Russia Monitor: Oh, The Tangled Webs & Trip Wires Of Trumplandia




By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (7/6/17)

Dear Fellow Readers,

Someone following the Trump Russia story closely commented on how it took a few days to fully digest implications of the Wall Street Journal articles on Peter W. Smith’s efforts to build a team to find the missing Clinton emails and his ties to Michael Flynn.

Peter W. Smith Linked to Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Sam Clovis

If you want a quick review, check out The Time I Got Recruited to Collude with the Russians by Matt Tait, CEO and founder of UK-based Capital Alpha Security, for an excellent first-person view of someone recruited into Smith’s plan. Ultimately Tait said he saw documents referencing not only Flynn but Trump advisers Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway and Sam Clovis (Trump campaign policy adviser; now – despite no background in agriculture – senior adviser at the Agriculture Department.)

Connecting the dots.

I like this review of the WSJ and Matt Tait news: What Everyone Should Know About Peter W.Smith, The Potential Missing Link In The Trump-Russia Probe.

“The Trump campaign did not deny the connection, telling the WSJ that “if Mr. Flynn coordinated with him in any way, it would have been in his capacity as a private individual.””

The same Trumpian logic was applied to Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions III when it became known that Sessions had undisclosed meetings with Russians during the campaign. If this is a problem, the White House purrs, he was acting as Senator Sessions, not as campaign adviser Sessions, even if the meetings took place at Trump campaign functions.

It’s also wise to carefully consider Peter W. Smith’s relationship to the Trump campaign…

Peter Smith Connections To Trumplandia

From the same article:

“[W]hen Peter W. Smith talks, Newt Gingrich listens.” That was the introduction to a 1995 article in Crain’s Chicago Business about Gingrich’s “Illinois patrons.”

“A couple of decades later, Gingrich was a top adviser to Trump and his campaign. Smith was seeking to connect with Russian hackers to obtain emails he believed were stolen from Hillary Clinton.”

Smith was a very engaged, active GOP operative and agitator. He was directly connected to the far right Breitbart News. The dark shadow of Smith’s political history stretches as far back as the 1990’s Bill Clinton ‘Troopergate’ story (fully debunked yet handily dredged up and recycled for the 2016 campaign cycle).

Peter W. Smith Hides Investigation

According to Tait, Smith said he set up a shell corporation in Delaware, KLS Research, “to avoid campaign reporting.” This comment suggests Smith may have been paid by an entity operating under the Federal Election Commission that is required to disclose their expenditures. This could mean either a campaign fund or a Super PAC.

Finally, I say this because it is often pointed out, the cause of Smith’s death ten days after talking to the WSJ is unknown.

Trump Tweets & Mueller InvestigatesTrump Tries to Bury The WSJ Story

Bill Palmer of Palmer Report observes Donald Trump Keeps Revealing The Trump-Russia Collusion Bombshell Is Even Bigger Than We All Thought:

“The WSJ asked Donald Trump’s team for advance comment on the Peter W. Smith collusion story sometime around Friday, June 23rd, which was when Trump began defending himself on Twitter against “collusion” accusations despite the fact that they weren’t yet widely being leveled. Remember when he randomly insisted out of nowhere that there were no collusion tapes? Keep that part in mind.

“Trump then gambled that the Smith story would hit the wires on Thursday, June 29th, so he whipped up a vulgar attack on Mika Brzezinski that morning as an attempted distraction. That only partially worked, as the WSJ only released the first drips of the Smith story that evening. Trump then knew he needed another distraction on Friday, so he went deeper into the well by revealing his Morning Joe blackmail plot as an increasingly self-immolating distraction. Sure enough, the WSJ dripped out a bit more of the Smith story that evening. But now Trump’s defenses are depleting.

“On Saturday morning Trump tweeted some lower key trash talk about cable news, trying to distract from what he thought would be yet another WSJ collusion story that day. It proved to be an ineffective distraction, and he had guessed wrong anyway, as no new collusion story was published. On Sunday morning he tweeted the video of himself punching CNN in a desperate bid to top himself in the controversy department, and it worked – but he had once again bet wrong, as no story was published.”

Trump is willing to beshit himself with a new behavioral low to bury an unfavorable news cycle. Everyone has to register their outrage about the Trump tweets while his appeasers assure us this is ‘the new presidential’ and he has every right to defend himself. As White House spokesbot Sarah Huckabee Sanders reminds us, they knew what they were getting”.

Trump can confuse a news cycle. Trump can even run. But Trump can’t hide.

Trump To Meet Putin: Russia Adds A Whopper Demand To It’s List of Demands

Trump is scheduled to meet with Putin on Friday while both are at the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany.

Putin has drawn up a list of “or else” demands in advance of the meeting. We all know the Russians have repeatedly demanded the return of the two seized US-based Russian spy compounds and threatened retaliation if the U.S. targets Russian or Syrian assets (after the U.S. downs a Syrian fighter) among other repeated demands and threats.

But there is a new demand that sounds like it is straight out of Mad Magazine, but, no, it’s for real: Russia Threatens Retaliation If Pentagon Bans Kaspersky Software

I know, I know … take a deep breath and go splash some water on your face and pour yourself something tall, cold and alcoholic and then contemplate the audacity of Moscow demanding that the United States Defense Department use Russian, designed and owned cybersecurity software. Honestly. Maybe pour yourself a second.

Russia is also hardening it’s position on Syria, potentially deploying additional troops for a planned demarcation line against future hostilities.

But what is Trump to do? The Trump White House (as previously reported) is trying to undermine the imposition of additional sanctions against Russia but can Trump go so far as to appease the Russians and meet Putin’s demands?


Collusion: Question Comes Down To Intent

Let’s consider this as a backdrop to Trump’s Putin meeting: Former House Intel Staffer: The Trump-Russia Probe Is The ‘successor to Watergate’

Michael Bahar (former Dem aide to the House Intelligence committee) does a good job of laying out many of the events that ‘look bad’, as an example:

“His (Trump’s) statement to the Russians is indirect evidence of Trump’s corrupt intent when he fired Comey,” Ohlin said. “It’s very significant in that regard.” 

Bahar wraps up with this assurance:

“There are so many tentacles and so many rocks to look under,” he said. “And every time you look under another rock, you find some more rocks. I don’t think there’s a quick resolution to this.”

How will Trump balance two masters – Putin as the puppeteer against the court of public opinion that is being sold the idea that there was no Trump campaign collusion with Russia? Putin has released a list of demands ahead of the meeting, the Trump White House finally acknowledged they intend to talk about Syria and Ukraine. Putin is specific – return the two Russian spy facilities, have a Russian company control US military cybersecurity or else and more. Trump’s plans – we’ll talk ‘Syria’, to what end?

Can Trump afford to appease Putin given public opinion of Trump-Russia is not on his side?

A recent CBS poll found:

Russian Investigations Are…

38% A political distraction that should be put aside.
27% Serious, but not as serious as other issues.
39% A critical issue of national security.

(June 15-18. Margin of error: 4 points.)


 Why Would Trump Give Putin Any Concession; Puppet And Puppeteer?

The Washington Post states the obvious and uncomfortable truth for Trump: Months of Russia Controversy Leaves Trump ‘boxed in’ Ahead Of Putin Meeting.

“The president is boxed in,” said Nicholas Burns, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO under President George W. Bush. “Why would you give Putin any kind of concession at the first meeting? What has he done to deserve that?” 

Can Trump really give Putin what he wants? (per Paul Sanders, U.S.-Russia program at the Center for the National Interest)

“Without progress on Ukraine, I don’t see how one would ease sanctions,” he said. “And it’s not like Russia is going to send special forces to Damascus to arrest Assad and deliver him to The Hague or to President Trump.”

Will Trump Give Putin Notice On Russian Involvement In The US Election?

Steven Pifer of the Brookings Institution makes the case to NPR’s Kelly McEvers that Trump must put Putin on the spot about Russian meddling in the US election, or else it does NOT look good for Trump’s return to the US.

So will he?

What Putin’s Team Is Probably Telling Him About Trump

The authors collaborated on a piece considering how Putin might approach Donald Trump. Michael Morell was the deputy director of the CIA from 2010 to 2013 and twice served as acting director. Samantha Vinograd served on the National Security Council staff from 2009 to 2013, including as senior adviser to the national security adviser. 

In a nutshell they suggested Putin would:

  • Effusively signal their ‘friendship’ for US media
  • Praise Trump to stroke his ego
  • Throw Trump a bone and offer something like ‘cooperation over Venzuela
  • Offer notice – no new sanctions
  • NEVER lose sight of the goal: rescind the sanctions against Russia

All of this against a backdrop of little attention and no pushback against Russian initiatives in places like Syria, Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus, Libya, Afghanistan and more.

And as a prelude to the meeting, Russia staged anti-terrorist drills on the border of Estonia and Latvia.

Will Pinocchio Lose The Strings?

I’ve got no strings
So I have fun
I’m not tied up to anyone
They’ve got strings
But you can see
There are no strings on me


(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free to use with link to )