Who is next in Mueller’s barrel?
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (3/12/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
With Trump-Russia corruption news, there are sometimes the easy to understand news items like former Trump political adviser Sam Nunberg’s almost six hour meeting with a grand jury convened by special counsel Robert Mueller. We previously cited Nunberg’s statement that he would ignore a subpoena to appear.
“Nunberg said his testimony focused on the campaign aides surrounding the president who were mentioned in the subpoena, like White House Communications Director , former White House aide , former campaign aides and , Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen, and the president’s longtime bodyguard Keith Schiller.
“He said there were also questions about Trump’s business and his political positions on Russia.”
So Nunberg did show up and he confirms, Mueller’s barrel for Trump associates is large. Nunberg is a lawyer, just like his decision to show up, it’s a safe assumption he’d understand the consequences of lying.
Before we dive into the deeper part of the Trump-Russia corruption pool, let’s take a look at the ongoing question of how we feel about what may or may not have happened with Trumputin and Mueller’s investigation.
Inconvenient facts for some on the left
The liberal stalwart, The Nation, challenged some on the left who continue to ignore the mounting evidence of Trump-Russia scandal: Let’s Get Real About Russiagate.
Katha Pollitt writing for The Nation starts with this:
“Only a handful of diehards still maintain that Russia didn’t meddle in the election—OK, try to meddle. It does seem that evidence for Russia’s involvement is becoming stronger rather than weaker, a conviction hardly limited to fans of Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders himself said, “It is now clear to everyone that agents of the Russian government were, in a disgusting and dangerous manner, actively interfering in the 2016 elections in an effort to defeat Secretary Hillary Clinton.”
A useful introduction before getting at the real intent of the article:
“Nonetheless, it’s vital that we understand as much as we can about what happened, and that the Mueller investigation continue. I’m troubled by arguments on the left that wave away inconvenient facts because they don’t fit some desired outcome. That’s what I want to take on here.”
Pollitt uses this as a launching point to consider six different forms of dismissal, including this:
“6. Nothing revealed so far proves that Trump and Putin colluded to swing the election. This is true. But every day the evidence mounts that Trump’s campaign and the Russians were reaching out to each other about something. Do you really believe the Trump Tower meeting was about orphans? And what about George Papadopoulos’s drunken boast that the Russians had dirt on Clinton, followed by his guilty plea for making false statements to the FBI? An awful lot of people close to Trump turn out to have been far more involved with Russia than they initially let on. Maybe it was less about the election than shady finances: Trump has been a grifter his whole life. Maybe the Russians are blackmailing him—although it’s hard to imagine his fans caring.”
There are probably challenges and reassurances to each and every opinion about Trump-Russia corruption, but the final statement is a good summary:
“If you’re a skeptic, ask yourself what could change your mind. If the answer is “nothing,” you may be in for an embarrassing time.”
Putin’s thuggish threat
Meanwhile, in Britain another Russian dies. And the Russian media is not exactly denying Russian involvement. First: Spy Poisoning Is Latest In String Of Suspicious Cases In UK.
“The latest victims near death’s door are 66-year-old Sergei Skripal — a former colonel in Russia’s military intelligence service, then a turncoat helping British agents who was convicted in Russia before being freed in a spy swap— and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia. Both were found comatose on a public bench Sunday in the medieval English city of Salisbury.”
We’ll come back to the Washington Post story, but the Financial Times (behind a pay wall) offers their case for assassination and the rationale, “the most plausible theory to emerge so far is that Mr Skripal was the victim of a revenge attack for handing over Russian secrets to the British”, but not because of his links to Orbis and Christopher Steele, the former MI6 spy who compiled the Trump-Russia dossier.
The number of people treated for exposure to the poison used to assassinate Skripal is now 21.
This is a part of a string of deaths of Russians in Britain; this from U.K. Parliament police intelligence chairwoman Yvette Cooper:
“Cooper cited a 2017 BuzzFeed News investigation of 14 deaths that may have been the result of foul play — including the case of Scot Young. He worked with Putin’s critics before his body was found impaled on railings outside his London apartment in 2014. Police said the case not suspicious at the time and treated Young’s death as an apparent suicide, although the coroner said the evidence was inconclusive.”
Chatham House think tank director Robin Niblett offers:
““The Russian have been very good at covering their tracks,” he said. “A lot of this stuff is really difficult to prove. And if you don’t have clear evidence, what’s the point of going into court?”
Is there a common theme of Russian actions and impunity? From The Independent we get this blunt, thuggish warning, Vladimir Putin Warns Enemies Of Russia They Will ‘swallow poison’.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has warned his country’s enemies they will “be served with poison”.
Mr Putin made his comments at a time when UK police are investigating the apparent poisoning of a Russian double agent and his daughter in Salisbury although he was not addressing that issue when he made the comments.
He said Western sanctions for Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and the insurgency in eastern Ukraine were part of “illegitimate and unfair” efforts to contain Russia, but added that “we will win in the long run”.
He continued: “Those who serve us with poison will eventually swallow it and poison themselves.”
Putin and apologists hit on the common themes that are used to dismiss his actions:
- Western actions are the problem (Russia will win; this from a “strategic partner”)
- Maybe they did it but it’s hard to prove and what can we do anyway?
- Russia didn’t do it, but enemies “will be served with poison”
Ivanka’s turn in Mueller’s barrel?
Also in the deeper end of Trumputin, as reported in The Intercept it may finally be time for Trump daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump’s time in the barrel: Ivanka Trump Backed Flynn & Manfort, She Discussed Firing Comey, How Has She Evaded Mueller’s Investigation?
Mueller’s investigation seems to be reported in waves. When the denials were “no contact with Russians” the news was about Mueller’s attention to the many contacts between Trump associates and Russians. When the denials were “witch hunt” Mueller’s attention was about Trump obstruction of justice. When the denials are offered as a “red line” not to cross, Mueller’s attention is about Trump business dealings. Which bring focus to Invanka Trump.
“IVANKA TRUMP IS the ghost of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation: She is connected, either directly or tangentially, to events at the heart of the probe, yet all but invisible to the public.
“But as Mueller’s investigation , the so-called first daughter is becoming a long overdue part of the bigger story of alleged corruption at the Trump Organization. Last week, we learned that the financing and negotiations surrounding her involvement with Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, which is home to an Ivanka Trump-branded spa. That inquiry may be unrelated to the Russia probe, but it should draw scrutiny to Ivanka’s business dealings and how they relate to her father’s political rise.”
Reporter Hannah Seligson, offers that the first daughter has developed some of her father’s Teflon qualities and has largely been granted a free pass by the media while her role in Trump business and her associations lead to this:
Ivanka is linked to Trump’s drafting of a media response and cover-up aboard Air Force One about Trump Organization executive officer and son Donnie Jr.’s Trump Tower meeting with Russians. Ivanka was a proponent of firing then FBI Director James Comey. Ivanka was key in bringing indicted former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort on board. Ivanka was key in bringing indicted former Trump National Security Adviser Mike Flynn into the administration.
So is it her time in the barrel:
“Why is he [Mueller] not interviewing Ivanka?” CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin, a former prosecutor who worked for Mueller at the Justice Department. “The answer is, beats me. Either he’s just biding his time or he has obtained this evidence elsewhere and he doesn’t need her, or he appreciates the possibility of a major eruption were he to do that.”
Maybe Ivanka can continue to finesse her way through the various points of personal risk for Trump business corruption and Trump-Russia corruption:
“Ivanka’s absence from the nonstop coverage of the Russia investigation may be linked to her longstanding special relationship with the mainstream press, not to mention surrogates who spend hours on the phone with reporters buffering her image. Wolff claims that Josh Raffel, Jared and Ivanka’s spokesperson, “coordinated all of Kushner’s substantial leaking” and that the leaking culture at the White House is so “open and overt” that “everybody could identify everybody else’s leaks.” It stands to reason that reporters, all competing for the next scoop, would be loath to jeopardize their access to the palace intrigue that makes the Trump White House such juicy copy. … As one senior White House staffer told Wolff, Jared and Ivanka “are so careful about their image and have crafted this whole persona — it’s like anyone who tries to pierce it or say something against it is like a big problem. They get very upset and will come after you.””
If Mueller’s Trump-Russia corruption focus goes past Trump’s “red line” for investigating his prior business activities, Ivanka gets her time in the barrel.
No worries, as reported by MSNBC’s Ari Melber, she’ll simply join Trump senior adviser, Trump son-in-law and Ivanka’s spouse Jared Kushner in the barrel: Why Robert Mueller ‘Following The Debt’ Scares Trump, Kushner.
As previously reported by the Russia Monitor, Melber notes:
“…the pressure building on Jared Kushner who Federal officials say has “significant financial entanglements” with a “foreign adversary” and could be using his White House job to deal with massive business debts. Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance explains why Mueller “has to be” following the debt.”
Trump, Ivanka and Jared using the U.S. government to run their multiple debt-laden businesses.
Putin’s not worried
We’ll end with a wrap-up of opinions put forward about Trump-Putin corruption. If, as posed by Katha Pollitt above, your view is “nothing” can get in the way of your dismissal of the subject you are not alone, you stand with Putin who dismisses the whole issue saying, “I couldn’t care less”.
It’s amazing how Trump and Putin scripts mirror each other.
“Putin even suggested that Jews or other ethnic groups had been involved in the meddling.”
“”Maybe they’re not even Russians,” he said. “Maybe they’re Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship. Even that needs to be checked. Maybe they have dual citizenship. Or maybe a green card. Maybe it was the Americans who paid them for this work. How do you know? I don’t know.””
Putin even suggested Russians are 1,000’s of miles away and so could not have influenced the election.
There is also the risk of disappointment for anyone counting on Trump being impeached for Trump-Russia corruption. For this we’ll turn to SNL: Robert Mueller On The Bachelor Finale Cold Open.
The Washington Post reported on the most inventive dismissal of Trump-Russia corruption goes to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Pittsburgh Paper Backs Republican In House Race, Warning Of Impeachment ‘distraction’ If Democrats Win.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette endorses the Republican candidate in the Tuesday special congressional election because:
“Democratic control of the House would hurt the country by setting the stage for a presidential impeachment.”
This isn’t a question about the facts or impact of Trump-Russia corruption, but it is a brand new rationale for how considering the issue could prove to be ‘inconvenient’. Trumputin has some supporters with “nothing” that could change their minds about what happened. Putin agrees and offers that he can’t be responsible for the actions of Jews or other ethnic Russians that might have acted on their own, especially since they are 1,000’s of miles away.
For some, Trumputin is just an inconvenience, just noisy, distracting inconvenient ‘chatter’. And for Putin, he could “care less”, which makes perfect sense since there has been no price enacted for his actions. Why should he?