“The president is now inventing nonexistent domestic riots.”
— Daniel Dale, Toronto Star reporter tweet (10/20/18)
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (10/22/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
Trump is a liar. His lies are now offered with no attachment to reality, they are getting bigger, more frequent and his GOP apologists either fully embrace or duck for cover. Other than our own sanity, there are few if any checks on Trump’s grandiosity. Classic fascism in which the leader portrays himself as the only solution to self-invented risks and fears, always from the dreaded ‘other’.
Trump’s performance as president — we use ‘performance’ deliberately — is now regular campaign rallies raising money, now $100 million, that during his first campaign he viewed as “his money” even to the point of accusing Trump transition leader Chris Christie of “stealing from me”.
Former vice president Joe Biden shot back with this commentary about American values: “They’re being shredded by a president who’s all about himself. It’s all about Donald. It’s not about anything else”.
Trump’s performance does include one other priority, standing up for the world despots he respects and is beholding to, like Saudi Arabia and Russia. Biden turned one of Trump’s own self-defenses back on him and offered: “You know that old expression ― some people bring a gun to a knife fight? Well, you don’t bring bone saws to fights,” Biden said, referring to a grisly detail of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s alleged killing and dismemberment.
Trump receives a daily intelligence briefing. We’ll skip past reports of whether he reads them instead noting that after three weeks, Trump seems to know even less about the death of U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi intelligence officers than is reported by the media. Trump at times even gets ahead of Saudi lies about what happened with notions of “rogue” murderers (inside a high security Saudi consulate in Istanbul). The Saudis, fully understanding that Trump prefers dollars to human rights, managed to wire $100 million while everyone waits for investigative details: Saudi Arabia Wires U.S. $100 Million As Trump Proclaims MBS Innocent.
Let’s make sure we understand the $100 million before revisiting Trump and ever-evolving Saudi lies about Khashoggi’s death.
‘Over the summer, the Saudi Arabian government promised the Trump administration $100 million for the U.S.’s efforts to stabilize parts of Syria liberated from the Islamic State, a coup for Donald Trump, who regularly complains about other countries not coughing up enough money on defense. But despite the pledge, one official involved in Syria policy told The New York Times that it was unclear when, if ever, the money would actually materialize in American bank accounts. But as luck would have it, just this past Tuesday, it did—the same day Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Riyadh to get some answers on the fate of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist and dissident who entered the kingdom’s consulate in Turkey on October 2 and was never seen again. Some people have dismissed the notion that the two events are connected—“The specific transfer of funds has been long in process and has nothing to do with other events or the secretary’s visit,” Brett McGurk, the U.S. envoy to the coalition fighting the Islamic State, told the Times. But others aren’t so convinced!”
Let’s be clear, Trump and the Saudis are no closer to fabricating an explanation that is of any credibility: A Saudi Prince’s Fairy Tale.
The editorial board for the New York Times offers this sub-head: “The crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, issues another incredible explanation for the death of Jamal Khashoggi.”
Without getting into the details of what the Saudi’s DON’T address like why it took the Saudis (and Trump and senior adviser, son-in-law and Saudi buddy Jared Kushner) more than two weeks to even acknowledge Khashoggi’s death, the editorial board does lead with the right question:
“The question now is not whether the Saudis’ latest explanation for Jamal Khashoggi’s death is credible, but whom do they think they’re fooling. In the autocratic world of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, what common people think is irrelevant; what matters is whether throwing his hit men under the bus is enough to satisfy President Trump.”
Trump accepted the Saudi explanation as a “big step” and found the story credible. While this is gruesome, it’s worth noting that Trump’s blanket acceptance, lack of questions and lack of concern, is his attempt to ignore an heinous crime:
“…when the Saudis learned of Mr. Khashoggi’s plans, the deputy director of intelligence, Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, dispatched a team to pick him up. According to this version of the tale, Mr. Khashoggi put up a fight and got killed, and a local collaborator was given the body to dispose of, perhaps in pieces and in suitcases.”
Trump believes he can once again lie his way past another crisis and no one of importance will care. Consider this is the same pattern as Trump-Russia – seeking personal wealth and grandeur, repetitive lies mixed with personal attacks (he market tested Biden insults with “Sleepy Joe Biden” and “Creepy Joe”) and moves on to a next self-inflicted crisis.
Ongoing Putin threat to midterms
While a crisis may move from the headlines, that’s not the same as crisis averted or problem solved. Specific to Trump-Russia: New Justice Department Case Shows Russia Is Now Attacking the Midterm Elections.
Putin mounted a grand campaign to disrupt the U.S. elections in Trump’s favor while doing his best to ‘shred’ American values. Putin is not done and Trump has never completely accepted statements of Russian involvement let alone taking action to prevent a repeat of Russian attacks.
“On Friday, the US attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia unsealed a criminal complaint accusing a Russian national named Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova of conspiring to interfere in the US political system. The document maintains that as a financial officer, Khusyaynova was part of the effort mounted by the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm in St. Petersburg funded by a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin, to use Facebook and Twitter accounts to influence politics in the United States. The IRA’s role in Putin’s attack on the 2016 election—a scheme that was part of what’s known as “Project Lakhta”—has already been revealed. But the complaint highlights a less-known fact: that the Russian attack “continues to this day” and is partially aimed at the 2018 midterm campaign. That is, the United States, as it heads toward a crucial election, remains under assault by the Kremlin.”
Trump for two or three years has simply waved his arms about a mythical 400-pound guy on a mattress, or ‘Chyna’ interference but never confronts Russia or Putin.
Meanwhile, David Corn ends his article with this comment:
‘The Khusyaynova case is one small piece of the picture. But the message presented by the Justice Department is alarming and huge: The midterms are not safe from Russian interference.”
Beware: Lies ahead
We’ll offer two more examples of Trump-Russia stories that are damning to Trump and are not going away. Both stories are complex and require a bit of effort to fully appreciate, we’ll do our best to lead with the conclusion: Russian Billionaire Set Up US Company Before Trump Tower Meeting.
The sub-head: Aras Agalarov, who helped arrange the meeting with Donald Trump Jr in June 2016, formed a shell company with an accountant who has had clients accused of money laundering and embezzlement.
Agalarov is the Putin-crony Russian oligarch, 2013 Moscow Miss Universe Trump partner, and hand behind his son’s agent Rob Goldstone’s success in setting up the June 2016 Donnie Jr. and Russians meeting over “Hillary dirt”. There is now more detail beyond the meeting and flow of $’s pre and post meeting that we’ve covered to date:
“The billionaire, Aras Agalarov, created the US company anonymously while preparing to move almost $20m into the country during the time of the presidential election campaign, according to interviews and corporate filings.”
There is one more intriguing connection noted in the article about convicted felon and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort:
“On the day of the money transfer, Trump fired his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, leaving his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in charge. Manafort, who has extensive business links to the former Soviet Union, is now cooperating with Mueller after having been convicted of financial crimes.’
In closing, it’s not clear where the money went – but similar to the Saudi ‘story’ above, it’s clear the explanations offered are NOT true.
At your server
We’ve mentioned many times the server communications between the Trump campaign, Russian Alfa Bank and a DeVos company Spectrum Health server. ‘DeVos’ as in Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her brother, mercenary-for-hire Blackwater founder, Trump adviser and Seychelles Island Russia back-channel meeting Erik Prince.
The Young Turks Cenk Uygur explains the evolving and damning knowledge of the role of three interconnected computer servers. We’ll highlight two points he touches on:
The New York Times originally investigated and held a story so as to not influence the pending election while going forward with a different article that shot down questions of Trump-Russia collusion just ahead of the election.
Much of Cenk’s comments are based on a recent New Yorker article from October 15, 2008 that notes a Times article by Eric Lichtblau from October 2016 was a watered-down version, not damning of Trump-Russia but through a series of events led to advance notice (September 21) to a lobbying firm working for Alfa Bank with this result:
For four days, the servers at Alfa Bank kept trying to look up the Trump domain. Then, ten minutes after the last attempt, one of them looked up another domain, which had been configured to lead to the same Trump Organization server.
Max’s group was surprised. The Trump domain had been shut down after the Times contacted Alfa Bank’s representatives—but before the newspaper contacted Trump. “That shows a human interaction,” Max concluded. “Certain actions leave fingerprints.” He reasoned that someone representing Alfa Bank had alerted the Trump Organization, which shut down the domain, set up another one, and then informed Alfa Bank of the new address.
A week later Trump was elected. What’s known is damning, but there is more to learn if this is to be a smoking gun.
We’ll jump ahead with a very brief acknowledgement – Putin is happy. There are a few highlights from a Financial Times story tucked behind a pay wall: Vladimir Putin Uses Speech To Herald End Of US Hegemony.
The Financial Times reports:
“Russian president Vladimir Putin shrugged off worsening relations with the west and talked up Moscow’s burgeoning diplomatic friendships in Asia and the Middle East, as he hailed the end of a US-dominated unipolar world.”
Putin’s remarks were just a few days ahead of Trump cancelling a US-Russia nuclear arms treaty:
“In an extensive section dedicated to outlining why Russia’s nuclear weapons programme was the world’s best, Mr Putin said a new hypersonic missile would be delivered to the Russian army within “a few months”, but that Russia would only use nuclear arms to retaliate after an enemy strike.”
Hmm, how about that? Almost as if Trump meant to open the door to Putin advancing his nuclear weapons capabilities without the awkwardness of violating a standing treaty.
What lefties don’t get right about Russiagate
Picking up on Trump’s cancellation of the nuclear treaty (New Start Treaty), we should note that at the Helsinki summit this summer Putin offered to extend the treaty, as explained in the following article from progressive magazine In These Times: What Russiagate Skeptics Get Wrong.
The article’s conclusion is:
“The United States needs to address Russia diplomatically to solve problems of mutual and global interest, despite Trump’s obvious lack of interest. But let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that Putin is anything more than a ruthless, corrupt autocrat who uses nationalism to promote his own interests.”
While quick to rightly pint out flaws and hypocrises at home, many on the left practice a kind of starry-eyed political blindness when it comes to Putin’s Russia.
“It was Russia, where President Vladimir Putin, a rightwing militarist, aspires to lead a global conservative movement with Moscow at its hub. Putin’s movement is founded on “traditional” values of Christianity, homophobia, and anti-feminist and anti-immigrant sentiment. Yet some on the Left give the Kremlin a pass on its interference in U.S. elections (now commonly referred to as Russiagate), due to the mistaken belief that Putin represents a check on U.S. hegemony. “What Putin is really guilty of is calling for a multipolar world, not one dominated by the U.S.,” writes Colin Todhunter in CounterPunch.”
Here’s the gist of the author’s debunking of some left wing Russiagate denouncements:
“Much of the reams of nonsense published over the last 18 months has veered into the territory of conspiracy theory. Really, how could you possibly believe that DNC staffer Seth Rich gave all that material to WikiLeaks on the basis of a single, unsubstantiated Julian Assange claim to that effect? The evidence that Mueller has compiled—resulting in the recent indictments of 12 Russian military officers—should have satisfied skeptics.
“Yet Russiagate skeptics continue their crusade, albeit shifting focus in the wake of July’s Trump-Putin Helsinki summit. Even if Russia did interfere in the election, they argue, there’s no proof of collusion. More importantly—and here the skeptics are joined by sensible advocates of foreign policy realism in a call published by The Nation—the value of improving U.S.-Russian relations overrides all other considerations.”
Diplomacy and accountability are not mutually exclusive. This is true both with Saudi Arabia and Russia.
If you don’t like what you have seen so far…
In conclusion, let’s remember, it’s important to win elections: What If The Republicans Win Everything Again?
Columnist David Leonhardt’s sub-head says it all: Total victory for the G.O.P. would mean Trump unleashed.
Among the predictions of what to expect: the end of the Mueller investigation; loss of health insurance for millions; added voting restrictions; and escalating environmental damage. Specifially with the Mueller investigation he offers this:
“Members of Congress don’t usually turn against a scandal-marred president from their own party until they believe that supporting him jeopardizes their own careers. That fear helped lead Republicans to abandon Richard Nixon, at long last, in 1974. A lack of fear helps explain why Democrats stuck by Bill Clinton through his sex scandal.”
If we don’t like what we’ve seen to date, fear what we’ll see after the mid-term elections if the GOP retains the House and Senate leadership.
We’ll give Biden the final remark:
“Folks, it’s time to get up! Lift our heads up!” Biden urged the crowd. “Remember who the hell we are. Take back the Senate and change the world as we know it.”
VOTE. VOTE FOR OVERSIGHT.
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2017. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link toe www.thecommonercall.org )