By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (7/16/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
The case for Trump-Putin collusion has been made. How? Thank Roger Stone for one; we’ll come back to that. What happens now, is this a legal challenge, a political challenge, a public opinion challenge, a voter challenge? Yes.
Thursday and Friday were remarkable days. On Thursday, FBI agent Peter Strzok testified for hours at a congressional hearing. For almost 24 hours this was a big news story as Russpublicans tried in vain to make Strzok a poster-boy for the Deep State, and we’ll better explain why. Keep in mind, this was a prelude to a House attempt to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation. But on Friday, this happened: The Mueller Investigation Keeps Growing Fast.
We chose this article because FiveThirtyEight not only captured the facts:
“”At a surprise news conference on Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that the Justice Department would be charging 12 Russian intelligence officers with a wide range of offenses, including conspiracies to hack the Democratic National Committee, state election systems and other targets. This brings the total number of the people charged in connection with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election to 32.”
But also because or the comparison to other special investigations for timing and results measured by indictments and guilty pleas. While Trump refers to special counsel Mueller’s investigation as a witch hunt, it’s more of a warlock hunt and it’s off to a fast and successful start. For all the Trump and Russpublican outcry and demands, these are the facts:
“It’s a large number considering that the has been active for only 14 months. So far, Mueller has filed charges against five American, one Dutch and 26 Russian nationals, along with three Russian businesses. Of all those indicted, five people have pleaded guilty — including one who has — and Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, . (The against him are related to his lobbying work, not election interference.) of special counsel investigations going back to Watergate shows that a majority ended without charges being filed against anyone, while others took years to produce indictments. Mueller is still working quickly compared with past investigations.”
Mueller has been both fast and effective. We will dig into the significance of these most recent indictments next but FiveThirtyEight also offers:
“The timing of Rosenstein’s announcement will likely have consequences, though. Rather than holding specific people accountable for their role in the hacking, the indictments may serve a larger geopolitical purpose: alerting the Russians to the fact that the U.S. government understands the extent of their interference in a major election. Trump, who to Rosenstein was told about the indictments in advance, will have an opportunity to reinforce that message to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s face next week, when the two leaders meet in Helsinki. Rosenstein certainly gave them plenty to talk about.”
The timing is significant given the cozy, private Trump-Putin tete a tete in Helsinki happens Monday. As the paragraph above points out, Trump was advised of the indictments early in the week but even as he threatened the U.S. alignment with NATO and insulted U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, here is his advance warning to Putin given the news: Trump Knew 12 Russians Were Being Indicted. He Still Talked About A ‘witch hunt’ And Being Putin’s Friend.
That’s right, the case for Trump-Russia collusion has now been made as Trump’s message remains:
“…and yet he still talked about forging a positive relationship with Russia. He even still called Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, which has brought the number of Russians charged to 26, a “witch hunt” as recently as earlier Friday.
““I think that we’re being hurt very badly by the — I would call it the witch hunt,” Trump said Friday in a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May. Trump then referred to Thursday: “I would call it the rigged witch hunt, after watching some of the little clips. … I think that really hurts our country, and it really hurts our relationship with Russia.”
…“Somebody was saying, is he an enemy? He’s not my enemy…” Trump said.”
No one cares if Putin is your friend. Putin is head of the mafia called the Russian government, which is less than one-tenth the size of the economy of the EU, our long time strategic ally and trading partner. One might assume Trump makes this all about Trump!
Writing for Mother Jones, David Corn makes the case for Rosenstein’s news as an indictment of Trump – and THAT is the real story: How The Mueller News Is An Indictment Of…Donald Trump & His GOP Enablers.
The sub-head for Corn’s article makes the facts clear: “The special counsel’s charges reinforce what we already know: Trump aided an attack on America”.
We’ve known for many months that Putin put his paws on the scale to tip the election in Trump’s favor and approached Russpublicans many times to make this happen. The open question has been, did Trump reach out to Putin/Russia to aid in the attack. The entire article is great and it is a short read, but to parse his case made:
“It is absurd that the Russian assault on American democracy has been a matter of debate. The US intelligence community, most of Trump’s own senior national security appointees, and the GOP-led House and Senate intelligence committees have each accepted the assessment that the hack-and-dump operation that targeted Hillary Clinton’s campaign was mounted by Russian intelligence under instructions from Putin. Still, Trump has repeatedly questioned Russian culpability, and his Republican enablers have generally let his assertions go unchallenged and applied their energy to promoting distractions and conspiracy theories that divert attention from the two core elements of the Trump-Russia scandal: Russia attacked the United States, and Trump and his lieutenants, during and after the election, aided that attack by joining with Moscow in denying Russia was the culprit.”
Corn touches on one of the key findings laid out in Mueller’s narrative – an indictment that goes beyond the simple statement of facts:
“Mueller’s new indictment contains this stunning : Russian intelligence operatives tried to hack into email accounts used by Clinton’s personal office and her campaign on the same day—July 27, 2016—that Trump publicly said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.””
No sooner did Trump ask, “Russia if you’re listening…”, than the Russians set about hacking Clinton accounts. We’ll hear from long-time Trump adviser Roger Stone next, but another shiny nail in the Trump-Putin collusion coffin:
“In detail, it depicts how the (alleged) attack transpired. The specifics are revelatory. The indictment quotes messages WikiLeaks (identified in the document as “Organization 1”) allegedly sent to Guccifer 2.0—the internet entity set up by Russian military intelligence to disseminate the Democratic National Committee emails stolen by Moscow’s hackers—as WikiLeaks tried to obtain these documents so it could post them shortly before the Democratic convention to hurt Clinton and benefit Trump. It confirms that Roger Stone—identified as “a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump”—was in contact with Guccifer 2.0 during the campaign. (In August 2016, he and Breitbart a piece in which Stone insisted Guccifer 2.0 was indeed what this persona claimed to be: a lone Romanian hacker. The bottom line: Stone and Breitbart actively assisted a Russian disinformation operation conducted to camouflage an attack on the United States.)”
We can now see the forest and the trees … and all the slimy critters under the rocks:
“Though the indictment does not address this particular issue, it does indirectly cast light on the sin that Trump and his henchmen have been trying to hide: They helped this Russian operation by repeatedly insisting it wasn’t happening.”
Mueller’s indictment is a shot across the Trump-Putin bow, it sets the narrative for follow-on questions from the Trump-Putin tete a tete before it starts.
Who knows, maybe Trump will return from Helsinki with one or more of the Russian intelligence agents in tow and all Americans can chant in unison, “Lock Him/Them Up”. We already have former Trump national security adviser who pleaded guilty, Michael Flynn, and former Trump campaign manager and now jailed-in-advance of his trial, Paul Manafort… who else might lend themselves to the chant? Roger Stone Says He’s the ‘US person’ Mentioned In Mueller Indictment.
Less than 12 hours after saying he was not the “unnamed Trump campaign regular” named in the Mueller indictment, Stone now says, “he is the unnamed Trump campaign regular who corresponded with an alleged n hacker, as described in a new indictment against a dozen Russians returned Friday by a federal grand jury”.
We now have confirmation of what we already knew, because he’d already told us on many occasions – Stone coordinated with Russian intelligence and offered public statements in advance of the WikiLeaks release of damaging Clinton information.
Stone was not named in the indictment, it is standard to not name targets that have not been indicted. Stone has said recently he expects to be indicted. This appears to be one time he is telling the truth.
Goddamn them all
The Washington Post does an excellent job of overlaying the content of Mueller’s indictments against what is already known: Timeline: How Russian Agents Allegedly Hacked The DNC & Clinton’s Campaign.
A few highlights:
- Russian interference in the election started in May 2014…
- Manafort’s communication with associate and indicted Russian intelligence officer Konstantin Kilimnik on April 11, 2016 re: how to “get whole” with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska follows Russian initial hacking of DCCC network (April 7) and hackers gaining access (April 12).
- April 26, former Trump foreign policy adviser who pleaded guilty Papadopoulos is contacted about Clinton “dirt” in the form of “thousands of emails”.
- April 27 Papadopoulos emails senior campaign adviser Stephen Miller about his “interesting messages coming in from Moscow…”.
- There are similar damning details regarding Donnie Jr.’s June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian promising “…sensitive information but is part of Russia and it’s government’s support for Mr. Trump”.
And as we’ve seen, Trump’s July 27, 2016, “But it would be interesting to see — I will tell you this — Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing [from Clinton’s private server]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens. That’ll be next”, occurs the same day Russian hackers try to access Clinton’s email server.
There is much more, but for Esquire columnist Charles P. Pierce this is more than enough: Mueller Has the Goods—All of the Goods.
“Wittingly or unwittingly, ” Pierce writes. “a huge cast of American characters was in on the plot.”
Pierce gets right to the point explaining what he means by “huge cast of American characters”:
“Goddamn the hackers. Goddamn the journalists who laundered the pilfered material. Goddamn any of them who treated Roger Stone as a source, or as a cute prankster, instead of the nasty vandal he’s always been. Goddamn the pundits who chortled over the pilfered material. Goddamn the politicians who profited from the hacking. Goddamn the politicians who minimized the hacking. Goddamn the politicians who still stonewall about the hacking. Goddamn the “activists” who ranted about “McCarthyism” when anybody pointed out that the 2016 presidential election had been poisoned from afar. Goddamn them all as traitors, if not to the American nation, then to everything that ever made that nation worth the bother.”
Certainly there are many ‘characters’ like Stone that have been staring the inevitable in the eyes for a long time. As Pierce concludes and predicts:
“There’s so much more coming. You can feel the hoofbeats of the horseman and the baying of the hounds behind every syllable of this indictment. My guess is that Mueller’s not going to move on anyone in the United States until very late in the game. He’s given all those folks a look at just a piece of what he’s got. That’s got to have their knees watery. And, because this is 2018, and everything is awful and strange, the president* this conspiracy helped to install is meeting, one on one, with the architect of it all, the Tsar of all the ratfckers, tomorrow. Everyone should be so very proud.”
BUT. There are many more literal interpretations of the facts as well. Here is one such example; there are many more prior reports that will now be reevaluated given the new indictments. Who better to highlight than Badger Land Boy Scout and “granny starver” House Speaker Paul Ryan: GOP Super PAC Linked To Paul Ryan Used Illegally Hacked Material Against Democratic House Candidates:.
The sub-head is a great summary and ties back to contents of Mueller’s indictment: The New York Times reports The Congressional Leadership Fund used info leaked by Russian hackers in campaign ads.
That’s right, the GOP super PAC used hacked material for damaging Democratic Congressional candidates in about a dozen “of the most competitive House races in the country.”
Betrayal in Florida
There is one more example we’ll touch on and use as a segue to the House hearings. Politico reports the indictment comments on an unnamed Florida congressional campaign, saying only: “On or about August 15, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, received a request for stolen documents from a candidate for U.S. Congress. The Conspirators responded using the Guccifer 2.0 persona and sent the candidate stolen documents related to the candidate’s opponent.”
Meaning that one Florida congressional candidate reached out directly to Russian intelligence and was rewarded with stolen information to aid their campaign.
There is a scramble to name the candidate but two names that have been floated are Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) who have been both been named here as rabid Trump defenders who have benefitted financially from their work. DeSantis should be of particular interest as the “pitbull Trump defender” is now a candidate for Governor of Florida. Their Russpublican handiwork was on display, along with many others during the hearings.
House Russpublicans award Putin another notch
Adding to a crazy week, the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees were convened to hear testimony from FBI Agent Peter Strzok, who headed the FBI counterespionage division in 2016 but was reassigned after text messages between him and FBI Agent Lisa Page were disclosed: FBI Investigator Rejects Accusations of Anti-Trump Bias.
“Republicans hammered FBI Agent Peter Strzok over several hours of testimony Thursday, seeking to discredit the long-running federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and to portray Strzok as a symbol of an agency hopelessly tainted by bias against President Donald Trump. The hearing quickly descended into a partisan spectacle that Strzok warned would be “another victory notch” in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s belt. Through it all, Strzok maintained that he had never compromised his duties, and that the investigation was both justified and being carried out with the highest integrity.”
It was a circus and Strzok gave good as he got, which certainly surprised many and disappointed the Russpublicans. Strzok’s comment about “another victory notch” for Putin gives some of the flavor. His main contention was, “The fact is, after months of investigations, there is simply no evidence of bias in my professional actions.”
Russpublicans cherry-picked, disparaged, insulted and hammered Strzok for ten hours but in the end, the only fair assessment would be a draw – which is reminiscent of the 300 Spartans at the battle of Thermopylae as Russpublicans tried to paint Strzok as living proof of their oft-cited Deep State.
What the Hell Happened During Peter Strzok’s Testimony?
Esquire’s Charles Pierce is the perfect guide to summarize what happened: What the Hell Happened During Peter Strzok’s Testimony?
The subhead to Pierce’s piece gives a good opening assessment: “It was the most embarrassing episode in representative democracy in 400 years.”
There is a second reason to read Pierce’s column, he starts with an aside that he researched during one of the breaks, but he summarizes a Financial Times article (behind a pay wall) entitled: Tower Of Secrets: The Russian Money Behind A Donald Trump Skyscraper.
This is very lengthy history of the criminality of the Trump Tower in Toronto (Trump name has since been removed). Here’s one of the paragraphs Pierce highlighted to explain Trump’s criminality:
“This was a time when the former Soviet Union’s newly minted oligarchs were seeking foreign havens for their wealth. By 2008, Trump’s son, Donald Jr, was telling a real estate conference: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets . . . We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” Some of this came through sales of individual units in Trump-branded properties, where Trump was sometimes entitled to a cut.”
Yep, the Trump organization took their cut of illegal money that was laundered through their licensing deals.
“You’re the puppet”, no, “you’re the Deep State”.
That said, Pierce highlights some of the worst Russpublican behavior and I encourage you to use YouTube and search for their ‘performances’. You’ll find gems like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) accusing Strzok of lying because his testimony conflicts with media stories while he proclaims his innocence while being accused of abiding over a climate of sexual abuse while an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University, which he ironically dismisses as an act of the Deep State.“You’re the puppet”, no, “you’re the Deep State”.
We’ll have to leave it there but also seek out videos for people like Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), Rep. Nadler (D-NY), but especially, Rep. Bonny Watson Coleman (D-NJ) of (to Gohmert, R-TX) “you need your medication”, and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). Certainly there are others.
You can go to Vox for a different and well done view of the hearing: The Wild Peter Strzok Congressional Hearing, Explained
Or you can also go to Stephen Colbert for a good explanation of the hearings: “What the fuck happened to our country?”
We’ll summarize. The House circus as a step to impeach Rosenstein collapsed under the weight of ridiculousness when Strzok refused to be the useful idiot. Hours later Rosenstein stuck a Mueller fork in it and served warning to Trump and Russia – we know what you did: Trump-Russia collusion. Rosenstein must have been wearing a huge smile as he drove home from the office on Friday – queue your own prediction of what tracks he sang to.
You know who had all this right months ago? Here’s a clip of Rachel Maddow pushing on Trump’s personal (possible) knowledge of hacked Democratic emails before they were released. Given the most recent Mueller indictments, Trump’s personal knowledge, and thus collusion, looks far more likely.
Trump collusion explains:
Trump behavior. The Thursday House hearing circus.
The timing of Mueller’s indictments ahead of Trump’s tete a tete with Putin.
Always looking for a lighter angle, we find two things. Russians don’t like Trump. Yep, 71% of Russians have an unfavorable view of Trump.
And Trump avoided London while he was in the UK because, as he admitted, people didn’t want him there. Leave it to the Brits to throw a great protest without him. Go here for imagery including as you scroll, many pictures of the Trump “fat orange baby” balloon.