Who’s Your Vlady?
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (7/10/17)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Trump Played The Fool And Was Played The Fool By Putin
Everything about Trump’s G20 side show meeting with Putin was wrong and damaging to the the United States. I watched the lead-up to the meeting, the choices for the conduct of the meeting, the post-meeting announcements, the analysis; it was all disheartening. I am writing this two days after the meeting and find little to feel better about the entirety of the event or even the broader landscape of US participation – or more accurately US isolationism – in the G20 proceedings.
“Tear Down That Wall” Compared To Trump’s “Impenetrable” Cyber Security Russian Alliance
I struggle to state my view strongly enough. Never in my lifetime did I imagine any president of the United States giving away the store to a foreign government. Ronald Reagan would view Donald Trump’s behavior with great disgust. I don’t give Trump all the blame. Sadly we’ve all reached this state of the union together; he’s a product of our failures. I wish his keepers and enablers, like Steve Bannon and the billionaire Mercers, their own brand of Hell. I struggle with the blindness of his apologists which run the gamut of worst – our own Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen Mitch McConnell – to least worst platitudes about us all being in this together. Well, that collective ‘we’ will be left to pick up the twisted pieces. I trust in our ability to do that – but it would be easier if we coul agree on our common enemy.
The Best Analysis To Date – Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Trump’s assurance that we’ll work together with Russia in a joint effort to combat cyber threats is disgusting. This ‘initiative’ now takes the lead in a list of Trump assaults against us. Yes, worse than health care. Yes, even worse than his initiative to institutionalize and nationalize vote suppression under a false flag of election integrity.
Yes, to Lindsey Graham. While I disagree with Graham on most issues, and if the house were on fire I wouldn’t trust him to have my back, he was right with his denouncement of Trump’s performance with Putin on Meet The Press. His is the strongest voice of denouncement I’ve heard to date.
The interview is only 8 minutes and worth the time; the final two minutes focuses mostly on Graham’s criticism of Tillerson’s statements about a US-Russian Syrian settlement and the lack of State Department leadership. As a bonus, the final 15-20 seconds has Graham’s thoughts on the Senate health care proposal.
Talking Points Memo had a pithy assessment of Graham’s comments with an appropriately titled commentary: Another Rat Off The Sinking Ship: Lindsey Graham Says Donald Trump Is “Betraying Democracy”
Graham: “It’s Not The Dumbest Idea I’ve Ever Heard, But It’s Pretty Close”
That was Graham’s opening remark when asked about Trump’s joint Russian cyber security initiative. Graham saw Trump’s Putin meeting as the disaster it was. After a two-hour meeting, Graham notes, Trump and Tillerson are willing to “forgive and forget”, which feeds the growing distrust of Trump.
“Putin is a bad guy and he tried to undermine our democracy,” Graham states. “I want a clear message to Russia that you’ll pay a price for undercutting democracy.”
Then Graham stuck the knife in Trump’s back and gave it a good twist: “If President Trump doesn’t embrace this I think he will be empowering the Russians and betraying democracy. …Mr. President, you are hurting your ability to govern this nation.”
Graham stresses that the Russians need to pay a price and if Trump doesn’t agree he is undermining our democracy. He pointed to the Senate passage of added Russian sanctions that passed 97-2 but is stalled in the House of Representatives, reflecting Trump White House push-back to holding Russia to account.
Kumbaya: Trump Backs Putin’s ‘Vehement Denial’
Trump offers a series of Tweet’s as his official take on his time with Putin – it’s a simple read made up of a list of denials, accusations of blame for things he denies and a fantastically simple view of how we move forward in harmony with the likes of Vladimir Putin: “forgive and forget”.
There are many articles about Trump’s personality and disorders. There are stories about signs of mental impairment and his wandering off as justification for impeachment and invoking the 25th amendment. I was thinking of all this as I perused the news this morning.
If Trump was still just a TV personality, that former life he misses, we’d be reading news stories about his failing mental health and people would be saying, “too bad, poor guy”. He’d have a new TV show – cribs of strong-man dictators around the world. Ivanka would of course be in every episode in some kind of weird Martha Stewart-for-despots way – each show would have an Ivanka-view commentary, like ‘Human Trafficking And Maternity Leave, How To Strike A Balance’. Playful Donnie Jr. and Eric would have a wild game segment while Steve Bannon edited their comments so they never (quite) crossed the line and ‘specifically’ condoned hunting ‘less-than-human liberals’.
Alas – Trump is in the White House.
SUNDAY BREAKING NEWS: First Trumpster Meeting With Russia And It’s Donnie Jr. – Collusion? Quid Pro Quo?
Sunday afternoon the New York Times broke a huge story claiming President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.
The meeting was also attended by his campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kushner only recently disclosed the meeting, though not its content, in confidential government documents described to The New York Times.
The meeting — at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, two weeks after — points to the central question in federal investigations of the Kremlin’s meddling in the presidential election: whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. The accounts of the meeting represent the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help.
Donald Jr. agreed to a meeting in return for damaging information about Clinton.
The Saturday version of this article by the NY Times acknowledged the meeting but the connection to seeking Clinton information is one of the key upates. The Saturday version was about US adoption of Russian children blocked by Putin in retaliation of the US enacting the Magnitsky Act.
Junior Offered Up New Information Once He Learned The NY Times Was About To Disclose The Report Of A Clinton Information Deal.
The Magnitsky Act is a story of how Russian business/mafia/government/media/ secret police are all one and the same. The Act was effectively Obama sanctions in retaliation for a Russian human rights violation. The story behind the act reads like a Le Carre novel.
Supposedly it was quickly clear in the meeting that there was no information forthcoming and the conversation changed to the Magnitsky Act. Damning? Starting with Putin’s attitude, “an infuriated Mr. Putin has called the law an outrageous act”. Nomination in hand, a Kremlin-connected lawyer visits Trump Tower to offer damaging Clinton evidence.
Trump Sr. and Kushner have issued statements distancing themselves from the meeting – Trump did not know, Kushner was only present for ten minutes – that ten minutes might have been long enough, the NY Times points out:
“It is unclear whether the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, actually produced the promised compromising information about Mrs. Clinton. But the people interviewed by The Times about the meeting said the expectation was that she would do so.”
Never a dull moment in Trumplandia.
The Washington Post reported (7/8) Russian government hackers were behind recent cyber-intrusions into the business systems of U.S. nuclear power and other energy companies in what appears to be an effort to assess their networks, according to U.S. government officials.
This happened while Trump was in Europe complaining about John Podesta at the G20, do you think he brought this up in his “forgive and forget” meeting with Putin?
Trump has not blamed Obama, Clinton or John Podesta for this … yet.
“Months If Not Years”
A useful and somewhat encouraging reminder from National Public Radio (story and 4-minute audio).
NPR reports Special Counsel Robert Mueller is building an impressive investigative team. Unlike some in the White House – one person in particular – it is not Mueller’s nature to take his message to social media. He is known to be thorough and has a reputation for results. Don’t expect any headlines from him in the near future. He will take “months, if not years” to get there.
Round-Up Of Media Coverage Of Trump-Putin – Before, During, After
Here are a few short links tracing the whole nasty arc of the Trump-Putin meeting:
- Trump Misleads on Russian Meddling: Why 17 Intelligence Agencies Don’t Need to Agree – Trump showed his hand in advance of his meeting with Putin. If we were to buy his “forgive and forget” he had to make sure to undermine US credibility and specifically the credibility of US intelligence services.
- Before The Meeting Trump Tweets – In a surreal event, Trump tweets criticism of John Podesta’s (Clinton’s campaign manager) refusal to turn over “his” Democratic National Committee server to the FBI to enable their investigation of Russian hacking. Podesta snapped back by calling Trump a “whack job”, which, given the circumstance, seems restrained. Yes, Podesta was hacked, but he did not work for the DNC, there was no server for him to turn over to anyone. But Trump’s tweet the morning of the Putin meeting is certainly sufficient for FOX News and fits the pattern. First we had undermining credibility of his accusers, now we have lies and deflection.
- White House Aides Out Trump – Trump’s own White House assures us of Trump’s lies and distortions – and no, the G20 meeting is not all abuzz about Podesta emails.
Funny Guys: Putin Joins Lavrov And Kislyak With Russian Humor – “These are the ones who insulted you?” Putin said to Trump as he points to (US) reporters. This in the meet-and-greet sessions between G20 heads of state and prior to the Trump-Putin meeting.
And there were no US media to record the Trump-Putin meeting, once again, that was only Russian state media.
Another Putin joke delivered to Russian media following the meeting and prior to US statements:
Putin: We didn’t meddle, ask Trump.
Corresondent: But White House hasn’t released any info.
Putin (smiling): We’ll talk to the White House and tell them to fix that.
Reminds me of Lavrov, at the White House, joking to US media about Trump firing Comey – funny guys. Who knows, maybe Putin did tell the White House to “fix that”.
Trump, Tillerson, White House Let Russia Define The Post-Meeting Message
US media was criticial as first reports of the Trump-Putin meeting were released.
It is important to note – first comments about the meeting came from Russians. Sec. of State Rex Tillerson and the White House chose to let the Russians speak first and the White House merely operated as a counter-punch effort should any US report not agree with the party line of “forgive and forget”.
Associated Press tweets following meeting:
BREAKING: Russian foreign minister says Trump accepted Putin’s assurances that Russia didn’t meddle in the U.S. election.
Lavrov recounted for reporters that Trump told Putin he had not heard “a single fact” on Russia meddling. Signaling he doesn’t believe it. Lavrov reports that Moscow and the US will set up joint working group on cybersecurity.
And these tweets for a bit of color for how comments unfolded: Jim Acosta is the Senior White House correspondent for CNN; Michael McFaul is the former Obama US ambassador to Russia; David Corn is the chief of the Washington bureau for Mother Jones.
Michael McFaul corrects an assertion made by Jim Acosta and ultimately Tillerson stood by the story of Trump asking, Putin denying and let’s all move forward with “forgive and forget”. There are many examples of this ‘initial’ confusion as the White House rushed to defend and got wrong-footed on message after allowing Russia the opportunity to ‘go first’.
Senior admin official tells me POTUS did not accept Putin claim of non-interference in last year’s election.
Michael McFaul Retweeted Jim Acosta
Lavrov went on record to say opposite. Time for SAO to go on record, preferably someone in the room (i.e. Tillerson or Trump).
Putin: In new cyber group, we will share how we each stop cyber attacks.
Trump: Sounds good.
Putin: You are great dealer.
Trump: I know
An early summary put forward by Reuters:
“The two leaders agreed that this is a substantial hindrance in the ability of us to move the Russian-U.S. relationship forward,” Tillerson told reporters.
They agreed to work on commitments of “non-interference in the affairs of the United States and our democratic process as well as those in other countries”, he added.
Trump-Putin Message Gets Muddled Before Settling On “Forgive And Forget”
You might find it interesting to see the battle for “Trump Won .. No, No … Putin Won” as waged on the heels of the meeting. For “forgive and forget” it’s important for home audiences that both ‘won’.
But with the benefit of a longer time for analysis, this is largely where most US media is settling out.
If Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, is to be believed, Mr. Trump accepted Mr. Putin’s assurances that he isn’t to blame for the digital attack on our elections. And while the White House denied Mr. Lavrov’s version, doubts about the depth of Mr. Trump’s understanding are likely to linger, not least because of Mr. Tillerson’s own description of events. He said Mr. Trump considered the hacking episode to be “simply an intractable disagreement at this point,” thus effectively assigning equal weight to the Russian and American views on the matter.
Like a beached whale, Trump struggles on: Russians didn’t hack, Putin is telling the truth, US intelligence is wrong, it didn’t happen, Obama is to blame, it could have been anyone.
THIS is Trump’s flaw – in his career he could make stuff up, bully, threaten, create a new news event – but this is an analysis that is NOT going away, he can’t deflect enough without hurting himself by trying – thank goodness.
It is his flaw that is his undoing and his flaw that makes him an easy mark for Putin – he is only capable of seeing the world through his view of how he looks and his need to be seen as ‘winning’. And Yes, we are tired of all the ‘winning’.
As the news of the day settled, this is where I landed: Great theater, well executed and meaningless – only time and actions will tell.
I admit, I fell for it: the Trump-Putin first-meeting hype. For days, reporters and pundits, myself included, have insisted that President Donald Trump had to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin about the finding by 17 US intelligence agencies that Putin “directed” a hacking assault on the Democratic Party intended to help Trump and damage Hillary Clinton. The confrontation at the G-20 summit was set up as a test of each leader’s manhood.
Of course, by the accounts of their courtiers, both emerged the bigger man. US diplomats claim Trump confronted Putin about Russian election meddling; their Russian counterparts admit it came up but claim both men agreed there’s no evidence it happened.
So, predictably, the meeting delivered nothing of substance. Trump lowered the stakes for it himself with a ridiculous tweet about the Russia hacking charges just hours before his first encounter with Putin (the Trump Podesta tweets).