Monday, April 24, 2017

Both Houses of the Republican Congress Appear to be Flying the Russian Flag

Michael Isikoff on the Senate investigation of Kremlingate which appears to have decided to derail itself the way the House investigation did last month.

Isikoff: "For Democrats, some of the information that has come to light — almost entirely from media reports — points to a concerted effort by Trump and his associates to conceal secret ties to Moscow. Flynn and Sessions both had undisclosed meetings last year with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak, and, in Flynn’s case, discussed the possible lifting of Obama-era sanctions once Trump took office. The FBI was concerned enough about one former Trump foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant to monitor his communications on the grounds he might be an “agent of a foreign power.”'

Lots of smoke. Billows of it. All of it coming from the Trump campaign. But the Republicans running the investigations are not worried about smoke or fire. It's like an absurdist farce where the fire department makes very sure the building is burned to the ground before they ring their bell. The Republicans' Kremlingate investigation could have been written by Max Frisch.

The Hill is reporting that the Senate Intel Committee has done nothing because they don't have staff to do anything. No investigators hired, no subpoenas issued, no interviews planned.

We are learning that Comey sabotaged the Hillary campaign because he was afraid to let Americans know the Republicans were in bed with Russian intelligence, because Republicans are vindictive bastards and Democrats are not. Republicans might actually take it out on Comey if he blew the whistle on their intrigue. Republicans actually admire Putin and wish we had a fascist government like his. Comey's chief concern was to make sure the Republicans weren't mean to him, didn't embarrass him. Just as Republicans were putting party above country, Comey was putting his bureau and his job above country and underneath the Republican Party which (for those of you following along at home) is under the supervision of Moscow.

Next we’ll learn that Republicans are learning how to throw critics and reporters and witnesses from fourth floor windows like the Russians do. Maybe this is the kind of threats the Republicans are directing at likely witnesses. If you’d have asked any sane person 20, or 10, or five years ago if it was possible the Russians would collaborate with the Republican Party to seize power in this country they’d have said “Yeah, and Donald Trump will be elected president (Ha. Ha. Ha.)"

Here, DailyKos gives a brief reprise of the New York Times article on how the FBI was played by the Republicans, which helped the Russians continue their work with full Republican cooperation and elect Donald Trump. Here is another summary and analysis from Axios.

Meanwhile the House Oversight Committee which devoted millions and years to investigating bogus charges against Hillary Clinton have decided to ignore real and very disturbing evidence of collusion between the Republican Party and Russian spies to rig an election.

Treason is what we used to call it. Are charges and revelations imminent? Is that why Jason Chaffetz, the very dogged Hillary witch hunter, is resigning from Congress? Vanity Fair reports on the Chaffetz decision to "spend more time with his family..." Are shoes waiting to drop? The news today makes it seem like these shoes won't drop in our lifetime.

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

'Concrete Evidence of Collusion Between Trump Team and Russia'

Those are the words used to describe the newest information the British intelligence agency GCHQ has given to American investigators.

It was an interesting opening segment on Rachel Maddow last night. All about Russia/Trump connections.

Let’s recount the Trump people now revealed as in private/secret contact with Russian agents: AG Sessions, President-in-all-but-name Jared Kushner, Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page (whose Russia links justified a FISA warrant), National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (since fired for his Russia connections), and now Erik Prince, founder and head of Blackwater, the global security firm in the vanguard of privatizing warfare and spy craft. This doesn’t even count the more shadowy figures in the White House team who have a trail of breadcrumbs leading from them back to Russian outposts in Eastern Europe, people like Sebastian Gorka. And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the hero of Putin’s big plan to supercharge Russia’s oil industry…which really is Putin’s oil industry.

And, in my thinking, Tillerson might explain a lot. Russia lives off oil revenue. Oil prices have dropped in recent years, which has caused a major drop in Russia’s GDP. The Russian GDP per person dropped from around $16 per person to around $9. Low to begin with, even lower now, about half. Tillerson received that medal from Putin for something. Maybe he saved Putin’s bottom line, the way Putin’s mobster friends saved Trump’s bottom line over the years. They rescued Trump in the 90s and a recent story reported they saved him again in 2008 when the economy began to fall apart. These people are desperately trying to keep each other afloat. In a world where quid pro quo used to be a huge black mark on a politician, the Trump administration seems to be a Jackson Pollock fresco of huge black marks, big quid pro quos all over the place, with Turkey, with Russia, with China. Tillerson was saving Putin’s bacon, Putin had saved Trump’s. And over the past year we’ve seen many Trump people scurrying back and forth between Moscow and Trump Tower. Notably Jared Kushner, who has a deep personal interest in his father-in-law’s solvency.

This symbiotic relationship between Trump Tower and the Kremlin appears to explain why Putin’s personal think tanks masterminded the result of the 2016 presidential election. Can we interpret these events any other way? The Putin Think Tank role is reported here by Reuters.

In the past week, while the news has been mostly silent about the Kremlingate story, while we’ve all been shocked and awed by a rocket show set off by Trump, “concrete evidence” of Trump/Putin collusion during the election has been turned over to the investigators. Reported in the Independent from London.

And another line of stories is emerging out of Hungary, Russia’s intelligence network’s station in western Europe, reported by a prominent expert on Russian interference in the democratic process in various western countries, Dr. András Göllner, reporting in the Hungarian Free Press, naming several other Trump allies and proxies and advisors have been acting hand-in-glove with the Russians. He mentions Steve Bannon and Bannon’s predecessor Paul Manafort, and a longtime Trump advisor, Arthur J. Finkelstein (who first introduced Manafort to Putin), and J.D. Gordon, a close advisor to Jeff Sessions, and Sebastian Gorka, the White House "terrorism advisor” who wears the pin of a Hungarian fascist organization in his lapel. Göllner calls this network that worked via Hungary “The Budapest Bridge”.

Here is the first of a two part series by Göllner in the Hungarian Free Press.

Ask yourself: does this seem more worrying or less worrying than Hillary Clinton’s private email server?

The constant focus on Hillary’s email server and various other bogus obsessions of the past year manufactured to derail Hillary Clinton’s campaign were engineered out of Moscow and Budapest and Macedonia and various other outposts of the Russian spy network, and the Republican Party took their instructions and collaborated with them.

Americans were told to distrust the previous president because he was black and the probable next president because she was a woman and persuaded to choose instead a deranged and comical puppet of the Russian government.

And presto! Trump became our first Russian puppet president.

But it wasn’t entirely the Russians who accomplished this. They had massive and well-funded help from American right-wing billionaires like the Prince family and the Mercer family and the Murdoch family, and from the huge right wing media world of talk radio and FoxNews and Breitbart and InfoWars and the Wall Street Journal.

They also had the willing and eager collaboration of the Republican Party. The GOP has spent the past few months demanding extreme vetting of child refugees but they haven’t bothered to vet their own president or his staff or his partners or his finances. Maybe they’ve not bothered because they already know their party is in the bag for Putin and Russia.

We used to call this kind of thing treason. A year ago the Republicans in Congress defined treason as any Democrat using a private email server.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

To Shore Up The 1% They Were Willing To Destroy Democracy

They hate the government for taxing them and regulating them, so they decided to destroy it, which means they decided to destroy our democracy because that’s the kind of government we have here.

It began in the 70s with a memo Lewis Powell wrote to the US Chamber of Commerce. Workers had rights, polluters were being regulated, corporations didn’t like being taxed and regulated by a public sector that inhibited them from predatory practices.

You can read up on Lewis Powell at Bill Moyers' website, and learn more about Powell's influential memo that stole the economy back for the plutocrats. Powell went on to sit on the Supreme Court and help convert it into a law firm for the wealthy.

In the 70s the super-rich decided enough was enough and decided to fight back.

Slowly, over the past 3 or 4 decades, workers’ incomes have flatlined and infrastructure, schools, and trusted institutions have been deliberately degraded.

The Right knew that the only way to destroy democratic government was to defund it, degrade it, discredit it, make it not work, make people distrust and dislike it.

Now the Congress is owned by the people who own for a living. The Court works for the people who own for a living. And the president is one of the people who own for a living.

The Citizens United court ruling turned democracy into a proxy operation by which ordinary people voted for their government but wealthy corporate clubs owned and operated one major party and dominated the Supreme Court through the Heritage Foundation and the Club for Growth and a whole zoo of upliftingly and patriotically and vaguely named non-profits devoted to free market absolutism.

Bill Moyers has some very good analysis of the powerful octopus of tax-free lobbying operations led by Heritage.

They had a single goal: the total levitation of the owning classes above the bothersome social responsibilities that constitute citizenship, the stuff contained in the social contract by which you contribute of yourself and expect decency and fair play in return. The corporate absolutists who drove this Big Idea felt no obligations beyond themselves and felt the average citizen and his or her government owed them absolute freedom of action and total obedience. When you’re very very big and powerful your dreams are big too. The 1% now own the world.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Is Crown Prince Jared a Russian Asset?

We learned from the Times that Jared, the deputy POTUS and dauphin of the United States, met with Sergey Gorkov during the transition.

Gorkov, graduate of KGB University and now chairman of the bank used to run Russia's spy ring in New York, is also Putin's Secretary of Money Laundering and a made man in the Russian mob.

Jared forgot to mention his meeting with Gorkov, but then Jared never had to be confirmed in his present role as "Person In Charge Of Everything" for our government. So nobody asked. It was his and Sergey's little secret.

Jared now holds a portfolio of responsibilities for “reimagining” our entire economy and government, with no visible staff to accomplish those things…

Does he need a staff? Of course he does. Does he have a staff? Of course he doesn't.

Is it possible that Jared’s staff is operating out of a Russian office building somewhere. That Jared’s “re-imagining” is a euphemism for reconfiguring our free system to be more like Russia’s unfree system, or to function subserviently to the Russian system.

Is Russia reimagining America to suit Russia's goals for us? Is the Trump administration being as helpful as it looks?

It appears that President [sic] Trump is grooming his son-in-law to be the next President Trump.

It appears that Vladimir Putin may be grooming Jared to be Asset 1A+. (The Russian asset in New York that Preet Bharara's prosecution cited, and Rachel Maddow discussed last night, and BuzzFeed wrote about, is called "Male1" and we now know that Male1 is Carter Page, Trump's foreign policy advisor during the campaign.)

How vulnerable is our system to this kind of thing. Pretty vulnerable as long as the people running the new administration are fanatically devoted to deconstructing it and blowing it up.

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Monday, April 03, 2017

Trump––Russian Stooge or Traitor? Which is Worse?

Rachel Maddow’s daily explanations of Kremlingate have become must-viewing. Here she goes through some of the riveting testimony in the Senate Intelligence Committee (the one that isn’t being derailed by its Republican chairman) which describes how the Russian cyber war on our democracy worked by employing the cooperation of the Republicans. At least certain key Republicans in the Trump machine.

Reported in the Guardian: The Russian “active measures” to corrupt and shift our democracy how they wanted worked as well as they did, electing their guy, because their guy Trump was actively cooperating with these active measures Russia was using, the false stories, the outright distortions. So Trump was either a traitor or a stooge who didn’t know he was in their control, doing what they wanted. Which is worse?

Russia hates the enormous respect America gets from the rest of the world, so what do they do? They try to degrade our image. They promote a clown as a major party candidate and he wins. And after he wins he continues to sing from their songbook, which compounds American disgrace. Our president is a stooge of a foreign power and behaves like a two year-old on global news media. If we elected him we are as stupid as he is. Did we elect him?

One device the Russians are using is manipulating and energizing and weaponizing our most shameful and disgraceful traits, like racism and xenophobia and sexism. And, presto!, the U.S. is no better than any other country, and by the looks of it is much worse. Game to Russia. Reported by SLATE.

What is upsetting is how clearly these stupid behaviors and prejudices and hatreds and indecencies correspond with core Republican Party values, the negative unAmerican values trumpeted to please the base.

If you track the sudden and alarming changes taking place since January you might even think Russia is managing, through its assets in the White House, to change the U.S. into something much more like Russia, an autocracy where people live under the ruler’s thumb and are lied to daily and because they are so degraded they drink themselves to an early death.

Questions have been raised whether Trump was not only personally compromised by his Russia connections and Russian debts––but was his staff staffed by Russian operatives from the start? From CBS News.

Stories are now circulating that Michael Flynn may have been compromised by the old “attractive female spy” trick the Russians have used for decades. From the Palmer Report.

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Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Bridge of Lies Leads Back to the White House

Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo:

"People who don't even appear to be that close to the action keep getting pulled under for what seem like needless deceptions. When we see this kind of pattern, the answer is usually that the stuff at the center of the scandal is so big that it requires concealment, even about things distant from the main action, things that it would seem much better and less damaging simply to admit."


"a two-month WhoWhatWhy investigation has revealed an important reason the Bureau may be facing undisclosed obstacles to revealing what it knows to the public or to lawmakers.

"Our investigation also may explain why the FBI, which was very public about its probe of Hillary Clinton’s emails, never disclosed its investigation of the Trump campaign prior to the election, even though we now know that it commenced last July.

"Such publicity could have exposed a high-value, long-running FBI operation against an organized crime network headquartered in the former Soviet Union. That operation depended on a convicted criminal who for years was closely connected with Trump, working with him in Trump Tower — while constantly informing for the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ), and being legally protected by them."

From The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza:

“The evidence is now clear that the White House and Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, have worked together to halt what was previously billed as a sweeping investigation of Russian interference in last year’s election.”

They believe what we don’t know can’t hurt them. Their aggressive cover-up indicates there must be a lot to cover up.

Pulitzer Prize winning financial reporter David Cay Johnston asks you this question: Why do you think Trump appointed Putin’s and Russian mobsters’ favorite money launderer as our new Secretary of Commerce?

The Guardian reports here on Wilbur Ross’s partnership with the Russian mobster in the Cypriot bank where Russian mobsters launder their money.

Bloomberg reports here on the network of Russian oligarchs who Trump has ties with.

USAToday, the very middle American newspaper that caters to the great silent majority, is beginning to describe Trump’s behaviors and connections as criminal. They’ve also noticed that he is a pathological liar. You can read their story here.

"Trump told reporters in February: "I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia. I have no loans with Russia at all.”

Yet in 2013, after Trump addressed potential investors in Moscow, he bragged to Real Estate Weekly about his access to Russia's rich and powerful. “I have a great relationship with many Russians, and almost all of the oligarchs were in the room,” Trump said, referring to Russians who made fortunes when former Soviet state enterprises were sold to private investors.

Five years earlier, Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. told Russian media while in Moscow that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets" in places like Dubai and Trump SoHo and elsewhere in New York.

Not only is Trump lying about his collusions and entanglements with Russia and Putin and Putin's criminal underworld, he is very aggressively preventing others from telling the truth about these things. Read more complete reporting on this at New York Magazine.

When Devin Nunes (who chairs the House Intelligence Committee and is responsible for driving it into the ditch) discovered that former acting AG Sally Yates was going to speak about things that might tend to implicate President Trump he acted like a perfect henchman and immediately put the kibosh on her testifying. Congress's newspaper, The Hill, goes into that duplicity and mischief here.

Politico is also reporting that Sally Yates planned to discuss what she had learned in her investigation of the Russia-Putin-Trump-White House conspiracy, (read Politico's article here) but the Republicans have muzzled her and derailed the committee. It’s bizarre for an oversight committee chair to think it’s his job to help the people being investigated get off the hook. Judging by the way Republicans hounded Secretary Clinton over recent years, it seemed like they felt it was their job to get innocent people on the hook by simple persistence. In both instances their method involves ignoring facts, facts that tend to incriminate Trump and his co-conspirators are ignored or buried, and facts that exculpate any Democrat they want to jail are ignored and dismissed.

It appears that White House officials are feverishly wiping incriminating material off their phones and computers (reported by The Independent of London) which means they would prefer to go to prison for obstruction of justice than be hung for treason. Covering up and lying and obstruction is what sent various Watergate conspirators to jail while their boss retired to his expensive home with its view of the ocean. This might happen again.

This isn’t just a foreign conspiracy, it has its domestic skulduggery too. American conspirators also worked to divert Americans’ attention away from the fealty Trump owed to the Russians and strong-arm the FBI into derailing the Hillary Clinton campaign, which was Putin's ultimate goal. Trump’s little helpers in this were the ubiquitous Rudy Giuliani and private global security tycoon and private army contractor Erik Prince, who used their deep leverage within the FBI to corrupt the investigatory process. (Reported at Huffington Post)

Rachel Maddow has been all over this story, synthesizing and explaining the many complex threads of the conspiracy as they come to light. Last night she turned her attention to Trump son-in-law and male model Jared Kushner:

A good daily routine to follow if you want to track this story is to watch Rachel Maddow's nightly reporting on it.

ThePalmerReport tends to stick its neck out on big stories, sometimes goes out on a limb. Right now Palmer is speculating that Michael Flynn has already cut a deal to testify. (Read the PalmerReport on Flynn's alleged deal here)

ThePalmerReport is also saying that the FISA warrants list Trump as a Russian agent. Since FISA warrants are so highly classified, we have to be skeptical.

Regarding another Palmer story, that Devin Nunes is heavily invested in a winery with Russian connections, SNOPES lists it as unproven. But it is curious when a winery which a congressman has invested much of his wealth in has its only overseas markets in Russia and Switzerland. Russia being a major source of money to be laundered and Switzerland being a major money launderer. It makes people wonder. Maybe, probably, Devin Nunes wasn’t and isn’t on the hook because of this investment, but this kind of company looks a lot like a hook for the kind of criminal transactions Russia engages in. And we are left wondering how many baited hooks have snagged prominent Republicans and White House officials and appointees.

MotherJones explains how Devin Nunes’ is compromising his constitutional role to serve as a check and balance on the president’s power, and how this endangers a crucial constitutional balance. (Especially if the White House itself is in the grip of Russian agents.) Instead of checking and balancing Nunes is carrying water for the president, running interference, blowing smoke, setting up diversions and distractions, discrediting his committee, deceiving the public and behaving like the president is his boss.

The Daily Beast has this: “The White House has found its stooge in Nunes.” Senator Lindsey Graham (R/NC) calls Nunes a bungling Inspector Clouseau, a clown.

The brazenness of the White House’s cover up is hard to believe, but it is consistent with Trump’s sense of impunity. Remember during the campaign when he said he could shoot someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. This is who he is.

The Week, on Trump's brazen impunity, his belief that presidents are above the law.

Meanwhile, POLITICO is reporting that the House Republicans are all in with Devin Nunes and his bizarre mishandling of his chairmanship duties. Which, in the words of Kurt Cobain, "smells like team spirit." It smells, certainly.

Something is rotten when a major political party chooses partisanship over national security and national sovereignty concerns. It sounds as if the GOP decided if the only way to regain the power that appeared to be slipping away was to collude with a foreign enemy and its spy network, well, they'd collude with a foreign enemy. Which is what Quisling did in Norway by collaborating with the Nazis. It's what Petain did in France. It's surprising that the ultrapatriotic Republican Party would embrace treason this way. Some of them appear to have done just that and others are busily covering it up.

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Follow The Rubles

Looking at Trump’s Russian history it begins to appear that Putin and his cronies saw Trump as a wonderful way to channel laundered money into real estate around the world.

Mother Jones offers a useful and complete chronology

The always reliable Associated Press breaks the story about Paul Manafort, the guy who helped Trump win the nomination last year, and how he was secretly on the payroll of a Putin lieutenant for the past ten years, earning $10 million a year to advance Putin’s interests in the US and the West.

In the Columbia Journalism Review Garry Kasparov describes how Trump’s hatred of the news media is Putinesque and tyrannical.

Trump’s favored news sources, InfoWars and Breitbart are under FBI investigation for conspiring with Russian intelligence. McClatchy is reporting this aggressively and well.

Trump hasn’t begun throwing disloyal people from high windows, not yet, but he does have government employees afraid. This rule by fear and loyalty model is a throwback to crony politics and the writings of Machiavelli. It’s been largely extinct in America for decades. Politico describes the rule of fear in Washington.

Andrea Mitchell said yesterday that she has one source who told her White House staffers are frantically purging their devices of anything incriminating. Which is itself a crime, if this is true. If true it may mean the White House staff prefers being imprisoned for obstruction of justice vs. hanging for treason.

There has been a spate of recent murders and attempted murders and mysterious deaths, by poisoning, bullets and by throwing them bodily from a great height. The targets were either critics of Putin or witnesses in court cases against him.

New York Magazine describes the latest street corner assassination.

Buzzfeed reports on the key witness thrown from a high window.

This kind of brutal brazen skullduggery is the stuff of spy thrillers. Notably Z by Costa Gavras. I recommend watching it. The plot is strangely similar to what is happening here and now, except that it’s set in a minor corrupt democracy with fascist leaders running the police and murdering opponents

Z is available from Criterion Collection.

One of Trump’s Russia deals went down at the Mayflower Hotel. The smell lingers.

Daily Kos has the scoop in a series of Tweets from national news columnist Seth Abramson.

The T-Word, Treason, is in the air, says Nicolas Kristof in the New York Times

Rachel Maddow continues to do great segments and interviews following the Rubles.

Trump’s truthfulness has never been debated because he is untruthful. That is his brand: untruthfulness, deceit, lies, falsehoods.

Here is the recent TIME interview where Trump did his best to explain how lies can be true if you just tap your heels together three times and say “There’s no place like home.”

Great quote “I must be doing all right because I’m president and you’re not.”

Which sounds eerily like when Nixon explained to David Frost that “When the president does something that means it’s not illegal.” Republicans have a problem with truth and legality. They dislike both.

Politifact factcheck the Trump interview.

Jezebel reprints the interview with the lies redacted.

In this interview former CIA director Woolsey describes Michael Flynn meeting where Flynn plotted or at least suggested kidnapping an inconvenient Muslim cleric that the Turkish dictator wanted eliminated.

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