Trump World Grab-Bag--A Collection

Saturday, July 22, 2017

JFC Another TrumpWorld Grab-Bag?

You know, I started doing these "TrumpWorld Grab-Bag" things because there would just be too many Trump stories, and they sort of held together, and they sort of didn't but there were just too many to do single blog-posts about. I couldn't just pick one, and move on with my life. Not at all! I had to gather up the half dozen or dozen links or whatever I was presented with because it all seemed relevant in some way. And then I would do a couple a week or whatever

But this last 24 hours? It feels vaguely accelerated. So, let's say you know that Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who met with Trump, Jr. last year, was in the US as counsel on a money-laundering case that was settled after the US Attorney on that case, Preet Bharara, was fired.  (This itself might not even be all that dodgy--I am no judge of how solid the case was.) What is new though, is that she also represented the FSB in a property dispute. I guess this sticks out as relevant to me because it shows she's done work on the Russian government's behalf and I can see where doing something to relieve sanctions against Russia would be in the same vein. But going back to that thing where 
US Attorney's offices might be politically compromised, I do note there is a story about Trump breaking with custom (not that he necessarily knows from custom) and meeting with a US Attorney candidate for the District of Columbia before her selection.

I don't know what to make of that, or even if I have anything to make of it--it just strikes me as interesting.

In other news, I guess it's no surprise that some people in the White House have made statements about ending Russian sanctions, like, for example, giving back the two compounds that seem to have been used for spying. Seb Gorka is one.  It looks like newly-minted White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci is probably in the same boat--and probably for reasons.

That's pretty interesting, too. It keeps coming back to that sanctions issue.

Which brings me to the big breaking story--AG Jeff Sessions apparently had a meeting with Ambassador Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel, and they discussed policy relating to the Trump Campaign. My guess, since Sessions ruled out discussion of campaign interference--sanctions! Where did the Trump campaign stand on sanctions, anyway? Would they help Russia out?  After all, it was costing folks money, right?

It's a weird revelation coming so fast on the heels of an interview where President Trump seemed unhappy with Sessions' recusal from matters related to the Russian investigation, and potentially wanted him out. It's sort of a dumb revelation if it came from the White House, because it only goes to show that there was substantive dialogue between the Trump campaign and Russia--which doesn't alleviate the appearance of collusion. It also is kind of dumb if it reveals anything about IC sources that lets other countries know how we're listening. But let's leave open the other possibility--Russia can leak. Hell, just a minute ago, Foreign Minister Lavrov joked about how often Trump and Putin met at G20.  They can pull that kind of shit, now, because this White House is compromised.

But it's possible that this info was already in reporters' hands for awhile, while they tried to vet it.  Again, since Sessions lied about the existence of any meetings at all, anything he says about the existence of meetings or what was said at them becomes suspect.

And just as an aside, since this doesn't fit in (or maybe just--yet) with the rest of this Grab-Bag--Jared Kushner has updated his financial disclosure forms again, having missed 77 assets totaling somewhere between $10 and $100 million. You know. Couch change. Just like his security clearance docs that had to be amended or dozens of foreign contacts--I'm just saying. I wonder if these things are more "advertant" than "inadvertent" when he "forgets" them. Not that I know why.

UPDATE: Aw hell, this last 24 hours was so busy I forgot the thing where Senator Burr confirmed what I was saying about Rep. Devin Nunes' unmasking stuff being an apparent waste.

Friday, July 21, 2017

So This Was the Breaking Point?

After serving what I guess would be a...ok, I'm going to go there, sort of humiliatingly dishonest six months as White House Press Secretary, this is what Spicer resigns over? Trump's pick of Anthony Scaramucci as Communications Director?

But as I secretly root for when anyone leaves this administration "Now, spill, baby, spill!"

Pardon Me for This TrumpWorld Grab-Bag

There's something astounding about the speed with which Trump stories have recently progressed. At last glance, Trump was insinuating that Robert Mueller would have crossed a red line if he investigated the Trump Family/Company finances. But that is exactly what Mueller will do. Because of course he would. Because for one thing, I don't think it makes a whole lot of sense that Trump has been really protective of his tax returns the way he has and we still pretend there's nothing there, and also, that bankruptcy history. Those loans.  The way Eric Trump boasted about all that Russian cash and then suddenly Trump and them are pretending they have no Russian connections?

Following the money is the obvious thing to do in the first place--but this is exactly where Trump seems to feel most sensitive.  The Trump gambit of "investigating the investigators" is a little like his war on journalism--he wants to undermine voices that call him out, and call them "illegitimate" before they catch him in lies. It is, to be a little repetitive--obvious. To go to the Bard, he doth protest too much, which is most telling.

So I look at his recent reported inquiries into his presidential pardon power with a certain eye--of course he is looking into who he can pardon. This isn't what you do if you have a "nothingburger" that investigators are working on. It seems a bit like there's a "somethingburger" and he wants a little bicarbonate of "So don't lean on my family". Or that's what it looks like to me. It could be people closest to him are especially at risk, and this may very well be because he trusts them most--even to do things that aren't strictly ethical.

Right now, his defense seems to be that the appearance of collusion was totally correct because why wouldn't his campaign try to get whatever oppo they could? But the inkling that they knew of and were actively seeking out feloniously received information,  or were whoring off after poisoned fruit to win an election, is in itself troublesome and unethical. Especially if it held them open to blackmail. If it compromised the integrity of the attempts the Trump Administration makes at governing. It calls absolutely stupid ideas like the US/Russian collaborative effort at cybersecurity into question because of course a President who only won through Russian interference would think this is a great thing. But we might not even really know the extent of, for example, Trump Jr's Russian contacts, right now. Too many people, like Flynn, Manafort, Kushner, Sessions, etc., deliberately seem to have withheld information about their Russian contacts--that isn't normal, acceptable, or less than seriously questionable.

Sometimes, news just seems vaguely "not good" in the Trump orbit--the resignation of a legal spokesperson.  Marc Kasowitz is out on the Trump legal team.  The finding against Exxon for violating Russian sanctions while current SOS Rex Tillerson was CEO.

Other times, we get news that expands on our understanding of what went so askew with the 2016 election--take the investigation into the degree to which Russia influenced the left.  Jill Stein is a person who should be looked into. Not in Trump's orbit (but maybe Flynn's?) but someone who rode a propaganda train. (I have a hard place in my heart for folks who voted Stein or wrote in Sanders as if Trump and what he could represent held no threat to them. They wanted to believe Clinton was the devil. What the hell were they even looking at?)

But it seems like this was a lot of news breaking just now. And I don't think a lot of breaking news is in Trump's favor, at all.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

TrumpWorld Grab-Bags Should Be Less Obvious

The ongoing effort to prove collusion between the Trump Campaign and Russia sometimes gets a wee boost, but I would have to say that the best source of your very finest collusion hints comes from the actual behavior of POTUS Trump Himself. Even people sort of in his circle are recognizing a problem when they see it. 

And as per his usual, Trump makes no ones about his doing Putin's bidding, apparently. 

But let's just pretend there was still a little doubt--Russia hands who have witnessed their strategy see similar techniques at work with grooming Trump and associates.  Also, it looks like one of Trump's campaign in-crowd; Paul Manafort, was very indebted to Russian interests and then, for reasons we can only guess at, decided to work for the Trump campaign pro-bono for a bit. 

(But the rot seems to be deeper than Trump's immediate circle--take Rep. Dana Rohrabacker, as an example. A bad example. The "joke" between Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan about who is on Putin's payroll sounds a lot less amusing, huh?) 

It smells a little--odd. Just like Trump's over-eagerness to get Putin's attention at the G20 dinner in the above clip. Not definitely wrong. Just...a little obvious.

UPDATE: And somehow, there is still more to take a look at--Trump's loans.  Trump has recently said that Robert Mueller to keep out of looking into the Trump family finances. Which also seems a little, I dunno. Obvious.

Sen. McCain Diagnosed with Glioblastoma

My history regarding covering Senator John McCain has been one of serious criticism, and that is not something I easily set aside--as a public servant, he has long been about diminishing what government does for one domestically, and expanding what government does on the international stage. I have found him at times a diffident and biased actor--not always following through on political claims for what I have assumed was partisan reasons. But there is one thing about him I will say, especially in light of his recent diagnosis with glioblastoma, a difficult, aggressive, and generally tragic form of brain cancer--

Senator McCain is a hero and does have a code of honor. It isn't something he telegraphs, but something he just lives. I disagree with him politically, but especially in light of certain recent political events, I have come to find his occasional equivocations and arguments more honest than what I see from people boasting the same party label at times today. This isn't to praise nor bury him. I just wish him an easy time of it, because cancer is a son of a bitch of a disease and he's got a rotten one. And no one deserves what it can do.

(Which, in keeping with my traditions, is why I endorse keeping Obamacare alive, because this sort of shit happens to humans less fortunate than Senator McCain, who don't deserve it either, and who have families and lives and loved ones and jobs to do.  Fuck cancer. Also, fuck Trumpcare, repeal and replace, or even just repealing. Because this happens to fathers, and grandfathers, and respected elder statespeople. And yes, I am using McCain's diagnosis to raise a point. I don't know that he would go so far as to use it, politically, himself. But of the people I know who have had and survived cancer-- care matters, treatment matters, and access is a matter of human welfare--fully in the purview of Congress. I would like to see him have an understanding now of what less-privileged folks already know--they utterly need access, affordability, regulations that protect them and their pre-existing conditions, and how.  But what I like is not McCain's problem. His own bout with serious disease is. )

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

This TrumpWorld Grab-Bag Is Very Familiar

There were a few things that were confirmed today that fascinate me about the Trump/Russia connection--I think I want to start with the pull-aside(?) that Trump had with Putin at the G20 dinner on July 7, because this was already after a nearly 2 1/2 hour meeting that was closed door and had few attendees (Tillerson, some interpreters, Lavrov?) but this one had exactly one interpreter--for Putin. This makes one ask--so, if Trump "pressed" the issue of possible Russian interference in the 2016 elections (and elsewhere), and held any sort of hard line that this behavior was not to be done, how was it that he bonded with the Russian autocrat enough to have another friendly discussion with only Putin's Kremlin interpreter witnessing it, so that no US record exists? What could they have discussed? 

Maybe the Russian compounds associated with possible espionage operations that Russia would like to have handed back without conditions?  Let's even live it up a little, and speculate that Russian influence might have something to do with decisions like Tillerson's State Department blowing off the cyber threat to the extent of not giving a shit anymore, anyways, or deciding that a War Crimes Office is just such a hassle. After all, Syrian leader Assad looks good for war crimes, but is partnered up with Russia, no?  (Or maybe a US administration that has loosened it's ROE with respects to civilian deaths and already signaled to the rest of the Middle East that they don't care to lecture on the subject of human rights, has simply decided that people in glass houses should be circumspect about durable projectiles.)

It would hearten one attempting any defense of Trump's relationship to Russia if he did not act exactly like a patsy all the time. Just the biggest unaware openly collusive dupe in the whole world. 

Which brings us back to the election 2016 where we left off with Trump, Jr., and the greatest thing to happen to foreign policy, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort (some of these folks will be testifying publicly in a Senate hearing, so, popcorn futures certainly do look bright). The so-called 8th man was Ike Kaveladze--a guy associated with money-laundering. I kind of thought this would come back to the issue of money-laundering, myself

The reason why is Trump is wide open for it.  Like, the now-defunct Trump Taj Mahal was even seriously fined because of  money-laundering. It strikes me as funky as all get out that the lure the Russian contacts used for the Trump Tower meeting was to accuse the DNC of financial dealings with Russia--but well, they seem to have made their own in-kind contribution to the Trump campaign, hm? (It also hammers home how babes-in-the woods-ish the Trump family seems to have been--anyone could have been in attendance, but they simply didn't have a concept of vetting or self-protection regarding who might have been there.)

That meeting is still weird for other reasons, though. Jay Sekulow made the tv rounds to influence public opinon about this case (which will most likely not be tried based on public opinion) by suggesting that there couldn't have been anything untoward about the meet because the Secret Service let those Russians into Trump Tower--ha!

But no. For one thing, SS vetting would only really make sense if Trump, Sr., was in attendance and he wasn't, supposedly. Trump, Jr. didn't have a SS detail.  And also, even if Secret Service was involved, their business is to make sure the principles are physically protected, not held harmless from dick-tripping. 

(As a side-note, I have referred to Jay Sekulow as "hind-titterati"--a term of my own dubious art. By which I mean a guy who isn't especially skilled, but benefits solely on the basis of having found biases to milk. That's not to say being him isn't lucrative. The milking resentment can be a cash-cow--it's just udderly weak, in my book. I mean, take Paul Clement. There's a guy who manages to milk resentment, get taxpayer money from red state governments, and get his ass talked about as SCOTUS material. Trump saw Sekulow on Fox News. That's kind of like seeing his name on a bench at a public trans stop, I think.)

Anyway, this Trump Grab-Bag is familiar in the sense that Trump and Putin have settled in like old friends, and the problems with Trump's reality is what is always is--dodginess, secrecy, creative capitalism (let's call it, instead of the more vulgar "grifting"), loyalty to self and disregard for norms. 

Other than all that, Party of Lincoln, how are you enjoying the play?

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Suckularity Continues in 2017--Landau and Romero

Of the iconic series of Television Past, one of the greats is Mission: Impossible, and my favorite character was Rollin Hand, played by Martin Landau. He was cool, handsome, and a master of disguise. Martin Landau, the actor, was a Rollin Hand as an actor--cool, handsome, and as a character actor, a guy who folded into his roles beautifully. His career was exceptional and I'm sad that he has been lost to the suckularity

George Romero also--there was a period in my teens were I was a Tromaville afficcionada, but that sort of dirty, graphic, socially-aware kind of cinema milieu probably wouldn't have even existed if not for the example of Romero, who basically invented the zombie genre.  But his amazing work on movies like Creepshow and Monkeyshines show his depth in understanding human horrors. He visited dark places and brought humor and reality to the otherwise senseless dreamworlds. 

They both shaped my world a lot. Safe travels in the beyond, if there is one, to them both. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sometimes Even TrumpWorld Grab-Bags Have the Blues

Focusing on Donald Jr. as a contact-point between Russian operatives and the Trump campaign has certainly kicked up a lot of defenses of Donald Trump Sr's baby boy. Or should I say, middle-aged baby boy. It bothers the hell out of me when a grown man, something like mere days younger than the leader of France, and old enough to be president himself according to the US Constitution, and certainly old enough to run (supposedly without his father's input) the Trump family's international company--and yet, some people think this "kid" should get soft treatment for not knowing that dealing with representatives (or people purporting to be representatives) of a foreign power is not actually normal campaign behavior for a political campaign, and having intel shopped in front of you kind of is mighty collusion-ish (conspiracy to interfere with an election--maybe a promise to facilitate espionage, depending? It's really dumb, what the Trump "kid" is supposed to have done, but I dunno. I think many adults would have known to refrain from what he did.)

What I think is amazing, though, is that the Trump 2020 campaign is already ponying up yon Trump the Younger's lawyer bills, since before the news of his stupid collusive Trump Tower meeting with who even knows how many Russians even broke to the world. As if the Trump Campaign is openly now accepting that whatever Trump the moral baby did is reflecting back on Trump the perpetual candidate, who is having a hard time being loved with all this talk of collusion and shit about! 

Aw hell. Isn't a little recoil to be expected, when even an administration's AG is gangster about his disclosure of assorted contacts, to the point of basically showing a photo of his own extended middle finger?

It strikes me as proof of a problem, though. The pattern of a problem is real. Kellyanne Conway just a minute ago suggested that the goal posts have been moved to "evidence of a systemic, sustained, furtive collusion". What she doesn't seem to see is that she is the one moving the goal posts--but we do have a systemic and sustained coverup in the form of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump not reporting their full financial and other foreign contacts. We have Flynn and Manafort acting as campaign surrogates, while also being paid by foreign governments. They aren't in the mix at the moment, but Kushner and Trump Jr did as badly in their willingness to trade the US cow for the magic beans of dirt on Hillary Clinton, as those other campaign reps had done, and at least Kushner and Ivanka should not still be having security clearances. 

All this gives me the blues. I would surely think more GOP-ers's would find this scenario bent and precarious from a national security pov. They should wonder if Trump is really a prone Russian patsy. I would be ashamed if I thought (and I kind of do) that a POTUS could be so open to blackmail and financial and social leverage. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

This TrumpWorld Grab-Bag Has Background Noise

Now, I try and say that my TrumpWorld Grab-Bag posts aren't intended to set up a case, so much as to review information that is coming to light--and I am not really pulling for a conclusion, here. It's just that sometimes, the evidence becomes so apparent that it's hard not to stay away from drawing conclusions, such as: If Donald Trump Jr. brought campaign manager Paul Manafort and digital campaign guy Jared Kushner (and also--brother-in-law) to his meetup with Natalya Veselnitskaya, then I can't imagine why candidate Trump would not have been informed. Even if this meeting wasn't necessarily fruitful--it opened the door to the campaign continuing to meet with Russians who represented themselves as having the good dirt. Because they set a precedent. They decided receiving information from a sometimes hostile power was ok. 

I want to clarify what I'm talking about when I say "hostile". Some pro-Trump arguments lead with the idea that what Trump has done could not possibly be "treason" by virtue of our not being in any declared war with Russia. I think this is a reasonable argument, but I also can't help but note that there is evidence of cyberwarfare. Russian operatives, identified as APT 28 and APT 29 ("Advanced persistent threat") have engaged in invasive attacks on the State Department in 2014, in 2015 & 2016 the DNC, and also the DCCC. They've tested out the infrastructure of our democracy and also things like our power grid. This is called "cyberwarfare"; they are doing it with the intent to disrupt our way of living and doing business. These kinds of attacks can be used to leverage individuals via kompromat or blackmail-worthy information, or they can be used by taking material out of context and weaponizing it by altering some of the data (active measures) and releasing it through friendly media sources to create influence. Doing these sorts of things are not intended for the benefit of the victimized country. Russia did not (damn near openly) support Donald Trump because they thought he'd be a brilliant US leader. They saw him as either a potential puppet, or a great stupid foil.  Because, Trump is not a professional. 

The point of cyber warfare is to disrupt--think of a better disruption of a country than a campaign to support a fake news-supporting, mainstream media deriding, race relations agitating, serial liar with vindictiveness woven into his warped idea of how government works.  Trump has expressed denial regarding the idea that Russian president Putin preferred him, but I can imagine no reality where Trump was not aware of Russian influence and Trump's behavior also suggests he either knew or suspected he was benefitting from their aid. Probably from the moment he announced he was running for POTUS. It also seems likely that his campaign knowingly used material obtained by the Russian hacks--which is something that puts Jared Kushner, who oversaw the digital operations of the campaign, in the spotlight.

It is possible that people in the Trump orbit were not entirely aware of the dire nature of the relationship between the campaign and Russia--but certainly there were enough old hands on deck who should have known this was not normal. And in the gradual release of information that clarifies this relationship, it becomes apparent that everyone must have known something was off because they kept lying about whether such contacts between the campaign and Russian representatives existed at all. It also seems significant that Trump himself,  and media apologists at, for example, Fox News, have moved on from "never happened" to "if it did, so what?" But this is dumb, because Putin is not, and is unlikely to become, a good ally to the US.  And when Trump officials like Seb Gorka suggest that getting dirt is just what campaigns do, it might be conditionally true that some people would be willing to accept the risk of foreign influence--but is that really what "high-quality" people do? 

In other news, articles of impeachment against Trump have now been filed regarding his apparent obstruction of justice. But, given the tenor of GOP response to the Trump shambles, I don't have a lot of hope this will go anywhere.