By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (8/31/17)
Dear Fellow Readers,
If you were going to write a spy thriller, what would be a good setting, how might you create tension, what are the ‘tricks of the trade’ for such a book? Let’s start with plausibility, you can stretch a reader’s imagination, but not launch so far past credulity that readers won’t bite. Trump-Russia: Putin and Russia stealing the U.S. election, that might be a bridge too far? Then again, The Manchurian Candidate didn’t lose us. A few years ago we might have viewed The Americans (FX Networks) as an entertaining stretch, now we may feel it lacks imagination.
Let’s ask an expert – how about thriller spy master John le Carre. How would he see Trump-Russia? It just so happens he’s weighed in on the pages of Vanity Fair…
John le Carré Weighs In On Trump-Russia Relationship is an entertaining and thought-provoking interview by Sarah Lyall of the NY Times with John le Carre and author Ben MacIntyre:
“Donald Trump’s seven-month presidency has featured enough breakneck plot twists to make it feel as though the country is living a John le Carré spy novel on steroids. compiled by a former spy! Suggestions of ! Possible and ! Enough to make The Godfather feel a little light on drama! If it is any solace, John le Carré, the former spy-turned-best-selling author agrees that the current political saga is on par with “the most exotic conspiracies during the Cold War.” And in a new interview, le Carré and Ben Macintyre, another espionage author, weigh in on the alleged ties between Trump and Vladimir Putin.”
In my last column I provided new material about the Trump dossier, that included a key statement from the interview regarding whether or not the Russians have compromising intelligence – kompromat – on Trump:
“I can tell you what the veterans of the S.I.S. [the British Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6] think, which is yes, kompromat was done on him,” Macintyre says, noting that it is standard procedure. “So they end up, the theory goes, with this compromising bit of material and then they begin to release parts of it. They set up an ex-MI6 guy, Chris Steele, who is a patsy, effectively, and they feed him some stuff that’s true, and some stuff that isn’t true, and some stuff that is demonstrably wrong.”
And given the mix of truth, lies and otherwise employed by Trump and crew:
“Which means that Trump can then stand up and deny it, while knowing that the essence of it is true,” explains Macintyre. “And then he has a stone in his shoe for the rest of his administration. It’s important to remember that Putin is a K.G.B.-trained officer, and he thinks in the traditional K.G.B. way.”
As reported in the last column, Glenn Simpson, co-founder of Fusion GPS testified for ten hours (ten hours!) before the Senate Judiciary committee and turned over 40,000 documents. Simpson employed Christopher Steele and the result is referred to as the Steele dossier – or in more salacious terms – the ‘pee pee tape’.
We, the public, may get to read the testimony. It’s not a slam-dunk but it’s close. The segment is short, the discussion between Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell is informative and entertaining.
Should Trump be worried? Is there any way Trump can keep the testimony from being made public? Would he try? Just another curious Trump-Russia moment – today (8/30) The Guardian reports that Trump promised Senate Judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley “critical federal support for the biofuel ethanol”. Just another Trump-Russia coincidence? Trump’s call was only a day after media reports that Donald Trump Jr. has reached an agreement to appear before the committee in a closed session.
I guess threatening Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) about her pending vote on healthcare didn’t work, so maybe this time try the carrot instead of the stick. Trump’s Queen’s business habits don’t seem to work so well in Washington DC … Trump Makes Policy Pledge To Senator Investigating Son’s Russia Meeting
If threatening and ingratiating don’t work, how about some run-of-the-mill, flat-out lying?
Mother Jones reporter David Corn reports Here Are Trump’s 3 Biggest Lies About the Russia Scandal, including fabrications about collusion with Russia, Russian hacking of the election and “no business ties with Russia”.
“Since the eruption of the Russia scandal, Donald Trump and his allies have consistently lied and deceived regarding assorted aspects of the controversy. Recent news stories revealing that Trump pursued a tower project in Moscow while running for president—despite his repeated insistence that he has no business dealing in Russia—are a reminder of how brazen these untruths have been. Overall, Trump has amassed a of prevarication. But he and his gang have outdone themselves when lying about the Russia investigation. So much so that one can well wonder, with full suspicion, why Trump and his crew have resorted to such huge lies.”
Corn saves Trump’s business ties with Russia until the last of three threads of deceit. Corn highlights a Trump tweet from January, 2017 declaring:
“I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”
The BIGLY news this cycle: these claims are lies.
“While Donald Trump was running for president in late 2015 and early 2016, his company was pursuing a plan to develop a massive Trump Tower in Moscow, according to several people familiar with the proposal and new records reviewed by Trump Organization lawyers.
“As part of the discussions, a Russian-born real estate developer urged Trump to come to Moscow to tout the proposal and suggested that he could get President Vladimir Putin to say “great things” about Trump, according to several people who have been briefed on his correspondence.”
The last edition of Russia Monitor highlighted various email exchanges within the Trump campaign about reaching out to Vladimir Putin. We blew WAY past that in only a few days with new disclosures of communications between Trump business partner Felix Sater (Bayrock; Trump Tower SoHo) and long-time associate and personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
There has been, and will continue to be, much more about this story including Trump’s Russian partner, a signed letter of intent by Trump that blows up any disavowals, acknowledgement of the intended use of a U.S. sanctioned Russian bank and even details about Sater’s relationship with the Trump family. As a reminder, there is this Trump statement from 2013:
“Still, when asked about Sater in 2013 court deposition, Trump said: “If he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.” He added that he had spoken with Sater “not many” times.”
Have we learned to question anything and everything Trump says? If you can still answer ‘No’, consider this cute tale:
That ‘associate’ is none other than Felix Sater. Still have doubts? Consider this from Ivanka when asked:
“Ms Trump told the New York Times it is “possible” she sat in the Russian President’s chair, though she said she did not recall it. She added that she had never met Mr Putin, and had no involvement in the Moscow tower discussions other than to recommend possible architects.”
If I sat in Putin’s chair, I would remember; if I didn’t sit in Putin’s chair I wouldn’t be confused. Ivanka’s charm is wearing thin with her needless disclaimers. It’s like saying, “I sat in his chair, but he wasn’t in his chair at the time and I had no other relations with that man.”
I choose to underpin a major disclosure with something as inane as Putin’s chair because it reveals a long, deep and intimate relationship between Sater, Trump and Trump’s family. The ‘event’ took place on a trip where Sater took Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric to Moscow. Because the tale highlights how Trump’s instincts are to lie and deny. It was Trump’s decision to have Donald Jr. withhold information about his communication and subsequent meeting with Russians in Trump Tower. This only backfired making the subsequent New York Times disclosures more newsworthy.
Because Trump’s lies and disclaimers about “NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA” will be his undoing.
While not central to the main thread of Trump-Russia it is amazing to see all the dimensions – Nigel Farage, Julian Assange and Rep. Dana Rohrabaher (R-CA) are one persistent thread. This also adds color to Edward Snowden’s criticisms of Julian Assange. But more recently, Rohrabacher went to London to meet with Assange (There recently was a picture circulating of Rohrabacher and a white supremacist outside the Ecuadorean embassy in advance of their meeting with Assange). Somehow Rohrabacher is trying to ‘explain’ Assange, Wikileaks and Trump. How does that fit with his responsibilities as a representative for the state of California?
Adam Taylor of The Washington Post interviews Russian journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan:
Q: What do you think is the strongest public evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin was involved in attempts to disrupt the U.S. election himself?
A: The Kremlin has been for years using outsourcing and contractors as the tactics to lower the costs for sensitive operations abroad; that’s why it was so tricky to prove Putin himself was involved. The most telling part for us, as the people who saw the crisis unfolded from inside of Russia, is what happened in the fall and winter 2016.
While publicly Putin has always denied Russian government involvement, all the top-level Russian gatekeepers between the Russian cyber agencies and the West were either sent to jail or quietly dismissed, for the obvious reason to prevent them from leaking.
Their comments on WikiLeaks and Assange:
Q: Could you describe some of what you uncovered about WikiLeaks’ alleged links to the Russian government?
A: It is a very sad story for us personally, as we believed back in 2010 in the mission of WikiLeaks — we’ve been writing about the Russian secret services since 2000, and we run our website Agentura.ru as a security services watchdog, thus transparency and holding power in check are important words for us. We also have friends who are investigative journalists who cooperated with WikiLeaks in the past.
The most horrible thing we found out that in the spring and summer of 2016 WikiLeaks suddenly compromised the very principles [founder Julian] Assange proclaimed, and didn’t stop from attacking the very journalists the group had been working with. And he knew full well the danger these journalists faced exposing the offshore schemes of Putin’s personal friends. For us, it’s a story of betrayal, both principles and people.
There is not the space here but there is a good deal of news in support of the authors’ comments. There are new details about the arrests of top Russian officers responsible for cyber espionage. There is new news about arrests of Russian hackers and cooperation with investigations.
And, is as often true, more Russians died.
On a final note, something different and maybe encouraging..
Slate author Joshua Keating does an excellent job of summarizing the bombshell reports from The Washington Post and The New York Times reporting on Trump’s attempts at Trump Tower Moscow while campaigning for president:
“The Post by reporting that Trump’s company was still pursuing its long-held goal of building a Trump Tower in Moscow, even as Trump was running for president in late 2015 and early 2016. The Times by printing excerpts of emails from Trump-associated real estate developer Felix Sater to Trump’s attorney and Trump Organization Vice President Michael Cohen in which he boasted of his ties to Vladimir Putin and suggested he could get the Russian leader to publicly support the deal. Sater suggested this would boost Trump’s chances of getting elected, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The Post , reporting that Cohen had actually emailed Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov—at Sater’s urging—in January 2016 asking for help in getting the development approved. This reporting is mostly based on documents the Trump Organization recently provided to Congress.”
Keating uses this ‘news’ to update his “impeach-o-meter” offering this:
The impeach-o-meter holds steady: