“As far as the presidential race in 2020, the Democrats seem to be repeating the mistake that Hillary Clinton made: counting on the awfulness of Trump to do their work for them.”
— New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd (4/29/18).
By Dan Peak
The Connoner Call (4/30/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Let’s give the answer to a question as a way to start. The answer is: Vladmir Putin just broke form and has openly demonstrated he influenced the U.S. election in favor of Trump.
There is much competition for the most important news of the latest cycle for Trump-Russia corruption. Maybe your concern is who is winning the battle for hearts and minds? Maybe you presume the question is moot given the release of the House Intelligence Committee report? Maybe you feel Trump-Russia corruption is over-blown, maybe Russia interfered but who doesn’t? Or Putin can’t possibly be the leader as ascribed by some making a case for Trump-Russia corruption.
Lawyer comes clean about her dirty deed
Hidden deep in the debate, the mud-wrestling, the posturing and the deluge of news is a New York Times report of significance: Lawyer Who Was Said to Have Dirt on Clinton Had Closer Ties to Kremlin Than She Let On.
Natalia Veselnitskaya publicly admitted she is a Russian informant communicating with the Russian prosecutor general.
Natalia is a Russian lawyer who was the lead attendee at infamous Trump Tower meeting with Donnie Jr., Trump senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner and then Trump campaign chair, now criminally charged, Paul Manafort. We were led to believe this was a short, uninteresting appeal about adoption of Russian children – that in spite of the lies and deflections about the lead up to the meeting, the lies and deflections surrounding the original news reports of the meeting, the tortured interpretations of the emails released about the setting of the meeting, the lies about the follow-up communications between Russians and Trump associates and on and on. At the heart of much of the lies and deflections was the premise of Natalia as merely a private attorney representing the needs of orphans.
“But newly released emails show that in at least one instance two years earlier, the lawyer, Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, worked hand in glove with Russia’s chief legal office to thwart a Justice Department civil fraud case against a well-connected Russian firm.
“Ms. Veselnitskaya also appears to have recanted her earlier denials of Russian government ties. During an interview to be broadcast Friday by NBC News, she acknowledged that she was not merely a private lawyer but a source of information for a top Kremlin official, Yuri Y. Chaika, the prosecutor general.
““I am a lawyer, and I am an informant,” she said. “Since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general.””
The charade of Natalia as merely a private lawyer was already blown out of the water when her meeting talking points were seen to include text from Russian prosecutor general Yuri Chaika stating that major Democratic donors were guilty of tax fraud. The congressman who originally received the accusations from Chaika was, of course, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).
The emails were released by an organization formed by Mikhail Khodorkovky, a former Russian oil tycoon who was stripped of his holdings and imprisoned.
We knew Natalia was linked to the Russian prosecutor general as well as Russian oligarch and Trump partner for the 2013 Moscow Miss Universe pageant Aras Agalarov, whose son, Emin, was involved in setting the June 2016 meeting with Donnie Jr., Kushner and Manafort.
One opinion on the release is presented here by RawStory, saying “Putin is bragging about this”: ‘Putin has no further use for Trump’: CNN Analyst Explains Why Trump Tower Lawyer Just Admitted Kremlin Connections.
“What this may signal is that Putin has no more use for Trump,” he said. “The timing was specifically made for after he was exhorted in Congress…”
And THAT is the big story in a nutshell for this cycle.
The House Intelligence Committee releases its findings with a key conclusion being there was Russian involvement in the U.S. election, but no intent to influence the election in favor of Trump. On the heels of this release is the pronouncement of Natalia Veselnitskaya acknowledging her work on behalf of the Russian prosecutor general while Putin brags about it. Meaning the GOP report has a relevant shelf life of less than 24 hours, though Trump breathes new life and spin into a new self-vindication (below).
You can find the republicans House Intelligence Committee report here, it’s worth checking out if only for the humor of the redactions that start on the title page. The Democratic minority view can be found here.
Much of the content of both versions has been debated ahead of the release of the full reports so we’ll jump into analysis and highlights: 3 Ways The House Republicans’ Russia Report Directly Contradicts The Intelligence Community.
First we must note that Trump was “very honored” by the umpteenth version of vindication of Trump-Russia corruption most of which have been orchestrated by the House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes (R-CA). Second, this analysis was released on April 27, the same day as the New York Times story breaking the admission by Veselnitskaya, raising a question of how the WaPo analysis may have been different if not for timing.
To clarify the point made above about an earlier announcement by the committee, “They announced that finding in March and on Friday explaining how they arrived at that result.” Even without the Veselnitskaya impact, the WaPo conclusion is this:
“With the caveat that a chunk of the report is redacted, legal experts say there are reasons to be skeptical of the conclusion, and here is a big one: Republicans’ findings directly contradict the entire U.S. intelligence community on some pretty basic stuff.”
The article relates the GOP version as:
1) the FBI is the problem,:
2) Donnie Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with Veselnitskaya was not collusion, and;
3) the Russians “did intervene in the election – just not to specifically help Trump”.
The WaPo article says this about Russian interference on behalf of Trump, or more specifically, the denial:
“Legal experts say the evidence that Russia intervened specifically to push voters to Trump is clear. The fact that Republicans are claiming otherwise risks undermining their argument about why the intelligence community is wrong on Russia.
““That assessment doesn’t pass the most basic smell test and is completely unmoored from reality,” said Jens David Ohlin, a vice dean at Cornell Law School.”
Ohlin goes on to say the GOP “assessment … is completely unmoored from reality”.
And then Veselnitskaya, with Putin’s approval, put her thumb on the scale of what really happened in the election and Trump-Russia corruption.
As Esquire reports, the difference between the GOP report and the democrats’ minority report can be summarized by what WASN’T investigated or asked: The House Republican Russia Report Is Nothing But A Hack Job.
A part of the report offers this:
“We acknowledge that Investigations by other committees, the Special Counsel, the media, or interest groups will continue and may find facts that were not readily accessible to the Committee or outside the scope of our investigation.”
To which a tweet by Marcy Wheeler while commenting on report redactions, offers this:
… “not readily accessible” likely translates from congressional weaselspeak into, “the questions we chose not to ask.”
As reported in The Hill, maybe the single best example of willful ignorance would be found here: Schiff: GOP ‘refused’ To Issue Subpoena For Mystery Trump Jr. Call.
“Rep. (D-Calif.) criticized Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee on Friday for refusing to issue a subpoena for ‘s phone records to determine whether he received permission from his father to meet with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower.
“Schiff told that a blocked number in Trump Jr.’s phone records, recorded right after he set up the specifics of the Trump Tower meeting, could belong to . But he said that Republicans on the committee refused to issue a subpoena to determine the identity of the blocked caller.
“The anonymous call was placed in between two other calls between Trump Jr. and Emin Agalarov, an Azerbaijani singer and businessman.”
As ranking committee minority member, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) says of the GOP committee members, “They didn’t want to know whether he had informed his father and sought his permission to take that meeting with the Russians.”
Willful ignorance. As usual: party over country with Trump-Russia corruption.
So what should the democrats do?
So should any candidate for office run against a GOP candidate by attacking Russian interference in the U.S. election?
No. Maybe not even if you are running against Trump-Russia sycophants Nunes or Rohrabacher. Nunes’s closest reelection race was in 2012 when he won by 24%. And even here, the Los Angeles Times counsels, “it’s unlikely most of his constituents will factor in Russia-related notoriety when they go to the polls”.
Not only should Democrats not run on Trump-Russia, they may weaken any case for impeachment if not improve Trump’s chances for reelection by doing so.
So what to do? This from New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd: Trump: Our Cartoon Nobel Laureate.
“Heads are also exploding from Chappaqua to Hollywood as the unfathomable idea sinks in that, despite Trump’s lack of a moral or political core, despite the fact that he has tarnished the presidency with his nasty bullying, race-baiting, unmoored tweeting and authoritarian tendencies, he could get a second term.
“Democrats are spun up all over the country, flocking to the polls in special elections with sky-high enthusiasm, buoyed by empowered women driven by disgust at the Groper in Chief who has so far escaped a reckoning.
“They are sanguine that they can convert the Trump hatred into a big bad blue wave for the midterms and win back the House and maybe the Senate and get their revenge on the Orange Menace.”
“Republicans paid a price in 1998 for pushing to impeach Bill Clinton, and Clinton regained popularity.
“As far as the presidential race in 2020, the Democrats seem to be repeating the mistake that Hillary Clinton made: counting on the awfulness of Trump to do their work for them. (And the righteousness of Robert Mueller.)”
Can the dems play the Trump-Russia card?
Dowd quotes biographer Tim O’Brien (TrumpNation: The Art of Being Donald) regarding Trump, ““I really think of him as Yosemite Sam — just hopping around in anger, firing his gun wildly, sometimes at his own foot. “”
Sure enough, Veselnitskaya speaks and at Trump’s rally in Michigan the next day he says, “…If she did that, because Putin and the groups said, ‘you know this Trump is killing us.’”
And in his Yosemite Sam impersonation, Trump presents Veselnitskaya as a Putin stooge – shooting himself again in at least one foot, undoing his dismissals of Donnie Jr.’s meeting with the Russians as collusion.
Veselnitskaya was not even the first contact between Trump associates and Russians – former national security advisor Mike Flynn, who plead guilty for lying to the FBI, was in Moscow for the RT dinner, the NRA had already made their visit to Russia, former national security advisor who plead guilty for lying to the FBI George Papadopoulos had already met with Russian contacts and Trump had already given his Russia-friendly policy address at the Mayflower Hotel with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak in attendance. To name a few.
We can whistle and walk at the same time but for any candidate to win in the mid-term elections and the 2020 election it’s best to have a positive message based on the issues. Dowd wraps up her article with this counsel:
“The Democrats are counting on Trump to self-destruct. And certainly, he loves to light his own auto-da-fe and incriminate himself. But the Democrats’ delight in this distracts them from rising from the humiliating ashes of 2016 with some dynamic new ideas and messengers.”
THAT is a good place to end. Don’t dismiss Trump-Russia corruption… and don’t run a campaign based on Trump-Russia corruption.
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )