Chilling…And Compelling

One of my favorite anecdotes about the early days of America’s newspapers comes from a friend who has edited a number of small-town papers and is something of a journalism history buff.  Early newspapers did no reporting; they were just compilations of the circulars generated mostly by the political parties. According to my friend, the masthead of one such publication  proclaimed “interesting, if true.”

That pretty much sums up my reaction to a recent, lengthy and unnervingly persuasive article in New York Magazine.

And that was before Trump’s disastrous, groveling presser with Putin in Helsinki.

The article was written by Jonathan Chait, whose previous work I have found solid (to the extent I am capable of making such judgments). Chait didn’t claim his thesis is proven, only that it is plausible. It was a “what if” speculation that looked at the entirety of what we knew before that outrageous betrayal of his oath of office .

The unfolding of the Russia scandal has been like walking into a dark cavern. Every step reveals that the cave runs deeper than we thought, and after each one, as we wonder how far it goes, our imaginations are circumscribed by the steps we have already taken. The cavern might go just a little farther, we presume, but probably not muchfarther. And since trying to discern the size and shape of the scandal is an exercise in uncertainty, we focus our attention on the most likely outcome, which is that the story goes a little deeper than what we have already discovered. Say, that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort told their candidate about the meeting they held at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer after they were promised dirt on Hillary Clinton; and that Trump and Kushner have some shady Russian investments; and that some of Trump’s advisers made some promises about lifting sanctions.

But what if that’s wrong? What if we’re still standing closer to the mouth of the cave than the end?

The media has treated the notion that Russia has personally compromised the president of the United States as something close to a kook theory. A minority of analysts, mostly but not exclusively on the right, have promoted aggressively exculpatory interpretations of the known facts, in which every suspicious piece of evidence turns out to have a surprisingly innocent explanation. And it is possible, though unlikely, that every trail between Trump Tower and the Kremlin extends no farther than its point of current visibility.

Chait goes through the lengthy chronology of Trump’s connections with Russia, a chronology suggesting that the situation may be much worse than we now suspect. As he notes, publicly available information about the Russia scandal is extensive, but disjointed.

The way it has been delivered — scoop after scoop of discrete nuggets of information — has been disorienting and difficult to follow. What would it look like if it were reassembled into a single narrative?

It’s tempting to dismiss the article as yet another conspiracy theory in an age that seems to encourage them, but as Chait points out, the people who seem most convinced of its likelihood are not the radio shock-jocks or other “usual suspects.” They are people like John Brennan, former head of the CIA, and other high government officials.

If Chait’s “what if” speculation proves true, calling it “chilling” is an understatement.

If that’s true, we are in the midst of a scandal unprecedented in American history, a subversion of the integrity of the presidency. It would mean the Cold War that Americans had long considered won has dissolved into the bizarre spectacle of Reagan’s party’s abetting the hijacking of American government by a former KGB agent. It would mean that when Special Counsel Robert Mueller closes in on the president and his inner circle, possibly beginning this summer, Trump may not merely rail on Twitter but provoke a constitutional crisis.

And it would mean the Russia scandal began far earlier than conventionally understood and ended later — indeed, is still happening. As Trump arranges to meet face-to-face and privately with Vladimir Putin later this month, the collusion between the two men metastasizing from a dark accusation into an open alliance, it would be dangerous not to consider the possibility that the summit is less a negotiation between two heads of state than a meeting between a Russian-intelligence asset and his handler.

After that disgraceful press conference, Chait’s “possibility” seems all too likely.

40 thoughts on “Chilling…And Compelling

  1. Shiela makes the case for probable malice in the Trump family’s source of acquired wealth that motivates politically perverted overtures to the Putin regime. A good read incidental to the culture of placating Russian oligarchs is Bill Browder’s: The Red Notice. During my tenure in Jerusalem, I had the very unpleasant experience of dealing directly with operatives of the Russian Mafia in Israel. They are ruthless, and like our President, the only good deal is one which there is a winner and a loser.

  2. “The unfolding of the Russia scandal has been like walking into a dark cavern. Every step reveals that the cave runs deeper than we thought, and after each one, as we wonder how far it goes, our imaginations are circumscribed by the steps we have already taken. The cavern might go just a little farther, we presume, but probably not muchfarther.”

    “But what if that’s wrong? What if we’re still standing closer to the mouth of the cave than the end?”

    Likening our current situation – our current daily lives – to a darkened cave is an excellent metaphor. Rachel Maddow has been our guide through this darkened Trump/Putin/Russian tunnel for approximately two years; like the Thai coach and those rescuers who never gave up their efforts to save 12 boys from death; Rachel continues to guide us. But she can only guide us; we have to want to survive this life-or-death struggle and do our part, if those 12 Thai boys have the strength of mind and body to want to stay alive, surely to God the American people can find the strength and determination to fight against one mentally incompetent, adulterer, White Nationalist, super wealthy, real estate developer and former emcee of a short-lived TV program, can muster the strength and determination to survive “The Donald” and his cronies.

    What is most “Chilling…And Compelling” is the current appearance that Trump is winning; he is on the air 20/7/365 just as his dog whistle logo, “Make America Great Again”, has become the blatant Big Brother rule of law in “1984”:

    “WAR IS PEACE
    FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
    IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”

    That the strength of Trump’s ignorance leading us to war and slavery was never more apparent than the past two days.

  3. Just a reminder…how many different banks were laundering money for the mafia and drug cartels? How many of those bankers were jailed?

    None. And, it was a during a Democratic administration. And these are supposed to be the “good guys”.

    Trump was compromised long before he took office. Don’t forget, he was in the business with casino operators.

    Natacha wrote yesterday, “Once again, Republicans are at the crossroads of patriotism and greed.”

    Greed is good. Greed is America. Greed requires the largest military and surveillance state than all other countries combined.

    The USA is an empire just like all others previously. Those who are allowed to serve are compromised. Justice Kennedy is compromised. Justice Scalia was compromised.

    SCOTUS and Congress have made bribing public officials LEGAL, so guess what follows?

    Expect it and always follow the money because it is the root of ALL decision making in this country.

    Who did Indy lawmakers sell our lottery too? Who operates the casinos in Indiana?

    Do you think there isn’t money being exchanged between the operators and those in office?

    Greed and corruption are the norms in USA, Inc. There are no checks and balances. The checks and balances are only for us commoners. It’s called the surveillance state headed up by the NSA and DHS backed by the CIA.

    Putin knows exactly how it operates because he was spying on us…remember. Trump is all EGO–not intelligence. He’s easily manipulated and so are his kids.

    Just a point of reference…all the guys who lied to the FBI about their conversations with Russian players were arrested first. Do you know why the FBI knew they were lying?

    The FBI already had the recordings of their phone calls thanks to the NSA vaults.

    Don’t forget, Comey told the world that Clinton’s use of a personal phone and Blackberry was reckless…especially when visiting other countries. She was probably hacked then which started the hacks into the DCCC and DNC.

    We are getting a wake-up call but the light is only coming to the shade through a forest at this point…it’s filtered light. 😉

  4. JoAnn, your example of the cave rescue near Chiang Rai in Thailand is most appropriate to the more desirable outcome of the deep cavern anology. I was with 1,200 delegates from around the world the past 10 days in Chiang Mai. There was public prayer and updates daily for the boys and their coach. Before the onset of heavy rain and the end of our conference, there was standing applause when the coach and remaining boys emerged safely. It is a remarkable story of courage and stark bravery supported by very smart and immediate adaptive innovation during the arduous rescue. Such an operation could not have ended better if incompetence and corruption we witness from the current White House administration were playing even the most remote influence on the rescue. We will learn more of the Thai first responders with support from region volunteers and the open cooperation with International cave rescue teams. It is an example of international cooperation in which everyone, save the tragedy of the loss of one Seal, was a winner. It is a story of greatness in human endeavor that will sustain world peace for the next generation contrary to Trumpian views of the world and what he envisions as American ‘greatness’.

  5. While chilling speculation makes for interesting reading, I am concerned about something else. What if the Mueller probe does not implicate Donald Trump in conspiring with Russia meddling in our election or any other behavior that rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors?

    We are still left with a rotten President and the Democrat Party has lost its principal, sometimes exclusive, narrative articulating its opposition.

  6. I would not have ever believed such a theory but the recent defense of the President by Republicans tends to make this more plausible… the “don’t you want peace with Russia?” defense is just perfect. They ask it with a straight face, too. Priceless. Mueller is preventing peace. The media as well… and on and on. Oh well, we only have six more years of this… then we can get on with building Trump’s Presidential Library in Moscow.

  7. I recall that during the Watergate scandal, as it was exposed bit by bit over two years, one came to see that no matter how bad it seemed at that moment, it was much, much worse.

  8. Video from the Putin-trump “press conference” is set to become a staple of political advertising for the mid-terms. The list of reasons a “president” would accept the word of our enemy over his own resources is short. And to do it in front of the whole world….

  9. It is entirely possible that Russia turned Trump twenty years ago and that afterward every time Trump floated the idea that he might run for president, it was meant as a trial balloon to help Trump’s handlers assess if the time was yet ripe. And as well, his handlers hoped that public reaction to each of Trump’s I-might-run suggestions would grow a little confidence in their asset and at the same time speed the approval of superiors to initiate the plan.

  10. they sure didnt interview the people of NYC much on what they thought of trump…prior to running for prez,you might have gotten a much needed slam.

  11. Larry; Rachel Maddow reported, including films of the area in Russia, about the as yet unfinished Trump development which was erected and abandoned a few years ago. Even has a road that ends at the property. Trump and Russia certainly do have financial connections that began years ago. So many Trump/Russia reports it is difficult to remember them all but…I do believe there is also a large oil field in Russia that Trump has wanted to access…I could be wrong on that.

  12. If the Russians interfered with the 2016 election as has been proven by our Intelligence Services, why is Trump’s election valid? Following the “fruit of the poisoned tree” theory, then Pence’s election would be illegal as well. There’s no silver lining even under that theory, though. The next person in line would be Mitch McConnell, a man who has single-handedly (almost) brought us to the point of approving the worst candidate ever for the Supreme Court. Where is the Democrat Party’s outrage – and the Democrat members of Congress? We in Wisconsin are seeing the connection between Russia and our governor and former Sheriff through the NRA coming out with the latest arrest of Butina. Recently our Senator Johnson, after a trip by Republican Senators to Russia, told us that Putin is really a nice guy! The Russian sympathizers are all over! Help!

  13. My best guess as to what went on in the private Putin / trump meeting:

    Putin had the Pee Pee Tape on a loop and kept playing it while giving trump his marching orders.

    Since the American people were not allowed into this meeting, I will go with my version.

  14. The plausibility of Trump’s nefarious dealings with Russia increases every day and with every utterance from the orange hairball’s mouth. I’d be shocked if any of it wasn’t true.

    Trump probably thought he could take advantage of Russia’s weak economy, once upon a time, to make a good deal. Instead, he and his crime family got handled by the KGB remnant, Putin.

    Our citizens who still support Trump are beyond ignorant, are self-absorbed, are racist, sexist and bigoted. If that 27% of the electorate is what is going to “represent” the nation, then we are finished. These are the reasons the GOOD people must vote in very large numbers. Our representative democracy depends on it.

  15. John Neal, your comment ” What if the Mueller probe does not implicate Donald Trump in conspiring with Russia meddling in our election or any other behavior that rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors?” suggests a possibility that my gut simply will not accept. The degree to which Mueller has been banging away quietly and efficiently behind closed doors tells me that when this story starts unfolding there will be absolutely no doubt about the extent of guilt all suspected actors (and then some) possess. Judging by the minimal snippets of indictments already released, I would say these investigators are sitting on a mountain of information we will all need a bulldozer to plough through, but which will scream collusion, illegal behavior, and inumerous messes that will leave us stunned. That is if any of it is allowed to see the light of day. I fear for Mueller and his team. They are dealing with the scum of the earth and these people have no limits.
    To lighten things up a bit, (yeah, I know I am a sarcastic critter) regarding the pitiful Helsinki summit, I have only heard a few voices in the wilderness demanding to know (via the American interpreter) what was discussed behind closed doors such as the promise between Putin and Trump about the Syrian War

  16. The House speaker, Paul Ryan, told reporters: “They did interfere in our elections. It’s really clear. There should be no doubt about that. Russia is trying to undermine democracy itself.”
    “I understand the desire and the need to have good relations. That’s perfectly reasonable. But Russia is a menacing government that does not share our interests and it does not share our values.”
    ====================================================================
    Ohh, the big Red Menace in Moscow now stands accused of interfering in Our Elections and undermining democracy here in the USA.

    Millions of dollars spent in our elections by Pacs, Super Pacs, lavish parties by lobbyists are ignored, since it is “Legal Free Speech”. It was not the Russians who decided and then celebrated the Citizens United decision. It was not the Russians who engineered coast to coast gerrymandering, super delegates in the “Democratic Party” or voter suppression. So let’s toss out the Red Herring of the Russians and ignore our Plutocrat controlled political system.

    Yesterday, I watched some FOX, CNN, and MSDNC. What a bitter taste. It is like watching an old Star Trek rerun- you know how it will end. You know the conclusions each Network Host and the panel of experts will reach. The panel of experts change during the show, like actors on a stage but they are only there to reach the preordained conclusion.

    I suppose the only thing left is to accuse The Trumpet (aka Agent Orange) as a modern day American Kim Philby to keep the hysteria at a high level. I have little doubt there are financial connections among the plutocrats of the world. The loyalty of the plutocrats is only to themselves, country is always of secondary importance.

  17. I have complete confidence that Mueller’s team is digging in the dirt every day and are too busy to leak anything. Can you imagine working on that team and what they are finding out? I can only imagine that they are dealing with mob bosses, hit men and mountains of money from every bank in the world. There’s a Swiss bank in the center of town here that has no name on it, it was built within the last decade and is made with marble. According to my hubby and UK friends, that’s one of those Swiss banks that doesn’t belong even to Switzerland. As you cross the threshold of the door, you enter an entity that isn’t Swiss, isn’t American or European. It’s its own country. I took a photo of it today while I was at that plaza and it’s a shame I can’t share it on this blog. My friend’s hubby works there and I would LOVE to get a job there and find out what the hell is actually going on there. I’m sure Mueller knows and I bet there’s some of Putin’s cash or IQ45’s loans that were processed in that “bank.”

  18. We have become perhaps too used to giving our President the benefit of all doubt. It could be argued up until now that they typically served that.

    If that were ever to be wrong it would be now. We all know that. What’s standing in our way now of dealing honestly with that is only the GOP.

    Let’s move them out of the way on Nov 6.

  19. Trump is obviously in thrall to his modern day RasPutin and the Republicans are in thrall to Trump. What’s not obvious is what could the Russians have on Trump that would cause his cult following to abandon him. Certainly not the pee tape. Trump has publicly stated that he could shoot someone and still not be held accountable by his supporters. I believe that he’s in much more danger from whatever Mueller has discovered than whatever Putin has. If Trump can discredit reputable news agencies and his supporters go along with that, he can certainly discredit the Russians. But Mueller is another story.

    I believe that Mueller will have overwhelming evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors by the time his report comes out if it ever does. The Republicans may try to stop it. They are already in the process of building a case to remove Rosenstein. That would allow his successor to fire Mueller. Republicans have gone on record as supporting Mueller, but their continued efforts to investigate and discredit the investigators belie their words. They are like the parents of problem children who refuse to acknowledge the problem and instead blame the teachers, the schools, and the authorities who report the problem.

    So it’s important that we get a Democratic majority in Congress. Otherwise, I’m afraid the Republicans, who are too far steeped in blood to return, will do everything possible to keep Trump from being held to account and their own complicity in his excesses. I think the Mueller report will force the Republicans to admit where their loyalty lies – with the nation or Trump. And they will have to answer for their failure to act sooner.

  20. Maywin and John; I believe we all know there is NO CHANCE Trump will be exonerated by Robert Mueller’s deep-throat investigation. Trump, himself, is proving that a foregone conclusion with his own big, constantly running mouth. If he were innocent he would be demanding the investigation be protected and continue to prove his innocence. Let him rant and rave on…and on, and on, and on, and on. Just as his own big, constantly running mouth invited Putin and Russia into his presidential campaign, his denial of ever supporting Putin is empty. As empty as his walking back “wouldn’t” instead of “would” then walking that excuse back by again stating “there could be others”. The truth is easily remembered to be repeated if asked; it is lies that are difficult to remember.

  21. When Mueller starts moving in on his inner circle 45 will start a crisis. A subpeona was sent to Kushner, but blocked by secret service multiple times over several months! Courts are now working on other ways to notify!

  22. Per John Neal – Let’s take it a step further. Suppose Mueller finally reports (and that’s a big supposition) that though there was Russian meddling in our election Trump was totally uninvolved. So? If there had never been Russian meddling in our internal affairs Trump is still a dictator-loving, morally defunct, abysmally ignorant, blustering and bullying and racketeering greedhog who should not be within ten miles of the Oval Office, so speaking of conspiracy theories – try this on for size > Trump likes this Russian investigation because it can be handled by attacking the prosecutors and diverts our attention from his Mafia racketeering and international money laundering operations etc. Far out? Perhaps not. Perhaps that is what Trump really fears most from Mueller’s noseying around in his criminal empire of suspicious loans from money laundering banks such as Deutsche Bank, for instance.

  23. Once we get Republicans out of Congress one of the first of the Trump Reforms is making publication of candidates tax returns mandatory.

    I have a feeling that if we had seen the Trump taxes prior to the election we would have seen how far he was in hoc to Russian oligarchs.

  24. I was out and about and read a free copy (I refuse to buy The Star) of the Indianapolis Star. Russ Pulliam, the resident bible thumper columnist wonders if there could there be a Pence path to the White House. No mention of the Kiel Bros bankruptcy and leaving the citizens to clean-up the mess. Cleanup of Pence family gas stations cost Indiana more than $20 million. http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-pence-family-gas-stations-indiana-20180713-story.html

    Pence is a good bible thumper and that is all you need to know, if the environment is poisoned – we can offer thoughts prayers for those people who have to suffer for it. . I should mention also the other resident bible thumper Gary Varvel has his cartoons and a column too.

  25. I have not come out of this state of trauma I entered while watching our supposed president stand and grovel and then after returning home read a pathetic excuse for make up of ‘mistakes’ uh, about that: he is continuing to speak the rhetoric of Helsinki. He is not sorry. He is bent on walking HELL itself in the front door! He is a traitor, plain and simple and that is the raw fact. Let’s end this clown show – enough of the shock and awe! We knew what he was before he got in – it is almost two years now and he has corrupted and corroded our government and its policies to the roots. The tree is dying people – either we end HIM and his administration entirely or we may wake up dead. And that is not a threat, that is a probability.

  26. And, then, there’s this today from the NYTimes:

    “In brief remarks ahead of a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Trump said Mr. Putin was not happy because “there’s never been a president as tough on Russia as I have been.”’

    I don’t give a damn what some bloggers think of the media – they’re mostly biased anyway – because those hard-working, underpaid patriots of FACTS and TRUTH allow us all to have our say in response. So, I say to them like Todd and ML, “Get off their backs and show respect where it is due. Read a paper for a change and put down your TV remote!”

  27. You really need to ban Vernon. Everyday it’s the same old shtick. All he offers is the same old attacks upon commenters. Hell,his posts at Kos never garner much of a response because most folks know he’s nothing but a blowhard that hides behind internet machismo–all in a vain effort to sell his books that can only be self published because they’re not worth the paper they’re printed on..

  28. If Democrats want to win in November,the party better start offering good candidates. Plus,there’s more to life than Trump,Trump,Trump and endless fearmongering. Issues? Where? Oh,Russia,Russia and gosh darn it–Russia!

    But by doing that,where would the chorus of outrage be? There’s not much cachet and opportunities for $$$$ in that,now is there?

  29. Well, well. If it isn’t the return of the prodigal (Fill in your own word), William. He, who has just claimed this blog and its bloggers are idiots, shows up again to attack someone he doesn’t know, doesn’t understand and doesn’t read. Perfect. Maybe he should start his own blog and do and say everything that suits his particular agenda. That way all will sweetness and light, things not threatening to a very weak mind.

  30. William; maybe both of us are watching too much Trump, you have lost all semblance of common sense and this morning I put orange juice on my cereal. I do not recommend it; have enough of my common sense remaining I did recognize my mistake and corrected it. Will – can – you do the same?

    Referring to regaining your common sense, not pour orange juice on your cereal.

  31. On Common Dreams I found out the following: ‘Our Democracy Is Under Attack’: Broad Coalition Hosts 175+ #ConfrontCorruption Vigils Nationwide,

    ‘Historic’ Step in Fight for Universal Healthcare: Over 60 House Democrats to Launch Medicare for All Caucus – Building on the rapidly growing wave of support for Medicare for All at the grassroots and on Capitol Hill, more than 60 House Democrats are forming an official Medicare for All Caucus with the goal of closely examining specific policy components of single-payer and seriously discussing the steps necessary to implement it in the United States. https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/07/18/historic-step-fight-universal-healthcare-over-60-house-democrats-launch-medicare-all

    I think I can be certain Nancy Pelosi will not be joining in the rally. Millions of Americans with no health care or inadequate heath care, but the Corporate Wing of the Democratic Party views these poor souls with profound indifference.

    I doubt if either of these events receive any coverage from the McMega-Media.

    Joe Lieberman has crawled out from under a rock. You remember Joe Lieberman a former member of the Democratic Party, he was the party’s nominee for Vice President of the United States in the 2000 election. Joe is urging defeated New York Rep. Joe Crowley to disregard the will of voters and mount a third-party bid against democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

    According to Lieberman “Ocasio-Cortez is a proud member of the Democratic Socialists of America, whose platform, like hers, is more Socialist than Democratic,” Lieberman wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. “For the sake of Congress and our country, I hope Joe Crowley will give all the voters of his district the opportunity to re-elect him in November—and I hope they find his name on their ballots.”

    Socialism is the real menace to the Corporate Democrats.

  32. From Todd . . . .”Just a reminder…how many different banks were laundering money for the mafia and drug cartels? How many of those bankers were jailed?” NONE

    and how many slaver oligarchs got richer on the CHEAP labor of undocumented workers and were jailed for hiring the undocumented? NONE

  33. Wow! This made me bust out laughing!!

    “Marv Kramer
    July 18, 2018 at 8:43 am
    “Wow! I just can’t wait until Mike Pence is my President.”

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