By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (8/29/17)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Our prayers for the people of Houston and east Texas, the flooding is horrific. It was only two weeks ago we were saddened by the death of Heather Heyer and the violence in Charlottesville. Each news cycle feels like an assault.
Trump-Russia was more in the news this week. The two main threads were the reports on Trump’s ongoing efforts to ‘call off the dogs’ of investigation into his Russia ties and the Trump Dossier is back in the news.
Before I jump in, if you are reading this column congratulations as you are part of the 73% of Americans that a recent Gallup poll showed following Trump-Russia, compared to an average result of 60% for 200 different stories polled by Gallup since 1991.
7 Times Trump Tried To Call Off The Dogs On Russia – The Washington Post references this article by Politico: Trump Clashed With Multiple GOP Senators Over Russia. Trump is regularly attacking Republicans – Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and others. But the two articles relate a pattern of Trump’s appeals to each of these Senators to steer clear of or back off their respective Russia-related activities. In a nutshell:
- Trump phoned Sen. Tillis (R-NC) after Tillis proposed a “Mueller bill” to tie Trump’s hands re: any considered firing of Special Counsel Mueller.
- Trump expressed frustration with Sen. Corker’s (R-TN) bipartisan bill to impose additional sanctions on Russia.
- Trump called Sen. McConnell (R-KY), Senate Majority leader, to complain about not having his back with the Russia probe and demanding McConnell do more to protect him.
- Trump sought former FBI Director Comey’s loyalty prior to his firing Comey.
- Trump asked Comey to take it easy on former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
- Trump asked Comey to publicly state that Trump was not under investigation.
- Trump called both Daniel Coats, Director of National Intelligence, and Michael Rogers, National Security Agency Director, to push back against the FBI investigation and publicly deny the existence of Trump-Russia collusion.
For added color, The New York Times reports these exchanges can often be heated. McConnell has gone so far as to privately express doubt about the veracity of Trump’s administration:
“What was once an uneasy governing alliance has curdled into a feud of mutual resentment and sometimes outright hostility, complicated by the position of Mr. McConnell’s wife, Elaine L. Chao, in Mr. Trump’s cabinet, according to more than a dozen people briefed on their imperiled partnership. Angry phone calls and private badmouthing have devolved into open conflict, with the president threatening to oppose Republican senators who cross him, and Mr. McConnell mobilizing to their defense.”
The second thread is about the Trump-Russia dossier (aka Steele Dossier, also known as the ‘pee tape’, or ‘pee pee tape’). There has been a persistent low level of ‘noise’ about the dossier over the last several weeks. Most of the renewed attention came from Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The dossier is a 35-page document principally authored by British ex-MI6 agent Christopher Steele who was originally hired by a group of GOP operatives with an anyone-but-Trump mission. The dossier was made public by BuzzFeed in January 2017. Comments about the dossier often reference the salacious reports of Trump in a hotel room in Moscow with prostitutes with the purported videotape referenced as the ‘pee tape’.
Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson employed Steele and both the founder and company have garnered Grassley’s attention with various opinions put forward (statements and letters) attempting to link Fusion to Russia as well as reports of subpoenas seemingly in an attempt to undermine the credibility of Fusion and Simpson.
We may now know far more about the dossier, Glenn Simpson did testify for ten hours before the Senate Judiciary Committee. AND Simpson has turned over 40,000 documents.
Simpson’s view can be summarized as: “we stand by our work, check it out”. See Rachel Maddow 8/23/17 “Trump Dossier Testimony From Senate Judiciary Could Be Published”. Steele and Simpson have also identified sources. Simpson wants the dossier to be a road map for the ongoing Trump-Russia investigation.
The Palmer Report says Hundreds Of Pages Of New Details On Trump-Russia Dossier And The ‘Pee Pee Tape’ Are On Verge Of Being Released. Rachel Maddow relates the background and reports the same thing: Trump Dossier Testimony From Senate Judiciary Could Be Published..
GREAT: We will now all know more.
Here are a few other items that have also been quietly and persistently bubbling in the news for some weeks.
The first two headlines relate to emails from a Trump campaign aide and adviser named Rick Dearborn attempting to coordinate a pre-election meeting between Trump and Putin: Donald Trump Campaign’s Attempt To Meet With Putin Is Traced Back To Jeff Sessions.
CNN added to the news on Dearborn’s reported outreach efforts: Exclusive: Top Trump Aide’s Email Draws New Scrutiny In Russia Inquiry.
Oh, one last tidbit about Mr. Dearborn’s career path: He is also FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO JEFF SESSIONS.
I didn’t see the news about the released emails as a high priority but over several days and stories Dearborn has been linked to Sessions and was influential in bringing former Trump national security adviser and person-of-interest in Trump-Russia Carter Page into the campaign.
Trump-Russia – Dearborn, Trump, Sessions, Page – more connections for the investigator case wall.
And that is the theme of these added stories – Trump-Russia stories never die; they come back to life with the benefit of added attention and investigation.
GOP operative Peter Smith (as originally reported by the Wall Street Journal) funded and staffed a team effort to find Clinton emails while referring to Mike Flynn as his Trump campaign contact (formerly Trump national security adviser and now a person-of-interest in the investigation). Smith also named Sam Clovis (Trump policy adviser and now senior adviser to Department of Agriculture), Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.
Flynn’s role with Smith is now officially part of Mueller’s Trump-Russia scope.
Where did Paul Manafort come from? Was he on anyone’s list of potential persons to head Trump’s campaign? His political career was based in Ukraine for the previous decade. How is that a compelling qualification?
It turns out yes, the theory that is gaining traction is that Manafort developed the Trump-Russia election ‘playbook’ while running Putin-pal and former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych’s successful campaign. Fake news, micro-targeting – all of the parts and pieces of what became the Trump campaign were there. And on the heals of the FBI raid of Manafort’s house Mueller is now issuing subpoenas to six public relation firms tied to Manafort and former national security adviser Flynn as well.
Buy more push-pins, plenty of yarn and scotch tape – the case wall is filling up.
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )