How Putin Got in Trump’s (and So, All of Our) Head

As of 8AM on December 22, this tweet has over 50,000 likes and almost 11,000 RTs.

The AP story he RTed selectively reported Vladimir Putin’s taunt in response to a Dmitry Simes’ question at his yearly epic press conference (posed well into the process, even after a possibly more interesting exchange about doping and the Olympics).

In context, Putin’s response is not that inflammatory. It uses domestic US politics as a way to pressure Trump to sign START-3. (I’ve italicized the Putin language that AP took out of context and provided their own translation of; also note: Simes was himself a subject of the Mueller investigation for the early advice he gave Jared Kushner on how to manage this relationship and is close to a number of key members of Congress.)

D. Simes:  Channel One, The Big Game.

D. Peskov : Please give a microphone.

D. Simes:  Mr. President, two days ago the US Congress passed bills on sanctions against Russia. Moreover, by such a majority that it would be very difficult for President Trump to maintain his veto.

And, as you probably know, the House of Representatives passed an impeachment act yesterday. This is the context in which he has to make decisions on foreign policy as a whole and more specifically, of course, in relation to Russia.

In this situation, what, do you think, do you and Russia have the opportunity to try to maintain or strengthen dialogue with the United States until the end of Trump’s presidency? What can you do for strategic stability, and more specifically, for the extension of the strategic offensive arms treaty START-3?

Vladimir Putin:  Regarding the extension of our dialogue until the end of Trump’s presidency, it’s as if you are already raising the question that it is ending. I’m just not sure about that. You also need to go through the Senate, where the Republicans, as far as I know, have the majority, and they are unlikely to want to remove the representative of their party from power for some, in my opinion, absolutely far-fetched reasons.

It’s just a continuation of the internal political struggle, and one party that lost the election, the Democratic Party, it is achieving results by other means, by other means, charging Trump with conspiracy with Russia, then it turns out that there was no conspiracy, this cannot lie in the basis of impeachment. Now they have come up with some kind of pressure on Ukraine. I don’t know what it is … But it’s more visible to your congressmen.

As for those decisions that are made in [respect] of Russia. They are accepted by people who practically do not bear responsibility for these decisions. These are not executive authorities, but representative ones, they must pass laws. They make such decisions regarding Russia.

Of course, this will affect the level of our interstate relations. We know the general approach, which is that the United States will work with us where it is interesting and profitable, and at the same time will restrain Russia with the help of solutions of this kind. Knowing this, we, too, will act in a mirror image, and that’s it. There is nothing good about it. These are absolutely unfriendly acts against Russia.

They want to help Ukraine maintain transit. I just told a colleague from Ukraine: we ourselves want to preserve transit, we are interested in this anyway and will do it. If you wanted to help, it would be better if they gave money. Why don’t they give money to Ukraine? Would give them the opportunity to subsidize.

Look, because they almost do not give money, they give only guarantees for possible loans, but this is not real money – there is no real support. And the IMF, at the same time as the United States, is demanding that all privileges for energy resources, including gas, be canceled. And now the population will again have a leap.

Other Westerners, the EU, are demanding that the round timber be exported and allowed to be exported to Europe. There will soon be nothing left of the Carpathians – bare rocks will be there if they take out the round timber. It seems like they support the current Ukrainian regime and leadership, but at the same time, in my opinion, they are doing some serious blows.

Now they demand that land be sold. For Ukrainians, the land has sacred significance, and I can understand it: these are the “golden” lands. Of course, the opposition immediately took advantage of this, now it begins to inflict domestic political blows on Zelensky.

They accuse us of something in relation to Ukraine, they allegedly want to help, but they really want to do something so that Ukraine replenishes its budget at the Russian expense. Give money yourself, help, give good loans at preferential rates for a long period. There is nothing.

Nevertheless, we are interested in developing and maintaining relations with the United States, and we will do this regardless of who is in the White House or who controls both houses of the US Congress.

Are there any prospects here? I think there is. You yourself mentioned one of the foundations on the basis of which we must build our relations – these are global security issues, including START-3. We have given our proposals, I have already said, and I want to repeat once again: until the end of the year we are ready to simply extend, just to take and extend the current START-3 agreement.

If tomorrow they send us by mail, or we are ready to sign and send to Washington, let the relevant leaders, including the President, put their signature there, if they are ready. But so far there is no answer to all our proposals. And if there is no START-3, then there will be nothing at all in the world that holds back the arms race. And this, in my opinion, is bad.

Along the way, though, Putin’s correct observation that Republicans will be loathe to replace their own president led AP to foreground his claimed opinion that the impeachment was like the Mueller investigation and the allegations are far-fetched.

In a world of rigorous journalism, such a report would note that the Ukraine allegations are in some ways the continuation of Trump’s efforts to undermine the Russian investigation and incorporate a hoax that Trump believes partly because Putin has convinced him to (claim to) believe.

But the AP didn’t include that. It instead included Putin’s comment with the spin he might prefer, and slapped it into a tweet that emphasized Putin’s predictive powers. And somehow that tweet attracted Trump’s attention (how it did so — after all, the AP is not Trump’s regular media diet — is one of the more interesting questions about this). And Trump tweeted it out, “A total Witch Hunt!,” like he would other tweets parroting precisely what he wants to hear.

Given Trump’s kneejerk narcissism, that he retweeted this Putin comment is not much different than him retweeting Rand Paul or Jim Jordan or Mark Meadows saying something similar. Putin is just one other person Trump has chosen to include in his echo chamber,  and he’s there for the same reason: because he says to Trump what Trump wants to hear.

Of course it is different, not just because Putin has a role in Trump’s crimes, which has made this tweet go viral in part due to outrage retweeting. A slew of stupid news coverage has followed.

But the tweet is also different because by elevating the tweet, Trump will allow Putin to claim to be correct when the Senate fails to remove Trump, not just on his analysis that Republicans won’t want to remove their own President, but also that the allegations are far-fetched, something many but not all Republicans are willing to perform belief of, but which few people who’ve read the facts actually do believe.

Along the way, Putin will co-opt those Republicans (like John Kennedy) willing to spew hoaxes about Ukraine out of partisan loyalty. Loyalty to Trump will appear to be validation of Putin, even on a question premised on the overwhelming bipartisan support for sanctions on Russia. And that, in turn, will be deemed, by Trump opponents, to demonstrate irrationality of his supporters.

It’s all very predictable and — pro Trump, anti Trump, and lazy journalist — we’re all playing our designated parts like trained monkeys. All of this reactive expression only serves to heighten partisanship on terms with real consequences for foreign policy. It doesn’t take genius by Putin to do this either (though he’s very very good at playing Trump and the western press). It just takes our own reactiveness triggered by social media.

88 replies
  1. robert britton says:

    every time i see photos of those two maga guys and their i’d rather be russian t-shirts, it makes me realize a couple things:

    1. a large swath of americans really are deplorable.

    2. putin and russia kicked our collective asses and continue to do so.

    3. this is far worse than the mccarthy communism period.

    we are truly being run by putin and a russian asset. but he’s not the only one. mcconnell. graham. those congressmen who went to russia. the nra.

    russia is kicking our ass. and they didn’t fire a single bullet. at us anyway. poor ukraine and the blood on the ground.

    but hey…just like in wwii, we are too lazy to stand up and fight.

    if we don’t take the presidency, house, and senate, the grand ole putin party will destroy what’s left of our democracy.

  2. Maureen A Donnelly says:

    Good morning Marcy. Thanks for everything you do for us all. I would like to ask you about the hacked RNC emails. Those emails were never released but are in the possession of Guccifer 2.0 and Putin. My hypothesis for the #GOPRollover is that they have seen what was hacked and they have all lined up . . . or else. Is my tinfoil hat too tight? To me, they all (the Moscow 7 on the 4th of July, Rand Paul, the defectors, Senator Graham Crackers) act like they fear consequences–and not those derived from voting . . .

    • Bri2k says:

      Some may say this goes into shady territory, but the russians holding those emails over the GOP as a stick along with the carrot of dirty NRA money is what I’ve seen as the leading theory how they’re being controlled. This isn’t my analysis but others I’ve seen and it sounds right. Just look at some of the things that have happened, especially Trump in Helsinki and those GOPers going to Moscow on July 4th. Both were terrible optics and probably only happened because all of them are compromised.

      Then there’s Lindsey Graham suddenly becoming Trump’s biggest fan.

      It all reeks of blackmail.

      • P J Evans says:

        That theory makes some sense to me – though it doesn’t explain why McConnell is so proud of blocking everything sent by the House. And as i recall, he was one of the leaders in the GOP attempt to make Obama a one-term president, which started in 2008.

      • Maureen A Donnelly says:

        it does reek of blackmail. kompromot. i am sure they said wonderful things about Obama & his administration. I am sure that they would be horrified if they were outed. Will we ever know what really happened here? The entire party just rolled over and let Putin run the table.

        • P J Evans says:

          I think the rot became permanent with their sainted Ronny. After that, there was nowhere for them to go but to become a cult. Any other way would have required renouncing Ronny and all his policies.

          • Maureen A Donnelly says:

            maybe because i’m old (OK, Boomer!), but I think the rot started with Ford’s pardon of Nixon–those two criminals okayed the phucking of the notion of crime & punishment. It’s all so sad. I’d love to see the hacked RNC emails. bet they are priceless and filled with ugly curses about Obama.

    • Eureka says:

      A number of prominent GOPers were (? if any still are) also having their ongoing email and campaign lists hosted on Russian servers, IIRC, per an analysis tweeted by Chris Vickery. I don’t have the link at hand at the moment, but Rayne rt’d it and it was discussed in comments awhile back (klynn, harpie part of long inter-related threads on that page — if either sees this and recalls it).

      It’s convenient if the IRA is running data operations to have “direct access” like this.

      Update- here is part of it (with additional info in replies) from August 5, 2019:

      Chris Vickery: “Here it is. This site is owned/run by a leading GOP digital operative. He runs systems on servers physically located in Russia, and advertised it. Mitch McConnell is a client. Ben Carson is a client. Gingrich is a client. And many more. Tell the world. @fbi @fbi @fbi [screenshots]”

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The prediction is unremarkable – anyone inside the Beltway would have made the same one – and the technique seems to come from an Agent Handling 101 workbook. What’s remarkable is the ease with which Trump can be manipulated, combined with the finesse – and snark – Putin uses in doing it.

    The same might be said of how Putin manipulates the American press. It’s as if he had spent his career learning how to do such things. Which leaves us with Jimmy Malone’s question to Eliot Ness: “What are you prepared to do?…And then what are you prepared to do?”

    • emptywheel says:

      True but I’m also certain that magnifying the tweet by calling attention to the outrageousness of it is also a mistake.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I agree fully. Your argument would also apply to the stream of unfiltered-by-reality live coverage the MSM gives to his every word, and to the stream of lies from his press officers.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @hassankhan comments that “Trumpism, for all its glaring faults and cruelty, is at least a cohesive vision for what America should be.”

    I’m having a little trouble seeing the coherence. Trump is blindly driven by his personal angst and greed. GOP politicians blindly follow him owing to the supposedly unwavering popularity he retains among the shrinking minority who might vote for them.

    His neoliberal patrons are driven blind by the boundless enrichment provided by his chaos and destructive deregulation. Meanwhile, they keep establishment Dems in check with a trickle of political philanthropy sufficient to keep them fighting their progressive peers. I see a perfect storm, not a cohesive vision.

  5. Bay State Librul says:

    An Antidote to the Witchhunt

    “The hell with fascism. The hell with bigotry and paranoia. The hell with fools falling for the lies of charlatans; that’s what fools do. We’re just going to keep on doing what we do: Making and consuming art. Supporting the people who remind us that we are in this together. We are each only one poem, one painting, one song away from another mind, another heart. It’s tragic that we need so much reminding. And yet we have, in art, the power to keep reminding each other.” Michael Chabon

    • Cathy says:

      “Persevering depends on our will to stay together. As long as that will exists, it is possible.” Vincent Van Gogh

  6. Savage Librarian says:

    Of, By and For

    O is for Often it slips our minds
    F is for First to go are spines

    B is for Before our hope declines
    Y is for Yes, rebuild our shrines


    F is for Freedom, many kinds
    O is for Opportunity shines
    R is for Respect the signs

    T is for Think outside the lines
    H is for Help with the daily grinds
    E is for Even the grand designs

    P is for Persist beyond the binds
    E is for Etching what this defines,
    O is for Owning what undermines
    P is for Pushing aside some blinds
    L is for Looking at all the finds
    E is for Enabling what this divines

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Great minds think alike, from Margaret Sullivan:

    “In an unceasing effort to be seen as neutral, journalists time after time fell into the trap of presenting facts and lies as roughly equivalent and then blaming political tribalism for not seeming to know the difference.”

    I would add publishers and editors to the list of blameworthy actors. And I would not be as kind in giving journalists the out of being negligent because they “fell” into a trap they might have avoided.

    Many of them choose that form of “journalism.” It is easier and cheaper, because it limits press coverage to what actors say, and puts out-of-bounds what they what they do, which might contradict their words.

    It means they do not upset conservative patrons and readers. They normalize power rather than stand ready to oppose its crimes and abuses, which means they are not the nail that sticks up and gets hammered down. Thankfully, this site and many others oppose that form of manufactured consent.

  8. BobCon says:

    What is interesting to me is that Putin felt the need at all to bring up START. It’s a topic which ought to be a slam dunk from a rational foreign and defense policy perspective.

    Exceot Putin no doubt recognizes how shredded those institutions have become in the US, and he can’t take those things for granted. He also knows how deeply the arms race mentality still infects the GOP, and one place McConnell may still bow to the contrary whims of his bloc is arms control. And Putin also knows Trump has a deep fascination with nukes in an infantile way, and is unlikely to discipline errant Republicans for defiance when it comes to new missiles, bombs and warheads.

    • Eureka says:

      Uncle John!

      Trump’s 80s goal was a nuclear peace plan. Right about same time he was being Czech-ed out in the bloc while visiting there with Ivana.

  9. timbo says:

    When are the GOP in this country going to come to the realization that this is not the best guy to be conducting anything, let alone running the federal government of the United States?

  10. Eureka says:

    Ooh boy that interview excerpt was a hard read to stick with, the saccharine levels of manipulo-speak from Putin’s monologue: ~’the US isn’t helping Ukraine, in fact we RU are protectionist over Ukraine, and really the US is just into strip mining the natural resources while also fucking over RU, too. But I’d be happy to work with them.’ Blah blah.

    Also the part where he ‘thinks’ Repubs are in control of Senate (~’where the repubs, afaik, have the majority’). Lol.

    • bmaz says:

      What a load of syrupy ass beet sweetening shit from the Guardian. To any extent Pelosi “deserves” these accolades, she should be forever castigated for fucking up every bit of accountability for Trump by sitting on her ass, with her thumbs underneath it, out of sheer and craven political expediency. And she is still fucking it all up today, as both the DC Court of Appeals and DOJ are pointing out.

      Pelosi is a derelict coward, and has been since reclaiming the gavel. Pelosi’s much ballyhooed impeachment inquiry lasted 2.5 months. Because she is a fucking coward more concerned about ending it in the lamest style imaginable than actually fighting to get the necessary testimony and discovery to inform the American people. What a joke. If Trump gets reelected, please have the courtesy to come back and take back your unrequited love of the milquetoast Pelosi and her cowardice.

      • orionATL says:


        you destroy any credibility you might have with your implacable vendetta against pelosi (and clinton before that). your unrelenting, bald-faced arrogance is impressive.

        what is important about this article is that it recognizes pelosi’s successes and it gives recognition of a democratic leader (which we have not had for since 2016), in fact the only leader we have at the moment.

        did you ever coach a team?

        or lead one?

        criticism can be very useful; unrelenting criticism is destructive.

        • bmaz says:

          Screw that. Did you ever give a shit about accomplishing things competently, or are you just intractable Pelosi fan girl so no matter what she does to undermine competent governance you just don’t care. Don’t bother responding, you have displayed your answer relentlessly. And my “credibility” is just fine, and what I have suggested and said has held up quite well. Thanks for the fangirl input.

            • bmaz says:

              I am not sure what you mean in that regard, but would be happy to address anything. And never disappear, you are one of the great things about this site. Orion is too, even if there is sometimes vehement disagreement running both ways.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The quote describing Pelosi, “We got a lot done this year in spite of impeachment,” might have been a clue that this was heavy syrup being ladled on by the establishment wing of the party. It perfectly defines putting the cart before the horse.

      Pelosi fans would say she kept her caucus together by demoting impeachment to an unauthorized extra-curricular activity. She ignored it until the elephant in the living room was sitting on her, like the three feet of House-approved bills sitting on Moscow Mitch”s desk, going nowhere.

      The claim that Dems got a lot done ignores that they delayed doing the most important thing: investigating and documenting Donald Trump’s voluminous crimes, which have now been adopted by his whole party.

      Ms. Pelosi had the money and muscle to do both. She did the make work one instead of the addressing the systemic constitutional and political threat. That’s not the priority or judgment I want in a leader.

      • Marinela says:

        Heard that she approved money for Trump border wall in the new budget.
        If so, this is just ridiculous.

        Almost looks like “controlled” opposition what she is providing to the American people, not leading the country towards better days.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I appreciate that Ms. Pelosi knew that this GOP-controlled Senate would not convict and remove Trump, regardless of the content of the articles of impeachment. To the simpleminded, that would mean that impeachment – and the Democrats as a body – had failed. So, she rightly decided that she needed other accomplishments to brag about.

        I disagree that a stack of going nowhere bills taller than Jason Leopold’s stack of FOIA applications is a sufficient accomplishment. Besides, she had the muscle and money to have her people walk and chew gum at the same time. It would appear she chose not to ask them to.

      • orionATL says:

        earl of h –

        impeachment is not now and never was the most important political business in this nation in these times. that business is electing a democrat as president; only that event can protect the constitution. neither impeachment nor conviction would accomplish that protection. if trump and pence aren’t kicked out of office then the constitution will be in further tatters by 2024 no matter how inclusive an impeachment document had been drafted and approved. trump may be more cautious until the election, but nothing except being voted out will curb his natural authoritarian, megalomaniacal nature.

        nonetheless, impeachment may well help elect a democrat because it is further reason for low-involvement voters to question trump’s competence. furthermore, it has raised a schism among evangelical voters.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          e e cummings’s typewriter may have been bereft of capital letters, that’s not true of most computers.

          Focusing on “important” bills that will go nowhere under McConnell – and then bragging about them as if they had gone somewhere – is not an accomplishment, it’s a distraction.

          But having that stack of bills was important to Ms. Pelosi. Pursuing an authorized impeachment investigation was not. It was a distraction from her agenda, a phrase Rahm Emanuel used countless times when asked why liberal policies and their proponents were being abandoned.

          Pursuing impeachment was important for there to be a Constitution – the ground rules – under which a new president, Congress, and judiciary would govern. Trump is trashing it the way he trashes every room he walks into: its reality is an affront to his fantasies of greatness, achievement, and perfection.

          An impeachment investigation was also an opportunity legitimately to tar the president with his many high crimes and misdemeanors. Do you think, for example, that Trump is fighting the disclosure of his tax returns because he’s a privacy geek? Their disclosure would expose his lies and threaten his businesses and his presidency.

          It seems self-defeating to focus on electing Trump’s successor if you don’t first stop to think and demand what you want in that successor.

          That process gave us Trump. It might give us a centrist neoliberal who would not help the nation recover from Trump so much as wrap himself around the new powers Trump has handily provided, and give them a more solid foundation. We’ve seen a Democrat do that before.

            • bmaz says:

              Armchair keyboard critics? Lol. The people you are slinging that at are extremely well informed, well read, and some have practiced law and legal strategy for decades. Where exactly are “you” keyboarding from?

              Secondly, it is tiring to have people drop in and demand to know “what would you have done differently”. Well, Doug that has been being explained here for months, going back well before the release of the Mueller Report. But you know that.

              I like, and respect Pelosi immensely. She is, overall, awesome. But spare the fangirl bullshit, she has been derelict in how she has fucked off accountability as to Trump. And you can start with her reckless refusal to even open an official inquiry until the end of September, and undercutting of the possibility of the strongest and expedited acquisition of testimony and documentary evidence. And then ordering that only the one idiotic phone call be the only vehicle pursued.

              This has been being discussed here since nearly the start of the year. And I know you know that because you have been involved in comments many times during the discussion.

              • Doug R says:

                Every single document they’ve requested from the trump administration has been blocked. Every administration has been ordered not to testify. The new supreme court justices believe the unanimous decision to force Nixon to release the tapes was wrong. But you knew that already. I really don’t see any other way than what Speaker Pelosi has done.
                She’s got Moscow Mitch and the impeached one at odds with the senate trial and she’s managed to make impeachment wanted by more than half of all Americans, which is no where we were even six months ago.
                Remember some of those over 40 new members elected in the biggest midterm turnout in 104 years are in areas that aren’t solid blue. But she got almost everybody to vote on both articles without whipping.
                That’s what she’s done so far. Could you point me to where you explain what you would have done?

                • bmaz says:

                  This is just more of the same repetitive bullshit. I am not going to rehash the answer every time you troll by with it. And you have no idea in the world what you are talking out as to SCOTUS reversing US v.Nixon. The only Justice to have indicated questions about Nixon is Kavanaugh, and that was back in 1999, but he has fulsomely praised the unanimous decision as recently as 2016.

                  It is almost impossible to see John Roberts being the fifth vote on a 5-4 decision to overturn Nixon. Frankly, I am not inclined to think even Gorsuch would make that vote. At best, such an effort to overturn would get three votes, Thomas, Alito and Kavanaugh. At best. So, no,Nixon will not be overturned.

                  Lastly, if you had paid attention all these months, you would know that the first gripe as to Pelosi was her craven reluctance to formally open an impeachment inquiry. And, no she did not have to take time to win over the fucking “40 new members”. All Pelosi had to do was formally announce it as a fact as she finally did from her Imelda like balcony at the the end of September. The courts accepted that even before the vote you think was later so precious.

                  As to “not whipping”, how naive are you?? All they ever needed was cover from Pelosi, who refused to give it. If she had given that back in March or April, when she should have to protect and defend the Constitution, and the sanctity of her own Article I power, the votes would have been there then. And even people who disagree with me here will tell you I have been relentlessly making these arguments from the start.

                  PS: Back to the obtaining of the testimony and documentation you carp about, that failure is the everlasting shame of Nancy Pelosi, not some success as you crow. If you had been paying attention, you would know that this is exactly why opening the formal impeachment inquiry was so critical, and what a craven failure by Pelosi it was to deny it until the end of September.

                  “Formal impeachment inquiry” footing is the strongest and most bulletproof footing for seeking discovery enforcement in the courts. It is purely Constitutional, which is a light year stronger than regular “legislative purpose” footing, which Pelosi mandated recklessly for so long. It is hard to see how even conservative judges can overcome a pure Constitutional footing. And that is why Pelosi has been so problematic. And you need look no further than the dual orders from the 2nd Circuit last week evincing exactly this.

                  So, don’t bleat this BS at me again. You, and others, have been repetitively answered over nearly eight months. And what I have argued all that time has held up remarkably well it turns out. Happy Kwanza, Doug.

                  • Doug R says:

                    Nice to meet someone with such faith in Boofin’ Bart. As a teamster for over 20 years, I do hope Gorsuch freezes to death, for a judge with such callousness in regards to human life could tie himself into a human pretzel to justify his forgone conclusion. Here’s hoping Roberts sees the right side of history again.
                    Happy holidays back atcha.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Proof that the Guardian is not the only large newspaper that makes treacle pudding this time of year. The NYT’s Elizabeth Williamson has baked a luscious one: a profile of John Durham, “bringing a stellar reputation for integrity to an investigation whose outcome keenly interests President Trump.”

      Ms. Williamson works for the DC Bureau, natch. Honestly, the NYT proves its critics correct with such astonishing regularity, it’s as if they are sharing a tipple too much of Horace Rumpole’s Chateau Fleet Street.

      • orionATL says:

        as one of durham’s bonafides, ms. williamson quotes former cia lawyer john rizzo who was involved with the destruction of the torture tapes that had been court-ordered to be preserved. rizzo was not held accountable by durham’s investigation for any of his actions in the tapes destruction caper. not surprisingly, rizzo is content with durham’s conduct, perhaps because durham was not very thorough in getting to the bottom of things:

        “…Mr. Durham “didn’t personally question me but he did the agency people who had contemporaneous knowledge of the plan to destroy the tapes, and he was very tough with them,” Mr. Rizzo, who retired from the C.I.A. in 2009, said in an interview…”

        so it is with men of integrity in the doj.

  11. dwfreeman says:

    One of the more contradictory Republicans on the US policy question vis a vi Trump’s alleged handling of it, is Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

    On Sunday, he went on television yet again to espouse his overall support of Trump and to insist that withholding aid to Ukraine was a function of asserting his authority over the need to determine whether Ukraine was on the road to cleansing government before receiving US military assistance.

    It is now well documented that Johnson phoned the White House on Aug. 31 to engage Trump personally on the issue of Ukraine aid and what was actually holding it up. Ostensibly, he did this because he wanted the money released, and like so many others in policy-making circles didn’t know why it hadn’t after clearing every other administrative hurdle.

    And as it now turns out, Trump lied to him about it, saying he wasn’t denying its release for anything more than support of US policy there, not his own personal agenda. The call itself didn’t do much to alter Trump’s position, because he waited another two weeks before greenlighting the funds.

    But it wasn’t a because it was congressional threat of investigation into the hold-up of aid and publicity surrounding release of the long-delayed WB complaint that triggered Trump’s release of funds that threatened fiscal year expiration on Sept. 29.

    The fact that Johnson made that call says a lot more about how the GOP and not Putin is standing behind Trump no matter what. It says that Trump can tell the GOP any story he wants, and it will be believed and then supported without question or challenge. What’s more, it suggests that Trump was in fact working to delay the funding not for his own benefit necessrily, but for Putin’s geopolitical purposes.

    The truth is, Trump hired a campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who during the length and breadth of his career there had never worked on behalf of any reform movement of Ukraine government in what is described as in the top three of the world’s most corrupt nations. Why? Because he sought to take advantage of that situation for his own personal gain. He worked for more than a decade on behalf of two political groups, the Party of Regions and Opposition Bloc, for those in support pro-Russian leadership. He got paid

    Manafort was the perfect Trump campaign chairman for Putin in 2016. Like Barr, he auditioned for the job. The Guardian actually reported in the run-up to the 2016 race, Manafort met not once but three times with Julian Assange at his Wikileaks headquarters in the Ecaudor Embassy, reports largely dismissed and denied by Manafort himself.

    LIke George Papadopoulis and Carter Page, Manafort was an unpaid Trump intern. They begged for jobs on the campaign seeking to work for the candidate at no cost. The story is that Manafort wanted to make himself whole with Putin-favored oligarch Oleg Deripaska who used to pay Manafort $10m a year so he could get whole with him again after a business deal between them went bad and for which Manafort was deeply concerned about.

    So, in order to make good on that debt, Manafort offered to send internal polling data to Deripaska through a courier whom even Manafort suspected was a Russian spy based on his translator training in Moscow back in his school days. That courier, Konstantine Kilimnik, shows up as a business partner not only to Trump’s campaign chairman and deputy campaign chair, but also as a business partner for another fringe Trump campaign member who worked for Cambridge Analytica during the campaign period. That fellow was W. Sam Patten who actually paid $50k in US funds to launder an inaugural campaign donation made by Kilimnik in Ukraine funds from a Cyprus bank so that Kilimnik, Patten an oligarch and another guest could attend Trump’s inaugural celebration.

    Patten even lied about the donation and his role in making it to the GOP-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee. So, if you needed any evidence to see how Putin and GOP position are pretty square on Trump, this ought to provide a little more insight.

    • bmaz says:

      Ron Johnson, short of Louis Gohmert and Paul Gosar in the House, is one of the three or four dumbest and most disingenuous bastards in Congress, whether out of his obvious lack of IQ or his constant duplicity.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      “Unpaid intern” does not adequately describe Papadopoulos, let alone Page. It hasn’t applied to Paul Manafort for fifty years. He had a specific agenda that working for Trump advanced.

      It seems clear by now that Trump rarely pays his own bills. He has others pay for them – his dad; suppliers, workers, creditors, partners; sychophants; manipulators. The list is long. He ignores how to account for that because it hides his past and, besides, all roads lead to Trump.

      The least harmful example of that is Trump having taxpayers pay more than a hundred million dollars so that he can play golf at and subsidize his own golf clubs.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Unusual frankness from a NYT OpEd columnist, especially given that his employer is a major practitioner of what he critiques, :

    “Centrism is an ideology. Too often, we in the media treat centrism as inherently reasonable.”

    The media’s assumption of reasonableness becomes a framing. It makes politicians who practice centrism – Ms. Pelosi, Obama, Buttigieg, Biden – seem dominant, because it makes everyone else seem less reasonable.

    Another tilted playing field from the media that gave Donald Trump hundreds of millions in unpaid coverage in 2016 because he was an “unconventional fighter” who said outrageous and clickable things. And it is doing it again.

    • Rayne says:

      There is no center between lawfulness under democracy and lawlessness in search of autocracy. Centrism as an ideology is a joke when the population is polarized between these particular extremes. Leonhardt falls into the very trap about which he wrote.

      p.s. you’re not capturing the entire link when copying them from Twitter; you’ve only shared Leonhardt’s account page w/profile rather than a specific tweet. Note a specific tweet’s address will have a path like Twitter / accountname / status / tweet number.

      ex: []

  13. harpie says:

    Vladimir Putin: Regarding the extension of our dialogue until the end of Trump’s presidency, it’s as if you are already raising the question that it is ending. I’m just not sure about that.

    Maybe Putin can’t understand that a presidency might someday end.

    • harpie says:


      And somehow that tweet attracted Trump’s attention (how it did so — after all, the AP is not Trump’s regular media diet — is one of the more interesting questions about this).

      The authors are VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV and HARRIET MORRIS. If I had some more time, I’d look into their histories a bit.

    • harpie says:

      I love these two phrases:

      […] and incorporate a hoax that Trump believes partly because Putin has convinced him to (claim to) believe. […]

      something many but not all Republicans are willing to perform belief of

      [added: I am so inordinately happy that the edit function has reappeared…I just had to add something! :-)]

    • harpie says:

      This is the article Marcy links to above in response to dude:

      Dimitri Simes in Russia: “Teledefense” of Trump and Moscow’s “cadres”

      Last week, Russian-American historian Yuri Felshtinsky published a detailed investigation into the connections and activities of those whom Maria Butina (pictured above), arrested for her activity as a “foreign agent”, named as her handlers in the United States, namely, the Director of the Center for the National Interest, Dimitri Simes and the professor at the American University, Anton Fedyashin.

      According to Felshtinsky himself, the publication of the article about Simes “have created dramatic consequences”: its hero fled to Moscow in a hurry, where he became a moderator of a political program “Big Game” on the official Russian TV Channel 1 along with Vyacheslav Molotov’s grandson Vyacheslav Nikonov. […]

      Among other things, it gives a glimpse of how Russia propagandizes its own people.

      • harpie says:

        …for example:

        […] However, inside Russia such publications seemed to be the exception against the backdrop of anti-American hysteria created “for domestic consumption,” where for simplicity the US actions are often equated with the actions of its president.

        The “Big Game” in this sense became something of a meeting of domestic and foreign propaganda – a platform for explaining to the Russian man in the street why supporting Donald Trump benefits Russia. […]

      • harpie says:

        One more excerpt:

        […] In general, all the participants eventually agreed with Simes and Shakhnazarov that Russia is satisfied with Trump, although neglecting to mention that
        [1] it was their active support for Trump that led not only to several new rounds of sanctions, but also to the exposure of a decades’ worth of Moscow-based efforts to build a network of agents and lobbyists in the United States. And
        2] that, most likely, it is because of numerous investigations and scandals around this network that Simes now has to defend the good name of Vladimir Putin not as a member of the American establishment, but in the Moscow television studio. […]

    • harpie says:

      About the Kushner connection: here’s Wendy Siegelman in August 2018:
      4:51 AM – 13 Aug 2018

      Kushner’s Ties to Russia-Linked Group Began With Kissinger Lunch – At the March 2016 lunch which hasn’t been reported before Kushner also met Dimitri Simes, the Russian-born president of the Center for the National Interest [apple news]

      …to which Zarina Zabrinsky responds:
      5:40 AM – 13 Aug 2018

      Replying to @WendySiegelman
      Finally, they are catching up… here is my detailed article on Nixon center and Simes, from a year and a half ago

      …links to:
      Mar 9, 2017

      • harpie says:

        A short outline of that article:

        The Center for the National Interest, former Nixon Center, a hosting institution for Trump’s first foreign policy speech and the adviser who helped writing the speech have multiple long-term ties to the Kremlin. […]

    • harpie says:

      Also in August 2018: Betsy Swan wrote in the Daily Beast:
      Maria Butina: Private Messages Reveal Accused Russian Spy’s True Ties to D.C. Wise Man
      The head of the Center for the National Interest said his interaction with Butina was limited, but emails and direct messages show it was closer than previously understood.
      Published Aug. 29, 2018

      …to which Marcy responded with this thread:
      6:47 AM – 29 Aug 2018

      This piece from @woodruffbets, on comms between Dmitri Simes, Alexander Torshin, and Mariia Butina, RE meeting w/Hank Greenberg is really fascinating.

      Remember that Jared Kushner spoke with Simes the day after the election, ostensibly to get Sergey Kislyak’s contact information. […]

    • harpie says:

      In September 2018, Swan [Woodruff] wrote:
      Putin’s ‘Friend’ Had Early Access to Trump’s Infamous Pro-Russia Speech
      Photos obtained by The Daily Beast show that think tank chief Dimitri Simes—whom Putin called a ‘friend and colleague’—was closer than previously known to the speech’s drafting.
      09.06.18 4:54 AM

      In the morning of April 21, 2016, a staffer at the Center for the National Interest, a Washington D.C., think tank, wandered into the office of Dimitri Simes, the group’s president. […]

      The staffer saw a pile of papers on the desk titled “FOREIGN POLICY AND DEFENSE OUTLINE.” The staffer realized the papers were the detailed outline, in bullet-pointed paragraphs, of a major foreign-policy address that then-candidate Donald Trump was set to deliver six days later as a guest of the center. The staffer used a cellphone to snap pictures of all five pages of the document. […]

      • harpie says:

        More from that article:

        […] Democrats on the House intelligence committee tried to investigate Simes’ relationship to Trump’s campaign, but Republican committee Chairman Devin Nunes blocked their efforts. […]

        The pictures demonstrate that significant changes were made from the speech’s detailed outline to its final version—including the removal of lines condemning bigotry [!!], praising legal immigration [!!], and disparaging Russia. […]

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