mr. President. It floods the swamp,” Grassley noted in a letter to Trump.”

Note there we NO attempts to undermine Comey’s credibility during the hearing – that’s being left to Trump, his various Trumpettes and attorney Kasowitz after the fact.

Finally, ‘hookers’ are now part of the national language of the investigation (the 7-minute mark of Seth Meyers as an example, or the 4-minute mark of Stephen Colbert).


Flynn The Key To The Great Unraveling?

There are now more avenues to an already robust investigation of Trump-Russia ties. There will be more hearings to come. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is set to appear before the Senate Intelligence committee on Tuesday in closed session. Previously, he had been scheduled to appear before the Senate and House Appropriations subcommittees. Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein will attend instead. There is some thought that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) the Intelligence Committee co-chair is aiding Sessions by giving him the non-public option.

I continue to wonder if all of this would have been missed if not for Michael Flynn. Flynn resigned as Trump’s national security adviser on February 13, 2017, roughly a month after Trump took office. The Russian hacking of the DNC took place during the summer but it wasn’t until January 12, 2017 that David Ingatius of the Washington Post reported that “a senior US government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on December 29, 2016”, the same day the Obama administration announced sanctions against Russia for hacking and the removal of Russian diplomats.

The Russian hacking and influence on the election was known and Flynn was already compromised prior to inauguration. We have already reported that the Trump administration attempted to remove Russian sanctions the first week in office and recent reports continue to point to Trump’s intent to drop sanctions and hand back to Putin two Russian spy facilities in the United States.

How close did we come to Russia getting what they wanted if not for Flynn tripping up? And in return for what, what is Trump’s quid pro quo?


Was John McCain The Cavalry Coming To Our Rescue?

I also wonder, ‘if not for Sen. John McCain?’. November seems like such a long time ago and our concerns about Trump-Russia ties so naïve.

The question we faced following the November election was framed this way by Newsweek: “Donald Trump Can Either Continue The Shadow War With Vladimir Putin Or End Sanctions”.

“The telegram (Putin to Trump) was one of the first to arrive from a world leader. On the morning of November 9, the Kremlin announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin had sent a message to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump expressing “his hope they can work together toward the end of the crisis in Russian-American relations, as well as address the pressing issues of the international agenda and the search for effective responses to global security challenges.” Just minutes before, the Russian State Duma had erupted in applause when its members learned that Trump had won the election.

“Putin appeared to be taking his lead from repeated comments Trump has made suggesting the two would get along: “I would treat Vladimir Putin firmly, but there’s nothing I can think of that I’d rather do than have Russia friendly, as opposed to the way they are right now, so that we can go and knock out ISIS with other people,” the then-candidate of the Republican Party said on July 28, referring to the Islamic State militant group. 

“But the blossoming bromance between the two men may come to a sudden end when Trump becomes commander in chief on January 20, 2017. That’s when he will, on a daily basis, have to cope with a resentful former superpower engaged in an aggressive campaign of espionage and propaganda against the United States and its allies—one more intense and menacing than at any time since the Cold War. Trump will likely face a binary choice: continue to engage in that intensifying shadow war, as his predecessor chose to do, or end sanctions against Russia—essentially allowing Putin to expand his influence in Eastern Europe and beyond.”

While we know that Trump tried… It is very possible that Sen. John McCain deserves credit for drawing a critical line in the sand that checked Trump:

“President Donald Trump’s call with Vladimir Putin is scheduled to take place amid widespread speculation that the White House is considering lifting sanctions against Russia. For the sake of America’s national security and that of our allies, I hope President Trump will put an end to this speculation and reject such a reckless course. If he does not, I will work with my colleagues to codify sanctions against Russia into law.”

Why does Trump NEVER demand answers concerning Russian involvement in our election? As Sen. Nancy Pelosi says, Trump’s pattern is Charm-Bully-Abandon-Sue. Trump’s treatment of Comey fits this pattern. In the meantime, Trump continues to consider the return of the Russian spy facilities seized by Obama in retaliation and the relaxation of Russian sanctions. Our country is at risk but our government simply assures us that Trump is not guilty of anything. Quid Pro Quo.

And remember, Trump was made an honorary Russian Cossack. Not every president-elect can get that recognition, you have to do special things.


Extra Credit

You may well have caught the exchange between Sen. Angus King (I-Me) and James Comey regarding a quote from Thomas Becket.

By now many people will have googled the words “meddlesome priest.” The phrase was uttered by James Comey during his testimony on Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. When he was asked if he took President Trump’s “hope” that he would drop the Flynn-Russia investigation “as a directive,” Mr. Comey responded, “Yes, yes. It rings in my ears as kind of ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ ”

These are the words that King Henry II of England allegedly cried out in 1170, frustrated by the political opposition of Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury. Four royal knights immediately rushed off to Canterbury and murdered the meddlesome priest.