Russia Monitor: Trumplandia Battening Down For The Worst


“His 3-hour workday is about to go bye-bye”

— CNN conservative reveals how Trump prepping for ‘rectal exam’ from House Dems

By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (11/19/18)

Dear Fellow Readers,

Because it’s too good, and with the help of a Commoner Call reader, we use the above headline from a RawStory article to summarize the current Trump-Russia corruption climate.

“It’s about to get harder without Republicans controlling all the levers his three-hour workday is about to go bye-bye,” she said (CNN S.E. Cupp). “With Democrats retaking the House, the next two years will be the equivalent of a rectal exam for Trump and there’s little he can do about it.”

Darrell Samuelsohn writing for Politico goes a bit deeper with the same theme. Before we dive in, let’s be clear on the battle lines. On one side we have many signs that special counsel Mueller is coming while on the other side we have Trump’s move to install his acting attorney general as a possible move to stop Mueller. This latter point was made obvious by Trump’s own comments during an interview with The Daily Caller by linking Whitaker to Mueller and Trump’s rationale to end the investigation after being asked about potential attorney general nominees.

Here are Samuelsohn’s observations: Preparing for the worst’: Mueller Anxiety Pervades Trump World.

“Mueller obsessives, political junkies and Washington insiders have been scrutinizing the president’s every mannerism, such as snapping at a CNN reporter for posing a “stupid question” about whether he wanted the new acting attorney general to stymie the Russia investigation.

““You can see it in Trump’s body language all week long. There’s something troubling him. It’s not just a couple staff screw-ups with Melania,” said a senior Republican official in touch with the White House. “It led me to believe the walls are closing in and they’ve been notified by counsel of some actions about to happen. Folks are preparing for the worst.””

It’s not just the increased belligerence and body language, it’s the “media reports suggesting Mueller’s self-imposed quiet period that started about two months before 2018 Election Day is about to transition into a Category 5 hurricane.

The media report that is the best indicator is this:

“Late Thursday, Mueller and attorneys for Paul Manafort confirmed in a joint motion that they’ve been meeting since the former Trump campaign chairman’s mid-September guilty plea and requested a 10-day extension until Nov. 26 to file a status report that will help set the stage for the longtime GOP operative’s sentencing.”

Note this is a joint motion. The speculation here is that Manafort receives maximum benefit from cooperation IF his cooperation leads to a meaningful outcome. The extension is one week – November 26. There other indicators such as a delay in sentencing for convicted Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates:

“…Rick Gates “continues to cooperate with respect to several ongoing investigations” and still isn’t ready to be sentenced. Gates pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy against the U.S. and making a false statement in a federal investigation.”

A whole new brand of crazy

That’s “several ongoing investigations”. Without going into detail we’ll note the handful or more of assurances from various persons that they expect to be indicted or are not worried about being indicted including Donnie Jr. Someone more creative could write a song with multiple verses from the denials, it would be comical if not for the dismantling of democracy. “You’re the puppet”, or Kavanaugh’sI like beer” and now … “I’m not anxious, you are!”

Indictments will either happen or not, but like the opening headline, some predictions shouldn’t be passed up.

“We think it’s about to be indictment-thirty up in here,” Evan Hurst of Wonkette wrote on Tuesday. “We’d put bets on it but it’s entirely possible we’re wrong. But if we’re right, then the rest of this week is going to be NUTFUCKINGCRAZY.”


Assange in hot water?

Trump associates are not the only ones in hot water. As the New York Times reported: Assange Is Secretly Charged In U.S., Prosecutors Mistakenly Reveal.

An apparent editing error became the basis for the New York Times confirming criminal charges filed against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

“Top Justice Department officials told prosecutors over the summer that they could start drafting a complaint against Mr. Assange, current and former law enforcement officials said. The charges came to light late Thursday through an unrelated court filing in which prosecutors inadvertently mentioned them.

““The court filing was made in error,” said Joshua Stueve, a spokesman for the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia. “That was not the intended name for this filing.””

One significant concern is whether charges can be brought without violating the rights of journalists. But at the same time the New York Times was releasing their story, there was this from Yahoo News:

““Between you and me, I’ve been working a lot with the internals of WikiLeaks,” wrote Monsegur, who commonly went by the nickname “Sabu” — and who became infamous for becoming an FBI informant.

““Before lulzsec broke apart, they came to us to hack the entire government of iceland,” he continued, sending a message over encrypted chat service Jabber to fellow hacker Jeremy Hammond, who was later convicted in 2013 for hacking private intelligence firm Stratfor.

“The chats appear to reveal a specific instance when Assange may have specifically solicited a crime — the theft of official documents from within the Icelandic government.”

The ‘case’ is based on “chat logs — part of a 100,000-page trove of documents currently in the Department of Justice’s possession — were obtained and published by independent national security journalist Emma Best on Thursday”.

Assange could be undone by criminal charges based on hacked WikiLeaks chat logs. Charged not for publishing but for soliciting hacks.


Facebook’s turn in the barrel

Assange is not alone in the barrel. Another piece to the Russian interference puzzle to benefit Trump was the use of social media, specifically Facebook. The following headline is perfect capturing the strategy of so many of the participants in the Trump-Russia corruption story: Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis.

Here’s a perfect summary:

“Facebook has gone on the attack as one scandal after another — Russian meddling, data sharing, hate speech — has led to a congressional and consumer backlash.”

And here’s the kind of corporate environment that leads to such poor decisions:

“Sheryl Sandberg was seething.

“Inside Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, top executives gathered in the glass-walled conference room of its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. It was September 2017, more than a year after Facebook engineers discovered suspicious Russia-linked activity on its site, an early warning of the Kremlin campaign to disrupt the 2016 American election. Congressional and federal investigators were closing in on evidence that would implicate the company.

“But it wasn’t the looming disaster at Facebook that angered Ms. Sandberg. It was the social network’s security chief, Alex Stamos, who had informed company board members the day before that Facebook had yet to contain the Russian infestation. Mr. Stamos’s briefing had prompted a humiliating boardroom interrogation of Ms. Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, and her billionaire boss. She appeared to regard the admission as a betrayal.

““You threw us under the bus!” she yelled at Mr. Stamos, according to people who were present.”

Facebook’s chief operating officer was angered not by poor decisions of her own making, but by the honest admissions of the security chief that highlighted her failures to the board.

We’ll leave it to readers to read further about the detailed history of poor decisions across many fronts but including the initial denials followed by gross minimizing statements of Russian activity. To avoid angering anyone by the impact of their failures, senior management opted to do … nothing.

Facebook is paying a price in employee attitudes, compromised trust with users of the service and market valuation. But apparently they have yet to learn the real lessons. The New York Times reported:

“Some Facebook employees indicated that they believe The Times and other news outlets are unfairly targeting the company because of its outsize influence — a sentiment shared in the session on Friday when employees asked executives what would happen to employees who leak information to the press.

“Mr. Zuckerberg made it clear that Facebook would not hesitate to fire employees who spoke to The New York Times or other publications. But after an employee asked whether the company should issue a report about how many leakers Facebook had found and fired, Mr. Zuckerberg played down the idea.

Leaks, he said, are usually caused by “issues with morale.”

The victim syndrome? Facebook is the victim and people just need to “keep trying to do their best”. The White House excels at being the victim – the Facebook directive is even a reminder of the First Lady’s catch-phrase, #BeBest.

Meanwhile, here’s how easy and lucrative it is to use the web and Facebook to widely spread dangerous lies. The Washington Post tells the story of Christopher Blair and his ‘America’s Last Line of Defense’ pages. Here’s a typical start to Blair’s day: “Maybe he would announce that Hillary Clinton had died during a secret overseas mission to smuggle more refugees into America. Maybe he would award President Trump the Nobel Peace Prize for his courage in denying climate change.


The lens of personal advantage

It’s not just Trump, the bigger problem is how the GOP has become the party of Trump. Like Zuckerberg and Sanders at Facebook, the GOP views all politics through a lens of personal advantage. There is nothing wrong, nothing out of bounds – unless you’re caught. Then deny, deny, deny. This is how two Republican members of the House were reelected while facing federal criminal indictments.

This is how you can have a GOP Senator for Mississippi, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS)suggesting her comments about a “public hanging” were just a joke. Or that laws that “make it just a little more difficult” for college students to vote are “a great idea”.

Hyde-Smith is facing a runoff against Dem candidate Mike Espy. Imagine the GOP embracing a candidate that refused to apologize for comments about lynching.

““If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” Hyde-Smith is heard saying in a video posted to Twitter by journalist and blogger Lamar White Jr. on Sunday morning.”

It’s only been a few months since the GOP and Trump’s Senate candidate for Alabama Roy Moore faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct: True To Form, Incapable Of Shame, Trump Has Scheduled Two Rallies In Support Of Hyde-Smith’s Candidacy.

Columnist and conservative never-Trumper Max Boot poses an important question: Did Matthew Whitaker Compromise The Mueller Investigation?

“President Trump says and does so many outrageous things that it’s easy to lose sight of what’s truly important. Nothing that has happened since Election Day is as important as the fact that Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions for refusing to stop an investigation of the Trump campaign and replaced him with a political hatchet man who has expressed his desire to throttle special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.”

A superbly poorly qualified candidate for attorney general, Whitaker’s appointment likely violates a constitutional requirement for Senate approval. He is there for a reason and may have already partially paid back Trump for his moment of infamy.

“Some informed observers, including Lawfare editor Benjamin Wittes and former FBI agent Asha Rangappa, argue that it’s too late for Whitaker to stop the Mueller investigation. Maybe, maybe not. But Whitaker can certainly impede Mueller’s work by vetoing difficult decisions such as whether to fight a court battle to compel Trump to testify orally or to publicly release the Mueller report.

“Whitaker can do great damage even if he does nothing more than read all of Mueller’s files – as he now will have the right to do – and share that information with the White House. Sure, he would be risking impeachment or even prosecution for obstruction of justice, but Whitaker is not someone who has exactly exemplified devotion to the rule of law: He believes that Marbury v. Madison, the seminal 1803 case establishing legal review of legislation, was wrongly decided, and he has said that only Christians should serve as judges.”

And it looks like ‘share’ he has. Whitaker may do more to compromise or impede Mueller’s investigation, but all appearances are that he has already educated Trump on Mueller’s investigation.

Is he too late?


The only way the GOP can win

What we know is Trump and the Russpublicans are capable of anything to gain and retain power using all forms of barriers to voting to lock the door behind them. Georgia governor elect Brian Kemp’s “victory”over Stacey Abrams is a perfect case study.

We will end with the voice of Stacey Abrams bringing us full circle:

“The law as it stands says that he received an adequate number of votes to become the governor of Georgia,” she said. “But we know sometimes the law does not do what it should, and something being legal does not make it right.

“Yes, when he takes the oath of office, he will be the legal governor of the state of Georgia,” Abrams continued, using another L-word. “But what you are looking for me to say is there was no compromise of our democracy and there should be some political compromise in the language that I use, and that’s not right. What’s not right is saying that something was done properly when it was not.

“ … Will I say that his election was not tainted, was not a disinvestment and a disenfranchisement of thousands of voters? I will not say that.”

Trump and the GOP deserve a full rectal exam.


(Commoner Call cartoons by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to )