Poot and POTUS Plan to Move Beyond the Mueller Investigation

I think people are misunderstanding something that happened the other day when Trump called Vladimir Putin. As the press reports, Trump initiated the call. The remarkably brief readout from the White House makes it clear Trump called to thank Putin for saying nice things about the economy (many have taken that as Trump’s declaration that he values such flattery, which is no doubt true, but Trump didn’t write the readout).

President Donald J. Trump spoke with President Vladimir Putin of Russia today.  President Trump thanked President Putin for acknowledging America’s strong economic performance in his annual press conference.

The two presidents also discussed working together to resolve the very dangerous situation in North Korea.

The even briefer formal readout from the Russian side (and this is unusual for them) said only,

Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with US President Donald Trump at the initiative of the American side.

Though reports state that the Kremlin said the men also discussed US-Russian ties.

The Kremlin said Thursday the two men discussed US-Russia ties and increasing tensions on the Korean peninsula, an issue that Putin chastised the United States for in earlier comments.

Other reports note that HR McMaster did not participate in the call.

The leaders talked for about 10 minutes, and national security adviser H.R. McMaster didn’t participate in the call, a White House official said.

So Trump saw reports that Putin mentioned him in his annual press conference, and called him up to comment about it, without an adult present.

Of course (as Politico notes but doesn’t focus on), Putin’s reference to Trump’s alleged success with the economy isn’t the most pointed thing he said in his press conference. Here’s the full exchange between ABC’s Terry Moran and Putin.

Terry Moran: Thank you, Mr President. Terry Moran with ABC News.

First, in the United States investigations by Congress, the Department of Justice and the media have uncovered a very large number of contacts between Russian citizens associated with your government and high officials of the Trump campaign. And some of those officials are now being prosecuted for lying about those contacts. All this is not normal. And many Americans are saying where there is that much smoke there must be fire. How would you explain to Americans the sheer number of contact between the Trump campaign and your government?

And second, if I may. It has almost been a year since Donald Trump has been elected president. You praised Donald Trump during the campaign. What is your assessment of Donald Trump as president after one year? Spasibo.

Vladimir Putin: Let us begin with the second part of your question. It is not for me to evaluate Donald Trump’s work. This should be done by his electorate, the American people. But we do see some major achievements, even over the short period he has been in office. Look at the markets, which have grown. This is evidence of investors’ trust in the US economy. This means they trust what President Trump is doing in this area. With all due respect to President Trump’s opposition in the United States, these are objective factors.

There are also things he would probably like to do but has not been able to do so far, such as a healthcare reform and several other areas. By the way, he said his intentions in foreign policy included improving relations with Russia. It is clear that he has been unable to do this because of the obvious constraints, even if he wanted to. In fact, I do not know if he still wants to or has exhausted the desire to do this; you should ask him. I hope that he does and that we will eventually normalise our relations to the benefit of the American and Russian people, and that we will continue to develop and will overcome the common and well-known threats, such as terrorism, environmental problems, weapons of mass destruction, crises around the world, including in the Middle East, the North Korean problem, etc. There are many things we can do much more effectively together in the interests of our people than we are doing them now. Actually, we can do everything more effectively together.

Terry Moran: How would you explain the connection between the government, your government, and the Trump campaign? How would you explain it to Americans?

Vladimir Putin(In English.) I see, I see. (In Russian.) You know that all this was invented by the people who stand in opposition to Mr Trump to present his work as illegitimate. It seems strange to me, and I mean it, that the people who are doing this do not seem to realise that they are damaging the internal political climate in the country, that they are decimating the possibilities of the elected head of state. This means that they do not respect the people who voted for him.

How do you see any election process worldwide? Do we need to ban any contacts at all? Our ambassador has been accused of meeting with someone. But this is standard international practice when a diplomatic representative and even Government members meet with all the candidates, their teams, when they discuss various issues and development prospects, when they want to understand what certain people will do after assuming power and how to respond to this. What kind of extraordinary things did anyone see in this? And why should all this take on the nature of spy mania?

You have watched the investigation on social media. The share of Russian corporate advertising makes up less than 0.01 percent, with that of American companies totaling 100, 200 and 300 percent. It is simply incomparable. But, for some reason, even this is seen as excessive. This is some kind of gibberish.

The same can be said about the situation with our media outlets, including RT and Sputnik. But their share in the overall information volume is negligible, as compared to the share of global US media outlets all over the world and in Russia. And this is seen as a threat. Then what about freedom of the media? This is actually a cornerstone, on which American democracy itself is based.

All of us should realise that someone succeeds and someone does not. We need to draw conclusions from this and move on, instead of pouncing on one another like animals. We need to think about this and draw conclusions.

Moran starts by noting that Trump’s people are now being prosecuted for lying about contacts with Russians, and asks why there were so many contacts. He then invites Putin to comment on Trump’s success.

Putin responds by saying it’s not his place to evaluate Trump’s success (elsewhere in the press conference Putin made grand show of respecting Russia’s democracy, too), but then goes ahead and does so, claiming that the economy is an “objective” success of Trump’s.

Moran has to prod him to get a direct answer on the second point. Putin repeats a Republican talking point — that the investigation “was invented by the people who stand in opposition to Mr Trump to present his work as illegitimate” — and complains about this “spy mania.” But then he doesn’t address the allegations that Russian spies were cozying up to Trump’s officials, not just its ambassador; he instead focuses on the social media investigation (and rightly points out that Russian social media had just a fraction of the impact of equally problematic right wing social media manipulation).

It’s the middle bit — what might have been Putin’s first response to Moran’s question about the investigation — that I suspect elicited Trump’s call to Putin.

I do not know if he still wants to or has exhausted the desire to do this; you should ask him. I hope that he does and that we will eventually normalise our relations to the benefit of the American and Russian people.

Having gotten Trump’s attention with a bullshit compliment, Putin then asked, “do you still want to go steady?”

Putin’s question — do you still want to normalize relations — came against the background of increasing Russian challenges in Syria, the theater where, even according to Jared Kushner’s public comments, the Russia-Trump cooperation was supposed to first bear fruit.

“On Dec. 13, two Russian Su-25s flew into coordinated coalition airspace on the east side of the Euphrates River near Abu Kamal, Syria,” the spokesman said, “and were promptly intercepted by two F-22A Raptors providing air cover for partner ground forces conducting operations to defeat ISIS.”

The U.S. jets used chaff, flares, and other maneuvers to “persuade the Su-25s to depart,” said the spokesman, and also made repeated calls on N emergency channel to the Russian pilots. Coalition leaders also contacted Russians on the ground along the deconfliction line. After 40 minutes, the Russians flew back to the west side of the Euphrates.

The U.S. and Russia verbally agreed in early November that Russian aircraft would stay west of the Euphrates and American jets would stay east. According to the spokesman, since the Russians are now crossing the river six to eight times a day, “it’s become increasingly tough for our pilots to discern whether Russian pilots’ actions are deliberate or if these are just honest mistakes.”

“Are you still interested,” Putin asked, while making it clear Russia could make Trump’s life far more difficult that it is currently doing.

And Trump got on the phone and said … we don’t know what he said, but we can sure guess.

In the wake of it, Trump’s team leaked details of their request to meet with Robert Mueller next week to find out whether the probe will, as Ty Cobb has absurdly been claiming for some time, be drawing to a close.

President Donald Trump’s private lawyers are slated to meet with special counsel Robert Mueller and members of his team as soon as next week for what the President’s team considers an opportunity to gain a clearer understanding of the next steps in Mueller’s probe, according to sources familiar with the matter.

While the lawyers have met with Mueller’s team before and might again, the sources believe the upcoming meeting has greater significance because it comes after the completion of interviews of White House personnel requested by the special counsel and after all requested documents have been turned over. Mueller could still request more documents and additional interviews. No request to interview the President or the vice president has been made, sources tell CNN.

But Trump’s team, led by John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, is hoping for signs that Mueller’s investigation is nearing its end, or at least the part having to do with the President. Their goal is to help Trump begin to emerge from the cloud of the ongoing investigation, several of the sources explained. The sources acknowledge that Mueller is under no obligation to provide any information and concede they may walk away with no greater clarity.

If such a meeting does occur, it will come amid the rumors that Trump plans to fire Mueller. Either Mueller finishes up and gives Trump an all clear, and soon, the message seems to be, or Trump will ensure Mueller can’t report the opposite.

Putin wants to get on with things, with making good on his investment in Donald Trump. And in response to that message, Trump made moves towards trying to end the investigation that would show such a plan would be the quid pro quo for Putin’s help getting Trump elected.

35 replies
    • bmaz says:

      I know I am a broken record on this, but framing anything in terms of “collusion” is nuts. There is, and I kid you not, NO such thing in the criminal law. It is not even a “term of art” in criminal law. It is false framing.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Don’t let bad framing grind you down.  Meanwhile, it probably helps to remind people, as you thankfully do, that there are plenty of real crimes that Mr. Trump and his team might have committed that could put them in serious jeopardy.

        My favorite thought is that Mueller’s team have and are gobsmacked at what they’ve found by analyzing Donald’s tax returns.  That could be the beginning of the yellow brick road, the golden money trail, that trips up Mr. Trump, his aides and Russian helpers, and his empire, to protect which he would expose himself to any liability for obstruction.  Scooter, after all, nearly went to jail just to protect Dick Cheney.

        Mr. Mueller is not the kind of guy to waste time on unpaid parking tickets or throwing stones at the hundreds of movers and shakers who routinely disregard registering as lobbyists for foreign interests.  Perhaps he has a lump of coal for Donald’s stocking this year.

  1. Desider says:

    Funny how Bill’s short tarmac meeting with Lynch caused such an outcry (even though he’ds not her boss nor in government), but dozens and dozens (may I say hundreds?) of bizarre, unethical, tainted meetings are supposed to provoke only support.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    How satisfying is oral sex over the phone?  Enquiring minds want to know.

    Again we have Putin whistling and Donald running madly, sitting quietly, waiting for his treat and a pat on the head.  What does Vlad have over Mr. Trump that makes the Donald sit up and beg for Vlad when all he does for everyone else is snarl and bare his sometimes glued in teeth?

    • Kim Kaufman says:

      Putin’s possibly the richest guy in the whole world. And Trump isn’t. I suspect it has more to do with business deals that enrich Trump than anything having to do with world peace. Maybe I’m cynical but I don’t think Trump gives much of a crap about anything else.

  3. matt says:

    I agree with your intuitive analysis, reading between the lines, Marcy.

    I would like to make a strong point that both the Democratic and Republican administrations have been in lock-step agreement with aggressive foreign policy towards Russia. The irony, is that informed progressives should be listening to Putin’s requests for some bilateral cooperation in the world theater. While we can reject Trump’s ridiculous pandering to Financial Elite, Nationalists, and Christian Extremists, cooperation with Russia is the ONE ISSUE that we should agree with him on.

    Like many other foreign powers, Russia has an existential stake in American elections… because our foreign policy directly affects interests in their own backyards. We are the Imperial Hegemon for whom all subject nations must seek blessing.

    Trump is only sympathetic to allowing Russia a seat at the Big-Nation’s table because Putin has him by the short and curlies. The outcome of the Russia investigation is certain- you will have your popcorn either watching Trump go down via impeachment from Mueller’s charges, or kompromat retaliation from Putin.

    But in that day of victory for progressives, will we have forgotten the serious call to self-reflection on our disastrous US foreign policy that was brought to our attention by non other than Bratty, Bad-Hair, Trump?

    • greengiant says:

      Cooperation with a regime, not a country, where it is common to kill journalists and ex intelligence community members in the streets of the capital, and for that matter all over the world, would appear to be amoral. Today 80,000 dollars for activists,  tomorrow hundreds and hundreds of millions spent on our elections. I guess the denial could be strong if you have never been hacked and never been attacked by these criminals. Or if they were your allies oryour employers. Note the quotes of the exact level of the currently revealed Putin bots enabled by willing media firms with Slavic owners.

        • greengiant says:

          As in what about Clinton, what about K street governance, what about Israel and JACPAC, what about the neo-libs and so on? Sure KSA for 9-11,Taliban,Yemen,Iraq and Syria for starters. One snake at a time here.

          Any “normalization” Trump style you can watch the Baltics kiss their asses goodbye.  Tom Barrack can do better than shill for IP3 and Putin in this manner. This talk of ending sanctions and good business to be had for oligarchs should reference other US scams like Theranos/Mattis,  Lehman Brothers,  Bear Stearns,  MF Global, LTCM.  Special thanks Matt for bringing up IP3 and more firmly planting the Flynn Barrack Apollo connection to #TrumpRussia.

    • emptywheel says:

      I’m actually sympathetic to the idea that the US needs to be less belligerent to Russian and that we made a ton of mistakes in the relationship.

      But Trump is not capable of understanding how to do a reset–he’s being badly used.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I agree that we need to improve relations with Russia, with China, with Europe, with Honduras, pretty much the whole world.  If that were Trump’s goal, one of his top priorities would not be gutting the State Department.  Because the US can’t achieve improvements with anybody through uncoordinated personal statements by Trump or the one-man show that is Rex Tillerson.

        Trump is gutting the State Dept, and Tillerson has bought into that as a way to implement whatever outside adviser proposed reorganization he has in mind.  (It’s always a red flag when the CEO refuses to tell the troops what plans for change he has in mind, when all he’s visibly doing is driving his best and brightest out the door and says that outcome is just fine.)

        I agree that Trump is being badly used.  He’s been badly out-negotiated, so much so that he can’t admit it.  Trump is therefore abusing and will continue to abuse his country.  Useful idiot, indeed, but for whom?

      • matt says:

        Agreed here too.  He’s only going to bat for Russia, because of financial ties or kompromat.  He has no understanding whatsoever of diplomacy.

        I see the behind the scenes rift in Russian foreign policy is between Big Energy and Big Military.  There is a fraction in our State Dept and military ranks that do not see a successful end game for perpetual conflict and war with Russians, Muslim Extremists, North Koreans, and maybe even our own  social dissidents.  The IP3 plan was an alternative to the current policy quagmire in the Middle East.  The only looser in this shift in foreign policy are the corporations/investors that depend on expanding Military conflict.  But, plenty of other corporations would benefit from a revival of “Marshall Plan” economics.  Rex/Exxon had already jumped off the world police bandwagon and began negotiating shared resource wealth (and consequently shared responsibility in world governance) with Russia.  The IP3 plan showed that Flynn represented a cadre of high level business interests that were ready to support new Nuclear Energy economies in developing nations, so that our need for oil/gas extractions (for our 20th century infrastructure) would not compete with their needs for development.  I can find plenty of fault with the plan too, but at this point it is the only alternative that I’ve heard of to the current sociopathic world vision of US hegemonic military mayhem.

  4. Watson says:

    I’m hoping that Kim Jong-un will troll the Prez with something like ‘Mr. Trump has done such a masterful job with the US economy, I’m sure that he will be able to reach an agreement between our countries.’

    • uncle tungsten says:

      Great comment Watson, but as I recall The USA owes billions in reparations to North Korea for the 30,000 tons of napalm and 650,000 tons of bombs dropped on its villages in 1950’s war. That is what North Korean people need to bring their country forward and that is what KJL may be setting as a condition of talks.

      Then of course there are quite a few other nations and peoples that are fully entitled to war reparations from the USA and that tends to complicate the picture a little.

      • bmaz says:

        Excellent…..”Uncle”…..by what intercontinental missile do you think a proper US government may send that?

  5. greengiant says:

    “they do not respect the people who voted for him”  Ponder that election manipulation might be more monitored than you think. Certainly there are a lot of actors who want to know when where who how the fix is in everywhere in the world. Scamming at the ballot is the same as scamming at the poker table or scamming on Wall Street in the sense that multiple actors want to know. That has me wondering how many different dimes will drop on team Trump.

  6. Bay State Librul says:

    When Bobby meets Donnie —

    We are watching obstruction of justice in real time.
    Don the Con will try to fire Mueller.
    After next weeks meeting, Mueller will issue this terse statement: “I am happy to announce that you have been selected for inclusion on the short list of liars. I hereby authorize you to send by return mail, a letter of resignation. If not, we will proceed with
    obstruction charges.”
    The Con Man will then commence the Christmas Week massacre.
    Stay tuned.

  7. Jonathan House MD says:

    Is this to distracting or foolish a question to ask here?  Patrick Armstrong, who blogs intelligently on Russia, wrote this today on a site I am not familiar with.  Here below is the link.  The gist is that the notion of Russia attempting to help Trump is silly. The method of argument is to think what Russia could have done had they wanted to help Trump and/or attack Hillary.  It’s only 1400 words.  I find it convincing and would be grateful if those here tell me why it isn’t.


    Jonathan House

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Putin influencing US elections is not silly, it’s a wet dream.  That he’s done it seems clear.  How much he’s done remains a question, as does exactly what he has on Trump to make him act uniquely in Putin’s favor.  That Putin could have done more or done it more openly or easily or in another way isn’t the point.  Being opaque or unclear is an end in itself: it creates more chaos.

      The notion of the CIA dictating or influencing elections in Guatemala, Honduras, Italy, France, the UK, Australia seems silly, too.  But the record is clear.  We’ve done it, in a big way, for decades, and we’re still doing it.  Putin has similar interests in influencing foreign elections, especially the US, his longstanding rival.  And he has new computer methods available to him.

      Putin wins by enabling chaos in his chief rival and the lynch pin of the alliances that stand in his way.  He has that and more, a virtual hat trick: No Hillary, whom he disliked and, whatever her priorities, could govern.   We do have Trump, and the daily chaos he creates through his inability to focus, let alone to govern, and his need to constantly distract from this so that his base doesn’t notice.  And we have Trump’s apparent vulnerability to Putin for reasons yet unknown, but which likely relates to Trump’s finances.

      This is not so much about Hillary as about Not Hillary and about chaos.  Exactly the sort of thing that could have been taken from the CIA playbook, or its Russian counterpart.  Meanwhile, China is happily working on its own game plan.

      • zonefreezone says:

        I read the article you recommended from The Lawfare blog, a Ben Wittes joint, in spite of the fact that it was written by a Republican and appeared TLTR.

        The value of reading it was further undermined by the authors’ statement in the opening paragraph that:

        ” I am not, in this post, considering the evidence—such as it is—of donations to the Clinton Foundation.”

        He helpfully adds:

               “My reasoning is simple: if there is no “quo” to be given, the question of a “quid” is moot.)”

        He will not be discussing  1.money 2. the Clintons or 3. the intersection of 1 & 2.

        I give the author credit for transparency. He’s very clear. This is a sound strategy.

        Guess what? He finds the Uranium One deal is totally on the up & up.

        So simple. More lawyers should try this. Just leave out the incriminating bits.


        I have to say I was bowled over by EW’s observation “Putin didn’t think he’d win”

        I agree. Thank you.

        Anyone with time to spare should read this March 2008 Huffington Post column. It’s about the Dubai Ports deal. The issues it raises are so resonant with those of Uranium One. This includes the vulgar details.


        • bmaz says:

          Okay, calling Lawfare “a Ben Wittes joint” is asinine. There are many involved there, but it was started not just by Ben, but also by Bobby Chesney and Jack Goldsmith. Paul Rosenzweig, who is the actual author of that article, was also very early central there, and is a friend, both to me and this blog. And every word of his debunking of the Uranium One tripe is spot on.  Which is quite different than your idiotic Dubai Ports jackassery.

  8. Rapier says:

    There is no proper way to discuss this without the history. The history of the Bloodlands.


    ” Bloodlands will be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the central tragedy of modern history.
    That’s right, The central tragedy of modern history.  And we are kibbuzing about some ham fisted social media hacking off the candidate who along with her husband invited open, again, the Bloodlands.  In Kosovo, Bosnia, Ukraine. Covertly truth be told, a racist war against Slavs.  Make no mistake, We did everything possible to make it happen. To bring partisan warfare and heavy weapons into the Balkan’s and Ukraine. For what. The ‘freedom’ of the EU. The floundering EU whose southern tier has seen no new jobs since 2001, or something like that. It didn’t have to happen. Bush 1 promised we would not expand NATO. Clinton thought it was a great idea so that he could look strong.  Never mind, he reopened the Bloodlands. On behalf of liberals, if you can believe it. What did we get? Camp Bondsteel in the pretend country Kosovo. Nobody goes there.
    Now people are stuck defending the CIA, the FBI, and the State Deparment which as close as the summer of 16 had 50 ‘diplomats’ urging a no fly zone in Syria with certain confrontation with Russian forces, and more weapons for the last batch of moderates. For what exactly? There were already 400,000 dead, millions of refugees.  As far as I know Sophie’s Choice is one of Trumps favorite movies because he loves the part where she has to choose her son or daughter. Whatever ill formed plan he has for the old Bloodlands, it can’t be any worse than Clintonism brought them.  That’s the Russian calculus. They got an idiot with Trump, which will do just fine as long as China’s dream of inflating all Asia; SE, Southern, Central, all the way to Europe is working. Them joining in.

    The Russians are coming narrative tends to collapse under it’s own weight. Sure, formally, it’s a serious counter intelligence with some political/legal stuff attached story. But the 15 million or so souls and ghosts of the murdered in those lands caught between Hitler and Stalin were and are still close there, and we choose to disturb them. Guess what, They came back.  Attack Trump all you want but like in the Bloodlands itself then and pretty much now, there are no good guys in this story over here. Certainly not Clinton.



    • matt says:

      I couldn’t have said it better.  These are the thoughts that both sides of the MSM will not touch.  We have a reckoning coming, I just hope with the last vestiges of good faith in the world, the USA heads its mighty Ship of State in the right direction.

  9. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Next week WH learns stuff.

    Note the date. Wheels of justice grind slow.


    The accounts had been opened by Irakly Kaveladze, who immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1991, according to Citibank and Mr. Kaveladze. He set up more than 2,000 corporations in Delaware for Russian brokers and then opened the bank accounts for them, without knowing who owned the corporations, according to the report by the General Accounting Office, which has not been made public.

    The report said the banks had failed to conduct any ”due diligence” into identifying the owners of the accounts.

    ”It is clear in hindsight that our systems and tracking procedures were not sufficient to detect the nature and extent of his relationship with us,” the bank said, referring to Mr. Kaveladze. The letter, signed by the general counsel, Michael A. Ross, for the Global Consumer Business at Citigroup Inc., went on, ”Given enhancements to our systems and procedures, we are confident that we would detect questionable activity and take action more promptly should a similar situation arise today.”

    [Ross did not know Y2K stuff happening inside CITI IT. And an issue with a software system inside CITI that may have caught this]

    • Larry of Orange says:

      Yes “stolen half of Russia”, but didn’t they steal it back from U.S.-approved & facilitated oligarchs who originally stole it in the 1990s?  Not that either is good for the Russian people of course.

      • matt says:

        We rigged the ’96 election of Yeltsin (8% popularity) to continue the IMF/Wall St. neo-liberal re-distribution of Russia’s wealth.  We paid for activists in the streets of Moscow, loaned millions to Yeltsin for his bankrupt campaign, and solicited the support of the Russian mafia/oligarchs who “allegedly” tinkered with the ballot boxes  (Did the same or worse in Ukraine too).  It’s pathetic that we cry “foul’ for the little slap on our collective USA ass in the 2016 election.  Especially in light of the fact that we had so many other internal factors that were arguably much more influential in the Trump win.

  10. пнх says:

    Mueller is wrapped around the axle because all he ever finds is more Israeli moles, so of course the Russia investigation’s grinding to a halt.

    Maybe when you’ve taken down masterspy Trump with your extremely convincing glassy-eyed party dupe certainty, you can go back in a time machine and shoot JFK for talking to Kruschev before Oswald gets him with the Mannlicher Carcano.

    How did you turn into such a sad hack?

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