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Trump’s Russia Problems Under Scrutiny Next Week

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Trump’s Russia Problems Under Scrutiny Next Week

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Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

What happened to RussiaGate?

A month ago, the headlines were flowing. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had been fired for lying about his meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself because he lied, under oath, about what he knew of the meeting.

The House Intelligence Committee investigation was investigating possible connections between Russian officials and President Trump’s entourage, as well as Trump’s false March 4 Twitter blast claiming that President Obama had wiretapped him.

The partisan conflict grew more heated. Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R.-Calif.) denounced unnamed officials for criminally leaking classified information. Then he paid a late-night visit to the White House to review classified documents that he said confirmed Trump’s claim. Actually, they didn’t. Nunes’ antics were so egregious, he had to recuse himself from the probe. He was succeeded by Representative K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) from whom little has been heard.

The Senate Intelligence Committee then launched its own investigation. In a “conspicuous display of bipartisanship,” chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) and ranking member Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) promised a thorough probe.

“This investigation’s scope will go wherever the intelligence leads,” Burr said during a rare joint news conference.

Radio Silence

A month later, the Russia investigation is generating mostly radio silence.

FBI director James Comey has gone mum. After shooting down Trump’s false wiretapping claim, he has reverted to “no comment” mode.

The Senate investigation has stalled, apparently because Burr won’t issue the subpoenas the Democrats want. Insiders describe a “standoff” between Republicans and Democrats on the committee.

But the fireworks may resume next week when former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates testifies to the Senate. Yates has let it be known she will contradict President Trump’s claim that he did not know Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his meetings with Kislyak.

The House investigation will also resume later this month. Yates, former CIA director John Brennan and director of National Intelligence James Clapper have been invited to testify. No date has been set for that hearing.

The steady drip, drip, drip of revelations that drives a real Washington scandal toward political consequences has slowed. But has it stopped?

Watergate or Whitewater?

Critics suggest that as scandals go, Trump’s dealings with Russia are more Whitewater than Watergate, more Benghazi than Iran-contra. They see investigation via innuendo that never leads to any real revelations of wrongdoing, only more “connecting of dots,” finding links and spinning of theories.

The Democrats who parse the story, writes J.M. Bernays in The Baffler, are mired in the “politics of melancholy“:

“[T]he dauntless pursuit of this crusade, despite a distinct lack of credible evidence, serves multiple purposes. It deflects blame for a historic, humiliating failure; since that failure is conveniently blamed squarely on foreign meddling, it provides a rationale to continue ignoring criticism from the political left….”

And yet: Even if the Russia investigation is a political excuse for Clinton’s loss, that doesn’t mean the Trump campaign did not collude with the Russians. Just because Clinton ran an inept campaign and wants to blame someone besides herself does not mean she’s wrong about Russian interference.

As Yates’ already-leaked testimony suggests, all the president’s men continue to dissemble. In the first 100 days of the Trump presidency, the official story mutated several times.

The White House first denied there were any substantive contacts between the Trump entourage and the Russians. Then the official story became: Yes, there were contacts, but they concerned logistics, not U.S. sanctions on Russia. Then: Well, yes, there were conversations about sanctions, but Flynn lied about them and we fired him as soon as we learned. And now, it seems, the White House knew Flynn lied and didn’t fire him, but—

While the pace of revelations has slowed, the unresolved fact pattern has only grown more incriminating as the White House posture has become more defensive.

Flynn, who is vulnerable to legal charges that he failed to comply with the Foreign Agents Registration Act, is now seeking immunity in exchange for speaking with investigators, raising the prospect that he could reveal other undisclosed contacts, or a broader conspiracy.

“General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit,” Flynn’s lawyer told Evan Osnos of the New Yorker magazine.

The FBI investigation of Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and former foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, continues.

The possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and a foreign power is not a Clintonian invention, but a matter of accumulating facts.

Fact Pattern

Manafort’s dealings with the Russians are pregnant. He clearly arranged the revision of the Republican Party platform on Ukraine, bringing the GOP into rare agreement with the Obama administration that the U.S. should not escalate the conflict.

The FBI has also described Carter Page, in court filings, as having connections to Russian agents.

After distancing himself from Manafort and Page, Trump has taken to attacking Comey, a sure sign that the president is worried. The enduring question is whether there was a quid pro quo between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

The key is Manafort. He, much more than Flynn or Page, was Trump’s interlocutor with the Russians. As the Associated Press reported in March, Manafort signed a $10 million contract in 2006 with Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who was then a close Putin ally. Manafort pitched a plan to improve Putin’s image in the United States.

“We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” he wrote to Deripaska.

Did Manafort offer his services to Putin a decade later as Trump’s bid for the presidency gained momentum? There’s no evidence he did, but it is not an unreasonable question, especially because there’s no evidence that the White House cares to answer it. The drip, drip, drip is not over.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.

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28 Comments

  1. GarryOwen27 May 5, 2017

    Komrad Trump and the whole Republican party have sold us out to the Russians.

    Reply
    1. Eleanore Whitaker May 6, 2017

      Yes..but the beauty of their rigging the Electoral College and winning only by Elector votes can’t happen. Like Lightning, rigging an election by using the Electoral College votes doesn’t happen twice without suspicion of foul play.

    2. idamag May 6, 2017

      And organized crime fits in there somehow.

  2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth May 5, 2017

    So many dishonest actors, so much trolling after-effects, so much disinformation and obfuscation by politicians, and an absolute lack of trustworthiness, makes it utterly impossible to carry out a fair and thorough investigation by anyone even remotely connected with either Party, with Russia, or otherwise. There is too much built-in corruption, and so many incentives to sabotage any investigation.

    So, the only solution would be to have a totally independent group of outside investigators be in charge at the very top, excluding all members of Congress. I have in mind a particular group, but I doubt they would be allowed to get mired in this sordid mess involving so many unsavory characters. We may have to have some extraterrestrials possessed of a higher sense of morality than US officials intervene.

    Reply
  3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth May 5, 2017

    Trump’s soon-to-be short-term gloating over TrumpCare passing muster in the House, was hoped to cause us to forget this unfinished business with Russian intervention. But this shouldn’t deter us from tightening the noose.

    Reply
    1. PrecipitousDrop May 6, 2017

      The beauty of it, Aaron, is it’s Trump’s rope. He tied the noose himself. We watched him do it.

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      2. Aaron_of_Portsmouth May 6, 2017

        Right you are. Despite all the disgust of having Donald in the WH, I find it morbidly fascinating to see him daily self-explode, and what amounts to as a self-inflicted jihadist-style attack on himself. Unfortunately, the rest of us are in harm’s way.

        1. Eleanore Whitaker May 6, 2017

          Now that President Obama is to be honored with the JFK Profiles in Courage award on May 21st at the JFK Library, Trump will go into a rage. Count on it.

          1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth May 6, 2017

            There’ll be a Twitter Storm no doubt. Trump will be in such a rage that his blood pressure may rise dangerously high. Then we may see some interesting results.

          2. dpaano May 10, 2017

            Quick!!! Get him another Big Mac and a large fries!!!

        2. PrecipitousDrop May 6, 2017

          “Morbidly fascinating” is apt. As for the rest of us being in harm’s way, that’s been happening since the GOP took a march on governorships, statehouses, the US House of Representatives, and the Senate. It’s past time for rational, reasonable, good-hearted Americans to turn back this horde of Rich Men’s Minions.

          1. idamag May 6, 2017

            The GOP owns the country. Keep ’em dumb, dumber and dumber and they will have nothing to worry about. The few, of us, who remember what democracy is, are leaving by attrition.

          2. PrecipitousDrop May 6, 2017

            No, Ida. We are here. We are not going to let the Grand Experiment in democracy fall to a tinpot fuhrer.
            We outnumber them, and we vote.

          3. idamag May 6, 2017

            I can go into a poll booth and make a mark, but my vote counts for nothing.

          4. PrecipitousDrop May 7, 2017

            That’s what TeaPartiers were saying before 2010, Ida.
            On the other hand, in my deep red Gulf coast state, too many people — too many young people — are giving up. They’re voting with their feet instead of ballots. It’s how one candidate got 3 million more votes than the other, who is in the oval office.

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  5. rhetoric_phobic May 6, 2017

    If you want to follow this Russian connection in detail, timelines, etc, read the Palmer Reports.
    Bill Palmer and several others ,who are regular Twitter sources.
    provide credible updates , complete with links to sources and also ties in the explanation of the strange behavior of some others (Chaffetz, Nunes, etc)
    I’m always leery of information that is opinion or a long stretch because they often end up being nothing more than conspiracy theories. So I endlessly check out sources before I forward anything. In the case of this investigation the intelligence agencies will have to cast a wide net to get all of those who are complicit. All of this is hard to wrap your head around. Much of it is playing out again in France. And these same people who have been following Trump’s collusion, called that early on as they are seeing the same plays being used.

    Reply
    1. Eleanore Whitaker May 6, 2017

      Why would it be so dubious when you consider that since the days of the Cold War, Russia has been hostile to the US? The fact is Putin did rig his own election. Hillary Clinton was correct about that. Now, what Putin, a former KGB big, is doing is murdering anyone tied to the US election rigging just as he did with Nemtsov and other dissenters he either poisoned with radioactive material or had shot dead in plain sight on a Moscow street.

      The reason the Republicans HAD to win the 2016 election come hell or high water, was because of what they are doing right now…Handing out another tax cut for the rich who are their biggest campaign donors and to keep their relic polluter industries from becoming defunct.

      How do you win any election when you know your candidate has the popularity of a boa constrictor and appeals only to those who want help but don’t want to help themselves or take the advice of those who have done just that?

      You make sure you win by electoral college votes. It really IS that simple. For example, in 2016, Big Rich Texas, That WHOLE OTHER Country handed Trump 34 Electoral votes. Would every one of those 34 swear on a Bible they were not influenced by a Texas legislator whose job is it to appoint them? Would they swear that NO Trump campaign aide didn’t pay them under the table to vote for Trump?

      Then, there is one other very seriously damning fact as stated in sworn testimony by former FBI agent, Clinton Watts during the first days of the Senate Investigation into the hacking, according to his testimony, when the last GOP primary came down to Rubio and Trump, Rubio’s campaign was also hacked. Why? Because Putin was insistent he would get his hackers to FORCE a Trump win.

      Trump lost the popular vote by over 3 million less than Hillary. Therefore, the ONLY option remaining was to win by Electoral College votes which Texas handed him in the last hour before the election was called. Smell the BS?

      1. plc97477 May 7, 2017

        Could the electorial college even say they were not paid to vote the way they did? It is a lot cheaper to buy off the electorial college than it would be to buy off the voters.

        1. PrecipitousDrop May 7, 2017

          Impossible.
          Too many people.
          Collusion would’ve been leaked, slipped, or discovered by now.

          1. Eleanore Whitaker May 8, 2017

            Wrong. There already is an investigation into how several of the Alabama electoral votes managed to be skewed. Also, the speed with which TX hurried in those 34 Electoral votes on Election night proves their hands are dirty and they paid the electors.

            Read your Constitution. State legislators appoint these electors. Don’t tell me there is no Republican collusion when you know Russians hacked the election.

            The simplest thing in the world is for an Alabama, TX, Missouri, Tennessee or Kentucky Republican legislator to “influence” the electors HE appoints and make NO mistake, in Republican states 90% of the legislators with the most power to appoint electors have dicks and balls.

          2. Jmz Nesky May 8, 2017

            Obviously you know little about the workings of these higher politicians when it comes to keeping people from spilling the beans. Then there’s the fact that some had been paid off it was certainly enough in money and or favors that it would be far worse for them to tell than to keep it secret, one being they too would be held criminally responsible.. Now whether or not you believe in the stories about area 51 you must note that no one to date has leaked anything, pro or con about it and allowed the military to convince us of something even the densest of us knew was bogus and there were thousands involved in that particular program. Agreed, the majority were soldiers who were under orders of the military but there were also civilian workers involved as well.

        2. Eleanore Whitaker May 8, 2017

          There is an investigation in several of the Republican states, like AL, TX and VA into how these states electors were chosen and if they were in ANY way influenced in which candidate they were chosen to vote for.

          Already one elector from AL is saying she was “approached” by her legislator to try and influence her to vote for Trump.

          1. plc97477 May 8, 2017

            I am not sure why the founding fathers thought it would be a good idea to limit the number of voters that would need to be bought out or intimidated to vote for a particular candidate.

          2. Jmz Nesky May 8, 2017

            I can agree that at some point at least a small majority of EC voters were paid off either in cash or some type of profitable favor but it was also reported that those who had thought about receding their prior verbal decision were threatened first with monetary fines then as that didn’t seem to sway them, they added lengthy jail terms.. I find it possible that all or at least a large majority of them are now living a somewhat more comfortable lifestyle than the years prior. This of course would be difficult to prove but the leftover stench of it is still lingering.

  6. idamag May 6, 2017

    We no longer have a government of the people, for the people and by the people. It is owned by the faction that took over the republican party (because they could).They own the House, the Senate, The presidency, the supreme court and the FBI. So who is going to prosecute them?

    Reply

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