Russia Monitor: The Beating Heart & Friendly Hands


“There is an elephant standing in America’s living room right now staring us in the face: the President of the United States may well be compromised by the Russians, which I truly believe is the case. And he is unfit to serve.”

— Former Defense Secretary William Cohen

By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (3/11/19)

Dear Fellow Readers,

Today’s edition we squeeze in a number of items that have not been the priority over the last few weeks. This is a reflection of the vast corruption of the Trump White House, extending well beyond Trump-Russia, though we’ll still strive to stay between those guardrails.

Blameless? Really? American ‘Just-Us’

The big news on Friday was the sentencing of convicted Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Manafort was convicted on several federal charges and faced sentencing guidelines of as much as 24 years: She Got 5 Years For Voting Illegally Once. Paul Manafort Got Less Time For Years Of Cons.

The judge dismissed the guidelines as “excessive” and made a false statement that Manafort “has lived an otherwise blameless life”. We won’t litigate the outcome but simply note two points for how poor the decision.

Paul Manafort mugshot: “That money we have is blood money.”

Manafort is accused of treason, but in what seems like a rather direct comparison, the Huffington Post notes that Crystal Mason was sentenced to a “five-year punishment” for having voted in the 2016 election for voting illegally in Texas. Mason was on “supervised release, a form of probation”; Mason did not realize she was not eligible to vote.

According to Manafort’s daughters, his “otherwise blameless life” was funded by “blood money”, one daughter texted her sister, “You know he has killed people in Ukraine? Knowingly.

Manafort is scheduled for a second sentencing hearing this week based on two counts: conspiring against the United States, and conspiring to obstruct justice by tampering with witnesses.


The beating heart of corruption

Trump son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner manages to conduct US foreign policy completely off the radar with a security clearance achieved only by order of Trump. A bit of a tangent, but while the White House has not responded to House Oversight Committee requests for information about the process leading to granting of security clearances for both Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the committee obtained the documents through a White House leak.

There have been questions of Kushner’s sharing of top secret information with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman including “names of Saudis who may be disloyal ahead of a crackdown on dissent”.

Those following all this express many concerns: Jared Kushner Is ‘Beating Heart” Of “Corruption And Deeply Evil” Trump Administration, Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe Says.

“Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, slammed President Donald Trump’s son-in-law of Jared Kushner in a tweet this weekend, suggesting he would soon be “exposed” as a traitor.

“Sharing a long Twitter thread by attorney and academic Seth Abramson, who is also a columnist for Newsweek, Tribe on Saturday referred to Kushner as “Smarmy, slimy, smiling.”

“Jared Kushner of 666 Fifth Avenue is the beating heart of this unprecedentedly corrupt and deeply evil administration,” Tribe wrote. “He’ll eventually be exposed as an insatiably greedy Benedict Arnold.””

Kushner was in Saudi Arabia again recently, the first meeting following the brutal torture/murder/dismemberment of US-based journalist and Saudi dissenter Jamal Khashoggi’s murder by “Saudi agents”.

American intelligence agencies concluded that the prince most likely ordered the killing”, but Trump does not agree.

So what did Kushner accomplish with the Saudis? We’d have to ask the Saudis, the US embassy does not know.

“Officials and staffers in the U.S. embassy in Riyadh said they were not read in on the details of Jared Kushner’s trip to Saudi Arabia or the meetings he held with members of the country’s royal court last week, according to three sources with knowledge of the trip. And that’s causing concern not only in the embassy but also among members of Congress.”

Like father-in-law… Trump shuts the US out of his conversations with Putin, Jared shuts the US out of his conversations with the Saudis.


A friendly hand

Which brings us to the strange case of a Florida massage parlor entrepreneur, Yi Lang. Before we dive in, consider this entry from the former MI6 Russia desk head and dossier author Christopher Steele.

“Suggestion from source close to TRUMP and MANAFORT that Repbulican campaign team happy to have Russia as media bogeyman to mask more extensive corrupt business ties to China and other emerging countries.”

And then we learned this from the investigative reporting team at Mother Jones: The Massage Parlor Owner Peddling Access To Trump Has Ties To Chinese Government-Linked Groups.

Yi Lang came on the national radar after New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged with solicitation; it turns out Lang watched the Patriots win the super Bowl at Trump’s Mar A Lago. Big deal you say. Returning to the Mother Jones article:

“Li Yang, the Florida massage parlor entrepreneur who created and operated a business that sold Chinese business executives access to President Donald

“Trump and his family at Mar-a-Lago, has yet another intriguing line of work. She is an officer of two groups with ties to China’s Communist government. And she founded a Miami-based nonprofit that promotes “economic and cultural exchange” between China and the West in coordination with “senior…Chinese leaders” in the United States, according to a profile of Yang posted on a Chinese social media platform.

“After Mother Jones on Saturday revealed that Yang, who goes by Cindy, had been peddling entrée to the Trump family, the Trump White House, and assorted GOP powerbrokers, national security experts noted that this situation could pose a threat, presenting opportunities for espionage or blackmail targeting the president and his inner circle. They expressed concern the Yang’s efforts to broker interactions with Trump and his clan could be exploited by Chinese intelligence. “Guess who else has 100% known about this from the beginning?” tweeted Susan Hennessey, a Brookings Institution fellow who previously worked as a National Security Agency lawyer. “Chinese intelligence services.” Samantha Vinograd, a CNN national security analyst who worked for the National Security Council during the Obama administration, noted: “Our intel community has said China poses one of the most significant counterintelligence challenges—my money is on the Chinese Govt having at least picked up on [Yang’s] access if they didn’t direct it.”

So far the story is, “Yang has justifiably drawn scrutiny as a Trump donor who tried to cash in on her connections…her connections…to the Chinese government and the Chinese Party prompt additional questions about her activities”. In the meantime you can find pictures of Yi Lang with many top level Russpublicans all over social media.


Trump’s boss

Let’s look at another dire warning regarding Trump; we already have convicted former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s warning that “Trump won’t peacefully give up the White House if he loses the 2020 election”.

James Kitfield writing for The Daily Beast characterizes Trump’s foreign policy alliances to be protection rackets”: When The Commander in Chief Is ‘Unfit,’ What’s a General to Do? Jim Mattis’ Resignation Was Just a Beginning.

Trump takes his foreign policy briefings about risks and negotiations with North Korea from Putin. Trump’s former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke against Trump’s decisions generally through his letter of resignation:

“My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues,” Mattis concluded in his letter. “Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”

This is a long and unsettling article about Trump’s conduct of foreign policy. Retired General Stanley McChrystal was interviewed by ABC News’ Martha Radditz, “McChrystal left no doubt that he believes the commander Mattis walked away from is not only fundamentally dishonest, but also “immoral.” 

Even worse, retired General Barry McCaffrey offered, “You have a rogue President of the United States, and we as a country are actually in serious danger.”

The “adults are gone” and replaced with “Yes men”. And according to former Defense Secretary William Cohen:

“There is an elephant standing in America’s living room right now staring us in the face: the President of the United States may well be compromised by the Russians, which I truly believe is the case. And he is unfit to serve.”

Departing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein offered his own warning:

“Finally, in the spirit of promoting a culture of integrity, I want to leave you with the wisdom of this ancient proverb: if you desire to know a person’s character, consider his friends.”



And what are Russpublicans to do given concerns over Trump fitness to serve? Why, investigate Hillary of course.

It Exists: DOJ Finds Letter Ordering Scrutiny Of Uranium One, Hillary Clinton.

That’s right, former Trump attorney general Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions III and former acting attorney general Matt Whitaker both have their fingerprints on a directive to “review of how the department handled the Clinton Foundation and the Uranium One issues.

“‘Lock her up’ was wrong at campaign rallies, and it’s even worse coming from the Department of Justice,” said Austin Evers, who heads American Oversight. “Even after this long, it’s still deeply shocking to see the black and white proof that Jeff Sessions caved to President Trump’s worst authoritarian impulses and ordered a wide-ranging investigation of his political opponents based on demands from Congress instead of the facts and the law.”


Russian digital knife fights

There is always so much more. There is news that the Trump inauguration “took money from shell companies tied to foreigners”. We’ll skip right past this given there’s ongoing investigations of Trump’s $107 million inauguration fund.

We’ll end with perspective on Russian trolls; here PoliteMelanie offers humor with a “Tweet of the Week”:

“On Sept. 10, 2018, @PoliteMelanie tweeted to her more than 20,000 followers: “Criticizing Trump in a book is just unfair. It’s like criticizing the Amish on television.” The next day, this tweet won the Chicago Tribune’s “Tweet of the Week” contest. What the Tribune’s readers didn’t know when casting their votes, however, was that “Melanie” was a Russian troll.”

The point here is most of us erroneously believe we can recognize a Russian troll, we can’t, and it’s worth noting the warning, “we are engaged in nothing less than political warfare, and as we approach the 2020 election, we need to be more clever than the trolls.

Can Russian trolls really be dangerous? Yes, consider the case of “a journalist with Finland’s national broadcaster”: Effort To Expose Russia’s ‘Troll Army’ Draws Vicious Retaliation.

It’s a dire warning.

“…But she was taken aback, and shaken, by a vicious retaliatory campaign of harassment and insults against her and her work by those same pro-Russian voices.

““Everything in my life went to hell thanks to the trolls,” said Ms. Aro, a 35-year-old investigative reporter with the social media division of Finland’s state broadcaster, Yle Kioski.”

Can’t happen to us, right? So thought former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, in a Russian jail since December. So thought U.S. investor Michael Calvey charged with fraud and now in a Russian jail for weeks.

What?! You haven’t heard Trump demand the release of these Americans? Neither have we. Calvey faces a sentencing guideline of ten years if convicted, but maybe he’s led an “otherwise blameless life”.

(Commoer Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link toe )