Russia Monitor: Lot’s Of Smoke. Lots Of Lies. And A Expanding Russpublican Complicity


“Donald Trump says it’s okay for him to lie since “people agree with me.””

— Donald Trump on ABC News 2016


By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (7/30/18)

Dear Fellow Readers,

The last two editions of the Russia Monitor covered Putin’s assurance that he did interfere in the U.S. election for the benefit of Trump: Trump Colluded With Putin & Russia To Help Him Get Elected.

We now have Trump lawyer Michael Cohen saying Trump had advance knowledge of Donnie Jr.’s meeting with Russians to get ‘dirt’ on Hillary: Cohen Claims Trump Knew In Advance Of 2016 Trump Tower Meeting.

“Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, claims that then-candidate Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower in which Russians were expected to offer his campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton, sources with knowledge tell CNN. Cohen is willing to make that assertion to special counsel Robert Mueller, the sources said.”


There are two questions:

1) whether anyone cares or whether Trump will pay a price for collusion or corruption.

2) the inventory of Russpublican defense for Trump’s crimes.

We’ll focus on the second question. Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is out every day undermining anyone deemed to be against Trump and the Russpublicans. Yes, the same guy that says it’s okay to lie to the media, lies to the media as his job.

Russpublicans aren’t striving for a high standard and truth is the victim. Part of their argument: it’s not their fault, it’s the fault of their electorate for voting for them. We agree in part, but if voters agree and accept rampant lies and collusion as the new norm we are all in trouble. Here’s an example: GOP Rep. Issa: ‘Nobody’s Going to be Surprised’ If Trump Lied About Russia Meeting.

To be clear, the headline has Rep. Daryl Issa (R-CA) offering his “so what” case for Trump knowing about Donnie Junior’s Trump Tower meeting with the Russians.

Given his recent change on the issue of climate change, Issa is quite flexible when it comes to the truth and consistency. In other words, lying is acceptable, collusion is acceptable, folks – just get over yourself.

“If he’s proven to have not told the whole truth about the fact that campaigns look for dirt, and if someone offers it, you listen to them, nobody’s going to be surprised,” Issa said. “There are some things in politics that you just take for granted.”

Issa’s argument has no legal standing, but he’s not arguing as a lawyer, he’s arguing as a politician. Issa is just doing what Trump told us two years ago: Donald Trump Says It’s Okay For Him To Lie Since “people agree with me.”

Maybe we shouldn’t blame Issa since Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Rep. Matt Goetz (R-FL) have shown that shilling for Trump is the path to huge campaign donations. Lie for Trump and you will be rewarded, DeSantis, now a candidate for governor of Florida is a perfect example. 

Every day there are too many examples of Russpublican lies to benefit Trump. But there are some Russpublicans who have been working hard on behalf of Russia for years. There is no better example than Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who famously is this Rohrabacher:

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.”

We’ve reported on the arrest and charges against alleged Russian spy and NRA link Maria Butina. The connection between Rohrabacher and Butina has also been reported many times, but there is new news: ‘US Person 2’ In The Case Of Alleged Russian Agent Maria Butina Is George O’Neill — His Daughter Interned Ror Rep. Dana Rohrabacher & Helped With Anti-Magnitsky Event.

Maria “Bomb Shell” Butina

Here’s an article providing new details but begins as a who’s-who of Trump-Russpublican-Russia corruption. From Butina and Russian oligarch Torshin, onto NRA characters, Steve Bannon, billionaire Robert Mercer, Manafort, Michael Cohen and Jared Kushner. The whole motley Trump crew.

“On July 15 Russian national Maria Butina was arrested by the FBI and charged with conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent working at the direction of the Russian government with US persons. Charges include conspiracy to infiltrate organizations active in US politics in an effort to advance the interests of the Russian Federation. News reports have described how Butina was directed by Alexander Torshin, a former politician with close ties to the Kremlin, as she set up joint businesses with Paul Erickson and infiltrated the NRA.

“Additional reporting has revealed that Maria Butina met several times with Saul Anuzis, an NRA committee member who set up a super PAC for Robert Mercer and whose son, Matas Anuzis, worked at Cambridge Analytica. Senator Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to Cambridge Analytica in October 2017 requesting communications with several people including Maria Butina, indicating that Butina may have a connection to the scandal-ridden data company.

“On the heels of the Maria Butina story, this week news broke that Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen attended a meeting with several people where Donald Trump approved in advance a June 2016 meeting attended by Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, with Russians who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Trump father and son have both denied that Donald Trump knew about the meeting beforehand.”

This is a long article, providing great detail about the many connections between Rohrabacher and Russians, including Butina, “her mentor” Torshin, Donnie Jr. meeting Russian attendees Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin, and more. The article builds on this recent disclosure from the federal charges for spying brought against Butina:

“George O’Neill Jr., an heir of the Rockefeller family, has been identified by theWashington Post as ‘US Person 2’ in the Maria Butina case. In February 2017, George O’Neill, who is an outspoken supporter of Russia, hosted a dinner for several Russian officials and US lawmakers before the annual National Prayer breakfast. Ahead of the dinner Butina communicated to O’Neill that: a representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration had approved ‘building this communications channel.’”

George O’Neill Jr. is now brought into the klieg lights of the Trump-Russia corruption investigation, and so is his daughter.

“And in a striking coincidence, or perhaps something more, George O’Neill’s daughter Catharine was an unpaid intern for three months on Rohrabacher’s committee and she helped promote the anti-Magnitsky film that had been provided by Russia’s Prosecutor General’s office. Catherine O’Neill has since become a political appointee in the US State Department.”

Given the sticky connections here between Rohrabacher, Butina, Torshin and the NRA, one might imagine there is more news to follow though we’re still waiting for NRA comments. For someone as confrontational as NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch, the silence is deafening.


Creeping complicity 

One final Trump-Russpublican-Russia blatant act of complicity for now is the intent of the Trump administration and Treasury Department to lift penalties against Russian oligarch and long-term benefactor of Paul Manafort, Oleg Deripaska. Deripaska and six other Russian oligarchs were sanctioned in response to Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and specifically for their roles in Putin’s inner circle. Following Trump’s capitulation in Helsinki, this is one of many actions taken, some more quietly than others, but without any disclosure from Trump or the White House over what verbal agreements were privately made between Trump and Putin: Sanctions On Russia’s Rusal Could Be Lifted, Mnuchin Says.

“The Treasury Department is considering relieving Rusal of penalties even though its former owner, oligarch Oleg Deripaska, was sanctioned this year by the US in an attempt to punish the Kremlin for interfering in the 2016 US presidential election.”

Deripaska has been on the US radar for many years. He was “the ninth richest man in the world in 2008”. The Russian government has lobbied for a U.S. visa for years. Here’s a great quick primer on the Russian oligarch that Trump wants to un-punish: Five Things To Know About Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska.


These are just a few examples of how Trump and Russpublicans are working hard on normalizing Trump’s corruption and collusion with Russia while lining their own (campaign) pockets at the same time.

No worries, it’s all history now and someone will decide what happened and if it’s important, nothing to worry about now, right? Wrong: Trump Admin Has No Central Strategy For Election Security, And No One’s In Charge.

“After nearly two years of calling Russian election interference a hoax and its investigation a witch hunt, President Donald Trump on Friday presided over the first National Security Council meeting devoted to defending American democracy from foreign manipulation

“But current and former officials tell NBC News that 19 months into his presidency, there is no coherent Trump administration strategy to combat foreign election interference — and no single person or agency in charge.”

Russpublican measures to secure elections are to enact barriers to voting for U.S. citizens, not to confront ongoing Russian interference. What interference you ask? Russian Hackers’ New Target: a Vulnerable Democratic Senator.

The article sub-head is a great summary: Sen. Claire McCaskill is a top target for Republicans looking to grow their slim Senate majority in 2018. Turns out, Russia’s “Fancy Bear” hackers are going after her staff, too.

So many coincidences.

“McCaskill, who has been highly critical of Russia over the years, is widely considered to be among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats facing re-election this year as Republicans hope to hold their slim majority in the Senate. In 2016, President Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by almost 20 points in the senator’s home state of Missouri.”

Meanwhile, concerns mount over the risk from threats of another form or Russian hacking: Concerns Rise About Russian Attempts To Disrupt US Electrical Grid.

“Intelligence officials and security analysts say Russian hackers are devoting much more effort toward implanting malicious software in the U.S. power grid than attempting to breach electoral systems, according to a new report

“The report comes days after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reported that the scope of Russian intrusions was far greater than previously realized, and that Russian hackers gained access to the control rooms of power plants across the country.

““They got to the point where they could have thrown switches” said Jonathan Homer, chief of industrial control system analysis for DHS.”

Meanwhile, remember, Trump offers, “There’s never been a president as tough on Russia as I have been. 

Yeah, right.


So, to wrap up on some current harsh truths…

1) Trump is doing nothing to confront Russian cyber attacks. Take to heart the concern registered by Trump former homeland security adviser Tom Bossert, when he says, “On cyber, there is no clear person and or clear driver, and there is no clear muscle memory. 

2) Russpublicans are competing to shield Trump and kneecap the Trump-Russia investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. The Washington Post offers a short list of recent Russpublican efforts including the ‘Clyde Crashcup’ shenanigans of House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes, public disclosure of confidential informants, articles of impeachment flogged by Reps. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Jim ‘Gym’ Jordan (R-OH) and other assaults against justice. 

3) It’s incredible how often Trump and Putin put forward the same message, like they are collaborating on best authoritarian practices like threatening the media. Putin is now a convert to embracing Christianity as the foundation for Russia. And after a few days of kerfuffle over the next Trump-Putin tete-a-tete, it appears Putin will host Trump in Moscow.

We’ll give Putin the last word with his praise of Trump as a leader “who seeks to keep his promises”. Only Putin seems to know what those promises are, but Putin is also a man who keeps his promises, when asked, “did you direct any of your officials to help…?”, Putin responded, “Yes, I did. Yes, I did.”

Trump and Russpublicans are almost on par with Putin for admitting to Trump-Putin corruption. They are counting on us not caring. The question then for every citizen is: Do you?