Russia Monitor: On To 2018 … And Continued Trump-Russia Investigation


By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (1/1/17)

Dear Fellow Readers,

Happy New Year! Out with 2017, in with 2018 – and in spite of Trump’s lawyers’ assurances, the Trump-Russia investigation continues. Maybe in spite of…

There are a lot of Trump apologists. We’ll end with questions of the Republican grand Faustian bargain, but first, let’s take a look at some of the anti-Mueller (Special Counsel Robert Mueller) push back.

Where better to start than with the Clyde Crashcup of the Republicans, a character so partisan that even his own party doesn’t understand his actions – Rep. David Nunes (R-CA; chair of the House Intelligence Committee): Devin Nunes, Targeting Mueller And The FBI, Alarms Democrats And Some Republicans With His Tactics.

Even Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC; chair of the House Committee on Oversight) of Benghazi!Benghazi!Benghazi! fame offers this question about Nunes, his committee and his staffers’ allegiances and loyalties:

“I don’t know where his staff ends and HPSCI” begins, Gowdy said, referring to the House Intelligence committee by its official acronym. “Some of them are apolitical nonpartisan members of his staff, and I’m not smart enough to know who’s what.”

While Nunes does his best to create confusion with the committee investigation and fly cover for Trump, according to Karoun Demirjian writing in The Washington Post:

“Nunes, meanwhile, appears to have made up his mind about the House Intelligence Committee probe into the allegations surrounding Trump and Russia, expressing his convictions in an interview with Fox News.

““We have no evidence of Russia collusion between the Trump campaign” and Russia, Nunes said.”

The Republican theme – repeated by many and often – is Trump-Russia is a ‘witch hunt’ or ‘fake news’, the real problems are anything else but including Special Counsel Mueller, the FBI, the Uranium One ‘scandal, the ‘coup’ according to Fox News and anything else that might stick to the wall. Nunes meanwhile has taken it upon himself to draft a report on what he sees as the real issue: The ‘corruption’ among investigators working for Mueller.


Trump suggests he is not so concerned for himself, putting the nation first, he offers that the real damage being done is how we look to the rest of the world: Trump Says Russia Inquiry Makes U.S. ‘Look Very Bad’.

Trump is concerned about the optics to the rest of the world but is confident that Mueller will treat him fairly and we can then all get past the Trump-Russia collusion that never happened.

“President Trump said Thursday that he believes Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel in the Russia investigation, will treat him fairly, contradicting some members of his party who have waged a weekslong campaign to try to discredit Mr. Mueller and the continuing inquiry.

“During an impromptu 30-minute interview with The New York Times at his golf club in West Palm Beach, the president did not demand an end to the Russia investigations swirling around his administration, but insisted 16 times that there has been “no collusion” discovered by the inquiry.

““It makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position,” Mr. Trump said of the investigation. “So the sooner it’s worked out, the better it is for the country.””

Trump was repeatedly adamant about “no collusion”, feeling the need to make sure he was heard with this point: Trump’s ‘No collusion!’ Cry Is Getting Increasingly Desperate.

The Washington Post ran the comments verbatim:

“Frankly there is absolutely no collusion…Virtually every Democrat has said there is no collusion. There is no collusion…I think it’s been proven that there is no collusion…I can only tell you that there is absolutely no collusion…There’s been no collusion…There was no collusion. None whatsoever…everybody knows that there was no collusion. I saw Dianne Feinstein the other day on television saying there is no collusion [note: not true]…The Republicans, in terms of the House committees, they come out, they’re so angry because there is no collusion…there was collusion on behalf of the Democrats. There was collusion with the Russians and the Democrats. A lot of collusionThere was tremendous collusion on behalf of the Russians and the Democrats. There was no collusion with respect to my campaign…But there is tremendous collusion with the Russians and with the Democratic Party…I watched Alan Dershowitz the other day, he said, No. 1, there is no collusion, No. 2, collusion is not a crime, but even if it was a crime, there was no collusion. And he said that very strongly. He said there was no collusionThere is no collusion, and even if there was, it’s not a crime. But there’s no collusion…when you look at all of the tremendous, ah, real problems [Democrats] had, not made-up problems like Russian collusion.

Paul Waldman, the writer for The Washington Post, refutes much of what Trump claims and refers to this as Trump’s apologist strategy of “I know you are, but what am I”, as if the repetition of innocence makes it so.

“But there’s something important to keep in mind when we’re interpreting Trump’s words and actions: For someone who fancies himself a genius, he is almost completely lacking in any real guile. He doesn’t play eight-dimensional chess. His lies are obvious and straightforward, clearly false at the moment they leave his lips. His strategies require no deconstruction or disentanglement to understand. He’s almost always doing exactly what he appears to be doing.”

Waldman ends on an encouraging and realistic note, “But sooner or later, we’re going to find out the truth”.

And while Trump and his apologists are filling the air waves with push back, the bad news continues to mount. Here’s a few items out of the mix.


The BIGGEST NEWS – George Papadopoulos, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, told the top Australian diplomat to the U.K. in May 2016 that Russia had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton weeks earlier than previously reported.

And thus began the 2016 FBI investigation of the Trump campaign: How the Russia Inquiry Began: A Campaign Aide, Drinks and Talk of Political Dirt.

The New York Times reported:

“During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.”

Papadopoulos had learned of the “dirt” three weeks earlier. In spite of all the Trump and apologists dismissals of Papadopoulos including characterizing him as a “coffee boy”, the FBI opened their investigation of the campaign’s relationship with Russia:

“Once the information Mr. Papadopoulos had disclosed to the Australian diplomat reached the F.B.I., the bureau opened an investigation that became one of its most closely guarded secrets. Senior agents did not discuss it at the daily morning briefing, a classified setting where officials normally speak freely about highly sensitive operations.

“Besides the information from the Australians, the investigation was also propelled by intelligence from other friendly governments, including the British and Dutch. A trip to Moscow by another adviser, Carter Page, also raised concerns at the F.B.I.

“With so many strands coming in — about Mr. Papadopoulos, Mr. Page, the hackers and more — F.B.I. agents debated how aggressively to investigate the campaign’s Russia ties, according to current and former officials familiar with the debate. Issuing subpoenas or questioning people, for example, could cause the investigation to burst into public view in the final months of a presidential campaign.

“It could also tip off the Russian government, which might try to cover its tracks. Some officials argued against taking such disruptive steps, especially since the F.B.I. would not be able to unravel the case before the election.

“Others believed that the possibility of a compromised presidential campaign was so serious that it warranted the most thorough, aggressive tactics. Even if the odds against a Trump presidency were long, these agents argued, it was prudent to take every precaution.”

And so began the story as we know it, with more to follow. Much more.


McClatchey reported Thursday: Jailed Russian Says He Hacked DNC On Kremlin’s Orders And Can Prove It

“A jailed Russian who says he hacked into the Democratic National Committee computers on the Kremlin’s orders to steal emails released during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign now claims he left behind a data signature to prove his assertion.”

Remember this from this summer:

“Shifting from his previous blanket denials, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia suggested on Thursday that “patriotically minded” private Russian hackers could have been involved in cyberattacks last year that meddled in the United States presidential election.”

There have been a number of arrests of Russian hackers as well as much commentary about the use of independent hackers engaged and/or coerced by Russian intelligence agencies to perform sensitive hacks.

It’s as if Trump and Putin tell us exactly what happened at times and we miss the significance.


Meanwhile Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, continues to compete well in the race for most likely to be the next Trump associate charged with criminal activity: Federal Prosecutors In N.Y. Requested Kushner Cos. Records On Deutsche Bank Loan.

“Federal prosecutors have requested records related to a $285 million loan that Deutsche Bank gave Jared Kushner’s family real estate company one month before Election Day, the company confirmed this week.

“The records were sought by prosecutors in Brooklyn and do not appear related to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.”

Kushner’s business activities are under investigation by Mueller and the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York. This is in addition to the disclosure of Mueller’s requests for documents from Deutsche Bank and separate from Mueller’s investigation of Kushner’s December 2016 meeting with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Sberbank, a Russian state-owned development bank.


Trump-Russia collusion is inventively summarized by former Milwaukee right wing radio personality Charlie Sykes for The New York TimesA G.O.P. Tragedy in Four Acts.

We’ll end with his insights…

“With Roy Moore’s humiliating loss in the Alabama Senate race, the Trumpified Republican Party finds itself both defeated and dishonored, with no sign that it has yet hit bottom.

“At every stage of the run-up to this special election, Republicans could have resisted, pushed back, or drawn lines, but their failure to do so led them inexorably to this moment: the defeat of an unreconstructed bigot and ignorant crank who had the full-throated backing of the president they have embraced and empowered.”

To summarize, Sykes characterizes Trump’s announcement of his intent to run for the presidency as Act I in a four Act drama.

“In Act I, the curtain opens to reveal a gaudy golden escalator, and as Donald Trump descends to announce his candidacy for president, the scene has the feel of a French farce.”

The drama proceeds from announcement, to ‘anyone but Trump’, through Republicans taking turns to taking a knee to declare their loyalty, which Sykes refers to as “the surrender of the party”. We see this as sycophants compete to regale Trump with flattery while ignoring or even praising Trump’s transgressions.

How easily Nunes fits into this Act III as laid out by Sykes.

But it’s Act IV, the final act, that always most important and here we can find hope:

“But in this act, the Republican Party learns the full weight of the choices it has made, and their moral and political consequences. There was a certain inevitability to all of this. Step by step, Republicans embraced a politics that was post-truth and post-ethics. Now, in defeat, the party — or at least its leadership — is officially post-shame.”

To clarify, this is from Charlie Sykes, former Wisconsin right-wing radio personality. And we’ll end with Charlie, and a ray of hope for 2018:

“Throughout this final act, the party’s leaders will desperately try to pretend that this is not a tragedy and that they were not the ones who brought this upon themselves. Some of them will know better, but I suspect that in the final scene they will be left with the question “What have we done?””

In my “Mr Smith Goes To Washington” Frank Capra-esque world we will see the Republicans held accountable with the 2018 mid-term elections.

Happy New Year! Out with 2017 and in with 2018!