Must Read Op-Ed and Profiles

(nina) #121

The allegations of subverting American democracy are troubling in themselves. They also spell trouble for the president.

By Norman L. Eisen and Noah Bookbinder

Today we learned that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has obtained indictments charging that 12 Russian military intelligence officers engaged in a conspiracy to subvert our democracy. The indictments demonstrate that Mr. Mueller, the Department of Justice and a federal grand jury agree with a conclusion that the intelligence community, the Senate Intelligence Committee and a majority of Americans long ago reached: The Russian government was unambiguously responsible for the attack on our election. The direct and specific evidence of Russian interference laid out in the indictment — both by hacking into Democratic Party accounts and into actual state election commissions — is immensely significant.

Any other president would seriously consider canceling Monday’s summit with the Russian leader Vladimir Putin. One of us is a former American diplomat in the region, but you don’t need to be an expert to understand that it is unlikely the official Russian conduct Mr. Mueller has unearthed could have occurred without Mr. Putin’s blessing. To confer legitimacy on the man who was part of an assault on our country is reprehensible.

Unfortunately, we have no expectation that Mr. Trump will cancel. If he proceeds, the indictments must be the first point of reference for the president as he meets next week with the leader — and former intelligence chief — of the country that orchestrated this attack. In previous statements, President Trump has at times said that he takes Mr. Putin at his word that Russia did not interfere in the 2016 presidential election. To put it bluntly, the evidence collected by the Department of Justice further demonstrates that Mr. Trump’s trust in Mr. Putin is horribly misplaced. He must now tell Mr. Putin he knows that he is lying.

The indictments — like others that preceded them — also have important domestic implications. Already some of the president’s defenders are using these latest indictments to suggest that they exonerate the president’s campaign. No Americans were alleged to have participated in this hacking, except perhaps unwittingly, the argument goes, and therefore the Mueller investigation has definitively found no collusion.


That is precisely the wrong reading of this latest development. As is Department of Justice policy, when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced this complaint, he stuck to the facts alleged in the complaint but repeatedly emphasized that no Americans were charged with crimes “in this indictment.” Media reports indicate that the investigation is wrapping up its look into possible obstruction charges and now moving toward collusion. As criminal law experts (one from the prosecution side and one from the defense camp), we believe that Mr. Mueller is moving steadily toward the Trump campaign.

The signs are many, including the fact that numerous high-level individuals in and around the campaign have not yet been interviewed, as far as we know. (They include Roger Stone, Donald Trump Jr., Brad Parscale and, of course, Michael Cohen.) We do not know whether Mr. Mueller will ultimately find that those around Mr. Trump — or the president himself — knowingly participated in illegal efforts to influence the election or otherwise violated the law. But it would be recklessly premature for the president or anyone else to conclude that today’s filing absolves the Trump campaign and its associates of any wrongdoing.

Quite the contrary. After today’s indictments, investigators will be scrutinizing the widely reported contacts between Mr. Stone and Russian hackers and between another Trump associate, Rick Gates and a former Russian intelligence officer during the campaign. The indictment also alleges that the Russian conspirators targeted Clinton campaign email accounts with phishing emails on July 27, 2016 — the same day that President Trump called on Russia to hack the Clinton campaign. The two events could of course be nothing more than a coincidence. But it is hard to imagine that the special counsel hasn’t wondered whether it could be more.

If there was catastrophic wrongdoing closer to home, we are confident Mr. Mueller will find it and will charge it if the law and the facts allow. He is moving effectively and, for an investigation of this breadth and complexity, extremely quickly. If others in this country broke the law in connection with the last election, now is not the time for them to rest easy. The decision to allow the national security division of the Department of Justice to assume responsibility for this prosecution of Russian officials allows Mr. Mueller’s team to focus on investigating other issues here at home.

At today’s news conference, Mr. Rosenstein poignantly emphasized the need for the American people to view these indictments in patriotic terms. The victims, he said, were not one side or one party, but rather the American people. This is of course true, though one wishes that the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, could have had the same perspective before the 2016 election when he rejected an opportunity to sign on to a bipartisan statement about Russia’s election interference. Other Republicans — including those who have supported the work of the Senate Intelligence Committee — have put country first.

Still, many Republicans, and House Republicans in particular, have so far seen too much to be gained by obscuring the truth and revisiting irrelevant disputes about Hillary Clinton — rather than uncovering the truth about Russia and possible cooperation by the Trump campaign.

Meanwhile, while evidence of Russian interference mounts, bipartisan efforts to protect the special counsel investigation and to better secure our election infrastructure have also stalled — in no small part because there is no support from Mr. McConnell and the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.

With the 2018 midterm elections approaching, the hour for protecting the rule of law and the sanctity of our elections is already late. Mr. Rosenstein’s call for patriotism and the indictment he unveiled is therefore a reminder more than anything that we must do more. Mr. Mueller will continue his march toward accountability for wrongdoing related to the last election. But if Russia is permitted to interfere in our elections again, or if the President is permitted to interfere with this investigation, the impact on our democracy, and Americans’ faith in it, could be catastrophic.

Norman L. Eisen is the chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the author of the forthcoming book “The Last Palace.” Noah Bookbinder, a former federal corruption prosecutor, is the executive director of CREW.

Mr. Eisen is the chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, where Mr. Bookbinder is the executive director.

(nina) #122

Not sure the Scots like him either

(nina) #123


Somehow I get the impression he is not well liked in the British Isles.

(nina) #125

Does Brett Kavanaugh Spell the End of Voting Rights?
By Ari Berman
Mr. Berman is a journalist who specializes in voting rights.


In late 2011, the Obama administration blocked a South Carolina law that required voters to show a photo ID before casting their ballots, finding that it could disenfranchise tens of thousands of minority voters, who were more likely than whites to lack such IDs.

But when South Carolina asked a federal court in Washington to approve the law, Brett Kavanaugh wrote the opinion upholding it. He ruled that the measure was not discriminatory, even though the Obama administration claimed that it violated the Voting Rights Act.

Judge Kavanaugh, whom President Trump nominated for the Supreme Court recently, pointed to a 2008 Supreme Court decision upholding Indiana’s voter ID law, which he interpreted as giving states broad leeway to restrict their voting procedures. “Many states, particularly in the wake of the voting system problems exposed during the 2000 elections, have enacted stronger voter ID laws, among various other recent changes to voting laws,” he noted in approval.

(nina) #126

Analogous to the Emperor wears no clothes, brings no dignity, speaks lies heaped on other lies, nor cares for the Nation state that he promised to defend.

Why Won’t Donald Trump Speak for America?

The president lays himself at Vladimir Putin’s feet.

The last time President Trump claimed that “both sides” were responsible for bad behavior, it didn’t go well.

That was nearly a year ago, after a march of neo-Nazis descended into violence and a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of peaceful protesters, killing a woman.

On Monday, Mr. Trump again engaged in immoral equivalence, this time during a gobsmacking news conference after his meeting in Helsinki, Finland, with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. A reporter referred to last week’s indictments of 12 Russian military officials for a coordinated cyberattack on the 2016 election and asked Mr. Trump if he held Russia responsible. “I hold both countries responsible,” Mr. Trump said.

Even in a presidency replete with self-defeating moments for the United States, Mr. Trump’s comments on Monday, which were broadcast live around the world, stand out.
The spectacle was hard to fathom: Mr. Trump, standing just inches from an autocratic thug who steals territory and has his adversaries murdered, undermined the unanimous conclusion of his own intelligence and law enforcement agencies that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 election with the goal of helping Mr. Trump win.

“My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me, and some others, they said they think it’s Russia,” Mr. Trump said at one point, speaking of his director of national intelligence. “I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.” (In a statement on Monday afternoon, Mr. Coats reiterated that, in fact, it was.)

Mr. Trump called the special counsel’s Russia investigation “a disaster for our country” and then performed a selection of his greatest solo hits: “Zero Collusion,” “Where Is the D.N.C.’s Server?” and finally the old chestnut, “I Won the Electoral College by a Lot.”

Even top Republicans felt moved to speak up.

“The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” Paul Ryan, the House speaker, said. “There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals.”

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said, “The Russians are not our friends, and I entirely believe the assessment of our intelligence community.”

Senator John McCain was more direct. “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant,” Mr. McCain said.

Not to worry, Mr. Trump assured us: Mr. Putin “was extremely strong and powerful in his denial.” So he must have been telling the truth.

Mr. Putin, for his part, was happy to admit that he wanted Mr. Trump to win the election: “Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.” He mocked the idea that he had compromising material on President Trump — though without denying it — perhaps because Mr. Trump’s own words were compromising enough.

Mr. Putin offered to have Russian intelligence work with its American counterpart to get to the bottom of the meddling case, on the condition that Russian authorities were allowed to question American intelligence officials as well — which Mr. Trump called “an incredible offer.” Yes, incredible.

And still, the indictments related to Russian infiltration keep coming: On Monday, the Justice Department, acting independently of the special counsel’s investigation, charged a Russian with acting as an agent for her country in the United States to cement ties between the Republican Party and the National Rifle Association. The 29-year-old woman, who allegedly has ties to a top Russian official, is being held without bond.

Mr. Trump has said he wants to revive a relationship with Russia that badly deteriorated under President Barack Obama. His opening statement to journalists proclaimed the goal of continuing “the proud tradition of bold American diplomacy” and emphasized that “diplomacy and engagement is preferable to conflict and hostility.”

In theory, such objectives make sense. But Mr. Trump seems to be singularly naïve, or deliberately ignorant, about why his own senior national security advisers have identified Russia as one of America’s chief geostrategic adversaries, along with China.

Despite a weak economy, corruption and other domestic problems, Mr. Putin has crushed most political opposition at home and is aggressively asserting Russian power abroad. His agents — possibly those from the same military intelligence service that interfered in the American election — have used chemical weapons that poisoned four people in Britain, one of whom died.

He is working hard to sabotage America’s ties to NATO and the European Union and to weaken American influence in the Middle East. Russia poses such a cyberthreat to the United States that Mr. Coats last week said “the warning lights are blinking red again.”

There used to be no doubt that American leaders could be counted on to defend the interests of the United States and the democratic alliance it led. President Ronald Reagan did so in 1987 when he exhorted the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall. So did President George H.W. Bush when he told Mr. Gorbachev that Germany would remain in NATO after unification in 1990. And President Obama did so before the 2016 election when he told Mr. Putin to knock off the hacking.

Other than according Mr. Putin the honor of a meeting that begins to erase the ostracism he suffered for invading Ukraine, it is hard to see what Mr. Trump accomplished. The two men talked about forging a new treaty to replace the New Start Treaty, which constrains nuclear weapons and is to expire in 2021, and also discussed cooperating on Syria, though they seem to have passed up a chance for concrete action.

There has been no sign that the United States has derived any benefit from Mr. Trump’s obsequiousness toward Mr. Putin, though Mr. Trump himself has now at least gotten a shiny new soccer ball.

It remains a mystery why the president, unlike any of his Republican or Democratic predecessors, is unwilling to call out Russian perfidy. He has no trouble throwing his weight around when he is in the company of America’s European allies, attacking them as deadbeats and the European Union as a “foe,” or when he excoriates the news media as “enemies of the people.” Put him next to Mr. Putin and other dictators, and he turns to putty.

All that’s clear is that a president who is way out of his depth is getting America into deep trouble.

(nina) #127

Who is paying for the next Supreme Court justice?

by Editorial Board July 15

BEFORE PRESIDENT TRUMP tapped Brett M. Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court, the dark-money spigots were already beginning to open. As politics increasingly defines judicial nominations, confirmation battles for major judgeships are looking more and more like political campaigns, with shadowy groups pouring cash into national advertising and lobbying initiatives while keeping their donors and spending decisions opaque. This deprives Americans of information about who is backing nominees to some of the most powerful seats in the land, and it increases the likelihood that judges and politicians will feel pressure to make decisions that partisan spending networks demand.

Top on the list of major outside spenders is the Judicial Crisis Network, which pledged $7 million in 2016 for a pressure campaign to block Obama high court nominee Merrick Garland, plus $10 million the following year to help Neil M. Gorsuch get confirmed to the seat. The network has already announced it would spend $2.4 million on Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Like many big outside spenders, the Judicial Crisis Network is a registered 501©(4) nonprofit, a designation in the tax code created to benefit civic groups such as volunteer fire departments that has become a major vehicle for hiding political money. An analysis from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics found that the network’s major donor has been the Wellspring Committee, which has links to a married couple that organizes conservative dark-money groups.

The Judicial Crisis Network is far from the only conservative outside spender active in the Kavanaugh fight. Americans for Prosperity, a group tied to the Koch brothers’ network, has promised a seven-figure effort. The Great America PAC and Great America Alliance, the latter a 501©(4), have pledged $5 million, in part because the groups’ strategists see the nomination battle as a way to rally Republicans before November’s midterm elections.

Liberal groups are also participating in the independent- spending frenzy. Demand Justice, a relatively new organization working against Trump judicial nominees, has promised to spend $5 million. The group is set up such that its funding is arguably even more opaque than the nonprofits against which it competes. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Demand Justice’s fiscal sponsor is the Sixteen Thirty Fund. The fund did not respond to questions about its donors.

Congress should close the loopholes that enable organizations clearly created for big-money partisan politics to benefit from tax-exempt status and to disclose little information. Though this is primarily an issue involving political campaigns, it is clearly an increasing problem in judicial selection, both in places where judges are directly elected and where they are chosen by elected officials.

But the prospect for reform is dim. In the days when the corrupting power of money in government was an issue Congress appeared interested in addressing, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other opponents of cracking down argued that spending restrictions were unwise but that everyone could agree to the second-best policy of requiring donor transparency. Now that transparency is the only thing lawmakers might conceivably demand, Mr. McConnell and his allies have opposed it.

(nina) #128

Not a glowing report from WSJ…T was “beseeching” towards Putin. T looked “weak.”

WSJ The Editorial Board
July 16, 2018 6:44 p.m. ET

Donald Trump left for Europe a week ago with his reputation enhanced by a strong Supreme Court nomination. He returned Monday with that reputation diminished after a tumultuous week of indulging what amounts to the Trump First Doctrine.

Mr. Trump marched through Europe with more swagger than strategy. His diplomacy is personal, rooted in instinct and impulse, and he treats other leaders above all on how much they praise Donald J. Trump. He says what pops into his head to shock but then disavows it if there’s a backlash. He criticizes institutions and policies to grab headlines but then claims victory no matter the outcome.

The world hasn’t seen a U.S. President like this in modern times, and as ever in Trump World everyone else will have to adapt. Let’s navigate between the critics who predict the end of world order and the cheerleaders who see only genius, and try to offer a realistic assessment of the fallout from a troubling week.

• NATO. The result here seems better than many feared. Mr. Trump bullied the allies with rhetoric and insulted Germany by claiming it is “totally controlled” by Russia. But his charges about inadequate military spending and Russia’s gas pipeline had the advantage of being true, as most leaders acknowledged.

The 23-page communique that Mr. Trump endorsed is a solid document that improves NATO’s capabilities to deter and resist a threat from Russia. Mr. Trump’s last-minute demand that countries raise military spending to 4% of GDP was weird, but he is right that more countries are likely to meet the 2% target.

One risk is that Mr. Trump’s constant criticism of NATO will undermine public support for it in the U.S.—and, more dangerously, undermine the alliance’s deterrence against Russia. If Vladimir Putin concludes Mr. Trump isn’t willing to protect the Baltic states, he may pull another Crimea.

• The Brits. Mr. Trump turned a friendly visit into a fiasco by criticizing Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit strategy in an interview with the Sun newspaper. He backtracked a day later, calling his own comments on tape “fake news,” and Mrs. May was gracious.

But Mr. Trump should encourage a U.S.-British post-Brexit trade deal both in the U.S. interest and to help Britain negotiate the most favorable Brexit terms from the European Union. Other leaders will conclude from his rude treatment of Mrs. May that working with Mr. Trump is more perilous than fighting him.

• The EU. In contrast to NATO, Mr. Trump does seem to want to undermine the European compact. He called it a “foe” on trade, which will make negotiating a better trade deal even less likely. He seems determined to impose a 20% or higher tariff on European autos to strike at Germany, which would also hit France and others.

The U.S. isn’t part of the EU, but American Presidents have found it useful as an ally to leverage sanctions against, say, Russia or Iran. Mr. Trump is stoking European resentments that will bite back sooner or later when he wants Europe’s help.

• Russia. Details from the private Trump-Putin talks in Helsinki will spill out in coming days, but Monday’s joint press conference was a personal and national embarrassment. On stage with the dictator whose election meddling has done so much harm to his Presidency, Mr. Trump couldn’t even bring himself to say he believed his own intelligence advisers like Dan Coats over the Russian strongman.

“I have—I have confidence in both parties,” Mr. Trump said. “So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” Denials from liars usually are strong and powerful.

The charitable explanation for this kowtow to the Kremlin is that Mr. Trump can’t get past his fury that critics claim his election was tainted by Russian interference. And so he couldn’t resist, in front of the world, going off on a solipsistic ramble about “ Hillary Clinton’s emails” and Democratic “servers.” He can’t seem to figure out that the more he indulges his ego in this fashion, and the more he seems to indulge Mr. Putin, the more ammunition he gives to his opponents.
For a rare moment in his Presidency, Mr. Trump also projected weakness. He was the one on stage beseeching Mr. Putin for a better relationship, while the Russian played it cool and matter of fact. Mr. Trump touted their personal rapport, saying the bilateral “relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that.” In four hours?

Mr. Putin focused on his agenda of consolidating Russian strategic gains in Syria, Ukraine and arms control, and suggesting that the American might help. Mr. Trump even seemed to soften his stance against Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany.

By going soft on Mr. Putin, Mr. Trump will paradoxically find it even harder to make deals with the Russian. Republicans and Democrats will unite in Congress, as they should, to limit his diplomatic running room. Mr. Trump may decide to court Mr. Putin anyway, like Barack Obama did Iran’s mullahs, but political isolation concerning a foreign adversary is a weak and dangerous place to be.

(nina) #129

From George Will, who left the Republican party because of Trump

But in Helsinki he was, for him, crystal clear about feeling no allegiance to the intelligence institutions that work at his direction and under leaders he chose.

Like the purloined letter in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story with that title, collusion with Russia is hiding in plain sight. We shall learn from Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation whether in 2016 there was collusion with Russia by members of the Trump campaign. The world, however, saw in Helsinki something more grave — ongoing collusion between Trump, now in power, and Russia. The collusion is in what Trump says (refusing to back the United States’ intelligence agencies) and in what evidently went unsaid (such as: You ought to stop disrupting Ukraine, downing civilian airliners, attempting to assassinate people abroad using poisons, and so on, and on).

A still more sinister explanation might be that the Russians have something else, something worse, to keep him compliant.

The explanation is in doubt; what needs to be explained — his compliance — is not. Granted, Trump has a weak man’s banal fascination with strong men whose disdain for him is evidently unimaginable to him. And, yes, he only perfunctorily pretends to have priorities beyond personal aggrandizement. But just as astronomers inferred, from anomalies in the orbits of the planet Uranus, the existence of Neptune before actually seeing it, Mueller might infer, and then find, still-hidden sources of the behavior of this sad, embarrassing wreck of a man.


I feel honored to have something in common with George Will. I, too, left the Republican party because of Trump. On the morning of Wednesday, November 9, 2016, while still in a state of shock from the election results, I went online and changed my decades-long voter registration affiliation from Republican to Democrat and I have not looked back since. If you have any friends who have changed their minds, but not their registration, encourage them to do so. It’s an easy way to make a statement.

Footnote: I had actually been voting mostly on the Democratic side of the ticket for years (proudly voted for Obama and Clinton) – the 2016 election was the last straw. And I am now so angry with the entire Republican party that I will never (make that never ever) vote for a Republican again. I never imagined I’d become a “straight ticket” voter, but I am now voting “straight Democrat” – albeit an Independent may occasionally win my vote, but not if that involves splitting the field and losing an election. I feel strongly that solidarity with the Democratic party is the only way we can rid ourselves of Trump and the spineless Republicans who have shown their true colors by enabling him everyday. (My two cents.)

(nina) #131

Does it seem strange that, according to a criminal complaint unsealed on Monday by the Justice Department, a Russian woman stands accused of “acting as an agent of a foreign government” in part because she hoped “to establish a back-channel of communication” with American politicians at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington?

It shouldn’t. As Jeff Sharlet, an associate professor of English at Dartmouth, has pointed out, the National Prayer Breakfast has long offered “a backdoor to American power.” And America’s homegrown Christian nationalists have evinced an admiration for Russia’s authoritarian leader that appears to have grown apace with his brutality.

On Tuesday, Maria Butina, a 29-year-old Russian whose name was spelled Mariia in court papers, was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the Russian Federation. According to the complaint unsealed on Monday, Ms. Butina’s promotional activities for Russian political interests included attending the National Prayer Breakfast twice.

(nina) #132

Those of us who are always questioning why T has been so duplicitous in his responses about Russian involvement are stunned by the lack of real response from the R’s. But reality check comes into play, and all R’s have done is give 'an acceptable response."

Til now. The NYT’s piece last night by David Sanger

Full stop…the evidence that T always knew of Russian involvement is a game changer…(we hope)

This week, after special counsel Robert S. Mueller III rolled out a July 13 indictment that tied the Kremlin directly to an effort to sabotage American democracy that demonstrated extraordinary scope and reach — including a massive cybertheft crime directed at one of the two major American political parties — Trump stood next to Putin and sided with him as he denied the Russian attack. In response, leading Republicans called on Trump to accept the intelligence community’s consensus view to the contrary, to denounce Putin’s interference and to take seriously the prospect of more to come.

The Republican approach has been to set the threshold for an acceptable Trump response at the point of acknowledgment that the Russian interference effort did take place. In this arrangement, as long as Trump takes that minimal step, there is no need to talk much about why Russia interfered (to elect Trump), or about the fact that the Trump campaign eagerly sought to benefit from that Russian interference, or about why Trump lied to cover that up. There is no need for Republicans to play a more active role in trying to ensure that the fuller truth comes out (by passing a bill protecting the Mueller probe) or in trying to get to that fuller truth themselves (by forcing transparency on Trump’s tax returns, to learn whether he is beholden to Russians in some way).

In this arrangement, as long as Trump is admitting that Russia did interfere, and publicly pretending to take that seriously, House GOP leaders can also continue to lend tacit support to Trump loyalists in the House who are working to delegitimize Mueller’s efforts to flesh out the bigger story. You saw this double game afoot in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s response to Trump’s news conference with Putin. Ryan urged Trump to accept the intel community’s findings, while trying to create the impression that House Republicans are on the same page with the intelligence services on what really happened (which is complicated by the fact that the House Intelligence Committee probe did not even acknowledge that Russia interfered to help Trump).

In so doing, Ryan was simply trying to nudge Trump on to the safe ground for all of them, the place where everyone agrees Russia interfered, and everyone agrees that attacking intelligence professionals is bad (while winking at ongoing efforts to undermine them), without asking any of the follow-up questions that all of this raises. In effect, this is the escape hatch Republicans have offered him.

But the new revelations from the Times fundamentally change the situation. The question is no longer: Why won’t Trump accept the intelligence services’ verdict on what happened, and act accordingly? That question can be easily answered, by, say, the idea that Trump’s ego won’t let him publicly admit to anything that diminishes the greatness of his victory. But the question now is a lot harder: Why did Trump continue actively trying to deceive America into believing that Russian sabotage didn’t happen at all, after having been comprehensively briefed to a previously unknown extent on Putin’s direct involvement in that sabotage effort?

This should only increase the urgency of answering all of those follow-up questions, not to mention the imperative that congressional Republicans use their authority to the fullest extent possible to answer them. Yet, in an interview with CBS News that ran last night, Trump claimed he does acknowledge Russian meddling and even said he warned Putin against doing it again. And now he’s tweetingthat this has been his position all along.

(nina) #133

Conservative NYT writer poses these three theories about what happened with T, the Russians and the 2016 election.

Douhat leans more towards T’s tendency to have done shady deals…and he is always surrounded by shady people. And that T will defend (lie) to never suggest he did not win the election fairly.

Listing only 1 Scenario…

Scenario 1: Trump Being Trump
In this theory of the case, you can explain all of Trump’s Russia-related behavior simply by finding him guilty of being the person we always knew him to be — vain, mendacious, self-serving, sleazy and absurdly stubborn, with a purely personalized understanding of allies and adversaries, a not-so-sneaking admiration for strongmen and the information filter of an old man who prefers his own reality to the discomforts of contrary information.
If Trump seems to have a more intense affinity for Putin than for other autocrats, two further explanations may suffice. First, his history of doing business deals with Russians makes him particularly inclined to seek geopolitical deals with Russia — an inclination that’s essentially a shadier version of the affinity that the Bush family and other Arabists had with the Saudis and the Gulf States, cross-pollinated with the sleazy campaign-finance relationships that the Chinese cultivated with the Clinton White House.

At the same time, his vanity and amour propre, joined to his rage against his doubters, makes it impossible for Trump to admit that anyone else helped him win the White Houseso he cannot bring himself to fully acknowledge and criticize Russian election meddling because to do so might call into question not only his legitimacy but his self-conception as a political grandmaster.
And what about the election-season contacts with suspicious Russian nationals and WikiLeaks, the Don Jr. meeting and the Roger Stone forays? In this theory they’re indicators that Trump, a shady guy surrounded by shady guys and professional morons, might well have colluded given the opportunity — but they don’t prove that any such opportunity presented itself. After all, neither the hacking nor the leaking of emails required his campaign’s cooperation, so there was no reason for the Russian side to advance beyond a deniable low-level meeting and WikiLeaks D.M.s, and thus no real opportunity for the Trump team to be a true accessory to the underlying crime.

This narrative does not exonerate Trump; indeed, it provides various grounds to condemn him. But those grounds are the same grounds that were obvious during the campaign: We watched him blow kisses to dictators then, complain about our allies then, promise a détente with Russia while exploiting the D.N.C. hacking then, double and triple down on falsehoods and bogus narratives then, cling to self-destructive feuds (the Khans, Alicia Machado) in the same way that he clings to public flattery for Putin … and after all this, he was still elected president. So be appalled when he behaves appallingly, but do not be surprised, do not confuse Trump being Trump with Trump being treasonous — and recognize that he isn’t leaving office until you beat him at the polls.
Overall it’s a theory that fits Trump’s personality extremely well, fits the available facts reasonably well, and doesn’t require any new revelations or heretofore-hidden conspiracies. So I continue to give it a … (consults extremely scientific methodology) … 65 percent chance of being the truth.


Yeah, the President all but came out as a Russian asset this week. This game is up, it’s time for what comes next. :expressionless:


Trump Is Being Manipulated by Putin. What Should We Do?

Lawmakers must keep the American people informed of the current danger, writes a Republican congressman from Texas.

By Will Hurd
Mr. Hurd, a former C.I.A. officer, is a congressman from the 23rd District of Texas.

Over the course of my career as an undercover officer in the C.I.A., I saw Russian intelligence manipulate many people. I never thought I would see the day when an American president would be one of them.

The president’s failure to defend the United States intelligence community’s unanimous conclusions of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and condemn Russian covert counterinfluence campaigns and his standing idle on the world stage while a Russian dictator spouted lies confused many but should concern all Americans. By playing into Vladimir Putin’s hands, the leader of the free world actively participated in a Russian disinformation campaign that legitimized Russian denial and weakened the credibility of the United States to both our friends and foes abroad.
As a member of Congress, a coequal branch of government designed by our founders to provide checks and balances on the executive branch, I believe that lawmakers must fulfill our oversight duty as well as keep the American people informed of the current danger.

Somehow many Americans have forgotten that Russia is our adversary, not our ally, and the reasons for today’s tensions go back much farther than the 2016 election. For more than a decade, Russia has meddled in elections around the world, supported brutal dictators and invaded sovereign nations — all to the detriment of United States interests. Mitt Romney had it right in 2012 when he told President Barack Obama that Russia was “without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe.”

Our intelligence community has concluded with high confidence that President Putin personally ordered his security services to undertake an influence campaign aimed at undermining confidence in American democracy to sow chaos in our electoral system. Russia’s efforts to hack political organizations and state election boards are well documented, as are the Russian disinformation campaigns on social media platforms.

Russia is an adversary not just of the United States but of freedom-loving people everywhere. Disinformation and chaos is a Russian art form developed during the Soviet era that Russia has now updated using modern tools. The result has been Russian disinformation spreading like a virus throughout the Western world. From elections in Britain, France and Montenegro to invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, Moscow has pursued an aggressive foreign policy aimed at spreading disorder and expanding Russian influence in states formerly under the heel of Soviet Communism. These efforts weaken our allies and strengthen those who seek to undermine the democratic order that has helped prevent another world war in Europe since 1945.

Moreover, the threat of Russian meddling in United States elections is not behind us. Just last week, Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, cautioned that “the warning lights are blinking red” that Russia and other adversaries will undertake further cyberattacks on our digital infrastructure. This includes many of the energy companies in my home district in South and West Texas.

Make no mistake, Russian disinformation campaigns are working.

Many of my constituents have asked what Congress can do to protect the American people from Russian threats and provide a check on the executive branch’s demonstration in Helsinki. If necessary, Congress should take the lead on European security issues as it has in recent years. For example, during the Obama administration, Congress repeatedly pressed the president — using the power of the purse through appropriations bills — to send lethal weaponry to assist Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed separatists.

Last year, Congress passed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act to impose severe sanctions on Russia as retaliation for its meddling in our presidential election. And this year, the House passed the Ukraine Cybersecurity Cooperation Act to improve Ukraine’s ability to respond to Russian-supported disinformation and propaganda efforts. I am also encouraged that the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to testify on the president’s recent meetings with both Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin.
Additionally, Congress must act to give the men and women of our intelligence agencies the tools they need to confront Moscow and prevent this from happening in the future. We can start by sending the Intelligence Authorization Act to the president’s desk, which authorizes funding to support critical national security programs across the intelligence community. It also requires regular public reports on foreign threats to federal election campaigns before those elections take place, mandatory notification to Congress within 14 days after a determination has been made with moderate or high confidence that a foreign cyberintrusion or active measures campaign to influence a federal election has taken place, and reports to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees on past and continuing Russian influence campaigns.
As a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, I strongly believe in the importance of Congress’s oversight responsibilities and will work with my colleagues to ensure that the administration is taking the Russian threat seriously.

Without action, we risk losing further credibility in international negotiations with both our friends and foes on critical trade deals, military alliances and nuclear arms.

In this dangerous geopolitical environment, we must be both vigilant and strong in responding to foreign threats. The challenges posed by Russia are no different, and I hope the president shares my conviction that American strength, not weakness, is the best way to preserve a secure world in the face of adversaries like Russia.

(nina) #136

Strong statement…and Rep Will Hurd i(R-TX) is telling truth to power. He’s been on cable news talking about his disapproval of the Russian ties. Finally a R Congressman (not retiring) is taking a stand against Trump and his cronies.



First, the issue is no longer “merely” whether Trump colluded with the Russians and committed obstruction of justice, but whether he is a clear-and-present danger to the United States. The conclusion should be obvious: Giving aid and comfort to our biggest geopolitical foe and engaging in private sessions that may compromise American interests even further are together now our greatest security threat. Impeachment is a political question with grave implications for our political system. But when the president’s conduct poses a threat to the nation, removal of the president who poses the threat may be essential.

(nina) #138

Yes…to all of her points.

and most particularly, her last sentences - GET OUT THE VOTE!

Finally, it is more essential than ever that the GOP lose heavily in November’s midterms. Only with a complete repudiation of Trump and Republican rule can necessary corrective action begin in earnest.


There has been some discussion out in the blog-o-sphere that Doug Burleigh, who heads up the National Prayer Breakfast, may be “Person 2” in the Maria Butina indictment. Even if it turns out that he is not, you may find this an interesting read. It’s the best article I’ve found that describes the internal workings of the National Prayer Breakfast and its extensive ties to Russia. Here are some highlights (emphasis is mine):

The unsealing of an affidavit this week charging 29-year-old Mariia Butina with “conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation” was yet another bombshell in the investigation into what U.S. intelligence agencies describe as Russian attempts to influence American elections and politics throughout 2016.

But buried within the Justice Department’s affidavit was a peculiar detail: Butina, a Russian citizen living in the U.S., allegedly sought to influence U.S. officials not only through organizations such as the National Rifle Association, but also by exploiting the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event in Washington, D.C., that typically includes a speech by the president of the United States.

According to the affidavit, Butina intended to use the 2017 prayer breakfast as a way to gather a group of influential Russians in the U.S. to “establish a back channel of communication” with Americans. She allegedly described the list of Russian attendees to the prayer breakfast as “populated by important political advisors to Russian President (Vladimir) Putin, university presidents, mayors, and substantial private businessmen.”

The affidavit released this week cites a 2017 email from Butina to a prayer breakfast organizer in which she thanks the person for allowing her group to attend “and the very private meeting that followed.” The organizer in the affidavit is unnamed, but the de facto director of the prayer breakfast is Doug Burleigh, who effectively took over after the death of its previous leader (and Burleigh’s father-in-law) Doug Coe, in February 2017.

According to Yahoo News, Torshin initially set up a meeting with Trump before the 2017 prayer breakfast on Feb. 2. But White House officials canceled after learning that Torshin, who is also a close ally of Putin, has suspected ties to organized crime and a money-laundering ring.

Burleigh, who also once headed up the American Christian youth organization Young Life, has spoken in the past about his extensive work in Russia. According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, he delivered a speech at a 2016 event in Kansas alongside then-Gov. Sam Brownback — now U.S. ambassador for religious freedom — where he mentioned his 50 years leading evangelical efforts in Russia.

Footnote: Although RNS is not a typical source for me to post in WFTJHT, I vetted this article carefully. The reporting has been well-researched by someone with expertise on this topic – and the piece is written with a balanced and reasonable voice.

(nina) #140

Those who attack birthright citizenship, as did former Trump official Michael Anton in a recent Post op-ed, often go out of their way not only to misrepresent the plain meaning of the words of the 14th Amendment and those who drafted and ratified it, but also to ignore the racist and bloody history that required it in the first place. Sen. Lyman Trumbull, for example, a leading advocate in Congress for the citizenship clause, was quoted by Anton as somehow supporting his twisted reading of the clause.