By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (9/3/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
We’ll look at two subjects related to Trump-Russia corruption. There are several recent polls that bode poorly for Trump. But we’ll start with an update on Trump’s “witch hunt”. Before we jump in let’s take note of the handful of Trumpsters that were either disinvited or rued for their attendance at the memorial service for Sen. John McCain: Three Men Unfit To Eulogize John McCain.
In another sign of the shift, Trump was not invited to speak. In fact Trump was disinvited. Instead there was this lame attempt by Pence to save face:
“Consider Pence for a moment. with a ludicrous declaration that broke all records for disingenuousness: “The president asked me to be here on behalf of a grateful nation, to pay a debt of honor and respect to a man who served our country throughout his life, in uniform and in public office. It’s my great honor to be here.””
While we highlight another example of Pence’s ludicrous attempts at sanctity, there is this more sweeping observation and denouncement of the party of Trump:
“And then there were the . You had to control your gag reflex watching Vice President Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) extol McCain’s greatness as he was accorded the honor of lying in state.”
Pence, McConnell and Ryan weren’t the only attendees whose presence was questioned: “Many wondered why Ivanka and Jared were there.” The answer to that question is that Ivanka was invited by McCain’s friend Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). HuffPost turned to Twitter to sample the disdain for Jarvanka with observations like this, “Ivanka and Jared said nothing when a WH staffer joked about McCain’s death. They stayed silent while Trump attacked McCain repeatedly. Whether they were invited or not, Ivanka and Jared should have stayed home.”
Trump plays golf and the sham attendance Trump party shills Pence, McConnell, Ryan, Ivanka and Jared stood to underscore the growing disdain for Trump.
Before we turn to further confirmation by way of recent polls, let’s check in on the most recent “witch” caught by the hunt: A Suspected Russian Spy, With Curious Ties to Washington.
The sub-head highlights an important fundamental, Trump-Russia corruption did not fall out of the sky in 2016, it was the culmination of forces developed over years as has been highlighted repeatedly by Trump’s business activities with Russians over decades: “A longtime Republican operative has been in contact with a suspected Russian intelligence agent for nearly two decades. What does it mean for Robert Mueller’s investigation?”
While it is true that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was convicted of tax fraud, evidence in his next trial will bring the Trump campaign closer to Russian collusion. Former Trump deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, who pleaded guilty, showed how the route to Russian money was through Manafort and indicted Manafort associate and suspected Russian intelligence officer Konstantin Kilimnik:
“The Washington-based operative, Sam Patten, would not tell me whether he has been interviewed by Mueller’s team as part of their investigation into Russia’s election interference and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. But Patten said that his relationship with Kilimnik—a former officer in Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) who worked closely with Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, for over a decade—has “been thoroughly explored by relevant government entities.””
Patten has ties to Kilimnik from their time together at Moscow-based International Republican Institute as well as ties to the Trump campaign data management firm funded by the billionaire Mercers and directed by former Trump senior adviser Steve Bannon, Cambridge Analytica.
And like many of the convictions, guilty pleas and indictments by special counsel Robert Mueller, the charges are not specifically about Trump-Russia corruption, Patten pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign lobbyist. He was not convicted because of his admission “in court Friday that he steered $50,000 from a Ukrainian politician to Donald Trump’s inaugural committee — the first public confirmation that illegal foreign money was used to help fund the January 2017 event.”
And with so many of the characters in the Trump/Russia drama, Patten is cooperating with prosecutors.
Meanwhile, another Trump associate who pleaded guilty, former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadpoulos is trying to avoid jail time: Former Trump Adviser Papadopoulos Asks Judge To Spare Him Jail Time.
In direct conflict to testimony before Congress by Attorney General Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions III, this statement was offered by Papadopoulos as he tried to make a case to avoid being sentenced to jail time.
“Candidate Donald Trump “nodded with approval” when a former campaign adviser suggested a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2016, according to a court filing by lawyers seeking a lighter sentence for the adviser, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russia contacts during the campaign.”
We’ll look at one last example of how Mueller is closing in the walls around Trump and Trump-Russia corruption: Agents Tried To Flip Russian Oligarchs. The Fallout Spread To Trump.
Russian oligarch Oleg V. Deripaska often pops up in Trump-Russia corruption news: He’s linked closely to Putin; he’s a close business partner with Manafort; he’s funded political campaigns in Ukraine; he’s been denied a U.S. visa; he’s personally sanctioned by U.S. Treasury as is his principle business. But he was also targeted for cooperation by the Justice Department.
“Between 2014 and 2016, the F.B.I. and the Justice Department unsuccessfully tried to turn Mr. Deripaska into an informant. They signaled that they might provide help with his trouble in getting visas for the United States or even explore other steps to address his legal problems. In exchange, they were hoping for information on Russian organized crime and, later, on possible Russian aid to President Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to current and former officials and associates of Mr. Deripaska.”
The report is a dark confluence of the Trump-Russia issues: Russian organized crime; Trump’s campaign; Manafort; Putin etc.:
“The attempt to flip Mr. Deripaska was part of a broader, clandestine American effort to gauge the possibility of gaining cooperation from roughly a half-dozen of Russia’s richest men, nearly all of whom, like Mr. Deripaska, depend on President Vladimir V. Putin to maintain their wealth, the officials said.
“Two of the players in the effort were Bruce G. Ohr, the Justice Department official who has recently become a by Mr. Trump, and Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled between the Trump campaign and Russia.”
While Deripaska struggles with latest sanctions, his offers of cooperation include his willingness to talk about Manafort, but not “any Russian collusion with the Trump campaign”. Given the conviction of Manafort that doesn’t sound like a genuine offer.
No surprise to see Justice Department official Bruce Ohr attacked by Trump and his cronies and protectors.
To The Polls – Not Good For Trump
One highlight from the Washington Post-ABC News poll is a disapproval rating for Trump of 60%. At the same time 63% of Americans support Mueller’s investigation.
The myriad of details is likely discouraging to Trump and his lawyer and daily fount of Trump nonsensical defense, Rudy Giuliani.
The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake takes in the details and tries to answer this question: How Big Is The GOP’s Trump-Can-Shoot-A-Guy-On-Fifth-Avenue Caucus?
Let’s start with the summary, as did Blake:
“Matthew Miller’s reaction to the Friday caught my eye. The poll showed just 18 percent of Americans believed President Trump should pardon Paul Manafort.
“”This is the ‘shoot someone on 5th Avenue’ caucus, and it’s much lower than Trump would have you believe,” the former Obama-era Justice Department official tweeted.”
Blake then proceeds to sort through the various polls for additional evidence and offers this point in conclusion:
“15 percent say there is almost nothing Trump could do to lose their support ()”
A man roaring
So how does Trump feel about all of this? A trio of Washington Post reporters touched base with 14 White House insiders and reported: Trump At A Precarious Moment In His Presidency: Privately Brooding & Publicly Roaring.
This is from August 5, but it brings to light the public persona, “Trump is a man roaring”. Trump surrounds himself with sycophants that feed his resentment of how he is being treated:
“Trump has told some associates that Giuliani has convinced him Mueller has nothing incriminating about him. “Rudy’s told him the other player is bluffing with a pair of 2’s,” said one Trump adviser. And Trump has latched onto Giuliani’s that “collusion is not a crime,” believing it is catchy and brilliantly simplistic, according to people with knowledge of internal talks.”
Trump’s reflexively dismissive “witch hunt” tag increases in frequency and volume depending upon the day’s news. And of course, Trump lies, “The Washington Post Fact Checker that Trump has now made 4,229 false or misleading claims so far in his presidency — an average of nearly 7.6 such claims per day, and an increase of 978 in just two months.”
But, according to the Washington Post behind-the-scenes report, here’s what things are like behind the scenes as we give Trump the final word with a hope that he’s right:
“In private, President Trump spent much of the past week brooding, as he often does. He has been anxious about the Russia investigation’s widening fallout, with his former campaign chairman standing trial. And he has fretted that he is failing to accrue enough political credit for what he claims as triumphs.
“At rare moments of introspection for the famously self-centered president, Trump has also expressed to confidants lingering unease about how some in his orbit — including his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. — are ensnared in the Russia probe, in his assessment simply because of their connection to him.”
(Commoner Call cartoons by Mark L. Taylor, 2017/2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )