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Un American Tail: Vladimir Goes West

Updated: Oct 2, 2019

Introduction


This is my summary of the ongoing Putin-Trump debacle.


Topics include:


  • how Putin helped Trump win the 2016 presidential election

  • how Trump obstructed justice

  • Mueller’s findings & reactions thereto

  • how Putin is still fucking with our elections and how Trump & the GOP are knowingly letting it happen


I wrote this because:


  • the Mueller report is long & dense

  • Putin is implementing phase one of a divide-and-conquer campaign, & we’re playing right into his hands

  • Trump is a gold-plated shitfountain who cares about nothing but his own power & status

  • the GOP blatantly enables Putin & Trump while congressional Dems just flail & squawk

  • between the existential threat of global scorching, North Korea/Iran/Syria/Yemen/..., our horrific gun violence epidemic, a wealth gap obscene & growing, the 800-pound healthcare gorilla, the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, Vlad’s continued machinations, bigotry’s disgusting mainstream resurgence, and [insert your pressing issue here], we badly need leaders, not demagogues & enablers & compromised careerists

  • if you’re like me and you’ll vote for a demented superbuff kangaroo over Trump, enjoy

  • if you’re not sure whether you’ll vote for Trump, dive into the hyperlinks  

  • if you are dead-set on voting for Trump, here’s a whiff of what you’re condoning        


Vlad's Efforts to Tear Us Apart


Vladimir Putin royally fucked with us in the runup to the 2016 presidential election.


Before Donald Trump entered the race, Vlad unleashed an online troll army to spread misinformation and amplify discord. Vlad’s goal was to undermine our electoral system.


Once Trump was a presidential contender, Vlad grinned & shifted focus: how better to fuck America than putting Donald Trump in the White House?

Vlad’s trolls waged two wars to get Trump elected.  


One they called “information warfare.” Vlad’s trolls pretended to be U.S. citizens who hate Hillary and love Trump. They ran bogus Twitter accounts, including one impersonating the Tennessee Republican Party. They organized pro-Trump rallies on U.S. soil. They purchased political advertisements. They posted thousands of articles and comments, some of which were promoted by high-ranking members of the Trump campaign, including Trump’s children. Vlad’s information warfare reached upwards of 126 million people on Facebook alone, in addition to millions on Twitter, Instagram, and various other social networks. No small matter in an election decided by 80,000 votes.


The other war was steal-and-leak. Vlad’s thieves hacked pro-Hillary accounts & looted troves of content, included embarrassing emails involving top-ranking members of the Clinton campaign. With the help of WikiLeaks, the thieves formed the stolen content into bundles and released them steadily during the final month of the campaign.


On October 7, 2016, the world heard an Access Hollywood Tape of Trump saying:


I moved on her like a bitch


You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. I just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.


Within an hour of the tape’s release, Vlad’s thieves dumped a bundle of emails stolen from Hillary’s campaign manager. Thanks to Vlad’s timely misdirection, GOP cowardice, some opportunistic redredging of Bill Clinton’s sex scandals, dwindling attention spans, and the Donald’s teflon nature, Trump skated.


Trump Lies (and Lies, and Lies…) About His Business Ties to Russia


In September 2015 - about 3 months after announcing his candidacy - Trump authorized his lawyer Michael Cohen to negotiate the Trump Tower Moscow project. Two months later, Trump signed a letter of intent for continued negotiations on Trump Tower Moscow. Cohen updated Trump on the project’s development through at least June 2016.


Publicly, Trump adamantly and aggressively denied he had ongoing business with Russia.[1]

Trump has since dervishly pivoted to a breezy well of course I was “lightly” exploring a multi-billion dollar real estate development in Russia while running for President, because courting deals with an adversarial dictator who’s hacking an election for you is “very legal & very cool,” especially when you repeatedly lie about it to the American people for two years.


Russians Visit Trump Tower to Dish Dirt on Hillary


In early June 2016, Russians contacted Donald Trump Jr. and asked for a meeting to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton. The email claimed that the “Crown prosecutor of Russia”:


offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.


This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump


Don Jr. excitedly agreed, responding: “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”


The meeting took place on June 9, 2016. The setting was Trump Tower, where Trump lived and worked. Trump once told Larry King:


At Trump Tower, I know everyone that goes up, and everyone that goes down.


The meeting was attended by Trump’s campaign manager, Trump’s son, and the son-in-law Trump trusts more than his son.


Little Don testified before Congress that Big Don did not know about this meeting.


Big Don wrote the same under oath.


Both Dons lied about the meeting. In June 2017, one month before news of the meeting went public, Trump ordered campaign staff to not disclose emails about the meeting. Then, with the help of communications advisor Hope Hicks, the Dons collaborated on a false press statement claiming the meeting was primarily about adoptions, and not about:


official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father


Election Day


On November 7, 2016, 136 million of us voted. Hillary won the popular vote by almost 3 million. Trump won the electoral college by securing about 80,000 votes spread across Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. For the second time in 16 years, a Republican won the presidency (1) despite losing the popular vote, and (2) after controversial intercession.


Trump Courts & Cans James Comey


About one month into his presidency, Trump cornered then-FBI director James Comey and asked him to stop investigating Michael Flynn. Flynn was Trump’s National Security Advisor. Flynn had lied to the FBI about a phone conversation Flynn had with the Russian ambassador shortly after the election Trump narrowly won with clandestine Russian assistance. Trump told Comey to just let the whole Flynn thing go. At an earlier dinner, tete a tete, Trump had asked Comey, the head of the agency investigating Trump's election, for loyalty. Comey deflected both times and started writing memos detailing Trump's backroom overtures.


In March and April 2017, Trump again talked one-on-one with Comey and implored him to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation. Comey kept deflecting and memoing.


On May 3, 2017, Comey testified before Congress. Comey’s testimony didn't lift clouds the way Trump wanted. Trump threw a fit & canned Comey six days later.


Trump fired Comey via public letter. In the letter, Trump claimed he was firing Comey because the DOJ wrote a memo urging the move:


I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.


While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.


In reality, Trump fired Comey because Comey wasn’t doing Trump’s bidding on the Russia investigation, and Trump requested the DOJ memo after deciding to fire Comey. Trump tried to get deputy AG Rod Rosenstein to hit the press circuit and sell the lie that firing Comey was all Rosenstein’s idea. Rosenstein refused to peddle Trump’s “false story” and warned Trump that, if asked by the press about Comey’s firing, he would tell the truth.


If only Rosenstein remembered that he owes his clients, the American people, the truth about such lies without needing to be asked first. Especially as Trump’s press team hardsold the lie. On May 9 (the day of the firing), press secretary Sean Spicer said of the firing:


It was all [Rosenstein). No one from the White House. It was a DOJ decision.


On May 10, deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders spouted the same false claim:


the President accepted the recommendation of his Deputy Attorney General to remove James Comey from his position


The “it was all Rosentein” lie didn't stick long, even by Trump's standards.


The day after firing Comey, Trump hosted the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador in the Oval Office. During the meeting, Trump told the Russians:


I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.


Even after Trump said this to the Russians, Trump’s team continued to assure the public that Trump fired Comey based on the DOJ’s recommendation. Then Trump sat down with Lester Holt and dispelled any doubt: the DOJ memo was a farce, and Trump actually fired Comey because Comey wouldn’t do Trump’s bidding in the Russia investigation.


Mueller’s Appointed Special Counsel


Comey’s firing generated massive public backlash. Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein - Trump’s would-be patsy for the firing - appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel.


Rosenstein told Mueller to investigate any links and/or coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, as well as any matters that may arise directly from the investigation.


Upon learning of Mueller’s appointment, Trump slumped back in his chair and said:


Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.


If only saying it made it so.


Trump Tries to Control Mueller


Trump repeatedly tried strangle Mueller’s investigation in its crib.


Trump tried to seize control the Mueller investigation. Trump’s AG Jeff Sessions had recused himself: it was a flagrant conflict of interest for Sessions, an integral member of the Trump campaign, to oversee an investigation into the Trump campaign. Trump repeatedly told Sessions to un-recuse so Trump, through Sessions, could control Mueller. Trump bullied & badgered Sessions again & again. Sessions, perhaps honorably, perhaps selfishly, refused.  


Trump tried to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation. Trump wanted Mueller to focus merely on preventing future election interference, instead of investigating past wrongdoing by Putin, Trump, and the Trump campaign.[2] Trump dictated this surreal request to his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and asked Lewandowski to pass the note to senior White House official Rick Dearborn so Dearborn could pass the note to Jeff Sessions so Sessions could explain to the American public why Sessions, on his own initiative, was un-recusing and limiting Mueller’s investigation precisely how Trump wanted. Lewandowski passed the note as instructed. Dearborn raised an eyebrow and never delivered the message.


Once again, Trump’s machinations were thwarted not by investigators or political adversaries or the press or Trump’s theoretical conscience, but by his underlings’ unwillingness to do his shady bidding.  


Trump apologists say yeah but Trump’s orders weren’t carried out and who cares, there was no Trump-Russia conspiracy and so the investigation was bogus. Conveniently ignoring that:

  • attempted obstruction of justice is obstruction of justice

  • obstruction is an especially pernicious crime because it undermines not only the relevant investigation but criminal justice generally

  • when the President obstructs justice, he threatens the constitutional balance of powers designed to hamstring would-be despots

  • by hampering Mueller’s investigation, Trump forfeited any claims of exoneration therefrom; Mueller finding “no evidence of conspiracy or coordination” between Trump and Russia begs the question of what evidence Trump and his minions successfully hid from Mueller’s view      

  • Trump’s ineffectiveness at obstructing justice is neither exculpatory nor mitigating; it’s a testament to Trump’s profound incompetence, and it leaves us to wonder:

  1. what would’ve happened had the underlings obeyed?

  2. what unlawful orders were obeyed that never came to light?

  3. what unlawful orders are still occurring, & yet to come?

  4. how long can we rely on the disobedience of underlings, especially in this trapdoor administration?

  5. if retaining power is Trump’s only way to avoid prison, what won’t Trump resort to?


Trump Tries to Fire Mueller


Upon learning he was being investigated for obstruction of justice, Trump tried to fire Mueller. Trump twice called White House counsel Don McGahn and told him to tell Rosenstein to fire Mueller.[3] Trump said “Mueller has to go” and “call me back when you do it” and “have you done it?” McGahan refused both times, becoming yet another underling who refused to shovel Trump’s shit.  


Mueller’s Report is Released


On March 22, 2019, Mueller submitted his report to Trump’s new AG, William Barr.


In June 2018, Barr had tossed a flirtatious paper airplane arguing that Trump’s alleged misconduct definitively cannot be obstruction of justice.[4] Before the year was out, Trump nominated Barr for AG.


As AG, Barr presided over the receipt, redaction, and release of the Mueller report. Before releasing the redacted report, Barr wrote a letter summarizing the report’s findings. Shockingly, the man who got the AG job by arguing Trump wasn’t obstructing justice and Rod don’t make me tell the country the truth, Mr. President Rosenstein concluded Trump had not obstructed justice.


On the day of the report’s release, Barr held a press conference where he five times parroted Trump’s refrain of “no collusion.” Barr did this even though Mueller wrote in his report that he did not investigate collusion because collusion is neither an offense in the U.S. Code nor a term of art in federal criminal law.[5] Maybe Barr didn’t realize his AG audition was over. Maybe he was auditioning for a future role as Trump’s criminal defense attorney. Regardless, he pathetically transformed a DOJ press conference into a Trump campaign commercial.  


Mueller’s Findings


In Volume I, Mueller described Vlad’s two-pronged campaign to get Trump elected: information warfare, and steal-and-leak.


Mueller did not find evidence of conspiracy or coordination between Trump and Russia.


Given Trump’s rampant efforts to obstruct Mueller’s investigation, we can only wonder what incriminating evidence was successfully hidden from Mueller’s view and what legal conclusions Mueller may have drawn therefrom. Mueller expressed the same reservations in his report:


several U.S. persons connected to the Campaign made false statements about those [Russian] contacts and took other steps to obstruct the Office’s investigation and those of Congress.


...


Further, the Office learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated — including some associated with the Trump Campaign — deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long-term retention of data or communications records. In such cases, the Office was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts.


Accordingly, while this report embodies factual and legal determinations that the Office believes to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible, given these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report.


Despite Trump & friends’ obstruction, Mueller documented extensive contact between Trump’s campaign and Russians. Mueller found Trump knew about the steal-and-leak operation and may have had[6] advance knowledge of the leaks. On July 27, 2016, Trump made the infamous public statement:


Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.


Mueller found that within 5 hours of that statement, Vlad’s thieves targeted Hillary’s personal office for the first time.[7]


In Volume II, Mueller described various ways Trump obstructed justice, including: pressuring Comey about Flynn and Russia; firing Comey over Russia; trying to get McGahn to fire Mueller; trying (& trying) to get Sessions to un-recuse and control Mueller.


Mueller abided by an OLC opinion forbidding the indictment of a sitting President.[8] Mueller also reasoned it was unfair to accuse Trump of obstruction without giving Trump the right to defend himself at trial.[9]


But Mueller recognized that Trump could be impeached and/or indicted after leaving office.[10]


So Mueller walked a fine line: he preserved evidence of Trump’s crimes, explained why he wasn’t indicting or accusing, and emphasized that his failure to indict was not exoneration.[11]


Reactions to the Mueller Report


Trump claimed the report was “complete & total exoneration.” Trump loyalists parroted that line.


Trump accused the investigators of treason. Trump loyalists parroted that line, too.


Trump’s sock puppet William Barr launched counter-investigations of the investigations into Vlad & Trump.[12] Vlad’s eye surely twinkled.


Trump & friends managed to convince too many of us that a report describing widespread election interference by a hostile foreign despot and pervasive obstruction of justice by the election’s winner is “complete and total exoneration.”[13]


Thought experiment: swap Russia for Iran, Trump for Obama, GOP apologists for Dem apologists.


The GOP would’ve:

  • blown a gasket the size of Texas

  • impeached at ludicrous speed

  • buried the Democratic party in a much-deserved avalanche of scorn & shame

  • indicted Obama into oblivion the moment he left office, if not sooner

What’s that say about the GOP? What’s it say about the Dems?


Continued Threats to Election Security


After helping Trump win in 2016, Vlad’s trolls kept fucking with us. Russians and other foreign actors interfered with the 2018 midterm elections with an information warfare campaign similar to that waged in 2016. In the runup to the election, Trump’s director of national intelligence Dan Coats repeatedly warned of the ongoing Russian threat, which he described as a:


pervasive messaging campaign by Russia to try to weaken and divide the United States


On July 26, 2019, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked legislation aimed at securing future elections from interference. Stinging from backlash, especially the popularization of the nickname “Moscow Mitch,” Moscow Mitch claimed he was being accused of “treason” by “hyperventilating hacks.” MM has also kneecapped the Federal Election Commission - the agency charged with enforcing election laws - by failing to confirm a new commissioner.


On July 28, 2019, director of national intelligence Dan Coats resigned. As noted above, Coats repeatedly warned that Vlad was still fucking with our elections, including the 2018 midterms. Trump responded by watering down Coats’ criticisms of Vlad’s ongoing election interference:


In recent months, Mr. Coats discovered that it was difficult to align himself with the president — particularly on Russia. Mr. Coats saw Russia as an adversary and pushed for closer cooperation with American allies in Europe. Time after time, the White House sought to weaken Mr. Coats’s language regarding the Kremlin.


This reflects a troubling trend of Trump disregarding and attacking the intelligence community when they provide intelligence he doesn’t like, especially when it comes to Putin. Another troubling trend is Trump’s unjustifiable Putin apologism, which prompted some intelligence experts to suspect Trump is Russian asset or, at minimum, a useful idiot who’s kissing Putin’s ass to curry personal favor. The apologism was on full display at the 2019 G7 Summit:


At the summit, Trump aggressively lobbied for Russia to be readmitted into the G7, refused to hold it accountable for violating international law, blamed former President Barack Obama for Russia's annexation of Crimea, and expressed sympathy for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On October 2nd, 2019, Putin publicly joked about meddling in the 2020 election:

When asked about concerns the Russia might interfere in the 2020 US elections, he replied: "I'll tell you a secret: Yes, we'll definitely do it," Putin said. "Just don't tell anyone," he added, in a stage whisper.


2020


The story continues. What’s your role?


https://www.270towin.com/2020-countdown-clock/.


[1] Per Cohen, Trump privately asked Cohen about the Trump Tower Moscow project shortly after Trump told the world he had no business in Russia.

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=942HcHKbOno

[3] Unlike his TV show, where he famously & proudly fired folks face-to-face. (If your response is, but he couldn’t fire Mueller face-to-face because only the AG can fire the special counsel, exactly.)

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMt8qCl5fPk

[5] https://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/william-barr-no-collusion-mueller-report

[6] “■■■ while Trump and Gates were driving to LaGuardia Airport. ■■■, shortly after the call candidate Trump told Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming.”

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Bond_007:_From_Russia_with_Love

[8] “Given the role of the Special Counsel as an attorney in the Department of Justice and the framework of the Special Counsel regulations, see 28 U.S.C. § 515; 28 C.F.R. § 600.7(a), this Office accepted OLC’s legal conclusion for the purpose of exercising prosecutorial jurisdiction. And apart from OLC’s constitutional view, we recognized that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President’s capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct.”

[9] “The ordinary means for an individual to respond to an accusation is through a speedy and public trial, with all the procedural protections that surround a criminal case. An individual who believes he was wrongly accused can use that process to seek to clear his name. In contrast, a prosecutor’s judgment that crimes were committed, but that no charges will be brought, affords no such adversarial opportunity for public name-clearing before an impartial adjudicator.”

[10] “The OLC opinion also recognizes that a President does not have immunity after he leaves office. And if individuals other than the President committed an obstruction offense, they may be prosecuted at this time. Given those considerations, the facts known to us, and the strong public interest in safeguarding the integrity of the criminal justice system, we conducted a thorough factual investigation in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary materials were available.”

[11]Fourth, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

[12] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/16/william-barr-meller-report-investigation-2020-election.

[13] https://images.app.goo.gl/zc6BQ8P2XkEjEwRTA



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