By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (2/19/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Some Americans need Trumputin and Russpublican corruption to be as black & white as Saturday’s Russia 4-0 shutout of the U.S. hockey team at the Olympics.
Now that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has published the 2015/2016 year book for the Russian troll farm, at the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, we now have it in black & white. To be clear on just what happened we’ll put the events in context of Trump and associate denials to date.
On Friday afternoon Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced the of 13 Russian nationals for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. The indictment focused on the Internet Research Agency, which is linked to the Kremlin and led by close Putin associate Yevgeniy Prigozhin (referred to as Putin’s chef).
The 37 page indictment can be found here.
The indictment states: “They (Russians) engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.” The instructions were to “use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump—we support them).”
We’ll provide links to provide additional detail, but note that Mueller has now specifically laid out one arm of Russian involvement in the U.S. election to benefit Trump. The indictment spells out in exhaustive detail that definitely Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
Mueller’s indictment is a statement of certainty that he can prove these charges, a violation of federal law, in a court of law. Russians use the term, “information warfare” and this warfare was conducted against the U.S.
Trump denied contact with Russians by his campaign. He has repeatedly denied collusion between his campaign and Russia. Calling it a “hoax”, Trump says he does not even believe the Russians interfered with our election and he assures us, he has the repeated personal denial of Putin. How many times you can ask? “He said he didn’t meddle”, Trump repeatedly assured of his questions put to Putin.
And yet, here it is!
As reported in The Washington Post: Trump’s Russia ‘hoax’ Turns Out To Be Real.
“The hackers, he suggested, may have been Chinese. Or some 400-pound guy sitting on his bed. Again and again, he insisted, Russian interference was a hoax — a fiction created by Democrats as an excuse for losing an election they should have won.
“When Donald Trump finally acknowledged publicly that Russians had hacked Democratic emails and interfered in the 2016 presidential election, the then-president-elect immediately regretted it. He confided to advisers that he did not believe the intelligence. The last thing Trump wanted to do was to endorse the notion that his victory may have been caused by any force other than his own strategy, message and charisma.
““Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems, and played up by the media, in order to mask the big election defeat and the illegal leaks!” Trump .
“Another tweet, this one from May 2017: “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”
“But Trump’s own Justice Department has concluded otherwise. A 37-page federal indictment released Friday afternoon spells out in exhaustive detail a three-year Russian plot to disrupt America’s democracy and boost Trump’s campaign, dealing a fatal blow to one of the president’s favorite talking points.”
What do we make of Trump’s denials to date? What do we make Trump’s complete lack of initiative to date to investigate or take steps to protect U.S. elections? What do we make of the efforts of the GOP Congress to deflect, resist and counter-attack any efforts to get at the truth? What do we make of propaganda of Trump mouthpieces like Sean Hannity and FOX News and their persistent inventions of alternative facts and stories?
What are we to make of false assurances by Vice President “Out-of-the-Loop” Pence and Trump that Russian meddling did not affect the outcome of the election? No one close to the investigation has ever said that regardless of what Pence and Trump bray.
How do we feel about House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) finally speaking out after months of letting his attack dog, House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) off his leash to create counter-claims, lies and confusion:
“We have known that Russians meddled in the election, but these indictments detail the extent of the subterfuge,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a statement. “These Russians engaged in a sinister and systematic attack on our political system. It was a conspiracy to subvert the process, and take aim at democracy itself. Today’s announcement underscores why we need to follow the facts and work to protect the integrity of future elections.”
Treason. The word we will hear increasingly is treason. Not contact, not collusion, not corruption – treason. There are mounting reasons for calling it treason.
Trump’s hoax is part of a pattern, his pattern of poor leadership. As The New Yorker reported: Mueller’s Indictment Ends Trump’s Myth of the Russia “Hoax”.
“The President of the United States wakes each day, it seems, to another nightmarish crisis and addresses it as if in a state of frenzied denial. When faced with the hideous reality of yet another gun massacre, this time in Parkland, Florida, he dares not mention guns. (The N.R.A., which spent thirty-one million dollars to help get him elected, would not approve.) When faced with the testimonies of two women accusing his aide Rob Porter of beating them, he applauds the man’s fine work, wishes him a great career, and, only after days of delay, woodenly declares himself “totally opposed” to domestic violence.
“For well over a year, Donald Trump has dodged the subject of Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential charges of collusion and obstruction of justice. It’s all “phony,” a “hoax,” “fake news,” a “witch hunt.” Last year, during a multilateral summit in Vietnam, Trump met briefly with Vladimir Putin and then told reporters that he had asked the Russian President about election meddling. Not to worry, he told reporters: “Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.”
“Trump cannot really accept what his own intelligence leaders tell him about the election; he even with a former operative turned conspiracy theorist who thought that the hack of the Democratic National Committee was an “inside job.” Only rarely, and begrudgingly, has Trump acknowledged Russian hacking, and, when he does, he hastens to emphasize its triviality, its meaninglessness.”
The media is part of the problem and we will come to this next. If we’ve blown past Trump’s lines of defense – no contact, no collusion – why would we believe claims of “no impact”?
“Trump’s reaction to the indictments was to tweet that the Russian operation began in 2014, “long before” he announced his candidacy. “The results of the election were not impacted,” he wrote. “The Trump campaign did nothing wrong—no collusion!”
“Michael McFaul, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia under President Obama, wrote on Twitter that Trump’s statement was “shockingly weak. Putin attacked America and no pushback whatsoever. Why?””
Russia engaged in the U.S. election in favor of Trump, Sanders and Stein in the same way any campaign would promote their candidate. To say Russia had no impact is to question why any campaign or political party would promote their candidate.
When are we all clear that Trump has done nothing beyond denying, when does that become a clear indictment of his corruption? We’re clear about Putin’s role, so why not Trump’s? This from Stephen Sestanovich, a foreign-policy official and Russian expert in both the Reagan and Clinton Administrations who until now doubted Putin’s role:
“There can be collusion without Putin’s direction,” Sestanovich said. Say a Trump surrogate gets a call from sketchy Russian hackers. “Does he turn them down? No. So a lot of this can go on without it being a whole comprehensive Putin strategy. But once you have ‘Putin’s chef’ involved, I am suddenly thinking, Wow. I don’t think the chef has his own foreign policy.”
Trump finally, reluctanty agrees Russia interfered in our election. Trump is setting up his new line of defense but in doing this he also tweets, “Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014 before I announced that I would run for President”. His intended point, “no collusion”, his unintended point is that he just accepted that Russia did interfere.
If Trump agrees Russia interfered, what does it mean that he refuses to take any steps to understand or put in place protections?
Let’s also consider the role of the media in Trump-Russia corruption.
The Intercept asked the central question we must all confront: Is Donald Trump A Traitor?
The article’s subhead bores down on the central issue of that question: Americans must live with the uncertainty of not knowing whether Trump has the best interests of the United States or those of Russia at heart.
In the article legendary investigative reporter James Risen minces no words with his struggle writing about Trump:
“It is not that he is a complicated subject. Quite the opposite. It is that everything about him is so painfully obvious. He is a low-rent racist, a shameless misogynist, and an unbalanced narcissist. He is an unrelenting liar and a two-bit white identity demagogue. Lest anyone forget these things, he goes out of his way each day to remind us of them.”
But he does find his writing legs and offers this observation:
“Did he gain the presidency through collusion with Russian President Vladimir Putin?
“One year after Trump took office, it is still unclear whether the president of the United States is an agent of a foreign power. Just step back and think about that for a moment.”
Risen goes further and hits the ‘treason’ nail on the head:
“Most pundits in Washington now recoil at any suggestion that the Trump-Russia story is really about treason. They all want to say it’s about something else – what, they aren’t quite sure. They are afraid to use serious words. They are in the business of breaking down the Trump-Russia narrative into a long series of bite-sized, incremental stories in which the gravity of the overall case often gets lost. They seem to think that treason is too much of a conversation-stopper, that it interrupts the flow of cable television and Twitter. God forbid you might upset the right wing! (And the left wing, for that matter.)”
Worthy of repetition, the media is, “….afraid to use serious words. They are in the business of breaking down the Trump-Russia narrative into a long series of bite-sized, incremental stories in which the gravity of the overall case often gets lost.”
And God forbid – don’t upset the right wing and don’t upset the left wing.
Risen goes even further with his criticism of the media:
“To their disgrace, editors and reporters at American news organizations greatly enhanced the Russian echo chamber, eagerly writing stories about Clinton and the Democratic Party based on the emails, while showing almost no interest during the presidential campaign in exactly how those emails came to be disclosed and distributed. The Intercept itself has faced such accusations. The hack was a much more important story than the content of the emails themselves, but that story was largely ignored because it was so easy for journalists to write about Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.”
This is a repeated mistake and no one better understands this media propensity than Trump – as an example Trump’s blustery denials become, not the act. The media has let Trump set the agenda since the day he announced his candidacy.
Risen’s take is deserving of a serious read, far more than might be implied by how I’ve highlighted only a few remarks. Risen does an excellent job of laying out the evidence of Russian hacking, much of which has been reported here – and promises three more parts in a series to try to answer the questions he poses about Trump and his allegiance.
There is more news, which adds to the story told of Mueller’s indictment. It is worth pointing out that former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon has quietly met a number of times with Mueller’s team; reportedly a total of 20 hours. At the same time Bannon did also meet again with the House Intelligence Committee and virtually refuses to answer almost any questions. Which is what happens after repeatedly watching Devin Nunes cherry-pick testimony and evidence to cobble together lame attempts at Trump defenses.
The article is not about Trump-Russia corruption but buried in the article is this comment by Senate Judiciary Chair Charles Grassley (R-IA):
“I think it’s legitimate to be incensed and I resent it, because of what I’ve done for him. He had a tough nomination, a tough hearing in my committee,” Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said in an interview Wednesday in his Capitol Hill office.
“They wanted to call him back every other day for additional hearings about his Russian connection, and I shut them off of that until we had the normal oversight hearing in October I believe it was, see? And the president was going to fire him, and I backed him, you know? So why wouldn’t I be irritated?”
A rare moment of honesty – Grassley subverting process to protect the appointment hearings of attorney general Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions III. Grassley accidently admitting to protecting Sessions and Trump in yet another example of republican party over country.
Part of the grand Trumputin Russpublican corruption: If the truth is inconvenient, bury it.
There’s only one word for what has happened … and continues to happen
The U.S. was attacked, and defeated. Humiliated. Russians interfered in our election and we have a president who refuses to speak out or take action. We have a Congress that refuses to act or speak out and if anything, subverts and attacks the messenger.
What’s a good analogy – Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and FDR refuses to name the action or the perpetrator? Or make any response.
Trump’s persistent denials and reluctance to take any constructive steps amount to aiding and abetting the ongoing Russian interference in our governing.
What word do we use for this? There’s only one: Treason.
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )