Almost a year ago, everyone knew some primary challenger funded opposition research, terminated the contract when Trump secured the nomination, and then someone on the Democratic side picked up the tab to continue research. We got names to go with it last week, and somehow that was meant to indicate Clinton colluded with Russia. Or something. Alternative logic using alternative facts really isn’t my thing.
And then we were treated to the criminal collusion of … half a dozen disparate government agencies approving the sale of domestic uranium resources (with a stipulation against export, although if a gun law wouldn’t stop a mass shooting … I guess export restrictions wouldn’t stop a nuc either).
And for a short time this morning, I thought they were a distraction from Manafort’s indictment. But it didn’t make sense – for one, the due was warned some time ago. I guess he expected a three day countdown warning or something, but it wasn’t a secret that something was coming against him.
Then the Justice Department slipped a plea agreement into their filing database. A plea agreement with a Trump campaign official who lied to the FBI about attempting to collude with the Russian government to support Trump’s campaign. Shortly before Jr & co met with the ‘totally not Kremlin connected Russian lawyer’ about ‘adoptions that totally had nothing to do with American policy related to Russia’.
Reading through the plea agreement (https://www.justice.gov/file/1007341/download) … the offense level is 4, which (baring the chap having a prodigious criminal history) is a 0-6 month sentence with the possibility of fines up to 10k. Not a bad deal for a crime that yield up to five years imprisonment *and* 250k in fines. Total speculation on my part, but I think he’s agreed to testify against someone notable.
Read an interesting take on Mueller’s coordination with NY AG Schneiderman: Trump might manage to shut down Mueller’s investigation (or enough Republicans may OK the 6 month time limit). Justice can suppress documents from the investigation (or oopse them), but it would be a gross abuse of federal power to confiscate (or even assume to control the release of) investigative materials in possession of the NY AG.
Which isn’t to say Trump & co wouldn’t *try* … but something not a lot of Americans seem to know about the lead up to the Revolutionary war: there was quite a bit of debate in Parliament about the same grievances the American colonialists had. Not because Britons had some altruistic concern for the socio-political well-being of Colonials, but if some set of offensive rules apply to THOSE crown citizens today, what is to stop them from applying to ME tomorrow? Point being – it’s one thing to treat women horrendously, screw over poor people, take the David Duke approach to race relations. But if the feds can come in and overrule state criminal investigations in NY today … well, here’s hoping people who like to prance around screaming about states rights have some line they aren’t OK with Trump crossing.
The new press guy @ the White House told the press he was planning Michael Short, and then seemed dismayed that the press somehow knew the fellow was being fired before it happened. Goofy, really, but not the worst thing the Trump admin’s going to do this week. What struck me, though, is the way Scaramucci expressed his displeasure. “The fact that you guys know about it before he does really upsets me as a human being and as a Roman Catholic. You got that? So I should have the opportunity if I have to let somebody go to let the person go in a very humane, dignified way”.
Not saying I disagree with him – there are some things that should be done in person and without previous publicity. There’s a reason victims names are withheld until family is notified. There’s a reason texting someone to break up with them has such a bad reputation. And there’s a reason that James Comey delivering a speech while seeing his termination broadcast on national television was such a horrifying way to fire someone. The juxtaposition made Scaramucci’s complaint extra ironic.
People are forever saying situations are different when it is your own kid, but I’m starting to apply that logic to special [council | prosecutor] investigations. Kelly Anne Conway, on Fox News Friday: “Let’s go back to what the purpose of the investigation was: Russian interference in our election. Where is this going and are Americans comfortable with that — with the taxpayers funding this, with this going off all types of chutes and ladders?”
Hello? What was the point of Ken Starr’s investigation? Some real estate investments. What does that have to do with extra-marital affairs? Well, it’s where the investigation led. And laundering Russian money is where the investigation into Russian support of the Trump campaign leads.
The fact that seems to be missing from reporting on Trump Jr’s meeting and Trump Sr’s unadvertised meeting with Putin where they “talked about adoptions” is that the 2012 Russian restriction on adoptions was retaliation for the US passing the “Russia and Moldova Jackson-Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012”. The American law barred eighteen specific Russians from entering the US *and* froze their American holdings.
There’s no talking about adoptions without also talking the sanctions. It isn’t like the Russians were offering to unilaterally remove the adoption ban. “Talking about adoptions” is essentially a euphemism for discussing the removal of sanctions against a bunch of super wealthy Russians who are probably well-connected to Putin.
Alternative fact: “Politics is not the nicest business in the world, but it’s very standard where they have information and you take the information.” Trump at a joint press conference with French President Macron in Paris.
Real fact: There is an interesting article on Politico from someone who actually conducted oppo research. Obtaining private (and anything so sensitive that it needs to be discussed with you instead of your dad’s assistant is somewhat obviously not public record type stuff) information from frenemy nation governments.
When a public investigation in the Ukraine revealed payments to Manford, receiving information from a public investigation … well, using it might be sleazy politics (in that respect, Trump is not wrong … politics is not nice). But buying a computer on sale from a well known retail store isn’t illegal whereas purchasing one for half retail from the back of some guy’s van behind the Tower City is probably going to garner a receiving stolen goods charge.
There was a car theft ring in Pennsylvania that obtained blank titles from Harrisburg. Purchasing a car with a valid title from a used car dealer is not a suspicious circumstance. Victims were out money because the cars were returned to their rightful owners, but they were not charged with a crime because nothing about their scenario seemed suspicious.
The item itself, nor its provenance , are not the only considerations — how suspicious a reasonable person would have been of the circumstances is the distinction between a criminal activity and being a victim of a crime.
Coupling the recent revelations about Trump Jr’s meetings and The New Republic’s article on Russian mafia money being laundered through Trump properties … collusion may be the more flattering story of the events. The alternative is a broke businessman so desperate for a buck that he doesn’t care where the money comes from who essentially becomes the Russian mafia’s go-to patsy for laundering their money. A rube whose incredible ego led him to run for president. At which point the Russians realize they’ve got a stooge in the hand and unilaterally undertake to support his campaign.
As the “defense of the day” goes, free speech is about the worst claim to make when accused of colluding with a foreign government to undermine an American election. Not to lead a parade of horribles, but if accepting stolen information on a political opponent is free speech … why wouldn’t accepting IP garnered through industrial espionage equally protected?
If you go for crazy extrapolation — Citizens United tells me that spending money is ‘speech’, so I should be able to buy a Rolex and laptop from the back of some dodgy van downtown. Free speech, ya know.
The most telling phrase from Trump Jr’s interview with Hannity last night — “That’s what we do in business”. He continued to explain that they take whatever information is out there and then decide how to use it. Illegally garnered information about a politician that can be used to influence the decision process to TrumpCo’s advantage? He may love it, but it’s also called blackmail. And is illegal. A competitor’s business plans or IP gathered through corporate espionage? Hiring former employees of competitors for their inside knowledge or sales leads? I’m not saying I doubt that is how Trump does business, but it hardly paints a flattering picture of the organisation. And I hope that a head of the company broadcasting the company’s willingness to use illegally gathered information to the detriment of their competitors is sufficient to bring an investigation into the company’s operations as well.
There’s a sentence in Trump Jr’s released e-mail messages that really stands out to me: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump”
For a group of people who have spent almost a year now denying that Russia or its government in any way supported, promoted, aided, or favored Trump … passing around an e-mail thread about something that is part of Russia and its government’s support seems ironic. But extra super odd is that no one — neither Trump Jr, nor the people to whom he forwarded the message — found the phrase worthy of remark. Like they already know about Russia and its government providing support for Trump. More like “this message is part of that ongoing situation we all know about” rather than “this message is part of some new and surprising endeavor”.