Russia Monitor: The Trump/Putin Threat From Within Growing Clearer With Every News Cycle


By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (11/16/17)

Dear Fellow Readers,

The big Trump-Russia news this cycle has been the revelations about Donnie Trump Jr. communicating and coordinating with WikiLeaks in an effort to advantage Trump in the 2016 election. We’ll dig into this more but the important take-aways are the willingness of Donnie Jr. and the Trump campaign to win at all costs and the final confirmation of WikiLeaks as a hostile intelligence service. This second point is well summarized by Trump’s own CIA Director Mike Pompeo as, “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.”  The Washington Post’s columnist Dana Milbank provided a good run-down on the history of Trump-Russia actions: Donald Trump Jr.’s Incredible History of Dumb Decisions.

We were also reminded that Russian efforts to weaponize information with a goal of disrupting Western governments and institutions was not limited to the 2016 U.S. election. Russian targeting of the UK referendum on the Brexit vote is summarized by this new news: Russia Used A Network Of 150,000 Twitter Accounts To Meddle In Brexit.

Data scientists at the University of Swansea and University of California, Berkeley found that over 150,000 accounts based in Russia posted content relating to Brexit in the days leading up to the vote on June 23, 2016.

The article reports, “Twitter accounts based in Russia posted 45,000 tweets about Brexit within the space of 48 hours during last year’s referendum on EU membership, an investigation commissioned by The Times has found.

Maybe this reminds us of the importance of both understanding what the Russians did to influence our elections and what steps we should take to prepare for inevitable future attacks. Sadly – it appears the Trump administration is doing nothing.

Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions III appeared before the House Judiciary Committee and amongst the many areas of interests there were a number of exchanges specific to Trump-Russia, Sessions’s role and steps being taken to protect elections going forward: Four Key Takeaways From Jeff Sessions’s Memory-Lapse-Filled Congressional Hearing.

Sessions struggles to remember even to the extent that he is not sure of his Trump campaign foreign policy meeting, the very one he chaired in March 2016. Here’s how his lack of memory plays out time after time after time:

“It’s certainly possible Sessions didn’t remember any number of Russia connections that have now come to light until they came to light.

“But Sessions has also demonstrated that once his memory gets jogged, he can recall details of events, such as what he spoke about with the Russian ambassador in two separate meetings and the fact he told Papadopoulos not to set up a Trump-Putin meeting. Which opened the door to Democrats to ask: Why haven’t you gotten your facts straight about Russia by now?”

We have witnessed this multiple time and here it is again:

“Sessions didn’t really have any answer to that other than even if he did misremember these events, he didn’t do anything wrong during them. His meetings with the Russian ambassador were legal and normal, he said. He didn’t encourage Papadaopulous to set up a meeting with Putin; he discouraged it. “I pushed back and said you shouldn’t do it,” Sessions recalled. “So I don’t think it is right to accuse me of doing something wrong.””

Sessions once again points out he is doing nothing to prevent future risk of disruption with our elections.


In this same article The Washington Post reminds us, “a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found 49 percent of Americans think it is likely Trump committed a crime in connection with possible Russia meddling.”

Which raises a question that doesn’t get enough attention: What do the other 51% of Americans think if they are not thinking Trump committed a crime with Trump-Russia?

Well, Fox News viewers provide one measure of delusion:HE HAS TO GO!!!’ Fox Fans Furious After Shep Smith Blows Up Right-wing Conspiracy About Uranium One.

For the ‘right’, Sean Hannity’s nightly Trump promotional program is the crown jewel of the Fox News non-stop Trump administration propaganda.

Except Fox News anchor Sherpard Smith’s dismantles the latest Hannity-Fox attempt to change the story away from Trump-Russia to another anti-Clinton conspiracy.

“Fox News anchor Shepard Smith was blasted by some of his network’s loudest viewers for fact-checking Republican talking points about Uranium One, which defenders of President Donald Trump have used to allege that it was actually Hillary Clinton who colluded with Russia.”

The latest Trump-Russia deflection conspiracy is very easy to dismantle but that doesn’t seem to be of interest to Fox News viewers; here’s an example of the hatred directed at Smith:

I hate #ShepardSmith
I hate his face, the sound of his voice, his seething hatred for all things that pertain to our President, his lack of objectivity.

You can review a list of similarly lavish and colorful right wing alt-universe hate-posts through the article.


The reaction on the ‘right’ to fact-based narrative is anger and hate. But what about the reaction of the left wing – you know, the supposedly fact-based constituents?

In a New York Times opinion piece by David Klion – Why Don’t Sanders Supporters Care About the Russia Investigation? – starts by acknowledging the daily deluge of news of Trump-Russia collusion and then offers:

“And yet to many observers on America’s political left, questions about Russia’s interference in last year’s election are a frustrating distraction.

“Some believe that Russian meddling is, at best, irrelevant to the needs of working-class Americans, whom Democrats should focus on: Katrina vanden Heuvel, the editor of The Nation, has chastised Democrats, saying, “Focusing on Trump’s ties to Russia alone will not win the crucial 2018 midterm elections, nor will it win meaningful victories on issues like health care, climate change, and inequality that affect all of our lives.”

There is of course the view that Trump-Russia is a Clinton excuse. And this from Noam Chomsky:

“Noam Chomsky has said that Russian interference in the election is “not a major issue” and that Americans’ obsession with it is making our country “a laughingstock,” especially considering the United States’ reputation for meddling in other countries’ politics. Moreover, many who oppose American hawkishness feel that the Russia scandal helps keep tensions alive with an old Cold War enemy.”

Kloan starts his case for ‘paying attention’ by pointing out that the release of the Paradise Papers “establishes what leftists have argued for years: The United States-led push for free trade and a globalized economy has resulted in vast, unaccountable flows of untaxed offshore wealth. The policies of the post-Cold War Washington consensus have enriched the 1 percent and offered new ways to shelter and launder money across borders. A transnational oligarchy has arisen, with secretive business partnerships tying, for instance, Wilbur Ross, Mr. Trump’s commerce secretary, to the family of President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Far from undermining left-wing arguments, discussing these arrangements perfectly demonstrates the failings of contemporary capitalism.

Kloan takes a wider view offering that people on the right and left both miss the real story in spite of a shared sense of concern. Speaking directly to Sanders supporters (and all of us) he offers this advice:

“Inequality, corruption, oligarchy and authoritarianism are inseparable,” Mr. Sanders said in a recent address. “Around the world we have witnessed the rise of demagogues who once in power use their positions to loot the state of its resources. These kleptocrats, like Putin in Russia, use divisiveness and abuse as a tool for enriching themselves and those loyal to them.” For Americans who broadly share Mr. Sanders’s views, this should be the real lesson of the Russia scandal.”

Time for both ends of the political spectrum to wake up to the growing Trump-Russia scandal.


So speaking of demagogues and their loyalists, let’s now turn back to the big news of Donnie Jr.’s Trump-Russia coordination with WikiLeaks. Julia Ioffe of The Atlantic broke the story. The Secret Correspondence Between Donald Trump Jr. And WikiLeaks, which featured this promotional opening:

“The transparency organization asked the president’s son for his cooperation—in sharing its work, in contesting the results of the election, and in arranging for Julian Assange to be Australia’s ambassador to the United States.”

This is the second major story directly linking Donnie Jr. and Trump-Russia communication and coordination. The first major story was his meeting with Russian lawyer NataliaVeselnitskaya and other Russians, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner at the Trump Tower in June 2016.

The Atlantic reports on a series of communications between Donnie Jr. and WikiLeaks between September 2016 and July 2017.

“The messages show WikiLeaks, a radical transparency organization that the American intelligence community believeswas chosen by the Russian government to disseminate the information it had hacked, actively soliciting Trump Jr.’s cooperation. WikiLeaks made a series of increasingly bold requests, including asking for Trump’s tax returns, urging the Trump campaign on Election Day to reject the results of the election as rigged, and requesting that the president-elect tell Australia to appoint Julian Assange ambassador to the United States.”

There may be a temptation to think maybe there was communication, but how is this coordination? Here’s one specific example:

“…but on October 12, 2016, the account again messaged Trump Jr. “Hey Donald, great to see you and your dad talking about our publications,” WikiLeaks wrote. (At a rally on October 10, Donald Trump had proclaimed, “I love WikiLeaks!”)

““Strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us,” WikiLeaks went on, pointing Trump Jr. to the link, which it said would help Trump’s followers dig through the trove of stolen documents and find stories. “There’s many great stories the press are missing and we’re sure some of your follows [sic] will find it,” WikiLeaks went on. “Btw we just released Podesta Emails Part 4.”

“Trump Jr. did not respond to this message. But just 15 minutes after it was sent, as The Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tau pointed out, Donald Trump himself tweeted, “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by WikiLeaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!”

“Two days later, on October 14, 2016, Trump Jr. tweeted out the link WikiLeaks had provided him. “For those who have the time to read about all the corruption and hypocrisy all the @wikileaks emails are right here:,” he wrote.”

Also according to the article, Donnie Jr. advised senior Trump campaign staff of the contact with WikiLeaks including Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale and brother-in-law Jared Kushner.

Maybe the most troubling message involves a proposed strategy for Trump contesting the 2016 election should he lose:

“WikiLeaks didn’t write again until Election Day, November 8, 2016. “Hi Don if your father ‘loses’ we think it is much more interesting if he DOES NOT conceed [sic] and spends time CHALLENGING the media and other types of rigging that occurred—as he has implied that he might do,” WikiLeaks wrote at 6:35pm, when the idea that Clinton would win was still the prevailing conventional wisdom. (As late as 7:00pm that night, FiveThirtyEight, a trusted prognosticator of the election, gave Clinton a 71 percent chance of winning the presidency.) WikiLeaks insisted that contesting the election results would be good for Trump’s rumored plans to start a media network should he lose the presidency. “The discussion can be transformative as it exposes media corruption, primary corruption, PAC corruption, etc.,” WikiLeaks wrote.

“Shortly after midnight that day, when it was clear that Trump had beaten all expectations and won the presidency, WikiLeaks sent him a simple message: “Wow.””

The Donnie Jr.-WikiLeaks coordination goes beyond the election, it’s an offer to continue to coordination for the ongoing mutual benefit of Trump and WikiLeaks.

So, okay, WikiLeaks wanted to coordinate to the benefit of Trump, but did Trump return the favor and show any enthusiasm for WikiLeaks through the election?

Well, the record is clear on that question: Watch Trump Continuously Mention WikiLeaks In Days Leading Up To Election.


Just in case you’d like a complete record of the Donnie Jr./WikiLeaks exchanges check out this compilation of the greatest hits a found in the congressional investigations: Donald Trump Jr. Tweets Secret Exchange With Wikileaks.

Or this version from The Washington Post which also offers this conclusion:

“The totality of the messages yet again call into serious question the Trump campaign and White House’s denials of coordination with unsavory characters and even, by extension, Russia. And unlike that June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer, in this case this coordination appeared to lead to a specific strategic action. The question from there is how directly WikiLeaks is linked to the Russian government.”


So we have Trump, our very own demagogue, a nationalist who dressed up as a populist and ran on a law-and-order platform with the echoing rallying cry of “Lock her up”. Former Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn may very well be indicted or even serve jail time. And law-and-order attorney general Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions III who offers a repetitious replies of “I cannot recall’ responses to questions, only to remember in great detail when it means “it wasn’t me”.

So ‘No contact’ becomes ‘no collusion’ becomes ‘it wasn’t me’.

In the last few days Trump assured the nation that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally assured him that Russia did NOT interfere on his behalf in the 2016 election (from the last edition):

“He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump said, answering questions in the press cabin on the Air Force One. “I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. … He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.”

Under pressure, Trump walked this back a tad and said he stands by the assessment of U.S. intelligence groups that Russia DID interfere. Or at least he’s offered this again following his latest disavowal of Russian involvement. But less reported, Trump did also say that we’re too tough on Russia, apparently even if they did interfere in our election:  Trump: Russia Has Been ‘very heavily sanctioned’ — now it’s time to get back to ‘healing’ The World.

“President Trump suggested in Vietnam on Sunday that US sanctions against Russia are too tough and that he prefers being on more amicable terms with the Kremlin.”

Putin did say he didn’t meddle, again. And in sympathy Trump offered:

“… he added that the measure was “seriously flawed” and that it “improperly encroaches on executive power, disadvantages American companies, and hurts the interests of our European allies.”

“Trump’s comments on Sunday came on the heels of remarks he made on Saturday, when he said he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin when Putin told him Russia did not interfere in the 2016 election.”

Trump is only thinking of our European allies – I wonder how UK prime minister Theresa May feels about Trump’s ‘kumbaya’ after learning about the 150,000 Russian twitter accounts pushing for Brexit.

Before we move away from the Donnie Jr. WikiLeaks coordination and Trump’s “I love WikiLeaks” assurances, here’s a reminder from August 2016 of Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s comments about WikiLeaks.

Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein hailed Julian Assange as a hero Saturday, saying the WikiLeaks founder’s disclosure of Democratic National Committee emails exposed the American electorate to important information: Jill Stein: ‘No question’ Julian Assange is a hero.

Russian disruption of the 2016 election was in support of candidates from the ‘right’ and the ‘left’.


Bernie Sanders offers us the most balanced message and an excellent wrap-up for this edition.

“Inequality, corruption, oligarchy and authoritarianism are inseparable,” Mr. Sanders said in a recent address. “Around the world we have witnessed the rise of demagogues who once in power use their positions to loot the state of its resources. These kleptocrats, like Putin in Russia, use divisiveness and abuse as a tool for enriching themselves and those loyal to them.” For Americans who broadly share Mr. Sanders’s views, this should be the real lesson of the Russia scandal.”

We owe it to ourselves to actively resist. Trump and Trump-Russia is our national threat, our own form of risk from authoritarianism. Like Putin in Russia – like Trump in the U.S.

(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free to use with link to )