And While We’re Talking About Russians…

John Sipher has an excellent explanatory post up, “Is Trump a Russian Agent?: Explaining Terms of Art and Examining the Facts.”

As I’ve been coming to believe, Sipher feels that Trump is more a useful idiot than a fellow traveler. (Sorry for the obsolete terminology; I’ve read too much old spy stuff.)

But he things it’s possible that one or another of Trump’s associates may be actively working with the Russians. Paul Manafort is a shoo-in, and Carter Page a definite possibility. I still would like to know exactly how Page got to be one of Trump’s early “foreign policy advisors.” He was really nobody, and his writings were cray-cray. But, in the useful idiot department, more than one of Trump’s crime cartel were happy to have Russian help, never bothered to report the contacts to the FBI, and lied about them. (And yes, I know about Sam Clovis and a few other people connected to Page, but unless you have a step by step connection from Page to all those folks, I’ve probably read it.)

Sipher also feels that the counterintelligence part of the Mueller investigation is unlikely to come to light. I think Adam may have said as much. I think that is the probable outcome, but I also think that a good way to foil continuing interference from the Russians would be to get as much out as possible. We’re doing information warfare here, and the best way to blunt the opponent’s offensive is to tell everyone what it is. That has to be balanced against revealing sources and methods, of course, but I think that concern has gone too far in the direction of secrecy.

Ultimately Trump must be brought to account, whether through impeachment or in the 2020 election.

 








Oleg Deripaska Comes To Kentucky

Do you remember Oleg Deripaska, Paul Manafort’s business partner to whom he owed $17 million? The Russian aluminum oligarch?

Well, he’s building an aluminum plant in, of all places, Kentucky, the home of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Sanctions have been lifted, of course.

Here’s the announcement from Deripaska’s company, RUSAL.

Just a matter of a canny businessman seeing an opportunity, I’m sure.

 








What The Mueller Report Is And Isn’t

I am skipping over the memo by Attorney General William Barr to wait for the full Mueller report before I start parsing sentences and paragraphs.

I would like to remind us all of Rod Rosenstein’s charge to Robert Mueller as special counsel. Here is the meat of it.

The scope was open and potentially wide ranging. But time was important – The report needed to come out before the 2020 election campaign to avoid the mess that Comey stumbled into in 2016. It seems reasonable for Mueller to have defined his scope tightly.

That scope could include prosecuting federal crimes, as in (c), but that was not the primary objective. The investigation mentioned in paragraph (b) was a counterintelligence investigation, for which ascertaining the facts of the case relative to (i) any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.

This was an investigation, not a trial. So claims of exoneration and expectation of a case for guilt are equally inappropriate. On possible obstruction of justice by Trump, Barr quotes Mueller as not making a judgment.

Mueller’s investigation resulted in 199 criminal charges, 37 indictments or guilty pleas, and 5 prison sentences. Many of those, like against Michael Cohen for paying off women who had had sex with Trump, seem peripheral to the question of Russian involvement. It’s possible that they were obvious enough and perhaps could motivate witnesses to speak on other matters.

Many expectations of Mueller’s investigation were unrealistic. It was never intended to verify or disprove the material in the Steele dossier. Apparently Mueller did not feel it was intended to be an exhaustive examination of all possible Russian links, although the words of the charge seem to allow for that. The large number of Russian attempts at linkage and coordination may have precluded such an exhaustive examination within the time available.

That is an issue on which the report itself is essential. We have seen many actions suggesting that there was interest on the part of the Russians and the Trump campaign in actions that would hurt Hillary Clinton. We need to understand why Mueller concluded there was no linkage or coordination.

The report in no way absolves Trump of possible violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, inappropriate granting of security clearances to his children and other nepotism, his constant lies, his erratic and dangerous conduct of foreign policy, his understaffing of the government, and possible human rights violations like separating families seeking asylum at the border.

Impeachment never required that Mueller charge Trump with statutory crimes. Such a conclusion would have been convenient, but Trump’s malfeasance in office continues. Now it is up to Congress to decide what comes next.








Breaking: Barr To Update On Mueller Report

Try to tamp down expectations. This is a long game. Stay focused on the important jobs of taking back the Senate, keeping the House and cleansing the White House from floor to ceiling.

I just don’t want anyone to dive off an emotional cliff because Barr trying to downplay any of this.

Open thread.

 








Yet another Cohen open thread

I’ve been unable to watch the last few hours. But my overall impression from the first portion of the testimony is that Cohen was eloquent in portraying how Trump recreated the corrupt culture of the Trump Organization in the Trump Administration.

The GOP goons angrily attacking Cohen at the hearing couldn’t have mirrored Cohen’s performance in his old role as Trump’s protector any better if they’d tried. And Cohen’s description of Trump’s gaslighting techniques — where he lies repeatedly and gets others to mouth those same lies — accurately reflects the bizarre post-truth world we’ve been living in ever since the 2016 election.

Anyhoo, open thread.