Russia Monitor: Brick By Brick … Trump Walled In


To the extent that Trumpism is a thing, I propose the following definition: Trumpism (noun): Bad people doing hateful things ineptly.”

— Tweet by Riley Roberts (3/6/17)  


BREAKING: A caravan of Democrats was spotted heading for the House of Representative’s and will arrive on January 3, 2019.

— Tweet by Hear Me Roar‏ @Stop_Trump20 (12/29/18)

By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (12/28/18)

Dear Fellow Readers,

If want to skip to what might be the single best concise summary to date of Trump-Russia corruption as offered by Daily Kos, near the end. Or…

Are you tired of all the winning? We’ll opt for a Trump lie ahead of the headlines, “Mexico is going to pay for the wall – 100 percent”. An apt lead-in to Trump’s dominance of the news – not in a good way.

Here’s the top three headlines from the New York Times daily briefing from Saturday.

That’s right, staunch U.S. allies — the Kurds — are turning to Syrian President Assad for protection after Trump’s betrayal. Since we’ve focused Trump’s give-away of Syria to Putin, Erdogan and Assad in previous columns we’ll offer a bit of new commentary. What does one of Trump’s greatest apologists in the Senate have to say? 

The Senate Judiciary Chair to-be, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) meanwhile calls this a “nightmare for Turkey and eventually Israel”, while also opining via Twitter, the “big winners are Russia, Iran/Assad and ISIS”. While decrying the stupidity, for some reason Graham chooses not to note the gift to Russia, Syria/Assad and Iran was from his boss, Trump. Russia is rushin’ ahead, Foreign Minister Lavrov offers, or threatens, “West not to hamper efforts to set up Syrian constitutional committee and is in agreement with Turkey”.

But with this reminder of Trump’s ongoing obsequious paybacks to Putin we’ll leap past the headlines and consider the end game and the latest Trump-Russia corruption news.

The end game… Or, at least a milestone: The Inevitability Of Impeachment.

The subhead from Watergate journalist Elizabeth Drew: Even Republicans may be deciding that the president has become too great a burden to their party or too great a danger to the country.

Dem pressure will lead to this, “An impeachment process against President Trump now seems inescapable. 

“The current presidential crisis seems to have only two possible outcomes. If Mr. Trump sees criminal charges coming at him and members of his family, he may feel trapped. This would leave him the choice of resigning or trying to fight congressional removal. But the latter is highly risky.

“I don’t share the conventional view that if Mr. Trump is impeached by the House, the Republican-dominated Senate would never muster the necessary 67 votes to convict him. “

Could this happen?

Jennifer Rubin writing for the Washington Post points out that voters blame Trump for the government shutdown and most don’t believe he’ll ever get his wall: Sixty-four percent — including 54 percent of Republicans! — think he’s unlikely to get the wall. Even with increasingly fluid definitions of a wall, which incoming House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) dismissed as “a beaded curtain or something”.

Even outgoing Trump Chief of Staff offered this:

“To be honest, it’s not a wall,” Kelly told the paper. “The president still says ‘wall’ — oftentimes frankly he’ll say ‘barrier’ or ‘fencing,’ now he’s tended toward steel slats. But we left a solid concrete wall early on in the administration, when we asked people what they needed and where they needed it.

To circle back to the question, Rubin cites a recent Suffolk University-USA Today poll:

“On the Russia investigation, 35 percent have some or a lot of trust in Trump, while 53 percent say the same of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Forty-six percent think there definitely was collusion; only 29 percent think there definitely was not.”

There’s that persistent range of support for Trump, 30-35%. But as Trump increasingly governs to please this base, the rest is slipping away from him.


OMG! A nude selfie? Really?

What will it take to undo the Trumpsters? Perhapd this: Indicted Russian Firm Says Mueller Has Collected ‘nude selfie’ In Probe.

Tell us you won’t look, we dare you:

“A Russian company accused of bankrolling efforts to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign says that a “nude selfie” is among the materials collected by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in his ongoing probe.”


On a more serious note, as we continue to investigate and prosecute the 2016 election, let’s catch up on a few items.

As an example, hidden in a Friday evening news cycle, outgoing House Judiciary Chair Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and House Oversight Chair Trey ‘Benghazi’ Gowdy (R-SC) released their letter closing the year-long House probe of the FBI and DoJ handling of Clinton’s emails with much complaining about election bias against Trump, but otherwise no factual problems.

“…But after dozens of mostly closed-door interviews and months of high-profile partisan clashes, the seven-page letter comes as a remarkably quiet ending – with lawmakers offering no discernibly new insights or recommendations for how the federal law enforcement agencies erred or might improve their work.”

For form, the letter did urge “House Democrats to “continue to identify and eliminate bias” in federal agencies when they take over in January. Because — of course — that has beeb the standard set by Goodlatte, Gowdy and the Republican House. Right?

But not everyone was gifted with closure of investigation or recriminations from 2016: Russians Launched Pro-Jill Stein Social Media Blitz To Help Trump Win Election, Reports Say.

Green candidate Jill Stein stays in the news:

““The fact that the Russian propaganda apparatus helped create awareness and support for her candidacy and promoted her candidacy is critical to our understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

““The Russians played this extremely adroitly,” Weiss added.”

The Green Party did not respond to a request for comment and there is this commentary on “awareness” and how Russia “benefitted” Stein:

“There’s nothing in the reports to suggest that Stein was aware of the influence operation, but the Massachusetts physician has long been criticized for her support of international policies that mirror Russian foreign policy goals.

“As a frequent guest on the Russian state-owned English language broadcast and online outlets RT and Sputnik, Stein has also benefited from Moscow’s help during her presidential runs in 2012 and 2016.”

In the meantime, the Daily Beast reports that Stein never fulfilled her commitment to have supporters have a say in “where the leftover money…was spent” and instead “is being used by her campaign to pay for legal bills”.


Roaming charges?

But if proven, there is a MUCH more serious report that would confirm a critical claim of Trump-Russia corruption from the Steele Dossier: Report Puts Michael Cohen in Prague and Trump-Russia Collusion On The Table.

The news started with a disclosure by McClatchy that “a mobile phone traced to President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen briefly sent signals ricocheting off cell towers in the Prague area in late summer 2016 — at the height of the presidential campaign — leaving an electronic record to support claims that Cohen met secretly there with Russian officials, four people with knowledge of the matter say.

From here we’ll pick up on Jonathan Chait’s interpretation for New York Magazine:

“In 2016, British investigator Christopher Steele collected a dossier of unverified intelligence tips related to Donald Trump’s secret connections with Russia. Nobody outside (and, for all we know, inside) the Mueller investigation knows exactly how many of his allegations are true. It would be surprising if all of them were, and Steele himself has estimated that roughly 70–90 percent of the claims are correct.”

From the beginning, the pushback against the dossier centered around one allegation. It claimed that Trump Organization lawyer Michael Cohen traveled to Prague in August 2016 to meet secretly with representatives of Russian intelligence.

Cohen has consistently denied ever visiting Prague. After McClatchy News broke this latest story, Cohen promptly tweeted:

 Michael Cohen


I hear #Prague#CzechRepublic is beautiful in the summertime. I wouldn’t know as I have never been. #Mueller knows everything! 3:21 PM – Dec 27, 2018

Chait offers, “the more probable explanation by far is that Cohen did visit Prague and did meet with Russian agents.

To repeat, if this is proven, it is HUGE.

“What would all this mean? Well, it would mean just about the worst possible thing for Trump. There’s no chance Cohen took such a meeting without Trump’s direction. As Cohen told George Stephanopoulos earlier this month, “nothing at the Trump organization was ever done unless it was run through Mr. Trump” — certainly an international trip to covertly meet Russian intelligence officials would qualify as a matter Trump had to approve. As the previous McClatchy report indicates, Mueller has the evidence of Cohen’s visit to Prague.”

Could there be proof of Trump-Russia corruption while Cohen is truthfully denying he’s ever been to Prague? There is an interesting theory worthy of note.

First, Sara Danner Dukic tweets a reminder of a New York Post story that “the FBI seized 16 of Cohen’s phones”. The internet being such a wonderful thing, within Trump’s trusted circle, you know who has been to Prague and speaks fluent Czech? Much like the old interviews that have Donnie Jr. and Eric talking about “having all the funding we need out of Russia”, here’s video of Donnie Jr. bragging about all his time in Prague.

Like playing Clue, could it be ‘Donnie in Prague with a Cohen cell phone’? We hope to learn more.



We’ll end with a few articles forwarded by Commoner Call readers. This is a great summary case for Trump-Russia corruption from the Daily Kos: Explained: The Russian Effort To Help Trump.

No single article will ever be able to tell the entire story, but this one, starting in 2013 seizes on key threads and makes a good case.

The Daily Kos version places a good deal of emphasis on the role of convicted former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Here is Time filling in the answer to a question of Manafort’s motivation: Exclusive: Russian Ex-Spy Pressured Manafort Over Debts To An Oligarch.

“When the U.S. government put out its latest sanctions list on Dec. 19, the man named at the top did not seem especially important. Described in the document as a former Russian intelligence officer, he was accused of handling money and negotiations on behalf of a powerful Russian oligarch. The document did not mention that the man, Victor Boyarkin, had links to the 2016 campaign of President Donald Trump.

“A months-long investigation by TIME, however, found that Boyarkin, a former arms dealer with a high forehead and a very low profile, was a key link between a senior member of the Trump campaign and a powerful ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

The key statement is “Boyarkin told TIME this fall that he was in touch with Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in the heat of the presidential race on behalf of the Russian oligarch. “He owed us a lot of money,” Boyarkin says. “And he was offering ways to pay it back.”

There is much more to the story, but Boyarkin also says “he has been approached by the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller”.

A similar but more concise version compared to the Daily Kos article is offered by Newsweek with a new angle: Russia Picked Donald Trump & Ran Him For President, Former Israeili Intelligence Officer Says.

“Russia chose Donald Trump as the U.S. presidential candidate who would be most advantageous to Moscow, and used online tactics to win him the presidency, according to a former agent of the Israeli intelligence agency the Mossad.

“”Officials in Moscow looked at the 2016 U.S. presidential race and asked, ‘Which candidate would we like to have sitting in the White House? Who will help us achieve our goals?’ And they chose him. From that moment, they deployed a system [of bots] for the length of the elections, and ran him for president,” former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo told the audience at the Marker’s digital conference in Israel on Monday, where experts gathered to discuss online disinformation campaigns and bots.

““What we’ve seen so far with respect to bots and the distortion of information is just the tip of the iceberg. It is the greatest threat of recent years, and it threatens the basic values that we share—democracy and the world order created since World War Two,” Pardo noted, according to Haaretz.”


The one who is really afraid of The MAGA mob

And that’s where we’ll leave things for now. There is a cute point made about Trump’s own motivation for working so hard to satisfy his own base likely at his own expense:  Who’s Afraid Of The MAGA Mob? Only Trump.

“…The only one who should cower before the Make America Great Again legions is Trump himself.

“And he does fear them, bigly. The latest illustration is the way he chickened out on a bipartisan agreement to keep the government fully funded, instead forcing a partial shutdown over chump change for “the wall.”…”

That’s right, as encouraged by HBO’s Bill Maher, if you want to offer the shortest argument possible for Trump’s boastful miscalculation to “take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down.” there is that other boast:

“Mexico is going to pay for the wall – 100 percent.”

Just ask Trump’s base, it might be one of the few points of agreement.

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