By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (2/1/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Which are we – a country where rule of law applies? Or a country ruled by loyalty oaths to Trump?
Trump-Russia Obstruction of Justice is now a full-on GOP initiative. Is this important? Let’s answer this question and also Trump responses to Russia, GOP efforts to shield Trump and understand what happened as well as steps to protect future elections: Pompeo: ‘I have every expectation’ Russia Will Meddle In 2018 Midterms.
Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, offered this:
“”I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that,” Pompeo said when asked during whether he anticipates a Russian influence campaign later this year.
“He added: “But I am confident that America will be able to have a free and fair election — that we’ll push back in a way that is sufficiently robust that the impact they have on our election won’t be great.””
Feeling safer given Pompeo’s assurances given our history over the last year?
“President Donald Trump has called reports of attempts by Russia to interfere with the campaign “fake news” and the federal and congressional probes into potential ties to the Trump campaign a “witch hunt.””
Important? – YES! Pompeo expects ongoing Russian interference in our elections. So yes, Trump and GOP denial, deflection and obstruction of efforts to understand what happened are important.
What is Trump doing to let Russia know we won’t tolerate interference? We ended the last Russia Monitor noting a new round of Russia sanctions passed overwhelmingly by in Congress in a vote of 517-5.
But Trump had other ideas: Trump, Russia, Election. Quid, Pro, Quo. (Sanctions? What Sanctions?).
Esquire’s Charles Pierce starts by citing Reuters:
“Today, we have informed Congress that this legislation and its implementation are deterring Russian defense sales,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. “Since the enactment of the … legislation, we estimate that foreign governments have abandoned planned or announced purchases of several billion dollars in Russian defense acquisitions.”
With a Monday deadline, Trump announced we don’t need more sanctions, those we have are working. One temperate response was from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME):
“Sen. (R-Maine) on Tuesday said it’s “perplexing” that the Trump administration opted to not implement additional sanctions on Russia for meddling in the 2016 election. “The one thing we know for sure already is the Russians did attempt to meddle in our election. And not only should there be a price to pay in terms of sanctions, but also we need to put safeguards in place right now for the elections for this year,” Collins said on CNN’s “New Day.””
Ongoing risk? Yes. New sanctions? No, Trump = ‘we’re good’. Remember there was a second deliverable.
“Shortly before midnight (0500 GMT) on Monday, the Treasury Department released an unclassified “oligarchs” list, including 114 senior Russian political figures and 96 business people. Those named on the list will not immediately face any immediate penalties like asset freezes or visa bans. But the law mandated that the U.S. Treasury and State Departments, and intelligence agencies, compile a list of political figures and business people close to Putin’s government and network, for potential future sanctions.”
You don’t believe Trump, State and Treasury really gave Russia any kind of real consequence, do you?
The Trumpsters couldn’t even be bothered to do their own work: Trump Administration Admits It Cribbed From Forbes Magazine To Create “Oligarch List”.
This supposed list of Russian oligarchs is DOA. A real list would have put all financial institutions on notice they faced increased scrutiny if not punishment if they banked Russian oligarchs. From the last Russia Monitor, Russians were scrambling to be kept off the list.
“Alina Polyakova, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that because the list includes all the individuals who meet the net worth threshold of $1 billion rather than anyone suspected of corrupt acts, its usefulness is “limited and ambiguous.””
Are Russians still worried? Is laughter a sign of concern? Is the smirk the same as a grimace?
“But many Russians breathed a sigh of relief following Treasury’s release of the report Monday night, which included statements from the Trump administration that it was not a sanctions list and the US was not applying new sanctions mandated by legislation at this time.
“Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Federation Council’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, it appeared that the US administration “simply copied the Kremlin’s phonebook.” Putin, meanwhile, called the list an “unfriendly act,” but downplayed any need to retaliate.
The list is useless, it’s another Trump gift to Putin.
“Trump is ours again!
Here’s another revealing Russian response: ‘Trump is ours again!’ Russian TV Host Celebrates After White House Refuses To Enforce New Sanctions.
“Julia Davis, who runs the , reports via Twitter that Russian TV show host Olga Skabeeva on Tuesday was positively gushing about the White House’s decision to not enforce new sanctions against her country.
““Seemingly, Trump is ours again,” said Skabeeva, according to Davis’ translation. “So far, he’s being quiet and not supporting the sanctions.””
Ongoing risk – Yes. New sanctions – No.
Steps to protect the integrity of our future elections? None.
Difficult to believe? Check this out from the Attorney General of the United States: Jeff Sessions Admits He Has No Idea What DOJ Is Doing To Prevent Election Hacking: “I should be able to give you better information today than I am.”
There are no new steps following these November, 2017 remarks.
Ongoing risk – Yes. New sanctions – No. Steps to protect the integrity of future elections – None.
Steps by Trump and the GOP to obstruct justice are MANY!
From The Washington Post: Trump Is Tearing Down The FBI And The Justice Department. Won’t The GOP Stop Him?
Here’s a great summary by way of a Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA; Senate Intelligence co-chair) tweet:
One year after our nation’s intelligence agencies unanimously concluded that Russia attacked our democracy, House Republicans are going after the FBI and Department of Justice instead.
9:30 AM – 30 Jan 2018
A week ago Axios reported that FBI Director Wray reportedly threatened to resign after Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions pressured him to fire FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
“On Monday, the White House successfully forced out FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. In contravention of the protocol followed by both Democratic and Republican administrations, chief of staff John Kelly — not the White House counsel — was the point person for the effort. Kelly, who holds a purely political role, was tasked with badgering and haranguing the very same entities conducting an investigation of the president.”
Former FBI Director Comey was fired. FBI General Counsel James Baker was reassigned in December. Deputy Director McCabe is resigning. Comey and the two people that could have corroborated Comey testimony are pushed out of the way.
In addition, much is being made of a GOP memo crafted in secrecy by House Intelligence chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA). Trump has assured us we will all see the memo shortly. That in spite of concerns by his own Department of Justice and the FBI.
The target here is Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosentstein, who Special Counsel Mueller reports to: FBI Challenges Accuracy Of GOP’s Surveillance Memo.
“The FBI spoke out forcefully Wednesday [1/31] against a GOP memo criticizing the bureau’s use of surveillance authorities, challenging the classified document’s accuracy as the White House and congressional Republicans are expected to make its contents public.”
A quick explanation – Nunes purports to have evidence of wrong-doing against Rosenstein setting the stage to remove him. The ‘evidence’ is a renewal of FISA warrant against Carter Page (former Trump foreign policy adviser). Page, long labeled a spy for Russia, was already under a FISA warrant. The memo will be released despite concerns of omissions, inaccuracies and compromising of classified intelligence. But as we’ve seen with Russia, Israel, the U.K., Australia, Holland and others, Trump only cares about one thing:
“…House Freedom Caucus in which they told him of the memo and their plans. Caucus members told of the conversation immediately afterward came away with the impression “that he would want it released . . . since it helps the president so much,” as Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) put it.”
Would Trump target Rosenstein?
CNN provided the answer late Wednesday: Exclusive: Trump Asked Rosenstein If He Was ‘on my team’.
The answer is an unequivocal Yes.
“Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein visited the White House in December seeking President Donald Trump’s help. The top Justice Department official in the Russia investigation wanted Trump’s support in fighting off document demands from House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes. …
“Trump wanted to know where the special counsel’s Russia investigation was heading. And he wanted to know whether Rosenstein was “on my team.””
So — oh, yeah — not only would Trump target Rosenstein, he is.
Ongoing risk – Yes.
New sanctions – No.
Steps to protect the integrity of future elections – None.
Steps to protect Trump – Many.
Comey fired. Baker reassigned. McCabe resigns. Rosenstein – under attack.
Mueller – last person standing?
There is only one standard for Trump and the his many enablers in the once proud GOP: Does it help Trump.
And remember one of Trump’s chief congressional enablers is Wsconsin’s own, House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI).
The pricey Normalizer of Corruption
Typically the following article would be extra reading, but it warrants some review. Why was Paul Manafort (now indicted) selected to head Trump’s campaign and who is he?
The answers are far worse than you would imagine. The Atlantic has published a long and stunning read on Manafort’s long and winding trail to Trumpland and a federal indictment: The Plot Against America.
The article’s subhead provides a good summary: Decades before he ran the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort’s pursuit of foreign cash and shady deals laid the groundwork for the corruption of Washington.
Let’s begin with the conclusion:
“Helping elect Donald Trump, in so many ways, represents the culmination of Paul Manafort’s work. The president bears some likeness to the oligarchs Manafort long served: a businessman with a portfolio of shady deals, who benefited from a cozy relationship to government; a man whose urge to dominate, and to enrich himself, overwhelms any higher ideal.”
Manafort is named a “normalizer of corruption” having “obliterated traditional concerns about conflicts of interest”.
So far, Manafort sounds like a perfect fit for the shady Trump campaign. Imagine, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos are not even Manafort’s most evil client:
“…The firm’s client base grew to include dictatorial governments in Nigeria, Kenya, Zaire, Equatorial Guinea, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia, among others. Manafort’s firm was a primary subject of scorn in a 1992 report issued by the Center for Public Integrity called “The Torturers’ Lobby.”
“The firm’s most successful right-wing makeover was of the Angolan guerrilla leader Jonas Savimbi, a Maoist turned anti-communist insurgent, whose army committed atrocities against children and conscripted women into sexual slavery. During the general’s 1986 trip to New York and Washington, Manafort and his associates created what one magazine called “Savimbi Chic.” Dressed in a Nehru suit, Savimbi was driven around in a stretch limousine and housed in the Waldorf-Astoria and the Grand Hotel, projecting an image of refinement. …
“This was a racket—Savimbi paid the firm $600,000 in 1985 alone—that Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly did its best to keep alive; the firm’s own business was tied to Savimbi’s continued rebellion against Angola’s leftist regime. As the country stood on the brink of peace talks in the late ’80s, after nearly 15 years of bloody civil war, the firm helped secure fresh batches of arms for its client, emboldening Savimbi to push forward with his military campaign. Former Senator Bill Bradley wrote in his memoir, “When Gorbachev pulled the plug on Soviet aid to the Angolan government, we had absolutely no reason to persist in aiding Savimbi. But by then he had hired an effective Washington lobbying firm.” The war continued for more than a decade, killing hundreds of thousands of Angolans.”
Manafort offered his clients makeovers; the Torturers’ Lobby. Clients like Savimbi, Marcos, Rahman Al Assir (Lebanese arms dealer), Benazhir Bhutto and Pakistani intelligence service (former Pakistan prime minister), Oleg Deripaska (Putin linked oligarch) and Viktor Yanukovych (now in Moscow, Putin supported and former Ukraine president).
It all makes sense. Trump was just another client for Manafort, the “normalizer of corruption”.