By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (9/13/17)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Irma is headed to the west coast of Florida and not Miami, my prayers go out to everyone in the Keys and on the west coast. Miami may have dodged another bullet or at least a direct hit. Today (Sunday) is the big day for South Florida so we’ll see.
There have always been multiple threads to Trump-Russia. Donnie Jr. and Facebook bring more validation to the main three:
- Trump-Russia collusion;
- Trump obstruction of justice; and
- Trump-Russian manipulation of the election.
On Thursday Donnie Jr. sat for five hours in a closed session with the Senate Judiciary investigators. While we don’t know what he shared, we do have his prepared statement provided in advance. And we do know he’s opened the door to the consideration of several more current and former White House associates as part of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.
To date I have shared news, tried to help make connections, but also to limit my own commentary or predictions. I’ll break that rule: Donnie Jr.’s remarks are just another version in the chain of versions he’s provided to date. But it’s one thing for him to lie to us by way of Fox News and Sean Hannity’s show, while he was not under oath; it is illegal to lie to Congress. And he is lying.
I’ll go a step further – I think his well considered approach is a deliberate effort to try to hold a line in the sand by stopping just short of admitting Trump collusion. His prior efforts to hold a line have not worked and nor will this one.
Donnie Jr. has also drawn Trump Sr. further into the muck of obstruction of justice. By changing his story again and abandoning the version edited between Donnie Jr. and Trump he’s opened Trump and staff to further questioning, doubt and investigation.
And Mark Zuckerberg and his revelations about Facebook selling ads to Russian trolls is a similar effort to hold a line and it also will not work. Does Zuckerberg really think he’s not going to be ‘found out’? Facebook is going to end up looking worse by eventually providing new information that shows they sold far more than $100,000 worth of advertising and knew their direct consultation with the Trump campaign for targeting was part of the same effort to influence the election.
First, Donnie Jr. and his calculated statement.
However Donnie Jr. might be trying to limit the damage, and he is trying, this is a damning first paragraph:
“In his private interview today with Senate Judiciary Committee investigators, President Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., made a prepared statement in which he stated definitively that he took the now-infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with the intent to receive information that was purportedly being provided by the Russian Government. His subsequent caveats and clarifications notwithstanding, this admission – made subject to the felony criminal provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 1001 regarding making knowing and willful material false statements to Congress – remains the most concrete public evidence of a senior Trump campaign official affirmatively seeking to coordinate with the Russian Government in order to defeat Hillary Clinton in last year’s election.”
The article goes on to say Donnie Jr.’s actions, as now represented, breaks no laws. But,…
“Now, due to Donald Trump Jr.’s amateurish handling of “opposition research” during the campaign and the apparent efforts by some to conceal the details of those actions, Mr. Mueller has a new angle of criminal inquiry to pursue. Yet again, this inquiry can in theory reach all the way to the president himself.”
There you go!
CNN gets credit for being first to disclose Mueller’s intent to draw more White House staff into the investigation: Exclusive: Mueller Seeks Interviews With White House Staff Over Trump Tower Meeting Statement
There is more to this latest version – it has long been speculated that Donnie Jr. had previously undisclosed phone calls directly related to the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with the Russians. It turns out, that in preparing for his committee appearance he did find records showing he had three phone calls with Emin Agalarov, son of the Russian oligarch who partnered with Trump for the Miss Universe pageant, and whose agent is Rob Goldstone who made the initial contact with Donnie Jr. by email promising “dirt” on Hillary.
“On Thursday, Trump Jr. presented testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the meeting and what led up to it. In his , he mentioned phone calls with Agalarov.
““My phone records show three very short phone calls between Emin and me between June 6th and 7th,” he said. “I do not recall speaking to Emin. It is possible that we left each other voice mail messages. I simply do not remember.””
And this matters because of Donnie Jr.’s lack of disclosure to date:
“We know that Trump Jr. has proven to be in offering a full explanation of the events surrounding that meeting until it has become unavoidable for him to do so. We know that perhaps the only record of the phone calls with Agalarov that might exist are records of the calls’ duration, which Trump Jr. has now included in his statement before those records are subpoenaed. We know that Trump Jr. only agreed to the meeting after those calls occurred.”
And one last ‘new’ line of disclosure, it wasn’t about ‘dirt’, Donnie Jr. thought he could gain information about Hillary’s fitness and qualifications as a presidential candidate.
Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, was also ‘uninterested’ but that may have changed after the FBI raid of his home. Mueller will find a way to help Donnie Jr. get more interested.
Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer are two of the former White House staff that will be added to the investigation. Should Trump expect loyalty from Rence and Sean?
Reince and Sean worked as hard as anyone to sell the con and they can thank Donnie Jr. for dragging them into the limelight.
Over at Mother Jones curious reporters ask Is Donald Trump Jr. Trying To Con Congress On The Russia Scandal?
““To the extent [the Russians] had information concerning the fitness, character or qualifications of a presidential candidate, I believed that I should at least hear them out,” Trump Jr. said in his statement. But he was already thinking about the ideal time to release the damaging information.”
Aside from whether we are hearing anything closer to the truth about the meeting from Donnie Jr. there is a serious question of judgment. As tweeted by Richard Painter (the chief White House ethics lawyer for President George Bush):
“Go to a Russian lawyer for a “fitness” assessment of an opponent? That’s the best euphemism yet for “collaboration””
One final comment. I find it interesting to note, of the Senate Judiciary Committee, seven Democrat Senators sat through all five hours of testimony and Sen. Franken attended for a few minutes. By comparison, one Republican Senator, Sen. Hatch (R-UT), attended for about five minutes. Rachel Maddow shares these observations and does an excellent job of sharing the news and perspective with this event.
Turning our attention to Facebook, there is a parallel to Donnie Jr. in that I believe we will learn MUCH more about both. Who better than Rachel Maddow to explain (and thanks to a reader for the link): Maddow’s Breakdown On Facebook Revelations And Their Ramifications For Jared Kushner Are A Must-See
“After months and months or (of) claiming either ignorance or flat-out denying any internal evidence of Russian hanky-panky going on during the election on social networking giant Facebook, Facebook finally admitted on Wednesday that a Russian troll farm bought at least Rachel Maddow went on air just hours after that revelation hit the front pages of numerous media outlets and her breakdown of exactly what the ramifications of this admission mean is excellent. First, Maddow gives the history of what we now understand the intelligence community understands about Russia’s online activities surrounding our elections, that date back to May of last year.”
And just like Donnie Jr., Facebook has been saying “this never happened”. And yet! Pay attention to the video because you’ll see a similar denial from Brad Parscale – I have brought him up before. The Trump campaign spent at least $100,000,000 on Parscale’s social media services and Facebook had staff in Parscale’s office to ‘help’.
MUCH MORE TO FOLLOW – Facebook, Parscale, Kushner, Mercers, Cambridge Analytica and there will be more links in addition to the news. And I would be remiss to NOT say this: a major Facebook investor is Russian. I say this with a bit of reluctance because it may not be relevant – but every person and company linked to Trump-Russia has to have a significant Russian connection – and Facebook does.
I highly recommend the video at the end of the DailyKos article or here as well: Maddow: Jared Kushner May Have Helped Russian Operatives With Targeted Political Ads On Facebook
And the most clever assertion by Maddow:
“Because now, there’s really no more disagreement about what happened here. The only question is whether there were American confederates involved, and now it’s a very investigatable thing,” Maddow noted. “You can’t spend foreign money to influence U.S. elections, even just on Facebook ads.”
For Senator Mark Warner’s (D-VA; co-chair Senate Intelligence Committee) raises a big possibility: Facebook’s Russia Ads Could Be ‘Tip Of The Iceberg,’ Warns Senate Intel Dem
“And you know, the first reaction from Facebook, of course, was, “Well, you’re crazy, nothing’s going on,'” Warner said at a national security conference in Washington, D.C.
“Well, we find yesterday there actually was something going on. And I think all we saw yesterday in terms of their brief was the tip of the iceberg.”
Yep, tip of the iceberg.
Over at Slate we find that Russian Operatives Bought U.S. Political Ads on Facebook. Here’s Why That’s a Big Deal.
Slate offers their view for why the Facebook Russian ads matter:
“First, it confirms that Facebook was one of the pathways by which Russian operatives sought to influence the U.S. election.
“Second, it raises the question of how those Russian operatives knew which U.S. voters to target, and whether the Trump campaign might have played any role.
“Third, it casts a new light on Facebook’s “fake news” problem, which looks more sinister if some of the misinformation spread on the platform in the runup to the U.S. election was fueled by Russian-funded ad dollars or troll networks.
“Fourth, it suggests that Facebook may have a more widespread oversight problem in its ad sales. As the Post’s story notes, it’s illegal for foreign nationals or governments to buy ads or spend money aimed at influencing a U.S. election. It now seems clear they’ve been using Facebook to do just that.
“Finally, while $100,000 amounts to a minuscule fraction of U.S. election spending, it could go a long way in amplifying posts among a targeted audience. Facebook said only about 25 percent of the ads were geographically targeted. But it’s worth remembering that the company has a history of when it comes to the scale and mechanisms of misinformation on its platform. It’s possible that the activities the company has uncovered and disclosed so far represent only a small part of a larger problem.”
Not Being Forthcoming – there it is again, the parallel – Facebook, Donnie Jr. and so much else related to Trump-Russia.
I add this for breadth; Facebook is only one part of the Trump-Russia influence on the election through social media.
Soon Twitter will be getting as much attention as Facebook. We’ll be learning about the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia (professional trolls) operated by someone with close ties to Putin and Russian intelligence with a past focus on Ukraine elections. Does Paul Manafort come to mind, the tried and tested playbook for how to influence elections?
Are there consequences? Does all ‘this’ add up to anything?
Keith Olbermann certainly believes Trump is more than exposed with obstruction charges. He even manages to corral Pence, Priebus, Kushner et al. Certainly ALL are now witnesses for further investigation:
This will take a VERY long time. Mueller will be thorough and he’s being presented with a LOT to dig into.