The last ten days or so have provided the best collection of omens to date of what the Mueller investigation will ultimately uncover. Let’s explore.
Trump contends that he is an innocent man but he certainly isn’t acting like one. As of this writing (Friday morning) people are still talking about Trump’s Monday press availability in Helsinki where standing next to Vladimir Putin he disavowed his own intelligence community in favor of siding with the Russian President’s explanation of events. Thursday, as his Director of National Security, Dan Coats was being interviewed on live TV as part of the Aspen Security Forum; Trump’s staff announced that they had invited Putin to visit the White House this fall. During that interview Coats admitted that he had no prior knowledge of Trump inviting then-Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak and longtime Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs (the equivalent of our Secretary of State – except he is very skilled at his job) Sergey Lavrov into the Oval Office. He also stated that he had not been briefed on the private Putin-Trump meeting the previous Friday. It was obviously apparent that Putin’s fall visit was also a complete surprise. Perhaps instead of supplying Trump with intelligence Coats and his staff should spy on the White House in the interest of American security.
At that same conference Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said “I haven’t seen any evidence that the attempt to interfere in our election infrastructure was to favor a particular political party.” Here is a bit of free advice Secretary Nielsen: when your gig at Homeland Security is over don’t consider as career as a detective.
Further details of Putin’s “Incredible offer” (as Trump called it) became public last week. Putin was basically asking the United States to hand over several American citizens for questioning including former American Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. In a Wednesday press conference White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders stated that the President was reviewing the offer with his team. Thursday she said they rejected the offer. That rejection came only after a huge public outcry including a 98-0 sense of the Senate declaration. To paraphrase and derive a conclusion from a Chuck Schumer statement; the Trump administration only does the right thing (and then not always) after they are caught doing the wrong thing. That is why we need Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Why wasn’t Putin’s offer immediately rejected during the one-on-one last Friday? If I were in Trump’s place my answer to Putin would have been “(Select an obscenity) No!” What American president would, even a moment, consider turning over a former American diplomat to any foreign country much less Russia?
As to coordination and conspiracy I find it interesting that Putin’s “incredible offer” is basically the same as the offer Natalia Veselnitskaya made to Donald Trump, Jr., Jarod Kushner and Paul Manafort (who is currently in jail awaiting trial) during the infamous Trump Tower meeting on June 9, 2016. I see a lot of dots that connect a little too easily for a lot of supposedly innocent activity.
In what appears to be a real life melding of the TV shows The Americans and the movie Red Sparrow we have the interesting tale of Mariia Butrina. Butrina’s name was new to most Americans but close followers of American politics had seen her showing up at many right wing and mainstream Republican function for the last few years. It turns out she was cohabitating with a long time Republican operative almost 30 years her senior who was getting her into right wing and Republican inner circles.
Butrina posed as a leader of the Russian gun rights movement. That in itself is laughable. Russia doesn’t have anything resembling America’s Second Amendment and rights movements aren’t exactly sanctioned or tolerated by the Putin government. But it appears the strategic offers of money and sexual favors opened a lot of right wing doors.
There are serious, but as of yet, publically unproven allegations of money effectively being laundered through the NRA and into Trump and Republican campaign coffers. It will be interesting to see what Robert Mueller ultimately reveals about that. Right now Butrina sits in jail as a flight risk while she awaits trial. This is part of what people like me warned about in the Citizens United decision which opened the floodgate to foreign money coming into our elections.
In a quiet move that received almost no press coverage, last week the Treasury Department changed a rule that will no longer require the NRA to disclose the names of its donors. The dark money gets even darker with “reputable business people” like Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in power.
Last week the New York Times reported and several knowledgeable people effectively confirmed that very senior intelligence officials informed then President-elect Donald Trump on January 6, 2017 that Vladimir Putin personally was behind the Russian cyber-attack on our 2016 election. When you consider his subsequent statements and actions he is at best an accessory after the fact.
As I have stated for months the Trump administration is little more than an organized criminal enterprise specializing in international money laundering with the express purpose of enriching Donald Trump and a select circle of associates. Anyone who can’t see that from just the publically available evidence is either incredibly imperceptive or in a state of willful denial.
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