Propaganda and Flattery: Jack Posobiec Parrots Adam Schiff’s Case for Impeachment

Several members of the frothy right have listened to the recording Igor Fruman made of a dinner with Trump in April 2018 and declared that Parnas and/or Fruman must be a spy.

And while neither of these men seem to have figured out that Fruman, not Parnas, reportedly made this recording, their assessment is not as crazy as most frothy conspiracies. After all, the government has very pointedly not denied that it had a FISA order on one or another of the grifters (one that Bill Barr would probably have known about if not approved personally). If the government did have a FISA order, it means the FBI showed the FISA court there was probable cause that one of these guys was clandestinely working as an agent of a foreign power. And WSJ suggested that the reason SDNY is not interested in a cooperation deal with Parnas is because he will not admit he got Marie Yovanovitch fired — precisely the ask recorded on this video — at the behest of some Ukrainian.

At a meeting with prosecutors from the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office late last year, people familiar with the matter say, Mr. Parnas’s attorney disputed that he pushed for the removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine at the behest of a Ukrainian official—one of the charges in the campaign finance indictment.

So prosecutors, this time, appear to suspect that Jack Posobiec may be right, that when Parnas and Fruman made this recording they were working as clandestine agents of a foreign government.

Mind you, Posobiec and Benny Johnson, having not even figured out that Fruman made the recording yet, have assuredly not thought through what this means.

It means that someone they believe is a “spy” could gain direct access to Donald Trump with no more than the promise of a $325,000 campaign donation. It means that a “spy” could incite Donald Trump to take a certain policy action — one that happens to be one that corrupt oligarchs in Ukraine and Russia would support — with no more than a bunch of lies about what the US Ambassador had said. It means that these “spies” further managed to become business partners with the President’s defense attorney. One of these “spies” even managed to become an auxiliary member of the President’s Mueller defense team, privy to sensitive secrets about how he would successfully obstruct that investigation.

Having made Rudy Giuliani their agent, these “spies” managed to use him to supplant the beliefs of the US government, not just the professional Deep State, but a bunch of solidly Republican Trump appointees up to and including John Bolton. It means these “spies” used Rudy to get Trump to believe conspiracy theories ginned up by foreign government officials. And it means these “spies” managed to get the President to take actions that gave Russia an advantage in their war against Ukraine.

With little more than propaganda and flattery — and some money laundered through a shell company — these “spies” managed to alter the stated policy of the United States. That is the direct implication of Posobiec’s allegation.

As it happens, that’s precisely the same argument House Impeachment Manager Adam Schiff made on Friday (h/t Crooks & Liars for the video).

Admittedly, Schiff was focusing on a slightly different set of propaganda talking points, that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election rather than Russia. But the model by which President Trump came to reject the conclusion of our intelligence community and instead parrot the words that Vladimir Putin gave him are the same: flattery and propaganda.

I’m sure you remember this. It was I think unforgettable for every American. But I’m sure it was equally unforgettable for Vladimir Putin. I mean, there he is, the President of Russia, standing next to the President of the United States, and hearing his own Kremlin propaganda talking points coming from the President of the United States.

Now, if that’s not a propaganda coup I don’t know what is. It’s the most extraordinary thing. It’s the most extraordinary thing. The president of the united states standing next to the president of Russia, our adversary, saying he doesn’t believe his own intelligence agencies. He doesn’t believe them. He’s promoting this crazy server theory cooked up by the Kremlin. Right next to the guy that cooked it up. It’s a breathtaking success of Russian intelligence. I don’t know if there’s ever been a greater success of Russian intelligence.

Whatever profile Russia did of our president, boy, did they have him spot on. Flattery and propaganda. Flattery and propaganda is all Russia needed. And as to Ukraine, well, they needed to deliver a political investigation to get help from the United States. I mean, this is just the most incredible propaganda coup.

Because as I said yesterday, it’s not just that the President of the United States standing next to Vladimir Putin is reading Kremlin talking points. He won’t read his own national security staff talking points but he will read the Kremlin ones. But it’s not just that he adopts the Kremlin talking points. That would be bad enough. It is not bad enough, not damaging enough, not dangerous enough to our national security that he’s undermining our own intelligence agencies. It’s not bad enough that he undermines those very agencies that he needs later that we need later to have credibility.


How do you make that argument as the President of the United States when you just told the world you trust the Russians more than your own people? You trust Rudy Giuliani more than Christopher Wray. How do you make that case? If you can’t make that case what does that mean to our security? But that’s not the end of it. It’s not just a propaganda coup. It is not just the undermining of our agencies.

It is also that the buy-in to that propaganda meant that Ukraine wasn’t going to get money to fight the Russians. I mean, that’s one hell of a Russian intelligence coup. They got the President of the United States to provide cover for their own interference with our election. They got the President of the United states to discredit their own intelligence agencies, to drive a wedge between the United States and Ukraine, the President of the United States to withhold aid from Ukraine in a war with Russia, in a war claiming Ukrainian lives every week.

Has there ever been such a coup? I would submit to you in the entire length of the Cold War the Soviet Union had no such success, no such success and why? Because a former mayor of New York persuaded a president of the United States to sacrifice all of that. Was it worth it? I hope it was worth it. I hope it was worth it. For the president. Because it certainly wasn’t worth it for the United States.

To be sure, Posobiec has barely started to figure out that grifters with some laundered money and sweet talk can get this President to adopt policies contrary to those Congress and Trump’s entire national security establishment think is best. He’s far from adopting Schiff’s view that a President who can be manipulated so easily by flattery and propaganda is unfit to be President. He presumably still believes that Trump can’t be impeached for extorting Ukraine campaign assistance because, as President, Trump can set whatever policy he wants; if Posobiec believes that, though, he should account for the fact that someone he believes is a “spy” got Trump to adopt that policy.

But Posobiec has nevertheless made the same argument that Schiff made Friday: that what he sees on this recording is a “spy” who managed to get close to Trump, tell him something guaranteed to trigger his narcissism, in response to which Trump took action.

84 replies
  1. klynn says:

    “But Posobiec has nevertheless made the same argument that Schiff made Friday: that what he sees on this recording is a “spy” who managed to get close to Trump, tell him something guaranteed to trigger his narcissism, in response to which Trump took action.”

    Yep…and worse yet, Putin gets to trigger him without witnesses.

    • Mitch Neher says:

      If Parnas and Fruman are spies; and if Trump authorized Parnas and Fruman to conduct a secret mission to pressure Ukraine into helping Trump get reelected, then doesn’t that mean the same thing as saying that Trump authorized spies to get Trump reelected?

  2. PeeJ says:

    Bingo! My fears exactly. How many other “spies” have been sitting near a table at Mar-a-lago with a phone on record? We know some of his visitors really may have been Chinese spies. If you can record him with a phone in your hand or pocket, imagine what you could do with sophisticated eavesdropping equipment. Everyone agrees, Trump is a danger to our country. Trump says thousands of people he doesn’t know have pictures with him. I wonder if half of those thousands have recordings or video too.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      Given that Posobiec emerged from nowhere in 2016 as both a shitposter and apparent conductor of bot and fake-news brigades, most notably for the IRA account @TEN_GOP, one might ask where his affiliations lie.

      (Benny, on the other hand, is just a dimwitted shit.)

      Like our host, I remain a little obsessed with how Paul Manafort has been erased from this narrative. It’s reasonable now to believe that Deripaska was playing both sides in 2016, and that provides context for why Parnas and Fruman found their way in. Putin seeds and feeds the bullshit counter-narrative, and sets up a lot of incentives — not directed from the Kremlin, but in its orbit — to cultivate it further through donations and schmoozing at Family Business properties. If you look and talk sufficiently goonish, they’re easy fucking marks.

      As EW said a while back, the kompromat is that he’s compromised. He compromises himself a little more each day. And he compromises everybody who sticks with him, whether it’s a shitty little misogynist like Pompeo or the entire GOP Senate caucus.

      • PeeJ says:

        I wonder if Lev has any photos or memorabilia with Manafort? Wouldn’t it be something if Lev or Igor have been working with Manafort for years? Anyone investigating this?

        • cavenewt says:

          And I keep wondering what about 33% of the Three Amigos, aka Rick Perry, who seems to have vanished from this whole scene. Did Trump just tack him on because he was the Energy Sec, and because Burisma?

          • P J Evans says:

            Given that gas and oil aren’t part of the Energy Department’s work, and neither are gas and oil companies, it’s curious that Perry was involved at all. (I doubt that Trmp understand that they’re not part of the Energy Dept, either.)

            • TooLoose LeTruck says:

              The Three Amigos?

              More like the Three Stooges…

              Not only does Trump probably not know oil and gas companies aren’t part of the Energy Dept, he probably doesn’t care…

              All that matters to him is how does this benefit ME?

              Seeing how completely Perry’s vanished in the moment, I have to think he might be a bit brighter than I had once imagined… it looks like it might have dawned on him just how bad all of this could get for the involved parties and he’s run for cover…

    • dude says:

      I concur.

      I wish Marcy would make an “It means…” bullet-point poster and send it to the news media (since they are probably too lazy to make one of their own).

      • Stephen Calhoun says:

        The difference in the ‘grain’ of description/interpretation between what the news media usually reports about Trump and the grain available in the reports of independent open source researchers is astonishing.

        Essential blog, resource, and research — thank you

  3. harpie says:

    Thank you Marcy! To my mind, this is exactly right!

    And, this from Schiff is the basic TRUTH about this whole sordid mess:

    Whatever profile Russia did of our president, boy, did they have him spot on.
    Flattery and propaganda.
    Flattery and propaganda is all Russia needed.

    For Putin, Trump was such a cheap date.

  4. Fran of the North says:

    This is wrote repetition of one of the key messaging methods that the Republicans have used to advantage. When you have no legal standing, and you have no process to argue about, impugn the witness.

    If Parnas is a ‘spy’, then everything he says is invalid. Since he is a spy, the next talking point (dare it be said) is that the recording is a deep fake, with voices changed to make it appear that it was at said event with said individuals.

    pdaly: thanks for the link, I did’t recognize Posobiec either.

    • Stephen says:

      I wouldn’t jump to “of course” at this stage. Parnas has a long, long history setting up shady business operations and later abandoning them in a kind of boom-or-bust pattern, and definitely profited over the years from his Ukrainian origins/connections. If he’s just the standard-issue grifter and toad-eating tuft-hunter he seems, then he’d happily have worked with Rudy and Firtash and other corrupt oligarchs simultaneously, raking in the money from whomsoever is willing to fork it over. Could he have been recruited by an intelligence service along the way? Yes. But you wouldn’t have to bring him inside the circle of secrecy, just keep paying him via the oligarchy.

      • P J Evans says:

        “setting up shady business operations and later abandoning them in a kind of boom-or-bust pattern” sounds very much like Trmp’s pattern, though he doesn’t so much abandon them as kill them and steal the money they had.

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        If anything, the lower-tier the grifter, as long as they spend money in the right places the more likely they are to find themselves within the inner circle.

        This is the irony of this presidency: it’s a mob outfit, but it’s a cheap mob outfit. Actual oligarchs look down their nose at him. They don’t send their best people, they send people who send their shittiest people.

      • dude says:

        Trump could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and murder Democracy and still not lose any voters.

        Trump could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and murder Democrats and still not lose any voters.

        Have we come to that?

      • harpie says:

        Here’s the video of Schiff saying he thinks Trump meant it as a threat:
        7:52 AM – 26 Jan 2020

        Schiff says he takes Trump’s tweet about him “paying the price” to be a threat, adds, “I think it’s gonna be very difficult for some of these [GOP] senators to stand up to this president” & implores them to have “moral courage” [VIDEO]

        • OmAli says:

          I wish he would zero in on voting for witnesses and testimony. Although I know he is being met with the “we don’t have time to wait for court filings” If we could just get witnesses on camera this whole dynamic might change.

          Do we know for certain what the chain of events would be? Bolton, for instance, or any other witness, actually. If subpoenaed to appear before the Senate, couldn’t any one of them just say screw Trump, I am going to appear? Or could Roberts intervene? Is it certain that it would all end up in court again?

  5. elevator says:

    The blackmail of Trump is everywhere and malignant to an extent that has cost hundreds, if not thousands of lies during the Syrian/Kurdish withdrawal fiasco. There is mounting evidence that Erdogan of Turkey had recordings of conversations between Jared Kushner and MBS regarding greenlighting Saudi actions vs Kashogi. Erdogan used those recordings to pressure Trump into abandoning the Kurds. Proof of this activity is probably being held in the secure server where so many Trump conversations have been sent.

    • BobCon says:

      The other piece is that it is also happening in domestic politics.

      There is no way people aren’t collecting receipts as leverage for contracts, regulations, and legal protection.

    • salient green says:

      from whence does this information originate ? or is this speculation ? i have no doubt a trump or kushner would greenlight such a thing but that is very serious accusation.

      • elevator says:

        I don’t know the original source, but I have read it is being investigated by several sites. I am not claiming it is proven 100%, but more than one credible person/group are on it.

  6. Bay State Librul says:

    Mr. Butterfield, are you aware of the installation of any listening devices in the Oval Office of the President?”

    • Mitch Neher says:

      Those were the days, my friend
      We thought they’d never end
      We’d sing and dance forever and a day
      We’d live the life we choose
      We’d fight and never lose
      For we were young and sure to have our way
      La la la la…

  7. drouse says:

    Let’s see, a million for Lev’s wife, a million or so to Joe and Victoria, 500K for Rudy, roughly 500K for donations plus whatever Lev and Igor got paid and some incidental costs give you a comparitivly small outlay to mold US policy to your liking. A veritable bargain!

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      Didn’t Robert Hyde say that he got more bang for the buck from spending money at the Family Business than through political donations? And it’s well documented how a few Mar-a-Lago members took over VA policy. Not just easy marks, but cheap ones.

    • Frank Probst says:

      This part has always intrigued me. A million dollars would be “a lot of money” if you wrote a check to me and your check cleared. It’s NOT “a lot of money” to many of the people who can afford memberships to Mar-a-Lago and trips there when the President happens to be there. And it’s certainly not “a lot of money” to most corporations, foreign intelligence agencies, or foreign countries. Other people have pointed out that Trump is a “cheap date”. I’m sure you can buy access to a lot of politicians for far less money, but we’re talking about access to the President of the United States and a lot of policy influence for peanuts. You have to wonder just how many other people have bought this President off.

      • drouse says:

        Well for relative peanuts anyways. It’s that relative part that seems to escape a lot of people. If you have ten billion, we’re talking a few hundredths of a percent compared to your worth.

      • OmAli says:

        Those $$$ will pay big benefits even after Trump is out of office (please, gods, that someday he really WILL be out of office). Presumably he will still wield the power of life and death over Republicans, either as a citizen or media mogul. If so he will be able to pull strings for his clients well into the future.

  8. klynn says:

    Um, Posobiec’s recent reply with a timeline explaining that the video helps DT, has some important missing data points.

  9. Ten Bears says:

    The thoroughness with which these wiseguys assembled all of this damning evidence is really rather remarkable. Perhaps a little too thorough, for wiseguys.

    All that glitters is not necessarily gold.

  10. Mooser says:

    “a “spy” who managed to get close to Trump, tell him something guaranteed to trigger his narcissism, in response to which Trump took action…”

    Ooooh, that is some sophisticated tradecraft these spies have. Is it possible to defend against it?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Lots of people could do it and might attempt it. The question is why Trump responds so warmly to these flatterers and not to others.

      • salient green says:

        I would think trump responds favorably to someone with whom he has almost a molecular similarity.Con men like other con men. racists like other racists. haters like other haters. people who lie like liars. traitors like traitors. thieves….etc. etc. etc. he feels comfortable around them. he can relax and be himself hating and plotting. they dont talk about books or patriotism. they dont make him feel stupid because he doesnt know anything. they fawn on him. they soothe his souless sensibilities. brothers in arms. in vision and greed. he likes them. prefers them and so they will always have access. the surprising thing is that this has relaxed so many others of whom this was not expected. like barr..mulvaney, some generals, some journalists and useful idiots at large.

      • Mooser says:

        Seems like just a modicum of integrity in the President, and a willingness to engage in the correct security practices might help.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Replace “spy” with “lobbyist” and you have a similar outcome: Trump subverting his own policy establishment – of which he knows nothing but is predisposed to oppose – to pursue unreservedly the interests of those flattering Trump.

    Naturally, Trump will expect a piece of the action:

    History is replete with wars and coups intended to displace such venal, weak figures. I should say counter-coups, because the flatterers succeeded first.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Meanwhile, GOP Senators are united in their opinion that Trump’s rage-tweet against Adam Schiff was NOT a “threat.” It was a statement of fact: the Hon. Mr. Schiff “has not paid the price.” I haven’t heard, though, what price any of them have in mind, who might collect it, and how.

      AFP seems to agree, insofar as it refuses to call Trump’s statement a threat. It says only that Mr. Schiff felt threatened because of it, a he said, she said construction that is beneath them, n’est-ce pas? It is, though, probably above the NYT.

        • Mitch Neher says:

          I thought it was understood that the price to be paid was one’s head on a pike.

          The delicate flowers in the GOP-T practically wilted when Chairman Schiff reminded them of that price.

          Maybe the Republicans think Chairman Schiff was unfairly “paraphrasing” Trump again.

  12. industrialite says:

    So, is Parnas being handled? Is Fruman the handler? And did Lev now go rogue? Or is the Op still on, the breakup something else?
    Parnas says he really didn’t know anything about the Ambassador; he was told about her. And he delivered a whole message.
    And the guy who has had virtually nothing to say is there to record it all. It’s Kompromat, in the bank, or a hand grenade on the floor. What is unknown is if we have to do with a centrally coordinated crime family or a feudally tied network of otherwise oligarchs.

    • P J Evans says:

      Both may be following instructions from someone, somewhere. But we don’t know who or where, and the people who should be investigating are not on our side now.

  13. Frank Probst says:

    Off-topic for this post to relevant to the readers and writers of this blog: Has anyone else noticed that the Mueller investigation seems to get cheaper and cheaper every time someone in Trump’s circle talks about it? I’m pretty sure it was well over $40 million the first time we started hearing about its cost. Then it dropped to $30-something million. And yesterday, in front of entire Senate and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, it was down to $20-something million.

    And NO ONE seems to have stated a sum for how much money the Mueller team has recovered as part of their investigation. Manafort was ordered to pay $26+ million as part of his two sentences, and the government must have already recovered a tidy sum from him when his bail was revoked. The cost of the investigation versus the amount of money already recovered are probably pretty close right now.

    So could someone PLEASE ask how much money the investigation has recovered? Trump’s defense team seems to know how much the investigation cost. I think it’s fair to ask them how much the investigation has recovered. And if they don’t know, it should be relatively easy to get a ballpark number for this. I’ll settle for a number for just the Manafort cash that we’ve gotten; the assets that haven’t been liquidated yet can be a supplement to that. Someone in the accounting office should be able to pull that number up within an 8 hour business day. And a Manafort pardon won’t get any money back from the government. So how much?

    • bmaz says:

      Don’t forget about the recovery from Cohen as well. Sure much of it may have been by SDNY as opposed to Mueller, but it is still a result gained by the US Government as a result of Mueller that should be figured in.

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Something that those on the end of the spectrum occupied by Biden & Buttigieg are unlikely to learn:

    “Among the people least qualified to improve the state of the world are those who have yet to stop making it worse.”

    — Anand Giridharadas

  15. N.E. Brigand says:

    Sessions, Rosenstein, Whitaker and Barr would have been fully briefed about counterintelligence investigations that touch on the president, right? So do they justify their actions to themselves as: we’re protecting the country by minimizing the harm of the most egregious spies who try to influence the president? How long had they known that these two fellows bankrolled by (probably) Ukrainian oligarchs had convinced the president to fire an ambassador almost two years ago? And did they set the matter aside because, like a number of the president’s efforts to obstruct justice, it didn’t work?

  16. orionATL says:

    the simple question about our president’s allegiance which long pre-dates parnas – and any judgment a crackpot like prosobiac could make about matters involving mon. parnas – is:

    has our president not been functionally a russian government operative since his election?

    this likelihood makes the president’s war on the fbi/doj more than just retaliation for the fbi investigation and the mueller report on his 2016 campaign. it means this nation is defenseless in some very serious respects.

    simple illustration, yielding up an american military base to the russians:

    as part of a strategically incoherent withdrawal from syrian/kurdish/turkish/isis affairs, with the likelihood of isis rising again with adequate funding. isis’ troops were defeated, but not its savage theology.

  17. Vicks says:
    Trump is getting trolled by mobsters and now his own White House.
    It’s no accident Bolton’s book was finished and submitted to the white house for review during the trial.
    What do you suppose is next for the big fella who insists on using an unsecured i-phone?
    I will say it again.
    This upcoming week could easily be the last opportunity for republicans to get out of the mess they made gracefully.

    They will never have an opportunity like this

    • P J Evans says:

      The manuscript for Bolton’s book that’s currently being passed around in DC and NYC seems to have a lot of stuff damning to Trmp. But it probably won’t matter to any of the GOP-T senators, or the few Dems who might choose to vote with them (like Manchin): they’ve already sold their souls.

      • Vicks says:

        I’m not so sure.
        A day could be an eternity when you are being pressured to continue to give cover to big fat liars who are getting trolled by people that appear to have more up their sleeve.
        At this point the first goal is to turn 4 senators and that starts with making sure a vote takes place, then getting at least 4 on board.
        Some already have a built in excuse and could likely get a pass for failing this particular loyalty test.
        IMHO they have to weigh the risks between keeping the door open to a face saving retreat (which just murmuring about “wanting to see more” could do for now) and the risk of a wiki leaks style dump of dirt from the people Trump is now calling “spies”
        At this point we don’t know if the Bolton information came out last night to pump up book sales or as a way to name and shame lying liars and rattle the defense the night before their big day.
        These people are cowards let see how long they continue to feel their blinders will protect them

        • timbo says:

          Cowards. Also, some of them are undoubtedly on the take as well. Suspension of belief on this scale doesn’t happen for free.

    • cavenewt says:

      Obviously IANAL. I don’t understand how Bolton can get away with ignoring a subpoena while at the same time circulating a book with all his testimony in it.

  18. orionATL says:

    senator wyden and emptywheel share similar concerns about what republican politicians in their federal election battles mooned over for decades, National Security – an entity now suddenly missing from the republican political jargon.

    was it only 3 years ago that sectetary clinton was severely and repeatedly castigated for emails containing mere summaries of state department documents (conveniently re-classified, ex post facto) said to reveal her slovenly security habits.

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