Sunday, November 19, 2017

A Disturbing Guide to Trump-Russia Collusion

The New Yorker has a convenient and disturbing overview of the cooperation between the Trump campaign, Russia, and Wikileaks, the preferred Russian outlet for disseminating information stolen by Russian operatives and military intelligence.  What is stunning is how, when viewed with the benefit of hindsight, Trump and his sycophants have lied to the American people from the beginning with the lies merely shifting as drips of information have leaked out exposing the previous version of the lie of the day. What is also revealing is the manner in which Trump - and the larger Republican Party - are hoping that the slow release of more and more damaging information will have an anticlimactic impact and perhaps save Trump from collusion, if not treason, with a hostile foreign power. If nothing else Trump has severely damaged America's prestige and influence across the globe and ripped apart the social fabric domestically - all of which is precisely what Vladimir Putin wants.  Here are article excerpts:
According to a recent accounting by the Washington Post, “the Trump campaign interacted with Russians at least thirty-one times throughout the campaign” and there were at “at least 19 known meetings.” If the full scope of the Trump-Russia story had been known all at once—Paul Manafort’s work for a pro-Putin party in Ukraine, Michael Flynn and Jared Kushner’s back channels to Russian officials, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos’s machinations, Donald Trump, Jr.,’s eager embrace of a Russian lawyer with alleged dirt on Hillary Clinton, the F.B.I.’s investigation, the intelligence community’s warnings—it would have been akin to North Korea going nuclear overnight. The audacity of the Trump campaign’s lies would have been shocking. It helps to take a step back and remember how politically explosive it would have been, a year ago, to know that the Trump campaign was colluding with WikiLeaks. Consider the timeline we can now piece together. On September 21, 2016, the WikiLeaks Twitter account sent a direct message to Trump, Jr., who quickly notified four top Trump campaign officials (Jared Kushner, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, and Brad Parscale). The highest levels of the campaign knew that WikiLeaks was in touch with the candidate’s son and close adviser. On October 3, 2016, Trump, Jr., asked WikiLeaks, “What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep hearing about?”
Four days later, on October 7th, two important events occurred. First, the U.S. intelligence community formally announced that “the Russian Government directed” the theft of e-mails from the Democrats and named WikiLeaks as one of the entities used by the Russians to distribute the stolen material. Second, shortly after the announcement, WikiLeaks began releasing the e-mails stolen from Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.
Trump praised the organization in a speech—“I love WikiLeaks”—on October 10th. He tweeted about WikiLeaks on October 11th. The next day, WikiLeaks, seemingly encouraged by the coördination, sent another private message to Trump, Jr.: “Hey Donald, great to see your dad talking about our publications. Strongly suggest your dad tweet this link if he mentions us.” Fifteen minutes later, Donald Trump tweeted, “Very little pick-up by the dishonest media of incredible information provided by Wikileaks. So dishonest! Rigged system!” Two days later, on October 14th, Trump, Jr., tweeted the link that WikiLeaks had provided.
The entire political world wanted to know whether the Trump campaign was actively coördinating with WikiLeaks, an organization that Trump’s own C.I.A. director would later call “a nonstate hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia.” On October 14th, Mike Pence was asked, on Fox News, if the Trump campaign was “in cahoots” with WikiLeaks. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.
After Pence’s comment, several Trump officials issued their own blanket denials of any contacts with foreign entities during the campaign. As all of these general denials have collapsed, the White House has retreated to making more tailored denials. First, there was no contact at all. When numerous contacts were revealed, the White House shifted to arguing there was no coördination (or “collusion”). Now that clear coördination between WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign has been uncovered, the new line is that it wasn’t illegal. Trump and his Republican allies are betting that each disclosure, on its own, can seem innocuous or defensible, as the public becomes confused by the complicated timeline and tedious details. The Trump camp’s original broad denials start to be forgotten, and the bar for what is considered truly inappropriate coördination gets higher. It can take a long time before anyone realizes that the frog is dead.
The Russia investigation is occurring mostly behind closed doors in Congress and by the special counsel, somewhat muting the impact of revelations that regularly leak out. Will this slow and confusing release of damaging information soften the blow to Trump? It’s too soon to tell, of course, but what he and his team are banking on is that, while a year ago the public might not have tolerated the full truth about his campaign’s links to Russia, the scandal goes down a lot easier when the details are delivered in small bites.  
The Republican Party has indeed become the party of betrayal and perhaps treason itself.  With Trump at its head, the GOP's moral bankruptcy is indeed complete.

No comments: