By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (2/22/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Russia attacks the U.S., interfering in U.S. elections for the benefit of Trump, and this president offers no condemnation, no warnings against future attacks and offers absolutely no steps to protect us. It’s as if Trump is in bed with the Russians. This can’t be said with enough emphasis: Trump Is Ignoring The Worst Attack On America Since 9/11.
This from Max Boot writing for The Washington Post:
“Imagine if, after 9/11, the president had said that the World Trade Center and Pentagon by “China” or “lots of other people.” Imagine if he had dismissed claims of al-Qaeda’s responsibility as a “hoax” and said that he “really” believed Osama bin Laden’s denials. Imagine if he saw the attack primarily as a political embarrassment to be minimized rather than as a national security threat to be combated. Imagine if he threatened to fire the investigators trying to find out what happened.”
And far more clearly than anything Trump has communicated over the last few days, here’s our call to action:
“There is also considerable evidence that the Kremlin impacted the election, which was in three states. Trump must have thought the Russian operation was significant because he mentioned its handiwork — the release of Democratic Party documents via WikiLeaks — in the final month of the campaign. On top of that, Russian propaganda reached via Facebook alone.
“The onslaught did not end in 2016. Russian trolls have continued such as #ReleaseTheMemo to sow dissension and division. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats that Russia “views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.” Yet Trump a Cabinet meeting to address this threat and has resisted implementing sanctions passed by Congress.”
Sinking to a new low, Russian trolls are tweeting attacks on teen survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which Donnie Trump Jr. ‘Likes’ while flying off to India on our dime to shill $1 billion worth of Trump real estate with a promise that some lucky few might get dinner with Donnie Jr. through a ‘buy now’ promo. Typically tacky Trumputin leadership.
Following Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of the Russian trolls and troll factory that interfered in our election to benefit Trump, Trump’s initial response was “vindication”. But after watching cable news it started to sink in – this was not the vindication he presumed.
Thereafter Trump spent the next days attacking and blaming everyone except himself – and Russia. New indictments will happen and will land closer to home so expect more rage. Thanks to a Russia Monitor reader, here’s a roundup of the attacks, only some of which are related to Trump-Russia corruption, but it sets the stage properly: Donald Trump Spends Weekend In Marathon Whine Full Of Profanity, Lies — And A Big Clue.
“In memory of those who lost their lives in the more recent mass shooting, Donald Trump took the one action available to him as the most powerful man on the planet—he spent the weekend in conducting multi-day, whine-fest in which he spread lies and blame at everyone except himself and …
“Rather than aim a single word against the Russians, or acknowledge any of the efforts Russia made to attack and corrupt the US election, Donald Trump turned his fire on the investigation, as if
“President Donald Trump railed against the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election Saturday night into Sunday, sending off a stream of tweets attacking the FBI, CNN, the Democratic Party, his own national security adviser, former President Barack Obama and the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
“He did not criticize Russia, or voice concern over Vladimir Putin’s attempts to undermine U.S. elections.
“The tweets contained a series of lies, baseless accusations and served better than any statement he could make where Donald Trump’s concerns really lie. He’s not worried at all about Russia. He’s saving his fire for the FBI, for the special counsel, and for anyone else who looks into his actions during the election. Donald Trump spent the weekend throwing desperate amounts of smoke, because it’s clear that he’s on fire.”
While it’s simple to parse the lies, it misses the point. Fortunately for us we have this: Trump’s Unhinged Russia Tweetstorm Boomerangs Back On Republicans.
Trump’s denials and attacks are excellent reminders of his love of Russia and his inability to criticize or offer any leadership for protection from future attacks. A tip of the hat to George Lakoff and neuro linguistics, Trump keeps pointing out his own Elephant in the Room.
“Writing at Crooked Media, Brian Beutler in the media debate over the Mueller indictment. Observers are struggling to come to terms with how extensive the Russian sabotage effort really was, while simultaneously avoiding grappling with whether it might have helped tip an extremely close election to Trump — an uncomfortable topic, because that might place a question mark over Trump’s legitimacy.
“And that raises another related uncomfortable question — a forward-looking one. Trump and his media allies have gone to enormous lengths to discredit and hamstring a full reckoning into what happened. Numerous Republicans in Congress have the oversight process to lend an assist to that effort. Because Trump to organize a response to the threat of Russian meddling in upcoming elections, even though intelligence officials warn this effort is already upon us.
“Republicans such as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) have greeted the Mueller indictment by our election security must be taken seriously. But how many Republicans are openly calling out Trump’s inaction in that regard, which the indictment gives us ample grounds for taking even more seriously? As , we need to discuss a “bigger and darker question,” namely whether Trump — and, crucially, congressional Republicans — may not particularly care about this threat if they stand to benefit from it.”
Dare anyone say Trumputin Russpublican swung the election in Trump’s favor? To do so would raise the question of the legitimacy of Trump ruinous reign. Dare anyone say the Trump campaign colluded with Russia? This raises a question of treason. Dare anyone question the actions of Senate Leader McConnell (R-KY) or House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and their refusal dating as far back as the 2016 election and their unwillingness to accept the findings of our intelligence community? That would raise the question of Russpublican complicity in support of Trump’s treason.
There is news. One more indictment from Mueller: Rick Gates, Trump’s indicted former campaign manager Manafort’s co-indicted associate, is flipping and will cooperate with Mueller. And this: Exclusive: Mueller’s Interest In Kushner Grows To Include Foreign Financing Efforts.
Remember, it is less than one year from now that Jared Kushner’s (Trump special adviser; son-in-law) $1.8 billion loan on his 666 5th Ave New York property comes due, and in the meantime:
“Special counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in Jared Kushner has expanded beyond his contacts with Russia and now includes his efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition, according to people familiar with the inquiry.
“This is the first indication that Mueller is exploring Kushner’s discussions with potential non-Russian foreign investors, including in China.” US officials briefed on the probe that points of focus related to Kushner, the White House senior adviser and son-in-law of President Donald Trump, included the Trump campaign’s 2016 data analytics operation, his relationship with former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Kushner’s own contacts with Russians.
Pressure builds on Trumputin & Manafort
Slate reports: Rick Gates Will Plead Guilty “Within Days” and Testify Against Manafort.
This adds pressure against Manafort and Trump:
“According to a report in the published Sunday, former Trump campaign official will plea guilty “within days” and testify against his former boss Paul Manafort in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Gates, who had a longstanding partnership with Manafort, served as a deputy campaign manager during Manafort’s tenure as the manager of the Trump campaign. Gates after Manafort politicians in Ukraine. In October, Gates and Manafort were both on twelve counts that centered on their work with Ukraine, including conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to launder money. At the time, both pled not guilty.”
But the bad news for Manafort doesn’t stop there: Manafort Under Scrutiny For $40 Million In “Suspicious” Transactions.
“As the special counsel investigated President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, authorities obtained details on “suspicious” banking activity that was first unearthed in 2014 and 2015. Those records were part of an FBI operation to track international kleptocracy that ultimately failed, but which Robert Mueller’s team resurrected.”
It turns out Manafort’s shady business dealings and money laundering had already been investigated by the FBI but he was meant to be a small fish while chasing much larger fish.
“Federal law enforcement officials have identified more than $40 million in “suspicious” financial transactions to and from companies controlled by President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort — a much larger sum than was cited in his October indictment on money laundering charges.”
Here’s why Manafort was already a “known”:
“In 2014, then–attorney general Eric Holder an FBI team that would tackle international kleptocracy — and its first target would be ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, Manafort’s longtime client and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“To find the hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars Yanukovych and his aides were of stealing, the task force scoured the globe, working with governments in Cyprus, Latvia, Ukraine, and elsewhere, said two former federal law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the effort. In doing so, the team stumbled across Manafort. As one of the former officials recalled, agents were told that he might have leads on where Yanukovych had stashed his money.”
And Vox brings a big chunk of bad news for Gates and Manafort: What The Latest Mueller Indictment Tells Us About His Strategy.
The article’s subhead sums up the story: Dutch attorney Alex van der Zwaan’s indictment shows how Mueller is trying to get to the big fish — in this case, former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort.
This could be the background to the news of Gates flipping. The story is a bit complex, but there is:
1) The news:
On Tuesday morning, special counsel Robert Mueller’s office released yet another indictment — but this one was kind of a puzzler. targets Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch attorney based in London, for making false statements to the FBI.
2) The explanation, in a nutshell van der Zwaan lied about his efforts with Manafort and Gates; Manafort had already resigned from Trump’s campaign based on the news surrounding his work with Yanukovych:
During this same time period, Manafort and Gates were working for Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych — a Kremlin-backed leader with dubious democratic credentials.
Yanukovych was in the midst of a power struggle with another prominent Ukrainian politician, which he decided to solve by jailing her in the fall of 2011. Manafort and Gates’s job was to run cover for this clearly undemocratic prosecution. So they , which included van der Zwaan, to put together a “report” that conveniently concluded that there was no political motive for putting her in jail.
3) THE COINCIDENCE:
Van der Zwaan is the son-in-law of one of Russia’s wealthiest men. Van der Zwaan is the son-in-law of Russian oligarch German Khan.
Putin-connected Khan pocketed over $3 billion from this deal:
“German Khan is a billionaire and an owner of Alfa Group, Russia’s largest financial and industrial investment group, according to Forbes magazine.
“A native of Kiev, Ukraine, Khan worked as executive director of oil business TNK-BP, a joint venture with BP, before leaving the company in March 2013, according to Forbes, after Alfa Group and partners sold a 50% stake in it to state-owned Rosneft for $28 billion.”
And the coincidence does not end there – Alfa Group (Alfa Bank) is the location of the servers connected to Trump Tower and the DeVos health care company (Betsy DeVos is education secretary; Betsy’s brother is Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater and unofficial adviser to Trump).
What was communicated between these servers is still unknown but here is a good investigation of what transpired –
Trumputin – so many coincidences, so many deflections, so little effort by Trump to understand what happened.
We’ll end with one of the best things Thomas Friedman has written for The New York Times in years: Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now.
“Our democracy is in serious danger.
“President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy. …
“In sum, Trump is either hiding something so threatening to himself, or he’s criminally incompetent to be commander in chief. It is impossible yet to say which explanation for his behavior is true, but it seems highly likely that one of these scenarios explains Trump’s refusal to respond to Russia’s direct attack on our system — a quiescence that is simply unprecedented for any U.S. president in history. Russia is not our friend. It has acted in a hostile manner. And Trump keeps ignoring it all.”
Friedman speculates that Trumputin is about money, at least to Trump. He ends, and we’ll end, with an appropriate rallying cry:
“But whatever it is, Trump is either trying so hard to hide it or is so naïve about Russia that he is ready to not only resist mounting a proper defense of our democracy, he’s actually ready to undermine some of our most important institutions, the F.B.I. and Justice Department, to keep his compromised status hidden.
“That must not be tolerated. This is code red. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office.”
For extra credit, The New Yorker makes the case for how Trump actually began his run for the presidency in Russia in 2013. Shocking, but yet, that would mean his criticisms of Obama for 2016 are disingenuous: Trump’s Miss Universe Gambit.
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free to use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )