By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (2/26/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
We’ll start by nominating four candidates for top story since the last edition of the Russia Monitor…
- Sen. Diane Feinstein loses the endorsement of the California state Democratic party to Kevin de Leon, a more liberal candidate.
- Leadership by Parkland shooting survivors knocks back the NRA and drive down Trump’s approval rating matching his lowest level (35%; CNN).
- Former Trump campaign deputy chair Rick Gates enters guilty plea and agrees to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
- Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee see their memo on government surveillance during the 2016 election released in response to Committee Chair Devin Nunes’s (R-CA) politicized version.
An answer to follow; meanwhile…
As reported previously, Nunes released a partisan memo about the Justice Department effort to investigate Trump-Russia. In a partisan committee vote, the Nunes memo cherry-picked intelligence to give Trump and Fox News something to wave and claim ‘foul’, ‘fake’ and ‘exoneration’. After much political wrangling the Democrats were able to offer their response.
The New York Times offered a concise summary: 5 Takeaways From The Release Of The Democratic Memo.
The Republican version offered a false case that the FBI relied on partisan research through the Steele dossier without clarifying a link to the Clinton campaign and the DNC. In a nutshell, the FBI was already investigating the Trump campaign prior to the dossier, relied very little on the Steele dossier, did disclose the origin of Steele’s work and was presented to Republican judges. Four different Republican-appointed judges approved surveillance of former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page, with the renewal approvals based on “important investigative information and leads” collected by the FBI through the surveillance.
Here is a similar view from New York Magazine: The Nunes Memo Is Fake and the Russia Scandal Is Very Real.
“Did the Justice Department rely on the Christopher Steele memo in order to surveil Carter Page? No, it did not. The FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation in July 2016. It received the Steele memo in September.”
Nunes knew the FBI had started their own investigation of Page in July 2016, having only received the Steele dossier months later. Nunes lied and continues to lie.
And here’s the damning conclusion drawn by the author, Jonathan Chait:
“So, while the evidence that the DOJ has been corrupt or even sloppy in its investigation has disintegrated, evidence for the seriousness of the investigation itself has grown progressively stronger. The president, at minimum, chose to surround himself with people deeply susceptible to Russian leverage. The Republican party has decided, for the most part, that it does not care to find out the answer.
“The Conservative Political Action Conference today awarded its “Defender of Freedom” award to Devin Nunes who chairs the House Intelligence Committee. More to the point, Nunes has abandoned any pretense of overseeing the executive branch, and has thrown himself fully into the task of attacking and smearing any law enforcement function that threatens to touch the Trump administration. Nunes is Trump’s leading goon in Congress. By the standards of the conservative movement, this renders him a champion of freedom, defined as protecting Trump from any accountability before the law.”
Trump and Fox News plow forward unconstrained by fact. If you want to see the parallel upside-down, inside-out universe, look here: Devin Nunes Tells Fox News the ‘Whole Russia Fiasco’ Shows That the ‘Media Is Dead’.
More then a day after the Democratic response is released, Fox News offers Nunes their gratitude. There is a 7-minute video concluding with Fox pundits thanking Nunes.
Clearly a case of opinions formed before fact. As with so much of the right wing media on Trump-Russia: Free of fact
Trump-Russia Democratic Response – MORE Damning Details
- The FBI assessed Carter Page to be an agent of the Russian government
- Page was interviewed by the FBI in March 2016, the same month he joined the Trump campaign as a foreign policy adviser
- The FBI corroborated parts of the Steele dossier and this was presented to the FISA court (partly redacted; page 4)
- The FBI did not bring the Steele dossier to the team investigating Trump until October 2016
- Page met with “Rosneft’s Sechin-tied investor relations chief, Andrey Baranov” (more about this)
- The FBI disclosed an investigation of Clinton in July 2016;
- The FBI was investigating FOUR Trump campaign staff in addition to Page prior to the election
- The FBI publicly denied there was an investigation of Trump or the Trump campaign
As noted, the Steele dossier referenced a meeting between Carter Page and Rosneft President Igor Sechin (Schiff’s memo refers to Sechin’s associate). Sechin is a long-time Putin associate appointed president of the state-owned oil company Rosneft. Steele alleged the meeting “raised with Page the issues of future bilateral energy cooperation and prospects for an associated move to lift Ukraine-related western sanctions against Russia.” The Steele dossier says Page was told the Kremlin had incriminating info on Clinton and had Kompromat on Trump. Page was offered a brokerage fee for the Rosneft sale.
A Trump-Russia quid pro quo – energy cooperation for removal of Russian sanctions. Steele said the Rosneft sale was for 19% of the company, the Reuters article said a 19.5% stake. The difference is a $282 million issue, most of the facts of the sale are not known publicly because offshore entities were used (Cayman Islands) and there might have been a ‘broker fee’.
Trump-Russia news also included the guilty plea of Rick Gates, Trump’s deputy chair campaign manager and long-term associate of campaign chair Paul Manafort who is under indictment: What Rick Gates’ Guilty Pleas Means For Mueller’s Probe.
“TODAY’S GUILTY PLEA by Rick Gates might be one of the least surprising developments in the Mueller investigation: It had been clear that the former Trump campaign aide would likely seek a deal almost since the day Gates and his business partner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort were indicted in October….
“The move does, though, apply new pressure to Manafort, who will now face in court not just the bank records that originally led to his indictment but also testimony from his former close associate and accomplice in the money-laundering scheme that allegedly involved upward of $60 million. When it comes to Manafort, Gates—who was also a Trump campaign and transition official—knows where the bodies are buried.”
We’ll hear much more about Gates and Manafort over time. It’s worth noting that Gates has his fingerprints on the Republican convention platform fight over softening language related to Russian annexation of Crimea .
The story leading to Gates’s guilty plea is complex with a turn of events after Gates lied to Mueller’s team during his proffer negotiation. The lie is worth highlighting for another reason, we now have (literally) Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) at the table. The lie was about a dinner meeting discussion with Rohrabacher of the “There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrabacher and Trump” fame.
The answer to both juicy questions is “Yes”
This is a good time to point out that Mueller has filed 89 federal criminal charges, 19 people have been charged (3 entities), 5 guilty pleas have been entered and 4 people are cooperating.
With more indictments to follow; here’s a prediction: Fire and Fury author: Trump And Jared Will Throw Each Other ‘under the bus’ To Avoid Mueller Indictments.
After referring to Ivanka Trump and son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner as “the most entitled people of earth”, Wolff is asked if Trump would “fire his own daughter?”
“I think that there is a pretty good possibility at this point that Jared will be indicted,” Wolff predicted.
“So the more direct question is will Trump throw his son-in-law under the bus, and then the corollary to that is, will his son-in-law throw his father-in-law under the bus?” Wolff suggested. “And I think the answer to both of those questions is ‘yes’.”
The FBI was investigating five Trump campaign persons prior to the election and denied this while disclosing an investigation of Clinton.
The FBI already had information prior to the Steele dossier alleging Kremlin Kompomat over Trump corroborating parts of the Steele dossier.
According to this Huffington Post article, Russia likely swung votes to Trump: Yes, Russia Likely Did Swing Votes For Donald Trump.
The starting question was about the four news items and an answer is, they are ALL important.
The Democratic party is waging a long-deserved battle for the soul and future of the party and — if it survives — it will and has shifted left. The news of Sen. Dianne Feinstein losing the California Democratic party endorsement is but one indication.
Jacob Weindling writing for Paste Magazine boldly conflates this battle with how we each feel about Trump-Russia:
“And this is where the Trump-Russia discord begins on the left. It’s not really about Trump-Russia. It’s about what liberalism will be in a country now run by a party who openly cheers authoritarianism, and aids in the murder of our children in schools every week so that a sliver of their voters can treat weapons of war like toys. The future of the United States of America will be decided on the left, so this is not a trivial battle. Trump-Russia is both a red herring and a vitally important story, and this dichotomy, combined with the existing fights on the left, has resulted in a situation where everyone’s brain comes off as broken, and the entirety of liberal conversation (on the internet) is wholly reactionary to the other side’s position.”
This article is sure to have you shake your head in agreement as well as in disagreement as Weindling creates buckets – “Centrists” and “Far Left”, and against his own better judgment perseveres with lessons for each of us: Trump—Russia Has Broken The Left.
The author says we are having a referendum over the 2016 election through our opinions on Trump-Russia:
“We should be delving into how we could lose the presidency to a racist meat-filled bottle of spray tanner, instead we’re kind of arguing that through the prism of the Russia investigation. The divisions on the left truly began in 2008 after percolating for decades under Clintonian capitalism, and a disastrous Bush administration which set so many fires that we didn’t have time to concentrate on what divides us. was the establishment pick in both 2008 and 2016, and both times she was seriously challenged by a populist candidate running to her left. These two elections proved it indisputable that the bulk of the political enthusiasm exists on what is deemed the “far left” by the MSNBC’s of the world.”
Weindling persists before building to a conclusion with this path forward:
“Which is why it pains me to see the Russia investigation divide us. … Who cares what the catalyst for that much-needed reform is so long as it happens?
“This Russia investigation is a big deal. We have become a bit inured to it thanks to the hyper speed of the news cycle and our age of perpetual outrage. Those of us on the left need to call a truce around this Russia investigation, so we can let our political battles stay in the political realm that they belong in. There’s an ongoing fight for the future of liberalism that’s a fight worth having, but we should not let that seep into a national event such as this. Something happened between the Trump camp and those connected to the Kremlin. That much we know so far. We should stop acting like we know more, and wait for the special counsel to return concrete answers while we pivot to deliberating the policies that will come to define the left in a post-Trump world.”
The Parkland shooting survivors upset the Trump momentum more than any other issue. There are such issues each cycle – this ‘news’ and Trump-Russia are not “either-or”, they are “yes-and-yes”.