By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (6/19/17)
Dear Fellow Readers,
If Donald Trump is guilty of nothing, he will create his own scenario to be found guilty. Trump is fighting Washington and the media and losing. He fights the way he’s always fought and that is now working against him. He is his own enemy.
Is Trump guilty of colluding with the Russians? Is the Trump campaign guilty of colluding with the Russians? I don’t know; maybe not.
Maybe Kushner’s alleged quid pro quo with Gorkov was simply to save his shaky investment in his 666 5th Avenue property. Maybe Manafort’s alleged money laundering was only about moving illegal money out of Ukraine for personal reasons. Maybe Manafort’s use of Wilbur Ross’s Bank of Cyprus to move his money is only a coincidence, just one of many money launderers using one of many Cypriot banks that launder money. Maybe Flynn’s failures to report were simply meant to cover his tracks for personal financial gain. Maybe Carter Page was a Russian spy but had no opportunity or even intent to compromise Trump or U.S. interests. Flynn is cooperating and the list of confirmed investigations builds – but that’s all we really know so; much smoke but….
We do know Trump’s problems are not going away, they are multiplying. Trump news is developing in parallel, there is the ongoing deluge of bad news for Trump, but now there is a good deal of news about what went wrong and how this all might unfold.
Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) is generally reserved but offers this, “The message the president is sending through his tweets is that he believes the rule of law doesn’t apply to him.” Emperor Nero had his violin, Trump has Twitter.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) says, “It has become clear that President Trump believes that he has the power to fire anyone in government he chooses for any reason, including Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That is not how the rule of law works, and Congress will not allow the President to so egregiously overstep his authority.”
Not A Criminal Story, A Psychological Story
PBS News Hour host Judy Woodruff leads a weekly political discussion with David Brooks of the NY Times and syndicated columnist Mark Shields. It’s a refreshingly low key and free flowing review but I highlight the June 16 program because of the views expressed about Trump. The discussion is about Trump’s reaction to reports that he is being investigated, but I highlight this early exchange.
David Brooks: So, I begin to be a little suspicious — and maybe I’m wrong — we will see over the long term — whether there was any actual act of collusion. There were certainly conversations maybe about some building and some investment, but so far, no evidence of an underlying crime.
But this, to me, is not a criminal story. It is a psychological story. And it’s a story about a president who seems to be under more pressure, under more threat, lashing out in ways that are painfully self-destructive, but also extremely disturbing to anybody around him.
And so whether it’s the North Korean Cabinet hearing that he held recently, where they all had to praise him, or the tweets as late as this morning, this is not a president who is projecting mental stability.
And the idea that he will fire somebody, whether it’s Mueller or anybody else, seems very plausible. And so, to me, if there is something really damaging here, it’s something that has not yet happened caused by the psychological pressure that he apparently feels.
Mark Shields: This kind of opened up a new avenue that’s reported in The New York Times. And so I just think that, Judy, the abject lack, absence of curiosity on the part of the president in his nine conversations with the FBI correct or any other — anybody else, and with the attorney general before the Senate Intelligence Committee, abject lack of curiosity in how the Russians did it.
I mean, you would come in and you say 17 intelligence agencies have concluded the Russians tried to sabotage the American electoral process, and there’s not a single question about, what did they do, how did they do it, how can we avoid it, what can we do in the future?
Geez, no, let’s go, let’s find the three million people who were illegally voting in California instead. We will appoint a commission for that.
David Brooks: Every contact we know where Donald Trump had conversations about the Russia thing, he saw through the prism of his own victory and would he get credit for the victory. And it’s perfectly plausible for a normal human being to think, well, I won the presidency, but the Russians also did seriously endanger interests, the American political system, and, therefore, I’m going to go after that.
And so he — but he’s incapable of seeing that second part. It’s just, am I getting full credit for what I think I achieved? And so it’s the intellectual insecurity that I think is overshadowing all else.
Trump’s ‘Incapacity’ To Take Responsibility For Mistakes And Lies
This from June 17th The New Yorker:
“Trump’s egotism, his demand for one-way loyalty, and his incapacity to assume responsibility for his own untruths and mistakes were, his biographers make plain, his pattern in business and have proved to be his pattern as President.”
The description of the environment in the White House is horrid – everyone is out for himself or herself. The final paragraph is worth the read.
Trump Failing To Bend Washington To His Ways
The New York Times offers: Mr. Trump has been unable in his first months in office to bend Washington to his “you’re fired!” ways.
Trump is openly criticizing deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein with his Friday Tweet, “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director!” It was Rosenstein who appointed Mueller as Special Counsel and has offered this as his personal path forward: “I’m not going to follow any order unless I believe they are lawful and appropriate orders,” Mr. Rosenstein said. “It wouldn’t matter to me what anybody said.”
To be clear, Trump also confirms he is now under investigation by Mueller for obstruction of justice.
He Said What Why?
In the same New York Times article it is reported that Rosenstein released this statement:
““Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country — let alone the branch or agency of government — with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated,” Mr. Rosenstein wrote.”
As the article explains, one interpretation raises the possibility that Trump demanded that Rosenstein offer a defense against two Washington Post stories: 1) Special counsel Mueller is now investigating Trump for obstruction of justice, and; 2) Mueller is now investigating Jared Kushner’s finances and business dealings (previously reported here as a person of interest).
There are other interpretations of the statement. One view is that one of the foreign intelligence services that previously alerted the U.S. to Trump campaign-Russian communications was prepared to publicly release evidence.
The Department of Justice press release in question had Rosenstein’s name on it but was really just three sentences begging Americans not to believe any upcoming leaks to the media from overseas intel sources. The upshot was clear: Trump believed something along the lines of the mythical “Pee Pee Tape” might leak this morning, so he forced Rosenstein to put out that press release last night (or perhaps he had a staffer put it out under Rosenstein’s name – at this point who knows).
So What’s New?
Let’s do a quick round up starting with ‘easy’: A Great Simple Summary – A Top 10
A very good bare bones round-up – which is getting harder to do as the avenues expand:
Vice President Pence lawyers up.
Trump And Other White House Staff Release Financial Information – Oh My!
There is much being made of outstanding loans for Trump and Jared Kushner and likely we’ll revisit this topic. But I want to quickly highlight a quiet news item that’s drawn some attention. Here’s the best way to do this and I encourage you to search for more parts of the story as you see fit; this article at least touches on the various parts and is meant to give flavor to the breadth and extent of problems Trump and staff face:
Link to story “Russian Money Laundering Bank Funded Donald Trump’s DC Hotel Construction During Campaign”, Here.
- Trump faces THREE emoluments lawsuits – in a nut-shell he is accused of benefitting financially as POTUS and thus leaving himself open to influence.
- Trump and Kushner have outstanding loans with Duetsche Bank which was penalized for laundering Russian money. This is not new and it’s been hard to fit this in but the timing makes sense given the new financial disclosures.
- The Wall Street Journal reports that Russian state-run bank VEB bails out Trump’s Toronto hotel partner to avoid bankruptcy. Always Russian, always Russian money – VEB is also the sanctioned Russian bank represented by Gorkov in the December meeting with Kushner in Trump Tower.
Alexander Shnaider, a Russian-Canadian developer who built the 65-story Trump International Hotel and Tower, put money into the project after receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from a separate asset sale that involved the Russian bank, whose full name is Vnesheconombank
Warning – Complicated: Campaign Data Mining – Trump Billionaire Mercer Owes IRS $7 Billion
There is a very complicated story about how money flowed and fake news targeted which is beyond the scope of this column. But a great deal of money and influence came from Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah. In a nutshell they brought money and know-how and Steve Bannon into the campaign mix. Rebekah has been the titular head of Breitbart News since Bannon joined the White House though recently that lie was dispelled when Bannon’s executive waiver to run Breitbart from the White House was disclosed (by challenges under Freedom of Information Act, reported here recently).
How MUCH would you spend to get your candidate elected as POTUS IF you had $7,000,000,000 at risk? McClatchy explored the possibilities: Billionaire Robert Mercer did Trump a huge favor. Will he get a payback?
Cuba and Saudi Arabia – Foreign Policy Based On Follow The Money And Influence
If you want to understand Trump’s foreign policy decisions just ask what financial impact it might have on him. There is no strategy, no statement of purpose, just actions – and his actions are about his investments and relationship to Russia.
In a nutshell Trump has weighed in with a regional argument/conflict between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates actions against Qatar. As the New York Times reported, Trump has investments in Saudi and UAE but not Qatar thus:
“Trump has reversed some of the actions taken by Obama to open travel and other forms of exchange with Cuba. Trump has now reversed parts of this citing Cuba’s dismal record of human rights. But this flies in the face of his new relationships with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Philippines and other countries, but is also in conflict with his own as well as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments about relaxing human rights as a basis for deciding foreign policy.”
It’s not about human rights – it’s about Trump’s relationship to Russia. Do we really want a Russian military base 90 miles from Florida in Cuba?
Pampering Putin: Trump tried to remove Russia sanctions when he took office. Trump has been trying to return the two Russian spy facilities seized by Obama in retaliation for election meddling. Trump is currently trying to soften new sanctions against Russia passed 97-2 by the Senate but still moving forward in the House.
And now Trump is championing human rights initiatives for Cuba? Really, or could it be about a Russian military base? Check out the Washington Post article Russia has its permanent air base in Syria. Now it’s looking at Cuba and Vietnam.
Remember, Trump happily violated Cuba sanctions when sniffing for business deals in the past – human rights abuses were no problem for him then.
Do note, once again, Putin is warning the U.S. about any new sanctions: Putin: New sanctions will ‘complicate’ Russia-US ties
If you prefer your Trump/Russia summary to music there’s no one better than Randy Rainbow to put all the craziness in perspective. Check out his 4-Minute Video HERE.