Russia Monitor – Russia’s Most Successful Export: America’s New ‘Normal’


By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (10/25/17)

Dear Fellow Readers,

There is one thing you can count on in US politics right now – it is predictably unpredictable. On second thought, that is too optimistic. What’s predictable is that when the dust of the latest meaningless dust-up settles we’re going to get screwed again. Maybe a little… likely a lot.

We dodged a fusillade with health care when the GOP Congress motivated by ideology and money couldn’t agree to agree with themselves on how to screw us best. Much like health care we have no idea what rewriting the tax laws will  mean because no two people have the same definition, but we know whatever form it takes, we’re in a for a screwing.

But we’re not alone in the fight, there are heroes fighting for us, even in the GOP, right?

But There Are GOP Heroes That Stand Up for US!?!

Are there? Name them. Maybe Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) who chose to “no longer remain silent” and then eviscerated Trump for his “childish insults” and “moral ambiguity”. Or how about other GOP pols that have recently spoken out – Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) as examples?

All of them had to pipe down and rush off to the Senate to vote scuppering the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau rule permitting lawsuits against Wall Street banks and crooked credit card companies: Here’s What Happened Among Republicans A Few Hours After Jeff Flake’s Speech.

“You would have thought that Senator Jeff Flake would have basked a little longer in the applause he got for scarpering out of the Senate before he got around to the business of emptying his words of any significant meaning they ever had. Instead, Flake—along with fellow brave truth-tellers Bob Corker, Ben Sasse and, significantly, John McCain—joined with every other Republican (including Mike Pence, The Great Tiebreaker) to arrange for the screwing of countless Americans and their families.

“In the dead of Tuesday night, with the applause still ringing in his ears, Flake voted to strip the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau of a rule that allowed Americans to file class-action suits against banks rather than being forced into an arbitration process that generally is as rigged as a North Korean election.”

Why, after all republicans reason, should you be able to sue Equifax just because you were ruined financially by identity theft following the breach of personal data for 145 million American. It’s simple, are our elected officials making life better for us or worse? If Flake, McCain, Sasse, Corker are the ones pointing out the emperor has no clothes but can still look themselves in the mirror after revoking our legal rights to due process, if these are the GOP ‘good guys’, what the hell do the rest look like?

Even our GOP heroes screw us.

And now to Trump-Russia….

‘Putin’s Favorite Congressman’ Gets Slapped With Travel Restrictions Over Fears He’s Compromised By Russia.

I’ve raised questions about Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) here before, wondering what Rohrabacher’s personal vendettas and agenda have to do with representing his constituents in southern California. Apparently the answer is “nothing”.

The Daily Beast reports that Rohrabacher had to pay for his own recent trip to London to meet with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after his request to have taxpayers foot the bill was denied by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The committee placed new restrictions on Rohrabacher’s travel in the wake of his willingness to push pro-Kremlin propaganda at official congressional hearings, as well as his public embrace of Assange.

So what, you say, one bad apple and he had his wings clipped. Rohrabacher is purported to be the poorest member of Congress, so maybe this means something to him, he’s at least out the reimbursement for the ticket. Or maybe Trump can reimburse him, it’s only a few dollars more given the $430,000 he’s promised to pay legal fees for White House staffers. See any potential for conflict of interest?

But certainly Rohrabacher is the exception, right? No one else would think to cover for Russia at our expense, right?

Well, Politico reports on some legal challenges for other Trumpettes: Dossier Fight Could Be First Legal Test For Hill Russia Probes.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) will get a double nod as an answer to the question of whether Rohrabacher is the single exception; a representative with their own agenda.

Nunes is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. You certainly remember how he trotted off lone-wolf from his committee to protect Trump in such an embarrassing way that he chose to recuse himself from committee proceedings regarding Trump-Russia. That recusal didn’t last and, similar to Rohrabacher, Nunes saw the potential for Trump-Russia vindication in London. Without informing the Committee or scheduling an appointment he sent investigators to the London office of Fusion GPS, the firm responsible for the Trump dossier and source for the alleged existence of the ‘pee tape’.

Nunes was unsuccessful but has since issued a series of subpoenas aimed at Fusion GPS and the ex MI-6 agent and investigator Christopher Steele.

“Fusion and its role in producing the dossier, prepared by former British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele, have been a particular focus of GOP investigators on Capitol Hill. Republicans say they’re suspicious of how the document was created, in particular due to Fusion’s work for opponents of sanctions on Russia known as the Magnitsky Act.”

So again, our GOP heroes, are watching out for us because of their concern that Fusion GPS might have worked on behalf of opponents to the Magnitsky Act, which is a set of sanctions against Russia. Certainly the GOP has no bias to confuse the House Intelligence investigation of Trump-Russia, they only want to get to the bottom of who might undermine the US sanctions against Russia – though they only have to look to Trump and the White House who, after more than two months, have yet to enact the most recent round of Russia sanctions.

Or perhaps, as reported by PoliticoNunes does want to confuse and deflect the House Intelligence investigation of Trump collusion with Russia: Two GOP-Led Panels Launch Probe Of Obama-Era Uranium Deal.

Remember he tried to bring focus to former Attorney General Susan Rice but now Nunes has a partner in this endeavor:

“Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he’d be linking up with the House Oversight panel led by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.). The Senate Judiciary Committee has already said it would investigate the uranium deal.”

I’m sure you remember Gowdy from his Banghazi hearings, which spun on fruitlessly for years and millions of dollars and resulted in zip, zero, nada, nothing. While Gowdy might have a real Benghazi event to investigate with the death of the four US soldiers in Niger, surprisingly he’s opted to chase a story that was also, like Benghazi, flogged relentlessly through the 2016 election to try to discredit Hillary Clinton. It may not have any facts behind behind it but it plays well on Fox News.

Okay you say, we never had faith in House investigations, Nunes showed his cards early and Gowdy is all about Gowdy and party ahead of country. But at least we have the Senate investigations, right? Um, maybe not so much: The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Russia Probe Just Blew Up.

“Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) have broken up over Russia.

“The committee’s once bipartisan investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice or his campaign colluded with Russia has hit a partisan wall, with Republicans and Democrats saying they will now conduct their own probes. “We made the decision to go and carry it out ourselves,” Feinstein told Mother Jones on Tuesday. “They can go ahead and do whatever it is they wanted to do.” A Grassley spokesman also said the chairman had decided to proceed with a Republican-only investigation.”

Grassley and Feinstein have always had a cat-and-dog approach to their Committee agenda but it seemed to work. Both agendas got time and resources – Feinstein got focus on Trump collusion with Russia and Grassley brought attention to chase Clinton’s use of private email. I’m not sure why Grassley wouldn’t be more concerned with current White House staff use of private email, but that’s the deal they cut between them.

Meanwhile the Senate Intelligence Committee struggles to stay on track. But at least there are other initiatives to uncover Trump and cronies and their illegal actions not limited to collusion with Russians. Right?

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort Faces Another Money-Laundering Probe.

It’s been widely speculated for some time that Manafort would be indicted or maybe even charged.

“The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office is pursuing an investigation into possible money laundering by Paul Manafort, said three people familiar with the matter, adding to the federal and state probes concerning the former Trump campaign chairman.

“The investigation by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York is being conducted in collaboration with a probe by special counsel Robert Mueller into Mr. Manafort and possible money laundering, according to two of these people.”

Manafort is not the only one being investigated, presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner is also in trouble:

“The continuing Manhattan U.S. attorney’s probe, which hasn’t been previously reported, is unfolding at the same time the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office pursues an inquiry involving Kushner Cos., owned by the family of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.”

Keep in mind, these investigations are not specifically about Trump-Russia collusion, these are criminal investigations related to business misconduct and money laundering. It’s smart to coordinate the investigations between the US attorneys and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigations to make sure the conflict doesn’t compromise one or both – in other words, the opposite of what Nunes has in mind.

It’s an article that would warm your heart given the focus and credentials of those in charge IF your interest was justice and accountability.

Since these efforts are through the US attorney’s offices, we can feel they are safe from interference, right? Well, remember, Trump fired all the standing US attorneys, so the Department of Justice is filling these positions.

“The heads of the U.S. attorney’s offices in Manhattan and Brooklyn are two of the most powerful prosecutorial posts in the country, and Mr. Trump has personally interviewed candidates for both. He interviewed Edward McNally for the Brooklyn post and Geoffrey Berman for the Manhattan position, according to people familiar with the matter.

“The two candidates have already drawn scrutiny for their close ties to Mr. Trump’s allies. Mr. Berman is a law partner of Trump political ally Rudy Giuliani at Greenberg Traurig LLP. And Mr. McNally is a law partner of Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, Marc Kasowitz, at Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman LLP.”

Those who know how the courts work have raised concerns about Trump’s involvement in the process which Former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called “neither normal nor advisable.”

Trump’s involvement is “neither normal nor advisable”; his demand for Comey’s loyalty also comes to mind. By Trump’s current standard, his involvement is not illegal. I imagine one day he’ll lower his standard to “no charges brought (yet)” or “no arrests made (yet)”. But who says his actions aren’t “normal”?


Trump’s personal involvement in the selection of US attorneys who will oversee investigations and potentially legal processes against Trump cronies is NOT normal.

“Former Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Rachel Maddow about the independence of the Justice Department from the White House and whether Donald Trump understands the role of attorney general: Holder: ‘There has to be a wall’ between White House & DoJ.”

It’s a short segment and no matter how you felt about Holder, you’ll miss him if you hold his views up against AG Jeffrey Beauregard “Crickets” Sessions III and Trump.


So just what passe for “normal” these days?

Does the lack of progress with reconstruction in Puerto Rico feel normal? Our how about the lack of progress in reigning in the opiate crisis or the lies about tax reform? Are those normal? What about how Trump has handled the deaths of the soldiers in Niger, is that normal? Senate and House investigations of Clinton instead of focus on clear and present risk of Russian involvement in our elections, is that normal?

We can only hope that “Normal” doesn’t come to look like this:

A part of Dana Millbank’s Tuesday column in The Washington Post, has him looking back from a time in the future: A Missive From 2036: I Was Disgusting To Criticize Trump.

From his lofty future perch Millbank recalls:

● The Trump Equal Time and Fairness Doctrine of 2018, making it a felony to criticize, or joke about, President Trump unless simultaneously providing “a harsher criticism and/or funnier joke about a Democrat.”

● The Adult Day Care Act of 2018, also known as the Corker Act, making it illegal to raise questions about the president’s state of mind.

● The Huckabee Sanders Act of 2018, making it a crime to commit the “highly inappropriate” action of questioning a military officer.

● The Stephen Miller Act of 2018, which said that all actions of the president on matters of national security are “not to be questioned.”

 The Jeff Sessions Act of 2018, making it illegal to quote any source without the express written consent of the Justice Department and Major League Baseball.

● The “Open Up Our Libel Laws” Act of 2018, which allows Trump to “win lots of money” when people write “negative and horrible” articles about him.

The Fake News Reform Act of 2018, which revoked the “licenses” of all broadcasters, put Jeff Bezos under house arrest at the Federal Trade Commission and placed the failing New York Times and the Amazon Washington Post under the control of Minister of Information Sebastian Gorka.


What is the new Normal? I bet if anyone is tired of winning it’s the Russians.