Tag: putin

The GOP Is Now The Party Of Putin

"Russian propaganda has made its way into the United States, unfortunately, and it's infected a good chunk of my party's base." That acknowledgement from Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was echoed a few days later by Ohio Rep. Michael Turner, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. "To the extent that this propaganda takes hold, it makes it more difficult for us to really see this as an authoritarian versus democracy battle."

It has been two months since the Senate passed, by 70-29 (including 22 Republicans), a $95 billion foreign aid bill that included $60 billion for Ukraine. The Republican-controlled House, by contrast, has been paralyzed. This week, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that Ukraine will lose the war if the aid is not approved.

The Republican party is now poised to let a brave, democratic ally be defeated by the power that the last GOP presidential nominee save one called "without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe." One member of Congress has sworn to introduce a resolution to vacate the chair if the House speaker puts aid for Ukraine on the floor, and the entertainment wing of conservatism — most egregiously Tucker Carlson — has gone into full truckling mode toward the ex-KGB colonel in the Kremlin.

It's worth exploring how the Republican party, the party of "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," became the party that now credulously traffics in blatant Russian disinformation while it flirts with betraying an important ally — along with all of its principles.

Trump's particular preferences and ego needs play a starring role in the GOP's devolution. Cast your minds back to 2016 and the revelation that the Russians had hacked the Democratic National Committee. To rebut this damaging development, Fox News conjurers got busy inventing a tale about CrowdStrike, the company that documented the hack, alleging that the servers had been mysteriously moved to Ukraine so that the FBI could not examine them. Trump raised the CrowdStrike issue in his infamous call with Zelenskyy.

This was bonkers. As the Mueller report made clear, the FBI did get all the data regarding the DNC hack. There was never a shred of evidence that the servers were moved to Ukraine, and in any case physical control of the servers was unnecessary. But what was Zelensky supposed to say? He promised to look into it just as a courtier to a mad king will say, "Yes, your majesty, we will look into why your slippers are turning into marshmallows when the sun goes down."

Because Trump regarded any implication that he had received assistance from Russia as impugning his victory, he latched onto the idea (perhaps whispered by Putin himself in one of their many private conversations) that, yes, there had indeed been foreign interference in the election, but it was Ukraine boosting Hillary Clinton, not Russia aiding Trump. Now, it's true that Ukraine's friends reached out to Clinton, but why wouldn't they? Trump's campaign manager was Paul Manafort, a paid agent of Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted pro-Putin Ukrainian leader.

Trump nurtured his misplaced grudge for years. Recall that when Putin launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Trump's initial response was that it was a "genius" move. "You gotta say, that's pretty savvy."

A non-sociopath would say it was raw aggression of the worst kind. A normal Republican of the pre-Trump mold would have been outraged at the attempted rape of a peaceful, democratic neighbor.

Most Republican officeholders are not sociopaths, but they take their marching orders from one and have adjusted their consciences accordingly. The talking point Sen. J.D. Vance and his ilk favor is that they cannot be concerned about Ukraine's border when our southern border is also being invaded. Of course it's absurd to compare immigrants looking for work or safety to tanks, bombs and missiles, but that's what passes for Republican reasoning these days. In any case, it was revealed to be hollow when Biden and the Democrats offered an extremely strict border bill to sweeten aid for Ukraine, and the GOP turned it down flat.

Russia's fingerprints are all over the Republicans' failed attempt to impeach (in all senses of the word) Joe Biden. Their star witness, Alexander Smirnov — who alleged that Hunter and Joe Biden had been paid $5 million in bribes by Burisma — was indicted in February for making false statements. High-ranking Russians appear to be his sources.

Whether the subject is Ukraine, Biden's so-called corruption, or NATO, Putin seems to have pulled off the most successful foreign influence operation in American history. If Trump were being blackmailed by Putin, it's hard to imagine how he would behave any differently. And though it started with Trump, it has not ended there. Putin now wields more power over the GOP than anyone other than Trump. GOP propagandists indulge fictions that even many Russians can see through: Ukraine is governed by Nazis; Russia is a religious, Christian nation; Russia is fighting "wokeness."

Republicans are not so much isolationist as pro-authoritarian. They've made Hungary's Viktor Orban a pin-up, and they mouth Russian disinformation without shame. Putin must be pinching himself.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Investor With Putin Ties Loaned $8 Million To Trump Entity Involved In Alleged Insider Trading

Investor With Putin Ties Loaned $8 Million To Trump Entity Involved In Alleged Insider Trading

A Russian businessman based in South Florida may have made millions off of insider trading in a scheme involving the parent company of former President Donald Trump's Truth Social platform.

The Miami Herald reported Wednesday that investor Anton Postolnikov — the nephew of a former staffer to Russian President Vladimir Putin — is mentioned in court documents from a 2023 New York securities fraud case prosecutors brought against three men from South Florida. Gerald and Michael Shvartsman, along with accomplice Bruce Garelick, allegedly pocketed $23 million from insider trading involving a 2021 merger between Trump Media and Technology Group and the Miami, Florida-based Digital World Acquisition Corp.

Garelick and the Shvartsman brothers are accused of sharing non-public information with friends and colleagues in order to maximize their gains from the deal. Documents show Postolnikov loaned $8 million to Trump's company through a Caribbean bank he owns that frequently works with the pornography industry.

While neither Trump nor Postolnikov are facing any allegations of wrongdoing from the deal, the Herald reported that prosecutors could tack on more charges in a subsequent indictment. However, it remains unclear if Postolnikov will be added as an additional defendant. A separate filing by Tai Park — the defense attorney representing Michael Shvartsman — suggests that his client could face new charges of money laundering in response to his efforts to conceal his alleged insider trading profits.

Meanwhile, Garelick, who sat on the board of Digital World Acquisition Corp, is accused of making $50,000 from the merger in his work for Shvartsman's company, Rocket One Capital. Digital World is a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, which is often used as a vehicle for entities seeking to become publicly traded companies, as it involves less regulatory oversight than a traditional initial public offering (IPO). The Herald reported that months before the merger was announced, Garelick wrote a message to Postolnikov that read "Anton, Good times last night! Following up on that Trump Media Group SPAC we mentioned. The deal is going to finalize this week. Please let us know if you are interested in investing."

The murky details of the merger may be partially why the deal has yet to be approved by the US Securities and Exchange Commission after being on hold for more than two years. As a result of that delay, Trump Media and Technology Group has bled approximately $1 billion in investment commitments as of fall 2023. in the first three quarters of 2023, the company only posted $3.4 million in total revenue, which is far behind competing social media companies like Facebook and X/Twitter.

University of Florida business professor Jay Ritter — an expert on publicly traded companies — told the Herald that the fact that the merger is still on hold is "pretty unprecedented." He also likened the SPAC's performance to a "meme stock," in which social media sentiment drives a stock's performance more than other traditional business metrics.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Trump  Quotes Putin And Parrots Hitler In New Hampshire Rally Rhetoric

Trump Quotes Putin And Parrots Hitler In New Hampshire Rally Rhetoric

The first time Donald Trump talked about immigrants poisoning the blood of the nation, he did so in an interview with a right-wing outlet. For the next month, the straight-out-of-”Mein-Kampf” meme disappeared from Trump’s campaign rhetoric, only to be replaced by an even more obvious tip of the Hitler hat when Trump described his opponents as “vermin” in a Veterans Day speech that threatened to erase the legacy of every American veteran.

Now Trump is bringing the full-on Nazi rhetoric to his rally speeches. As CNN reports, Trump’s weekend rally in New Hampshire featured a return of his talk about how immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country.” He mixed that theme into a speech that brought even more of his regular shout-outs to authoritarian rulers and expressions of disdain for democracy.

Trump is not just humming Hitleresque themes, but bellowing full-bore Nazi slogans to his red-hat rally crowds. It shows that just as he has done so many times in the past, he has crossed the line and found that the white supremacist territory on the other side suits him just fine. Trump is making his similarity to Hitler into the core of his 2024 campaign.

As if quoting Hitler to his pale, screaming crowd wasn’t enough, Trump also trotted out a quote from Vladimir Putin about the “rottenness” of American democracy. Rotten, according to Putin, because it goes after Trump. “Even Vladimir Putin … says that Biden’s — and this is a quote – ‘politically motivated persecution of his political rival is very good for Russia because it shows the rottenness of the American political system, which cannot pretend to teach others about democracy.’”

As a side note, Putin’s most notable political opponent, Alexei Navalny, who has been held as a political prisoner since 2021 after surviving an attempt to kill him using a nerve agent, disappeared from the prison where he was being held at the beginning of December. He is still missing.

Trump once again ticked off names from his authoritarian friends list, making his now-regular round of how much he admires everyone who is ripping up democracy around the world. That included reminding the crowd that he gets on well with Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, and letting everyone know that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is “very nice.”

But it was the centerpiece return of the Nazi theme of “poisoning the blood” that really stole the show at Trump’s New Hampshire rally. On many occasions, Trump has tossed some loathsome statement out to the public, stepped back for a moment to see how it went down, then chased it up with something even worse when it turned out his supporters either did not care or actively loved his hate speech. Could he get away with going after Gold Star families? Could he dismiss prisoners of war as losers? And could he endlessly elaborate on how Mexico is populated entirely by rapists and drug mules? Yes, yes, and oh-hell-yes.

He’s not unaware that he’s repeating Nazisms. He’s just erasing another line as he aspires to make the country a dictatorship.

Now it seems that “poisoning the blood” could be as big a part of Trump’s 2024 run as “lock her up” was in 2016. A fulsome embrace of the white supremacism that has never been all that far from the surface of Trump’s speech.

Back in a 1990 interview with Vanity Fair, Trump’s then-wife, Ivana Trump, said that her husband had a copy of Hitler's collected speeches, My New Order, that he kept in a bedside cabinet. Trump insisted that the book had been given to him by a Jewish friend. Only that friend wasn’t Jewish. He was just someone who thought Trump would find a book of Hiter’s speeches “interesting.” Clearly, he was right.

This is not the first time that Trump has put his nighttime reading to use in his campaigns, but now it seems he no longer feels the need to disguise his plagiarism.

That 1990 interview also featured this little tidbit.

Donald Trump appears to take aspects of his German background seriously. John Walter works for the Trump Organization, and when he visits Donald in his office, Ivana told a friend, he clicks his heels and says, "Heil Hitler," possibly as a family joke.

It’s a whole lot less funny these days.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Donald Trump

With Every False Accusation Against Others, Trump Indicts Himself

The lesson to be learned from the latest revelations about former President Donald Trump's misuse of highly sensitive classified documents concerns the character of the former president and his cronies: They constantly accuse their political adversaries of the crimes and misdemeanors they have committed — or will perpetrate — themselves.

And the more information that is uncovered, the less culpable Trump's targets appear to be - while his own guilt, and the guilt of his associates, is established ever more firmly.

Nobody who has read the lengthy Florida indictment of Trump, which alleges more than 30 violations of the Espionage Act, can doubt his narcissistic attitude toward the protection of national security secrets. Nor is there any question that he repeatedly lied and conspired to conceal his violations of the law.

But where his behavior once seemed mysterious, we now can see at least one clear motive behind his bizarre and dangerous conduct: the desire for revenge against everyone who had sought to uncover the truth about Russia's illegal support for his 2016 campaign. The "Crossfire Hurricane" folder that disappeared from the White House during the final days of his administration has never been located, which has raised grave alarm in the intelligence community over the potential exposure of sources and methods to our adversaries in the Kremlin.

It is no exaggeration to say that those concerns include the possibility that Trump himself might expose those sources to his friends in the Putin regime. His loyalty to the West is questionable and his debt to the Russian dictator is undeniable.

Yet as the underlying events of Crossfire Hurricane unfolded, Trump and his campaign were shrieking incessantly about Hillary Clinton's emails — urging federal authorities to "lock her up" for these supposed offenses against national security. The facts that have emerged since then have proved that the number of classified documents jeopardized by her actions amounted to exactly zero.

The same pattern of false accusation and true culpability applies to the Clinton and Trump foundations. In 2015, the far-right "strategist" and publisher Steve Bannon, who then became Trump's campaign manager, launched a multimillion-dollar smear campaign against the Clinton Foundation that succeeded beyond his wildest dreams — including a ludicrously false accusation featured as an "investigation" on the front page of The New York Times. The real achievements of the Clinton Foundation in saving many millions of lives and stemming the AIDS epidemic were submerged beneath a sewage outflow of phony conspiracy claims.

Largely ignored amid Bannon's publicity jihad against the Clinton Foundation were the grotesque abuses of the Trump Foundation, which accomplished no good works and more closely resembled a racketeering conspiracy than a nonprofit charity. Trump's self-serving manipulation of nonprofit tax laws was both comical and shocking. And then a few years later, Bannon himself established an abusive nonprofit — "We Build the Wall" — from which he and his criminal confederates admittedly stole millions donated by naive conservatives. He's an unrepentant crook and may yet go to prison, despite the pardon bestowed on him by Trump.

Making a hollow accusation to conceal suspicious behavior (or actual crimes) remains the modus operandi not only of Trump and Bannon, whose corruption is well established, but of the Republican Party leadership they have suborned. That is why congressional Republicans have mounted a fake impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden, despite the complete absence of any evidence that he profited from his son's foreign business dealings — or that those dealings had any effect on public policy while Biden served in the White House.

There is nothing to those charges, as the Republican investigators have inadvertently proved with their bumbling displays of malice. But several indiscreet politicians have disclosed the Biden impeachment's real purpose: to distract voters from the pending indictments against Trump — not to mention the massive profiteering by Trump, his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner during their years in the White House.

Every accusation they utter is an indictment of their own misconduct.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.