Sunday, January 13, 2019

Russian To Judgment, Con't

Not to be outdone by the NY Times this weekend with their story on the FBI's investigation into Donald Trump as a Russian asset, the Bezos Post brings us Greg Miller's story on Trump's insanely suspicious acts of trying to completely avoid his own people when it comes to what he's discussed with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

President Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials, current and former U.S. officials said.

Trump did so after a meeting with Putin in 2017 in Hamburg that was also attended by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. U.S. officials learned of Trump’s actions when a White House adviser and a senior State Department official sought information from the interpreter beyond a readout shared by Tillerson.

The constraints that Trump imposed are part of a broader pattern by the president of shielding his communications with Putin from public scrutiny and preventing even high-ranking officials in his own administration from fully knowing what he has told one of the United States’ main adversaries.

As a result, U.S. officials said there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years. Such a gap would be unusual in any presidency, let alone one that Russia sought to install through what U.S. intelligence agencies have described as an unprecedented campaign of election interference.

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is thought to be in the final stages of an investigation that has focused largely on whether Trump or his associates conspired with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. The new details about Trump’s continued secrecy underscore the extent to which little is known about his communications with Putin since becoming president. 
Former U.S. officials said that Trump’s behavior is at odds with the known practices of previous presidents, who have relied on senior aides to witness meetings and take comprehensive notes then shared with other officials and departments.

Trump’s secrecy surrounding Putin “is not only unusual by historical standards, it is outrageous,” said Strobe Talbott, a former deputy secretary of state now at the Brookings Institution, who participated in more than a dozen meetings between President Bill Clinton and then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s. “It handicaps the U.S. government — the experts and advisers and Cabinet officers who are there to serve [the president] — and it certainly gives Putin much more scope to manipulate Trump.”

A White House spokesman disputed that characterization and said that the Trump administration has sought to “improve the relationship with Russia” after the Obama administration “pursued a flawed ‘reset’ policy that sought engagement for the sake of engagement.”

So not one, but two red alert level stories this weekend on Trump very possibly being a Russian asset makes me believe very very much that Mueller's report includes evidence that Donald Trump is being manipulated by Russians if not by Putin himself, and that Moscow has direct leverage over a compromised leader of the US.

Remember that yesterday, we found out that NY Times story on the FBI investigation, as Charles Pierce points out, deliberately uses the word "publicly" to describe the evidence so far against Trump.  That's a brutal caveat.

This is not a word chosen idly, not in a piece as judiciously written as this one. Clearly, the Times printed pretty much all it was given by its sources, but the implication of that "publicly" is that investigators likely know far more than what appeared in the newspaper.

Otherwise, "publicly" is empty verbiage. To have written simply that, "No evidence has emerged that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government official," would have sufficed for the purposes of journalistic balance. But by dropping that fatal "publicly" in there, the Times and its sources likely are giving us a preview of coming attractions. (Judging by his manic episode on the electric Twitter machine on Saturday morning, the president* knows this, too.) And the one thing about which we can all be sure is that is whole megillah is nowhere near as weird as it's going to get.

If that's really where Mueller's report is going, then things are going to get very serious, and very soon.  The groundwork is being laid at this point, and I honestly think Trump is so terrified of being exposed as a Russian asset that he's completely invested now in this shutdown as a way to seed as much chaos as possible in the workings of government bureaucracy, as well as serving as a warning to everyone detailing just how much damage he can do to the country and its people.

Maybe Trump will go down.  But the country will burn along with him.  If he can't remain the man in the Oval Office, then maybe there won't be a country to be leader of.  Either way, both pieces taken together plus the recent behavior of Trump himself, indicate to me that something catastrophic for the Trump regime is coming and with a quickness.

Here there be dragons.

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