Saturday, April 29, 2017

Trump Team Knew Flynn Was A Foreign Agent––Didn't Care

Andrea Mitchell's interview with Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, peels another layer of the onion on the Kremlingate treason scandal.

The Trump transition team knew that Michael Flynn was a foreign agent, working on behalf of the Turkish government. They didn't care. Rachel Maddow walks us through what they knew and when they knew it in the second part of her opening segment.

And The Hill newspaper summarizes it here.

A quick look at the Trump White House team members who have already left or been fired gives us a picture of a sloppy, crony-dominated, and unfocused White House. (Reported here in the Washington Post.) The transition team didn’t do its job because they didn’t know what its job was or didn’t want to do it, didn’t want to know which hires were agents of foreign governments, which were guilty of corruption. If you were a friend of a friend that was enough. Depending on the day of the week you ask him, Trump might be friends with anybody. Or he might be lying about knowing him or lying about never having met him, the way Michael Flynn and Carter Page admit and deny their Russian employment in successive sentences in the same interviews.

It was reported in reputable newspapers that Michael Flynn was a paid lobbyist working for a foreign dictator, but Mike Pence claims he had no idea. Pence got a letter telling him Flynn was in the pay of a foreign government and Pence has no recollection. Is he stupid or is he involved in a coverup? Or both?

We’ve since learned that the Turkish lobbying was paid for by the Russians. What is that all about? Does the White House know? Does it care? Is it part of their Secret Plan?

If Donald Trump leaves office because of his collusion with Russia, Pence becomes president. Is it proper that the guy who wasn’t paying attention or knew and didn’t care becomes president? Is cluelessness a qualification for the highest office in the land? What if it’s careful, intentional cluelessness? Sergeant Schultz level cluelessness: “I know naaaah-thing. Naaaaa-thing!”

The real question is this: Why do the guys who fucked up so dangerously (and possibly traitorously) on the transition to this president get to manage the succession of the next president. They did a very bad job 100+ days ago and since, either ignoring warnings of Russian involvement or being absolutely cool with it. And then covering it all up, obstructing the investigations, deceiving the public, misleading the FBI and the Congress.

There are so many crimes here. Crimes, potential crimes, malfeasances, screw ups, incompetence, missteps, etc. Treason? It smells like treason to me. It’s hard to imagine any other president getting away with it.

Serious, qualified, honest presidents get investigated very hard, but silly, unqualified, dishonest ones like Trump get an easy ride because…

Because everybody knows he’s silly, unqualified and dishonest? Also ignorant, delusional, corrupt, and a traitor? "That's cool. We already knew."

Like Mike Pence we are expected to wave it all through. Never mind.

“Forget about it, Jake, it’s Chinatown."

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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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