By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (10/5/17)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Imagine the emotion of being in the line of fire in Las Vegas and then hearing the White House say this is not the time to discuss gun control. Imagine the emotion having been on the street in Charlottesville and then hearing Trump say “many fine people” were among the Nazis. Imagine the emotion of suffering through the recovery after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and hearing Trump accuse you of wanting everything done for you.
The truth is, there are times we operate with absolute certainty because we were there. There is no room for “whataboutism” or debate, doubt or more detail – we know from our direct expereince. That doesn’t happen for us or to us often, though we can have the experience of talking to someone who was there, who does ‘know’.
In the world of the Russian FSB there are no friends, just information. Putin’s FSB is a world of agents (those that have been turned) or objects (those that are being turned) – no friends; just people that talk and others that listen.
I was invited to a recent anti-money laundering conference and was fortunate enough to have the chance to hear Dr. Yuri Felshtinsky speak and had the opportunity to ask him a number of questions. Yuri is a Russian American historian per his Wikipedia page. He has written a number of books but one, “Blowing Up Russia”, was co-authored with Alexander Litvinenko, the FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation) officer killed in London by polonium poisoning – and the focus of his talk. This is the very same case that was ‘solved’ by Christoper Steele, who went on to write the Trump dossier describing Russian ‘kompromat’ that can be used against Trump.
There are no friends in the Russian FSB
Felshtinsky is a polite but blunt speaker who relates his accounts with a great deal of detail. I am tempted to think of him as a nice man but he offered that in the world of the Russian FSB there are no friends, just information. Putin’s FSB is a world of agents (those that have been turned) or objects (those that are being turned) – no friends; just people that talk and others that listen.
(A bit of an aside: Felshtinsky does not see Putin as a dictator – he’s the head of a vast organization, the FSB, that runs the country and all business with a leading management role in every corporation. There is no rule of law, Felshtinsky said, just the FSB; the FSB is the law. And the FSB is more active with more agents in the US than at any other point in history. He also glibly observed that if you are a threat to Russian power, you will be killed – which was at the core of his prepared comments since the focus was on the FSB murder of Litvenenko.)
Mike Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, got a lot of Felshtinsky’s attention. Felshintinsky expressed incredulity that Flynn could be taking so much money from people, including Russians, and still be taken seriously as an adviser to Trump. Felshtinsky said that at the RT dinner that had Flynn as a speaker and seated at the table next to Putin there was a discussion of the US election. It started with someone offering that Trump could not win to which someone in turn said that Russia had spent so much money on Trump that he couldn’t possibly lose.
Felshtinsky talked a good deal about Trump and the Trump family business history in Russia and offered that “who cared”; so what if they were maybe using some questionable business relationships, it just wasn’t that important. He referenced things like the many questionable Trump Sunny Isles sales to Russians, or the sale of a Trump residence in Miami to a Russian that went for more than twice the purchase price after only two years of ownership, no improvements and in a down real estate market. I couldn’t help feeling like, hey, it’s been hard work to find all these connections and here Felshtinsky is just rattling them off rapid fire and with a great accent to boot. His point – no one really cared – until the election.
Felshtinsky also commented on Green Party candidate Jill Stein. His view is that the Russians, and specifically the FSB, gave huge support and money to the Trump campaign. Stein was meant to be the complement to Trump and the attack against Hillary – one from the right, one from the left. He said Stein got no financial help but she was intentionally the apple of RT (Russian English-language television network) election coverage.
Trump’s Campaign And The Russian FSB
According to Felshtinsky, Trump decided to run in 2013 and the day after his decision everyone at the FSB knew and the work began in earnest. I have scrambled making connections or raising questions about someone like Carter Page (former Trump policy adviser; purported double agent), Russians and Trump – but when I imagine the FSB deciding on Trump’s campaign team it all seems so easy – Flynn, Page, Rex Tillerson, Wilbur Ross, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort and on and on. Speaking of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager….
Imagine that all of Felshtinskys comments are true. Of course Paul Manafort would use his new influence as Trump’s campaign manager to reach out and settle old differences and financial debts with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Factually we know this to be true because The Atlantic has copies of the emails: Did Manafort Use Trump to Curry Favor With a Putin Ally?
“The emails were provided to The Atlantic on condition of anonymity. They are part of a trove of documents turned over by lawyers for Trump’s presidential campaign to investigators looking into the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 election. A source close to Manafort confirmed their authenticity. Excerpts from these emails were first by The Washington Post, but the full text of these exchanges, provided to The Atlantic, shows that Manafort attempted to leverage his leadership role in the Trump campaign to curry favor with a Russian oligarch close to Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Manafort was buried deeply in debt, and did not earn a salary from the Trump campaign.”
Imagine that all of Felshtinsky’s comments are true and we now consider the latest news The Washington Post about Michael Cohen, Trump’s long-term friend and lawyer: Trump’s Company Had More Contact With Russia During Campaign, According To Documents Turned Over To Investigators
“Associates of Trump and his company have turned over documents to federal investigators revealing two previously unreported contacts from Russia during the 2016 campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.
“In one case, Trump’s personal attorney and a business associate exchanged emails weeks before the Republican National Convention about the lawyer possibly traveling to an economic conference in Russia that would be attended by top Russian financial and government leaders, including President Vladimir Putin, according to people familiar with the correspondence.
“In the other case, the same Trump attorney, Michael Cohen, received a proposal in late 2015 for a Moscow residential project from a company founded by a billionaire who once served in the upper house of the Russian parliament, these people said. The previously unreported inquiry marks the second proposal for a Trump-branded Moscow project that was delivered to the company during the presidential campaign.”
No surprise here, right? So many ties to Russia and so many problems with disclosure – Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions III, Donnie Jr., Jared Kushner…
As bad as the private email scandal is in Trumpland it is worse that previously reported: Hundreds Of White House Emails Sent To Third Kushner Family Account
At this point if Kushner discloses anything it’s pretty much a slam-dunk that he ‘forgot’ something and will later scurry to amend, correct or clarify something.
“White House officials have begun examining emails associated with a third and previously unreported email account on Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump’s private domain, according to three people familiar with the matter.
“Hundreds of emails have been sent since January from White House addresses to accounts on the private Kushner family domain. Many of those emails went not to Kushner’s or Ivanka Trump’s personal addresses but to an account they both had access to and shared with their personal household staff for family scheduling.”
So the nanny now knows details of White House business?
It must be exasperating to have to be legal counsel or spokesperson for the White House and Trump team. Speaking of which….
The Daily Kos posted Tuesday that Joke’s Ove: Sean Spicer Hires Defense Attorney With A Particularly Interesting Set Of Skills
Whatever the reasons for trying to humanize Sean Spicer, the gig is up:
“The president’s former press secretary has tapped Chris Mead, a high-powered criminal defense attorney based, to handle issues related to the special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, The Daily Beast has learned.
“According to his at the firm London & Mead, Mead specializes in white collar criminal defense and Congressional investigations, as well as issues related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act––a law that bars Americans from bribing foreign government officials. His law firm bio also boasts that he gained “extensive experience in money laundering” prosecutions when he was a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland.”
It looks like Spicer has made a wise choice and is preparing for a lengthy process with Special Prosecutor Mueller’s attention.
Let’s wrap up with a few moments of encouragement…
Could Felshtinsky be right about Trump and Russia? Will Trump finally be held accountable?
Over at The Hill columnist Juan Williams concludes that Trump’s Smokescreen On Russia Won’t Work…
“It was one year ago this week when the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the Department of Homeland Security issued a rare public statement.
“That statement expressed confidence “that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations…to interfere with the U.S. election process.”
“That finding was followed up by a more detailed analysis from the DNI, the FBI, the CIA and the NSA.
““Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments,” their January 6, 2017 report stated.
“Yes, Mr. President: Russia did help you. Mueller doesn’t seem to care if you label his investigation a “hoax.” And he has yet to be intimidated by your press secretary’s continued attacks on former FBI head James Comey.
“The walls are closing in with the Mueller investigation.
“The looming question is when will Congressional Republicans begin to distance themselves from Trump?
“Will they believe the evidence in front of them or the fake news on their Facebook page?”
With a bulletin board and lots and lots of yarn, Bill Maher Goes Full ‘CSI’ To Connect The Dots Between Donald Trump And Russia. With his trademark humor and edge Maher’s summary of Trumpland in Russia is funny, raw … and informative.
For a little Frank Capra “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” vibe the Guardian has an interesting story on how British Courts May Unlock Secrets Of How Trump Campaign Profiled US Voters . It’s a guy-like-us takes on the evil empire and gets an unexpected victory. Has David Carroll found an angle to uncover the Trump campaign data story, the Cambridge Analytica, Robert Mercer, Brad Parscale, Jared Kushner secret sauce?
“It really is a David and Goliath fight and I think it will be the model for other citizens’ actions against other big corporations. I think we will look back and see it as a really significant case in terms of the future of algorithmic accountability and data protection. These issues are so critical and in the US there are only these incredible, lethargic data laws largely because of the incredible power of the lobbying industry.”
Let’s hope so. It’s time to get a win – for us.
At this point we are so far, far beyond Trump-Russia communication. We are so far past Trump-Russia collusion. The entire picture is becoming clear. The unanswered question – the question we can’t answer yet – what will become of all this?
Don’t take my word for it.
On Wednesday, Jennifer Rubin over at The Washington Post detailed how the Trump Coverup Now Makes Sense:
The first of Trump’s rusty claims is that he had no contact or business in Russia, which we now know for sure in false.
The second Trump claim is that any talk of Russian interfering on Trump’s behalf in the 2016 election is a hoax, which, again, the mounting evidence and the Russian manipulation of social media shows is clearly false.