No evidence of collusion? A witch hunt? Time to wrap up the Mueller probe? Poppycock! Those are echo-lies from the pit of hell, spread by Trump & his cronies with most of their duped base somehow buying in. As this article from trump-russia-mueller-investiga
One thing is true of all major political scandals: What we know in the moment is but a tiny, obscured, partial view of the full story later revealed by investigators. Why it matters: That’s what makes the Trump-Russia drama all the more remarkable. Forget all we don’t know. The known facts that even Trump’s closest friends don’t deny tell a damning tale that would sink most leaders. Here’s a guide that Jim VandeHei and I put together to the known knowns of Russia:
*We know Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign chair, has been indicted on 32 counts, including conspiracy and money laundering. We know he made millions off shady Russians and changed the Republican platform to the benefit of Russia.
*We know that the U.S. intelligence community concluded, in a report released in January 2017, that Russian President Vladimir Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election,” to “denigrate” Hillary Clinton and with “a clear preference for … Trump.”
*We know that in May 2016, Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat Russia had political dirt on Hillary. “About three weeks earlier,” according to the N.Y. Times, “Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton.”
*We know that in June 2016, Trump’s closest aides and family members met at Trump Tower with a shady group of Russians who claimed to have dirt on Hillary. The meeting was billed as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
*We know the Russian lawyer who helped set it up concealed her close ties to Putin government.
*We know that in July 2016, Trump said: ““Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Hillary] emails that are missing,” and urged their publication.
*We know that on Air Force One a year later, Trump helped his son, Don Jr., prepare a misleading statement about the meeting. We know top aides freaked out about this.
*We know Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting.
*We know Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and close campaign aide, lied to Vice President Pence and FBI about his Russia-related chats. We know he’s now cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller. We know Trump initially tried to protect Flynn with loyalty and fervency rarely shown by Trump to others.
*We know that during the transition, Jared Kushner spoke with the Russian ambassador “about establishing a secret communications channel between the Trump transition team and Moscow.” We know Kushner omitted previous contacts with Russians on his disclosure forms.
*We know that in January 2016, just before Republicans began voting, Michael Cohen tried to restart a Trump Tower project in Moscow.
*We know that oligarch was a bad enough dude that the Trump administration sanctioned him.
Be smart: The undisputed known knowns about Trump, Russia and his associates are damning and possibly actionable. But the known unknowns of how much more Robert Mueller knows that is publicly unknown is what spooks Trump allies most.
*Remember: No one in the media saw Mueller’s indictments of Russian oligarchs coming until the second they were announced, and no one knew until this week that Mueller’s team questioned AT&T five months ago about its payments to Cohen.
*Mueller has every incentive to keep the public and Trump himself in suspense.
Robert Mueller is looking into the curious case of Donald Trump’s record inaugural fundraising, according to a report by ABC News. The report on Friday said the Russia special counsel and his team of investigators have questioned “several witnesses,” including Trump’s friend and chair of the organizing committee Tom Barrack, about contributions to the fund — particularly “donors with connections to Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.” Mueller’s interest in the inaugural committee seems to overlap with some figures who have entered the public spotlight recently thanks to disclosures of shifty payments to Trump fixer Michael Cohen. Andrew Intrater, who runs Columbus Nova, gave $250,000 to the inaugural fund. He is a business associate of and relative to Russian billionaire oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, who is close to Vladimir Putin. Intrater and Vekselberg attended Trump’s inauguration. Another likely person of interest is Leonard Blavatnik, who has extensive business ties in Russia and is no stranger to attention from Mueller’s team over contributions to Trump — he gave $1 million to the committee through his company, Access Industries.
What happened to the money Trump collected? Apart from huge perks to top donors, it’s not fully clear. The committee Trump formed to fund his inaugural festivities raised $107 million, the most in history, about twice the previous record. While prior administrations used donations limits to allay fears of bribery and influence-buying, Trump’s committee had no such limits. Obama banned corporate, PAC, and lobbyist money — a rule that was abandoned by Trump. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush refused corporate contributions over $100,000 (Bush increased the limit to $250,000 for his second inaugural). The complete lack of any such limits on Trump’s inaugural fund, and the corresponding lack of transparency of how the money was actually spent after the relatively smaller festivities died down fostered concerns of graft and bribery. One year later the committee filed tax forms showing that it had paid $26 million to an event planning firm (created six weeks before Inauguration Day) run by a friend of Melania Trump, while donating $5 million to charity. The filing did not list spending by subcontractor.
Michael Avenatti, the Stormy Daniels attorney who published a damaging report this week showing President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, ran a shell company that took in millions of dollars from corporations after Trump’s election, hinted on Friday that Cohen paid out “large sums of money” from that shell company, too. “In 2017-18 – Why was Mr. Cohen paying Demeter Direct Inc. in Los Angeles large sums of money from his Essential Consultants LLC account? Keep attacking me Mr. Giuliani and Fox News. Please.,” Avenatti tweeted in response to attacks from Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s newest lawyer. The precise nature of the services for which Avenatti said Cohen paid “large sums of money” to Demeter Direct was not immediately clear, but Avenatti has hinted repeatedly that there are other revelations yet to come about Cohen’s business dealings, which are already the subject of a criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York.
In other Russian articles of relevance on this no witch hunt probe, we are seeing signs the president’s men at the behest of their leader are taking a more aggressive tone, which could spell trouble for America: buckle-up-as-mueller-probe-ent
Lawmakers and former defense officials are questioning why the Pentagon for months did not reveal the true mission of the Army special operations team involved in a deadly ambush last year in Niger. The Pentagon confirmed for the first time Thursday that the U.S. team involved in the Oct. 4 firefight that killed four American troops initially embarked on a kill-or-capture operation, not a low-risk advising mission as previously portrayed. In a summary of its findings on the deadly operation, U.S. Africa Command said the team involved in the firefight filed paperwork seeking approval from higher command that mischaracterized the true nature of their task.
“What little information they provided [in the summary] certainly would give one reason to believe that there’s an accountability failure here,” said retired Col. Don Christensen, a former Air Force chief prosecutor. “When they fail to provide information it appears like they’re covering up and protecting the people at the top.” The Pentagon this week released to the public an eight-page summary of its findings on the Niger operation, while sending the full 180-page classified report to Congress. But even after receiving a closed-door briefing on the findings, some lawmakers are continuing to raise questions about broader operations in Africa in the wake of the Niger incident.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) noted that while the U.S. troops were said to be on a limited “train and equip” mission, “it was actually a ‘kill or capture’ combat mission.” Asked directly if he thinks the military was hiding from Congress what it was doing, Kaine responded, “Yeah.” The Pentagon is insisting it was not deliberating shrouding the true nature of the operation after the troops in the ambush were portrayed as being caught off guard and outnumbered by a far more-equipped enemy. The evidence “does not indicate” the leaders purposely lied, lead investigating officer Army Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier told reporters Thursday at a Pentagon briefing. Rather, Cloutier said, “it was a lack of attention to detail” that led to a mix-up.
Officials said the planning document submitted for the original mission, cut and pasted from a previous document, described the October mission as a daylong trip to meet with tribal elders. The team leader and the commander directly above him “inaccurately characterized the nature of the mission,” a summary of the report reads. The special forces team, in fact, was embarking on a mission to assist Nigerien forces in the hunt for a high-ranking Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant linked to the kidnapping of a U.S. aid worker. The true mission “was not approved at the proper level of command,” according to the Pentagon, and when the team departed on their initial operation, no higher command was aware that the mission sought to find and possibly capture a key member of ISIS. The Pentagon summary, which does not name who the commanders are, found that the mission was susceptible to attack from the start because the misleading document “contributed to a general lack of situational awareness and command oversight at every echelon.”
Army Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, as well as four Nigerien soldiers, were killed in the resulting firefight that lasted more than an hour. “The soldiers didn’t seem to have intelligence that had caught up to the fact that the nature of the threat evolved,” Alice Hunt Friend, a former special adviser and principal director for African Affairs at the Pentagon, told The Hill. Friend, who is now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said after reading the eight-page summary that she also still had questions as to why the team was under-equipped. “I read it and sort of still feel like I don’t have all the pieces that make it make sense,” she said.
While the report acknowledged multiple “individual, organizational, and institutional failures,” the report raised eyebrows over the apparent lack of any recommended disciplinary actions. Arnold Wright, the father of Staff Sgt. Wright, told The New York Times he was frustrated with much of the investigation being kept classified and suggested that top officials were trying to shield themselves from scrutiny. “They had their story, and they’re going to stick to it,” Wright said. “It doesn’t really matter what I’ve got to say. They did what they did for political reasons. I understand it, but it doesn’t mean it’s right.” The summary also did not note that Cloutier, the lead investigating officer for the Niger incident, is also a senior official in the command he investigated. Cloutier is Africom’s chief of staff.
In coming months President Trump faces two major decisions that will shape our world’s future. Over the past 20 years, the last four presidents failed to stop the nuclear ambitions of two rogue states, North Korea and Iran. This has set the world on a course to disaster. Here’s what happened, and where we’re headed. During the first half-century of the nuclear weapons era, the world was remarkably responsible in controlling nuclear weapons. There are only eight nuclear weapons states today. Five large and powerful ones are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Two of the other three have behaved quite acceptably. The 46-year Cold War, featuring tens of thousands of nukes poised for instant launch, ended peaceably.
But in recent years, the world failed to understand the obvious truth that nonproliferation requires enforcement. As the two irresponsible and belligerent states pursued nukes relentlessly, the world never went beyond diplomacy, sanctions, and hand-wringing. And year after year, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama failed to step up to their nonproliferation responsibilities and use military force. If this condition continues, the world will descend into nuclear horror and chaos. Here’s how it will happen. Within a year North Korea will manage to produce a few weaponized nukes and will sell them to anyone with money. Kim Jong Un will rapidly ramp up production, servicing aggressors, failed and failing states, terrorist groups of all types, states undergoing civil war, criminals, extortionists, anyone with a jihad or a grudge. In response, nuclear proliferation will sweep across South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and southward.
As soon as it is able, Iran — the other rogue state and the world’s top supporter of terrorism — will go into the production of nuclear weapons. They will provide them to Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis and others. Nuclear proliferation will spread like wildfire in the Mideast, starting with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey. Those who receive these nuclear weapons from North Korea and Iran will use them immediately, and go back for more. The number of ruined, radioactive, deserted cities dotting the globe will grow. It will be clear to every state that their only safety lies in having nuclear weapons for protection, and nuclear proliferation will race across the globe.
Soon, nukes will be everywhere, uncounted, unprotected, and used. They will be readily available, and they’ll become weapon of choice, replacing high explosives and assault rifles. There is no way back from this world. Fortunately, President Trump has one last chance to avoid this tragic course for our world: He must force North Korea and Iran to totally dismantle all their nuclear weapons facilities, immediately. With North Korea and Iran removed as nuclear proliferators, we are back to eight nuclear weapons states, no serious proliferators in sight, and an established track record for enforcing nonproliferation. American diplomacy should then be able to lead the world to an effective way of coexisting comfortably with nuclear weapons for the long term. The world’s future course clearly depends upon President Trump’s two decisions.
So there is no overstating the importance of pulling the right strings, whatever it takes, to free the world of the unthinkable scourge of a nuclear North Korea & Iran. As vital as I believe it is to get to the bottom of the Russia scandal, how the North Korean & Iranian situation winds up is even more important. But having said that, it could also present a serious threat we should be aware of ahead of time should such wonderful de-nuke objectives be achieved. Successful resolutions on North Korea & Iran could make our president insufferable. It could put Trump’s egomania on steroids. And his approval ratings would spike. Trump has always envied the the long-term rulership his dictator buddies in Russia & China enjoy, so his newfound popularity could tempt Trump to unleash a stunt wiping out the idea of presidential term limits. His sinister assault on the Mueller probe, along with undermining the DOJ, FBI, courts, media & political opponents could really get a lot more ugly, orchestrated by Trump to usurp power. I’m convinced he’d gladly declare himself American dictator for life if he knew he could get away with it.
So might striking deals with North Korea & Iran where they agree to dismantle their nuclear programs, also help pave the way on the slippery slope to fascism right here at home? Between his loyal DC cronies, compliant echo messaging, & adoring Trumpeter fans where his base would be growing, Trump could engage in a full-throttle attack on our constitutional democracy, & it’s possible the feel-good circumstances might cause the American people to comply, allowing him to get away with defiling the rule of law. Amidst the euphoria of a possible great international breakthrough, I just want to make sure we’re on guard to push back against his totalitarian instincts which would almost certainly shift into overdrive.
Just for the record & if I may toot my own horn, I was also disgusted by President Clinton’s antics a couple decades ago & did support his impeachment, although I felt some in the GOP at the time overplayed their hand. Max Boot points out in am-i-suffering-from-trump-dera
Many of the same people who defended the independent counsel investigating President Bill Clinton now excoriate the special counsel investigating President Trump for no better reason than the fact that Clinton is a Democrat and Trump a Republican. And vice versa. This kind of tribalism is all too common in politics. That is why it’s important for those of us in the opinion-slinging business to do an occasional self-audit and ask whether we are taking positions based on merit or on political convenience. That is an especially difficult question when politics is dominated by a figure as polarizing as Trump. The hypocrisy of his supporters is legion — fiscal conservatives have embraced record deficits, moral conservatives have embraced payoffs to a porn star, free-traders have embraced tariffs, champions of law and order have embraced a scorched-earth campaign against the FBI, etc. But just because Trump supporters are being hypocritical doesn’t mean Trump opponents can’t be guilty of the same vice. I have recently been accused of flip-flopping on the Iran nuclear deal and torture because of my hatred for Trump. “Double standards thy name is Max Boot,” wrote one Twitter troll. Before I get to the specifics of those charges, I want to acknowledge that it is not easy to remain objective about a president I dislike. Indeed, I cannot fathom how anyone with a shred of decency can fail to dislike a president who is a pathological liar, braggart, bully, sexist, racist and nativist — a president who calls the free press “the enemy of the American people,” but praises the world’s most vicious dictators in the most fulsome terms.