“I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or between people in the campaign. I have no idea.”
— Trump TV lawyer Rudi Giuliani interviewed by CNN host Chris Cuomo.
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (2/14/19)
Dear Fellow Readers,
The lines are drawn, no more denials about Trump-Russia collusion, it’s now about whether it matters or to whom it matters.
A Washington Post poll from Monday shows the majority “trust Mueller’s version of the facts than Trump’s”. While that sounds encouraging you can already anticipate the breakdown. Democrats and Independents align with the summary, but Republicans believe Trump’s version over Mueller’s by 74% to 17%. Trump’s base has already decided even to the point you can find MAGAs responding to questions about Trump-Russia collusion with a “so-what” attitude.
To that end, we’ll consider two examples of Trump-Russia collusion.
Collusion looks like a quid pro quo to support Putin’s incursion into Ukraine in exchange for influencing the 2016 election to benefit Trump coordinated with an initial meeting on August 2, 2016. On Sunday the New York Times reported: In Closed Hearing, a Clue About ‘the Heart’ of Mueller’s Russia Inquiry.
“Of the few hints to emerge from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, about evidence of possible collusion between President Trump’s campaign and Russia, one of the most tantalizing surfaced almost in passing in a Washington courtroom last week.
“Comments by one of Mr. Mueller’s lead prosecutors, disclosed in a transcript of a closed-door hearing, suggest that the special counsel continues to pursue at least one theory: that starting while Russia was taking steps to bolster Mr. Trump’s candidacy, people in his orbit were discussing deals to end a dispute over Russia’s incursions into Ukraine and possibly give Moscow relief from economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.
“The theory was offered almost as an aside by the prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, during a discussion of contacts between Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and a longtime Russian associate, Konstantin V. Kilimnik, whom investigators have linked to Russian intelligence.
“A closer look at the transcript, released late Thursday, shows that the prosecutors have been keenly focused on discussions the two men had about a plan to end the conflict that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014. Persuading the United States to ease or end the American-led sanctions imposed to punish Moscow for its aggression has been a primary goal of Russian foreign policy.”
“At the heart of this instance is a meeting between convicted Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was managing the campaign at the time, and a long-time Manafort associate, also indicted by Mueller and an alleged Russian intelligence officer Konstantin Kilimnik. Kilimnik’s motivation looked like this:
“Mr. Kilimnik, meanwhile, was trying to use his extensive ties to Mr. Manafort to advance another. It envisioned the return of Viktor F. Yanukovych, a pro-Russia politician who had risen to the presidency of Ukraine in 2010 with the help of Mr. Manafort, who was paid tens of millions of dollars for his efforts.
“Mr. Yanukovych was forced from office by a popular uprising in 2014 and fled to Russia. Mr. Kilimnik wanted to resurrect him as a semiautonomous leader in eastern Ukraine, a division of the country fiercely opposed by most Ukrainians.
“In a February 2017 interview with The Times, Mr. Kilimnik described Mr. Manafort as a possible negotiator for the deal.”
The first face-to-face meeting between Manafort and Kilimnik took place at the Grand Havana Room in Manhattan. (which coincidently happens to be housed in Trump senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner’s flagship real estate which went through a startlingly favorable refinance that paid Kushner the value of a 99-year lease, up front.”
Here we’ll switch gears to an article that focuses specifically on the Grand Havana Room Manafort-Kilimnik meeting: How Manafort’s 2016 Meeting With A Russian Employee At New York Cigar Club Goes To ‘the heart’ Of Mueller’s Probe.
“The 2016 nominating conventions had recently concluded and the presidential race was hitting a new level of intensity when Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, ducked into an unusual dinner meeting at a private cigar room a few blocks away from the campaign’s Trump Tower headquarters in Manhattan.”
Manafort was joined by convicted former Trump campaign deputy director Rick Gates, and in turn…
“The two Americans met with an overseas guest, a longtime employee of their international consulting business who had flown to the United States for the gathering: a Russian political operative named Konstantin Kilimnik.”
In addition to the Ukraine peace deal quid pro quo there was a second exchange of information.
“During the hearing, the judge also appeared to allude to another possible interaction at the Havana Room gathering: a handoff by Manafort of internal polling data from Trump’s presidential campaign to his Russian associate.”
Manafort finds his case back in court to contest special counsel charges that he violated his plea deal but the session, filings and transcripts are sealed. And voila, this just in, the federal judge announced “Manafort, 69, breached his cooperation deal with prosecutors by lying after his guilty plea could add years to his prison sentence and came after a set of sealed court hearings.”
“Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a former CIA official who now teaches at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, said that episode raises many red flags.
“Manafort “goes way outside the normal bounds of behavior,” Mowatt-Larssen said.
“A former senior U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, called the details about what occurred at the Grand Havana Room gathering “the most interesting and potentially significant development we have seen in a long time.””
Keep in mind that at the same time Trump was publicly, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing” during a July 27 news conference. Even more at the heart of the meeting:
““You know, the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were,” he said in an ABC News interview July 31.”
This was the first meeting; “prosecutors said he and Kilimnik continued to pursue the subject in several subsequent meetings, including one in January 2017 when the Russian was in Washington for Trump’s inauguration”.
Trump’s TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani loves to wave his arms about internal campaign data as if it is insignificant. The opposite is true given the Trump campaign certainty of the election in spite of polling. If you want to dig in, one view is here. Even better, consider the celebration of boy-genius Kushner following the election as he brags about their sophistication. This is the sophisticated campaign data shared with Russia by Manafort.
The only remaining questions will be what laws were broken in the name of Trump-Russia collusion.