During the Watergate years is when the phrase “the cover-up can become worse than the crime” was first coined. The corruption then went far beyond the bungled “burglary” at DNC headquarters within the Watergate Hotel that began the public element of the scandal, but was largely inspired by then-President Nixon’s attempts to manipulate the CIA, IRS, and Secret Service against his political enemies and to try and shutdown leaks that were emanating from the upper echelons of the FBI and elsewhere. It was bad, real bad—this bad.
The White House used government agencies to harass its opponents. The special services staff of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was ordered to conduct audits of organizations opposed to Nixon’s policies, and did so until the practice was discontinued by Treasury Secretary George Shultz. The CIA’s Special Operations Group conducted “Operation Chaos,” which involved spying on New Left and black militant organizations. The Secret Service files on persons who are threats to the president ordinarily include deranged people who threaten the president’s life, but during the Nixon administration the files ballooned to forty-seven thousand names, including political opponents. On 28 May 1971, Nixon ordered chief of staff H. R. Haldeman to use wiretaps against leading Democrats, including Kennedy, Edmund S. Muskie, and Hubert Humphrey. “Keep after ’em,” he told Haldeman. “Maybe we can get a scandal on any, any of the leading Democrats.”The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), acting on presidential orders, wiretapped people without obtaining judicial warrants, including people in sensitive government positions. Kissinger himself ordered taps placed on staffers he thought were leaking classified information to the press. Then other officials ordered taps on each other, as factions within the White House attempted to discredit others. Attorney General John Mitchell had the FBI tap John Sears, his competitor as campaign adviser to the president. Alexander Haig ordered a tap on speechwriter William Safire. The Joint Chiefs of Staff used a navy ensign assigned to the NSC’s communications section to spy on Henry Kissinger, who had his own tap on a defense department official close to Secretary of Defense Laird. Taps placed on Morton Halperin and Anthony Lake were used to gather information on the Muskie candidacy, since these former NSC officials were advisers to his campaign. Altogether seventeen FBI taps on government officials or newsmen were uncovered: seven on NSC staffers, three on White House aides, one on a Defense Department official, two on State Department officials, and four on newsmen.
In the end, an investigation by a special prosecutor and Congress pushed Nixon to resign before his imminent impeachment. We’ve heard and seen this story before, and now it seems as a similar set of allegations of corruption pile up against another Republican President, he and his administration’s desperate efforts to douse the flames of scandal may ultimate do more damage and harm him than they will help him.
Let’s also recall another example of how we’ve seen these strategic leaks and spin work.
During the run-up to the Iraq War ,Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff was ordered to reveal classified information from the Iraq NIE to the press. After his own press secretary declined to do so, his chief of staff Scooter Libby told Judith Miller that the NIE showed without a doubt that Saddam Hussein retained stockpiles of WMDs and intended to reconstitute his program, attain nuclear capacities, and use those weapons against the west.
In reality the NIE stated that if—that is only if—Iraq still retained significant stockpiles of WMD, they were unlikely to use them unless provoked or attacked and that there were no confirmed links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. The full classified version also included significant dissents by the State Department over the Yellowcake document and by the Energy Department over the aluminum tubes.
Additionally, Libby argued to Miller that the dissent offered by former Ambassador Joe Wilson over the yellow cake issue couldn’t be trusted because he was compromised since his wife was a CIA employee working with WinPac in the “analyst area.” Yet in reality Libby had already been informed more than once by Dick Cheney and the by high-ranking officials at CIA, that she worked in the Directorate of Operations—the spy division.
After Libby dumped his #alt-facts on Miller, the following Sunday you could find his boss Dick Cheney on Meet The Press citing false reports from the New York Times penned by Miller on Iraq WMD that his own chief of staff had planted.
So we have a blueprint for how this works, and we see how this is done: plant a false story that fits your narrative, then cite the false story that you planted. And it’s happening again.
First Trump, Pence, and Priebus all denied any and all contacts with anyone from Russia.
President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus have for months claimed that no one from the Trump campaign had communications with Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia. It is now clear that these claims were false.
Also this week White House resident spokes-shill Sean “Bahgdad” Spicer stated the following in response to a call for a special prosecutor:
“I guess my question would be, special prosecutor for what?” Spicer said. “We have now for six months heard story after story come out about unnamed sources saying the same thing over and over again, and nothing has come of it … so at what point, you have got to ask yourself, what are you investigating?”
“I think that both the House and Senate have looked at it, you know as well as I do that the intelligence community has looked at it as well,” he continued. “The president has spoken forcefully time and time again that he has no interests in Russia, he hasn’t talked with people in Russia in years… the reporting I’m seeing in different organizations suggests that there’s nothing new that’s being reported. It’s the same stuff over and over again that we’ve heard literally for six months.”
As I wrote the other day, there is a serious potential issue with the FBI being compromised on this investigation and the history here is very interesting. After receiving copies of former MI6 agent Christopher Steele’s memo on collusion and influence between the Kremlin and members of the Trump entourage the FBI apparently offered him a job working directly for them, only to rescind that offer when he went public with David Corn of Mother Jones after becoming deeply frustrated by their stonewalling. Immediately after that, the FBI went public refuting all of his claims of Kremlin influence on Trump.
That’s a curious history. And a troubling one.
Then we have the deputy director of the FBI Andrew McCabe who (besides having a history in the New York field office of the FBI while Trump supporter Rudy Giuliani was mayor and being investigated by the Inspector General for failing to recuse himself from elements of Clinton/Weiner email investigation) decides out-of-the-blue to hand Donald Trump a “solid” by again repeating the FBI’s previous denials to the chief of staff, potentially in violation of DOJ rules about sharing information with the White House on ongoing and potential investigations.
Now for the most part, the White House via Spicer has argued that responding to McCabe and the FBI with “Okay, fine, why don’t you set the record straight [on the New York Times report of communication with Russian Intelligence]?” was simply a matter of common sense and them just wanting the “truth” to get out.
Spicer: The Deputy Director of the FBI was at the White House for a 7:30 meeting — whenever it was — the morning that the story came out, he asked to see the Chief of Staff after the meeting privately and said in fairly colorful terms that the New York Times story was not accurate. As frankly any would at the time said — “Could you clarify that then? If it’s not true, could you clarify the story?” The Deputy Director then said “I’ll get back to you.” When he got back to us he said “Hey, we don’t want to get into the practice of having to refute every story.” Uh, the Chief of Staff said “Well, you’ve put us in a very difficult position. You’ve told us that a story that made some fairly significant accusations, was not true. And now you just want us to sit out there? And I think we have a right, and if there’s information, or if you’re saying that the stories not right, could you at least make it available to the media, or some folks in the media that, Yes, that’s stories not right, it made very, very serious allegations.”
“Don’t we have a right to push back and ask the FBI to share what they’ve told us to others in the media?” they argued.
Well sure, on a certain level that may seem perfectly reasonable in the case of the FBI who for some reason came to them first. But what exactly is the rationale on that when it comes to contacting the Republican Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Nunez and Sen. Burr to do the same thing, just like Scooter Libby did, and provide potentially classified information to the press anonymously that just so happens to support the administration’s pre-existing position?
Nunes told reporters Monday he has not been given evidence that Trump’s presidential campaign staffers had contact with Russians. His confidence comes despite his acknowledgement that his committee is in the early stages of its investigation and have yet to begin collecting information.
“There is no evidence that I’ve been presented of regular contact with anyone in the Trump campaign,” Nunes said Monday morning to reporters.
Okay, sure you haven’t seen the evidence—but then again, according to ranking Democrat Adam Schiff the House (and Senate) Intelligence committees haven’t looked at anything yet.
During a news conference of his own, Schiff said his committee has “reached no conclusion, nor could we, in terms of issues of collusion because we haven’t called in a single witness or reviewed a single document on that issue as of yet.”
More on this from Rachel Maddow. Click here for video
Even though we could argue the FBI seems to have reached its conclusion last October on this issue, how, when, and why did the House and Senate committee chair come to a conclusion on this issue without even beginning any investigation—other than the fact the White House asked them to make this case to reporters, anonymously, on background?
That’s called being a shill. That’s called pushing partisan propaganda over the available facts. That’s called being a participant in a cover-up.
But then you could ask, where’s the proof? Cover-up of what?
Anonymous sources in the intelligence community tell the New York Times and CNN that there were contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials/intelligence operatives . This is supported by additional intel from England and the Netherlands. Meanwhile, the FBI says “Nope, didn’t happen.” So who’s telling the truth? Should we believe the anonymous sources leaking from the NSA and CIA or believe the FBI?
As it turns out we don’t have to take their word for it. We don’t have to listen to just the FBI and their questioned conclusion or the Trump administration. We can actually answer this question simply by listening to what the Russians have said about it,because while all the Trumpsters have been denying it, the Russians haven’t.
For example Michael Flynn, who was paid $40,000 to sit and have dinner with Putin in 2015, had talked to the Russian ambassador about sanctions during the transition even though he was caught red-handed in that lie. Trump also said he wasn’t talking to him before the election, yet it turns out the Russian ambassador himself has a different story.
The talks were part of a series of contacts between Flynn and Kislyak that began before the Nov. 8 election and continued during the transition, officials said. In a recent interview, Kislyak confirmed that he had communicated with Flynn by text message, by phone and in person, but declined to say whether they had discussed sanctions.
The emerging details contradict public statements by incoming senior administration officials including Mike Pence, then the vice president-elect. They acknowledged only a handful of text messages and calls exchanged between Flynn and Kislyak late last year and denied that either ever raised the subject of sanctions.
And Kislyak wasn’t the only one. The Russian foreign minister said the same thing about being in contact with the Trump team before the election.
MOSCOW — Russian government officials conferred with members of Donald Trump’s campaign team, a senior Russian diplomat said Thursday, a disclosure that could reopen scrutiny of the Kremlin’s role in the president-elect’s bitter race against Hillary Clinton.
The statement came from Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who said in an interview with the Interfax news agency that “there were contacts” with the Trump team.
“Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage,” Ryabkov said.
This alone confirms CNN’s report that members of the Trump team were in “regular contact” with members of the Russian government. But what about Russian Intelligence? Well, on that subject there’s this:
A Russian Army-trained linguist who has told a previous employer of a background with Russian intelligence, Kilimnik started working for Manafort in 2005 when Manafort was representing Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, a gig that morphed into a long-term contract with Viktor Yanukovych, the Kremlin-aligned hard-liner who became president of Ukraine.
Kilimnik eventually became “Manafort’s Manafort” in Kiev, and he continued to lead Manafort’s office there after Yanukovych fled the country for Russia in 2014, according to Ukrainian business records and interviews with several political operatives who have worked in Ukraine’s capital. Kilimnik and Manafort then teamed up to help promote Opposition Bloc, which rose from the ashes of Yanukovych’s regime. The party is funded by oligarchs who previously backed Yanukovych, including at least one who the Ukrainian operatives say is close to both Kilimnik and Manafort.
All the while, Kilimnik has told people that he remains in touch with his old mentor. He told several people that he traveled to the United States and met with Manafort this spring. The trip and alleged meeting came at a time when Manafort was immersed in helping guide Trump’s campaign through the bitter Republican presidential primaries, and was trying to distance himself from his work in Ukraine.
So there’s your link to Russian intelligence. Manafort had a Russian agent on his payroll.
Now we have the bombshell report that while he was a part of the Trump campaign, freshly minted Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice with the Russian ambassador—and then denied that “any Trump surrogates” met with the Russians during his confirmation hearings.
According to the Post, one of the meetings took place in September, as mounting evidence indicated that Russia was attempting to interfere in the U.S. presidential election. Another occurred in July. At the time, Sessions was a senior member of the Armed Services Committee.
Sessions has repeatedly refused to recuse himself from the DOJ investigation into Russian interferences and possible ties between the Kremlin and Trump associates.
So Sessions met with Ambassador Kislyak—who U.S. Intel agencies call the “top Russian spy and spy recruiter” for the Kremlin—at the RNC, but somehow managed to not discuss the campaign, which is like not talking about football at the Superbowl.
MOSCOW — Carter Page, an early foreign policy adviser to Donald J. Trump who was scrutinized by the F.B.I. on suspicion of private communications with senior Russian officials over the summer, was back in Moscow on Thursday.
Mr. Page was closelipped about the purpose of his visit, telling RIA Novosti, a Russian state-run news agency, that he would stay in Moscow until Tuesday and would meet with “business leaders and thought leaders.”
And there are many more links between Page and Russia.
Reporters quickly Googling found that Page is the founder and managing partner of an investment fund called Global Energy Capital, and that he claims to have years of experience investing in Russia and the energy sector. As for his connection to Trump, when Page was reached for comment by the New York Times the day after Trump’s big reveal, he said he had been sending policy memos to the campaign and the paper said he “will be advising Mr. Trump on energy policy and Russia.”
Page has also been the subject of some breathless coverage in the American press. A March Bloomberg profile touted his “deep ties” with “executives at Gazprom,” the state-owned Russian gas giant, whom he says he advised on some of its biggest deals of the past decade. Last month, the Post ran a piece that was breathless in a different way, casting him as a shadowy broker with potentially important ties in Russia, some of them unsavory. The Yahoo story also portrays Page as a well-connected, high-rolling businessman with “extensive business interests in Russia” and an office “around the corner from Trump Tower.”
Oh, and Page and other officials also met with Russian ambassador Kislyak during the RNC in Cleveland with Sessions.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions is not the only member of President Trump’s campaign who spoke to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at a diplomacy conference connected to the Republican National Convention in July. At least two more members of the Trump campaign’s national security officials also spoke with Kislyak at the event, and several more Trump national security advisers were in attendance.
It’s unknown what the Trump campaign officials who spoke with the ambassador – J.D. Gordon and Carter Page – discussed with him. Those who took part in the events in Cleveland said it is not unusual for presidential campaign teams to interact with diplomats.
Page, another member of the Trump campaign’s national security advisory committee who also spoke with Kislyak in Cleveland, cited “confidentiality rules” in declining to say what he discussed with the ambassador.
Well, no, it’s not unusual to speak with diplomats. That’s part of the point of diplomacy, communication. But we do know that the Trump campaign expressly and repeatedly said this. didn’t. happen. Carter Page said it didn’t happen, but it did. We also know that the plank in the RNC platform supporting arming the Ukrainian forces against the pro-Russia militants was dropped. Why?
And then there’s Trump’s longtime advisor Roger Stone who like Flynn, Sessions, Page, and Manafort says he has “no contacts with Russia.” But Stone happens to have been a liaison between Trump and Wikileaks.
A key confidante of Donald Trump has provided new details about the “mutual friend” of Julian Assange who served as a back channel to give him broad tips in advance about WikiLeaks’ releases of emails to and from key allies of Hillary Clinton.
Roger Stone, a longtime unofficial adviser to the Republican presidential nominee, was briefed in general terms in advance about the sensitive and embarrassing leaked Democratic emails by an American libertarian who works in the media on the “opinion side”, he told the Guardian in an interview.
He also appeared last year on Russian TV to spin the conspiracy theory that started on Kremlin-sponsored Sputnik News that the Russians didn’t hack the DNC because Jullian Assange’s source was a former DNC staffer who was mysteriously shot dead in Washington, D.C. at 3 AM. Yes, really.
Stone: I think it’s pretty established that the Russians did not hack the DNC. That’s a falsehood. Craig Murray, who is a respected British diplomat, has come forward and admitted that he was handed the material on the Clinton campaign cheating to beat Bernie Sanders by an informant, a disgruntled employee at the Democratic National Committee. After Seth Rich, an employee of the DNC, was shot in the back three times on the streets of Washington at 3 a.m., Julian Assange posted a $25,000 reward for information regarding his murder. If that isn’t a clear indication of who his source was, I don’t know what is.
The Steele dossier does talk about moles being inside the DNC, but it says that those moles were feeding information to Trump, not the FSB or Wikileaks—which puts an entirely different spin on the late night shooting mystery that Sputnik was cooking up here.
Of course we’re aware of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s links to Russia and Putin after setting up a $500 billion arctic oil deal through his former company Exxon/Mobil. Then there’s also Trump’s new Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who also has seems to have extensive financial ties to Putin.
The White House has been accused of withholding information from Congress about whether Donald Trump or any of his campaign affiliates have ever received loans from a bank in Cyprus that is partly owned by a close ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
A group of Democratic senators have been waiting for two weeks for Wilbur Ross, a billionaire investor who has served as vice-chairman of the Bank of Cyprus since 2014, to answer a series of questions about possible links between the bank, Russian officials, and current and former Trump administration and campaign officials. Ross also received a second letter on Friday from Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey with more detailed questions about possible Russia links.
Rachel Maddow explained much of this as an extensive money laundering scheme involving Deutsche Bank—which holds $300 million of Trump’s debt—and various Russian oligarchs who may have shuttled Trump $60 million to help him pay off some of his debt in 2001.
Video on Wilbur Ross, Commerce Secretary and Russian Banking Friend: Wilbur Ross
Some of our foreign allies are saying that these links and contacts have them worried, too.
As part of intelligence operations being conducted against the United States for the last seven months, at least one Western European ally intercepted a series of communications before the inauguration between advisers associated with President Donald Trump and Russian government officials, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.
The sources said the interceptions include at least one contact between former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and a Russian official based in the United States. It could not be confirmed whether this involved the telephone call with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that has led to Flynn’s resignation, or additional communications. The sources said the intercepted communications are not just limited to telephone calls: The foreign agency is also gathering electronic and human source information on Trump’s overseas business partners, at least some of whom the intelligence services now consider to be agents of their respective governments.These operations are being conducted out of concerns that Russia is seeking to manipulate its relationships with Trump administration officials as part of a long-term plan to destabilize the NATO alliance
And then … AND THEN … there’s all the various financial links that Trump’s businesses have with Russians. No, not that he owns any buildings in Russia (not for lack of trying) but that they have bought a ton of real estate from him starting with a $95 million mansion he sold to billionaire Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, who never even lived there and is now demolishing it in order split it into three properties to be sold. There are also various other deals setup by Trump employee and Russian immigrant Felix Sater, who had previously worked at a company called Bayrock founded by a former Russian government official.
In 2001, Tevfik Arif, a former Soviet official in Kazakhstan, founded Bayrock, a New York property development company. [TheDiplomat]. A couple years later, Bayrock hired Felix Sater, a man with an extensive criminal history, who would become Arif’s right-hand man. [FT]. Starting in 2005, Bayrock began working with the Trump organization. [FT]. By 2007, Bayrock helped find financing for more than 2 billion dollars of Trump real estate deals around the world (including many projects in Russia and the former USSR). [TAI; FT]. Much of this money came from Russian oligarchs close to Putin.[NYTimes; Forbes]. Most of these deals failed spectacularly. [TAI]. Also, note a 2016 lawsuit alleges Bayrock and Trump helped Kazakh and Russian officials launder money. [Forbes].
Around 2006, Bayrock, the Trump Organization, and ’FL Group’ started working on the SoHo development in NYC. [TAI]. The FL Group is an Icelandic firm that had many ties to Russian oligarchs close to Putin (the Group has its own entry below). [NYTimes; TAI]. The development was very unsuccessful and devolved into a series of lawsuits. [NYTimes]. One of these lawsuits claimed that suspicious sources in Russia and Kazakhstan used FL Group to invest $50 million in the SoHo development as well as three other Bayrock projects. [NYTimes; TAI]. Trump, Donald Jr., and Ivanka had advance knowledge of this investment. [FT].
And beside Sater, there’s also Sergei Millian, who has been brokering deals between Trump and Russian oligarchs for years.
Since 2006, Millian headed the Russian American Chamber of Commerce (RACC). [FT]. He claims RACC represent its commercial members, but the FBI suspects it is a Russian intelligence front.[MotherJones]. Millian has regularly appeared on Russian state media, where he boasted that he marketed Trump properties to oligarchs in the former Soviet Union. [FT]. He implied that he paved the way for Russians to invest “hundreds of millions” in the Trump organization, and for dozens of Russians to buy Trump apartments. [FT].
So that’s yet another Russian intelligence link as well as dozens of business links, which would explain why Donald Jr. said “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
In fact Millian is even more significant, as Mother Jones writes.
In an April 2016 interview with RIA Novosti, a Russian media outlet, Millian described his history with Trump. He said he met the celebrity real estate developer in 2007 when Trump visited Moscow for a “Millionaire’s Fair,” where he was promoting Trump Vodka. Millian noted that Trump subsequently invited him to a horse race in Miami. “Later,” Millian said, “we met at his office in New York, where he introduced me to his right-hand man—Michael Cohen.
As part of its inquiry into Millian, the [Mother Jones] pointed to Millian’s connection to Rossotrudnichestvo, a Russian government organization that promotes Russian culture abroad. In 2013, Mother Jones reported that Rossotrudnichestvo was under investigation by the FBI for using junkets to recruit American assets for Russian intelligence. Through cultural exchanges, Rossotrudnichestvo, which operates under the jurisdiction of the Russian Foreign Ministry, was bringing young Americans—including political aides, nonprofit advocates, and business executives—on trips to Russia. The program was run by Yury Zaytsev, a Russian diplomat who headed the Russian Cultural Center in Washington, DC.
Americans who participated in the exchange trips and were later questioned by FBI agents told Mother Jones that the agents’ questions indicated the FBI suspected Zaytsev and Rossotrudnichestvo had been using the all-expenses-paid trips to Russia to cultivate Americans as intelligence assets. (An asset could be a person who directly works with an intelligence service to gather information, or merely a contact who provides information, opinions, or gossip, not realizing it is being collected by an intelligence officer.) After Mother Jones published a story on the FBI investigation, the Russian embassy in Washington issued a statement: “All such ‘scaring information’ very much resembles Cold War era.
So the method used by Rossotrudnichesvo was “junkets,” much like the “Millionaires Fair” that Millian met Trump on, and also the $40,000 trip that Russia Today gave to Michael Flynn, allowing him to sit at a dinner table with Putin.
When Steele stated that Russia had been seeking to cultivate Trump as an “asset,” many in the press ignored the issue as being outlandish. But here we see the FBI has already had exactly that suspicion concerning an organization that is linked to a close Russian associate of Trump’s. This right here is strong confirmation of much what Steele alleges as being entirely plausible.
And then there are the mobsters.
In April 2013, federal agents busted up an international gambling ring run by the Russian mafia out of the entire 51st floor in Trump Towers in NYC. [motherjones]. The US government believes the operations were overseen from Russia by the powerful mobster Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov. [motherjones]. In late 2013, Trump held his Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow. [motherjones]. At the pageant, he treated Tokhtakhounov as a VIP, along with other Russian oligarchs. [motherjones]. In addition, Trump has had investment from oligarchs w/ Russian mob connections, and Trump has lent condos to Russian mobsters.
Since Trump hasn’t divested himself from all of his properties and businesses, every bit of rent he collects from Russian mobsters is suspect.
For more, I highly recommend you look at the extensive and impressive archive of published stories gathered by kossack wnemirow on Trump’s various shady links to Russia.
When you look at the totality of all of these corroborating reports of links, contacts, and business deals between TrumpCo and the likes of Sessions, Manafort, Flynn, Tillerson, Page, Stone, Ross, Cohen, and Sater with Russians such as Kislyak, Ryabkov, Rybolovlev, Kilimnik, Arif, Millian, and Tokhtakhounov you have to wonder when the FBI and Trumpsters say that there weren’t any contacts or links between members of the Trump campaign and elements of Russian businesses, government, intelligence or mobsters. Just what the fuck are they talking about?
The point is that it’s not a crime to be friendly or in communication with Russians or even Russian intelligence if you don’t know that they happen to be spies. If nothing illegal or improper happened during these contacts the Trumpsters should be willing to admit it, say the contacts were innocent, and put the story to rest. The fact that the FBI and Trump (as well as Nunes and Barr) are so adamantly and vigorously denying any and all of the above is actually more concerning than the contacts themselves.
For example, why did Flynn choose to lie about talking about sanctions to the Vice President when all he had said to Kislyak was “We’ll review everything”? He could have admitted that easily. He could have admitted meeting with Kislyak in Trump Tower with Jared Kushner. Was it simply a matter of incompetently failing to remember, or was he hiding that information deliberately on some level? Did he know that he was possibly violating the Logan Act, did he lie about it just because the sanctions issue has been so sensitive, or was it something else? Is there a larger crime somewhere underneath all of this? Or several crimes? Or are all these denials and lies simply about appearances?
How exactly did Attorney General Sessions magically “forget” his own two meetings with Kislyak while under oath when being questioned by Sen. Al Franken, and how did he think he was supposed to oversee the FBI/DOJ investigation of links between the Trump campaign and Russia? He wasn’t asked if he had met with any Russians, he was asked what he would do if he discovered someone in the Trump campaign had done so. But he refused to answer that question and instead volunteered that he didn’t do it himself. When he did. Just like Page did. And now he’s trying to lawyer his way out of what he volunteered by saying the question was different from the words Al Franken actually said.
Flynn had to resign because of his lie and/or his incompetence. Shouldn’t Sessions also resign, as has been demanded by more than 100 Democrats? He has announced that he will be recused from any investigation of the Trump campaign and links to Russia, but does he at least get a contempt of Congress vote the way Attorney General Eric Holder did for not turning over information to Congress about Fast and Furious because it involved ongoing investigations (just as Comey has refused to share information), or does he get prosecuted for perjury?
It’s doubtful any of that will happen beyond the recusal. For now.
We do now know that the Russians hacked the DNC and John Podesta then laundered the information through Wikileaks, RT, and Sputnik news as well as hiring online trolls to push their stories through social media. It wasn’t a casual effort: it was massive, as former NSA Intelligence Officer Malcolm Nance has described.
Note: Nance was talking about Russian intelligence using Kompromat to get their way back in September, a month before Christopher Steele went public with his dossier on Trump. That’s how the Russians do things. But Steele’s dossier didn’t just talk about Russian prostitutes—it mostly talked about Trump being compromised by his shady business deals and kickbacks all over the world. If some of the deals were with Russians like Millan and Arif, they don’t even need to get to the any of the salacious stuff to have leverage on Trump. In fact, some of the really gross salacious allegations may have been deliberate disinformation designed to undercut Steele (or anyone) who might have received leaked information from the Russians.
It’s not yet proven that Russia’s efforts changed the outcome of the election, even with only 78,000 votes in three states making the difference. However if they coordinated their efforts with Trump’s campaign by leaking inside information directly to them from the DNC and Hillary Clinton staffers in order to aid them, then we’re dealing with an entirely different kettle of fish. And it’s which would explain why, for example, the Trump administration initially denied that the two-page summary of the Steele dossier was included in the briefing on Russia’s hacking efforts.
When Kellyanne Conway denied that the two-page summary was included in the briefing, they still eventually had to admit that it was included when DNI James Clapper confirmed it, and then again when eventually it was revealed that FBI Director James Comey had personally briefed Trump on the summary.
All of that was bunk. Trump was briefed on the dossier. Russians hacked the DNC and leaked what they discovered to damage Hillary’s campaign and influence the election. There were many contacts between Russians and Trump associates before and after the election.
Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer, Michael Flynn, Roger Stone and Donald Trump have all lied about this. Repeatedly. We already know this. We don’t yet know if it’s because they were complicit in Russia’s actions, as the Steele dossier indicates, or simply because they’re just terrified of the optics of Russia having helped either steal the election or at minimum tip the scales in their direction. But either way their denials and lies about it are becoming more and more brazen and desperate. Pushing the FBI to deny these stories when for some reason they already agree is one thing, but pushing it to the Intel committees and having them and CIA Director Pompeo pushing it to various reporters is going a step beyond.
Spicer asked CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr, R-N.C., and House Intelligence Committee Chairman David Nunes, R-Calif., to contact reporters from The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, according to Axios. Their mission was to convince those reporters of the falsehood of a recent story by The New York Times about the Trump campaign having contacts with powerful Russians during the 2016 election. One FBI official had privately told the Trump White House that the story was “bullshit,” but the FBI refused to say that to reporters, prompting Spicer to enlist the aid of Pompeo, Burr and Nunes. Because they provided no details proving that the stories weren’t true, their efforts do not seem to have been successful.
That’s spreading propaganda using official government sources to tip the scales their way. That’s desperate. That’s Nixonian. That’s a cover-up. They keep this up and we’re talking a potential violation of the Hatch Act, just as former GSA Administrator Lurita Doan was suspected of.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel has found that General Services Administration chief Lurita Alexis Doan violated the federal Hatch Act when she allegedly asked GSA political appointees during a January briefing how they could “help our candidates” win the next election,according to a report by the office.
The Hatch Act restricts executive branch employees from using their position for political purposes. The special counsel’s office, which investigates alleged violations of the law, said it would recommend that President Bush take disciplinary action against Doan, including possible removal from office.
So even if no crime was committed by anyone in the Trump camp before the election, they have begun tiptoeing on the edge of violating several laws since then, including the Logan act, Hatch Act, perjury, conspiracy, and potentially obstruction of justice. Ultimately even if they were never directly complicit in the actions of Russia, it’s likely to be that behavior that ultimately brings them down.
Since my original draft of this on Thursday morning, things have been moving quickly. Trump has blown his stack over Sessions recusal and countered with a pack of bogus tweet wiretap allegations which have been refuted by former DNI James Clapper and calling for an investigation of the investigation which has been opposed by FBI Director Comey.
But let’s say, just for arguments sake, that Trump gets what he’s whining for, Congress actually investigating the IMO badly botched FBI investigation of his links to Russia, which I have outlined in detail above? How’s that really gonna work out for him?
Careful what you wish for, you just might get it.