Tag: RussiaGate

On Firing People

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.

Different when it’s your own

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.

Talking About Adoptions

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: Just Oppo Research

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.

From Russia, Without Love

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.

Free Speech

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.

That’s what we do in business

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.

Part of our support

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”.

Alternative Fact: Intentions Do Not Matter

Alternative Fact: Kelly Ann Conway, in reference to Trump Jr scheduling a meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised damaging info on Clinton but was actually just tricked into scheduling a meeting to discuss adoptions: “Let’s focus on what did not happen in that meeting. No information provided that was meaningful. No action taken. Nothing”

Real fact: I think anyone who has contacted law enforcement officers when trying to put out a hit or got caught up in a solicitation sting can tell you … what you intended to do can be criminal even if your attempt is thwarted. It may be mitigating if he did not know who was offering damaging information about a political opponent. But in the middle of the DNC being hacked and information from the hacks being released (and the candidate specifically requesting the hackers find the deleted e-mail messages), wouldn’t you be suspicious of someone offering up damaging details about the opposition??

Legalese

So Trump Jr admits that he wanted to have a meeting to get damaging information about Clinton from a Russian attorney but got suckered into talking about adoptions. Sounds bad, but does it count as colluding with a foreign country to undermine a political opponent if you fail spectacularly?