Palace Intrigue: Trump Prepares His Consolation Prize for Vladimir Putin

In the last two days, Trump has prepared a coup of sorts. First, he fired Mike Esper and replaced him with Christopher Miller; several of Esper’s top deputies went with him. Then, Trump installed three different Devin Nunes flunkies at several places in the DOD bureaucracy:

  • Mike Ellis — the guy who hid the Ukraine transcript and one source for the unmasking hoax — to NSA as General Counsel
  • Ezra Cohen-Watnick — a key Mike Flynn loyalist and another source for the unmasking hoax — to DOD Undersecretary of Intelligence
  • Kash Patel — who ensured that no HPSCI Republicans got sound intelligence during their Russian investigation, then pretended to be a Ukraine expert during impeachment, and then served to conduct a purge in the Office of Director of National Intelligence — to DOD Chief of Staff

To be clear, unlike these others, Christopher Miller, the Acting Secretary of Defense, reportedly does care about US security, even if he’s several ranks too junior for the job and got appointed over a Senate confirmed Deputy.

But the Nunes flunkies are there, serving as gate-keepers for the hoaxes favored by Trump and Nunes, as they have done so successfully throughout Trump’s term.

Spook-whisperer David Ignatius reports that these changes come amidst a sustained debate about what to do with a piece of likely Russian disinformation that — Trump and feeble-minded partisans like Lindsey Graham believe — will prove that Russia didn’t prefer Trump over Hillary.

President Trump’s senior military and intelligence officials have been warning him strongly against declassifying information about Russia that his advisers say would compromise sensitive collection methods and anger key allies.

An intense battle over this issue has raged within the administration in the days before and after the Nov. 3 presidential election. Trump and his allies want the information public because they believe it would rebut claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin supported Trump in 2016. That may sound like ancient history, but for Trump it remains ground zero — the moment when his political problems began.

CIA Director Gina Haspel last month argued strongly at a White House meeting against disclosing the information, because she believed that doing so would violate her pledge to protect sources and methods, a senior congressional source said. This official said a bipartisan group of Republican and Democratic senators has been trying to protect Haspel, though some fear that Trump may yet oust her.

Rumors have been flying this week about Haspel’s tenure, but a source familiar with her standing as CIA director said Tuesday that national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows had both “assured her that she’s good,” meaning she wouldn’t be removed. Haspel also met personally with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Tuesday. She sees him regularly as a member of the “Gang of Eight” senior congressional leaders. But Tuesday’s visit was another sign of GOP support.

Haspel’s most unlikely defender has been Attorney General William P. Barr, who opposed a pre-election push to declassify the sensitive material, according to three current and former officials. At a showdown meeting at the White House, Barr pushed back against revealing the secret information.

Gen. Paul Nakasone, who heads U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, has also argued vehemently against disclosure, according to a senior defense official and the senior congressional source. Like Haspel, Nakasone took the unusual step of directly opposing White House efforts to release the intelligence, because he feared the damage that disclosure would cause.

With the new changes, General Nakasone reports through Cohen-Watnick and Patel and will have to rely on the legal “advice” of Ellis. So not only does this move put more senior votes in favor of declassifying this intelligence, but it puts them in places where Nakasone might be forced to accede to these demands.

Reporting suggests that Trump is seeking to make the full intelligence behind the reports described here available. Fundamentally, the intelligence shows that the US government obtained a Russian intelligence report that stated in late July 2016 — John Ratcliffe says it was July 26 but by handwriting it appears to be July 28 — Hillary approved of a plan to vilify Trump for his dalliance with Russian intelligence.

Already, this is a stupid hoax from the Republicans. It is public that, in the wake of the DNC release on July 22 — and particularly after Trump’s “Russia are you listening” comment on July 27 — Hillary started focusing on Trump’s coziness with Russia. In other words, the crack Russian analysts would have to do no more than read the paper to come to this conclusion. Nor would there be anything scandalous about Hillary trying to hold Trump accountable for capitalizing on an attack on her by a hostile foreign country.

I think Republicans are trying to suggest — by altering a date (July 26 instead of July 28) again and breathing heavy — that former government official Hillary Clinton was the reason why the FBI opened an investigation into Trump, rather than the Australians informing the US about Coffee Boy George Papadopoulos bragging about Russia offering help back in May. There’s not a shred of evidence for it, of course, but that has never stopped the frothy right.

The far more interesting part of this intelligence comes in the report that Peter Strzok wrote up, which is dated September 7. It makes it clear that Hillary’s alleged attack pertained to Russian hackers, notably Guccifer 2.0.

So a Russian intelligence report the US stole from Russia in late July 2016 claimed that, on July 26 0r 28, Hillary approved an attack on Trump pertaining to having help from Russian hackers, a report that did not get formally shared with the FBI until September 7. And either the report itself or FBI’s interpretation of it focuses on Guccifer 2.0.

Somehow this is the smoking gun — that over a month after opening up Crossfire Hurricane the FBI started investigating a claim that, starting on July 26 or 28, Hillary thought Trump was cuddling up with Russian hackers, interpreted by someone to be Guccifer 2.0 — the FBI learned that fact.

When I first wrote this up, I hadn’t started my Rashomon Rat-Fucker series, to say nothing of my report to the FBI that an American I knew may have served as an American cut-out for the Guccifer 2.0 operation (I’m jumping ahead of myself, but I’m certain the FBI investigated that claim for at least a year). At the time, I focused on how prescient the frothers were making Hillary look for anticipating that Roger Stone would first start doing propaganda for Guccifer 2.0 on August 5; best case for the frothers in this situation is that Stone somehow learned of the Russian report before the FBI did.

But now that I’ve written those posts, it’s clear that not only did the FBI have strong circumstantial evidence that Stone knew of the Guccifer 2.0 operation even before the first Guccifer 2.0 post, because he was searching for it on June 15 before the WordPress site went public, but that Stone probably had a face-to-face meeting with someone at the RNC from whom he got advance notice of the DNC drop.

In July 2016, this report is only mildly interesting, amounting to showing that the Russians read the newspaper like everyone else.

In 2020, after details from the Mueller investigation have become public, the Russian report makes far more sense as deliberate disinformation, an attempt to turn a direct contact with Stone into a hoax about Hillary.

Which makes Trump’s apparent determination to liberate this document all the more telling. It suggests that he wants to make public something, anything, he can use to counter what will be very damning allegations when this all becomes clear.

And, given how shoddy the actual intelligence itself is (at best showing that Russian intelligence officers read public sources and more credibly showing that Russia was building plausible deniability for contacts with Roger Stone in real time), Trump’s insistence on it, whether intentional or not, would serve to blow highly sensitive collection for a third-rate hoax.

I can see why Trump would prioritize this intelligence on his way out that the door. It comes at a time when he can be easily manipulated to burn the IC in ways that can only serve Russian interests.

In other words, one of Trump’s top priorities for the Lame Duck period is to give Vladimir Putin a consolation prize.

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137 replies
  1. MattyG says:

    Such is DT’s debt to Putin that he is the veritable “gift that keeps on giving”. As everything else is either frozen in it’s track or in shables DT gamly pushes forward on the HRC misdirect, IC reorganization and last minute strategic negotiations with the Kremlin on terms favorable to his benefactor. Can they possible shred and talk their way out of this mess? Crazy as it sounds, at this point I don’t think a “flight to the East” can be completely rulled out.

    • BobCon says:

      I think it is also the case that people like ECW and Patel are doing this for their own ends that don’t exactly match up with Trump’s goals.

      They were weasels before Trump, and they will be when Trump is gone too.

  2. P J Evans says:

    The GOP-T actions, and those of the outgoing president, are looking like the t-word might be the more accurate description.

    (Reminder: the Moscow Seven are Richard Shelby, Ron Johnson, Steve Daines, John Thune, John Kennedy, Jerry Moran, John Hoeven , plus Rep Kay Granger. Some of them are still in Congress, pushing propaganda.)

  3. Raven Eye says:

    Why flunkies matter when you’re working on Putin’s Christmas list…Getting them into the right positions allows you to get what you want — without actually ordering it done.

    Executive Order 13526 of December 29, 2009, Classified National Security Information, is an Obama EO, but a quick search didn’t show a successor EO. This order prescribes a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information. It includes the mechanics of original classification authority (OCA).

    The EO was followed up by an administrative order that identified OCA by position. OCA can be further sub-delegated within that organization, though often with specified programmatic or operational limits. And whatever can be classified can also be declassified by the same position/individual.

    Essentially, Trump is giving his flunkies the keys, combinations, and alarm codes to the jewelry store, along with a note reminding them where the canvas bags are kept. But no written orders.

    TOP SECRET OCA
    Executive Office of the President:
    — The Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff
    — The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (National Security Advisor)
    — The Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
    — The Director of National Drug Control Policy
    — The Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy
    — The Chair or Co-Chairs, President’s Intelligence Advisory Board
    Departments and Agencies:
    — The Secretary of State
    — The Secretary of the Treasury
    — The Secretary of Defense
    — The Attorney General
    — The Secretary of Energy
    — The Secretary of Homeland Security
    — The Director of National Intelligence
    — The Secretary of the Army
    — The Secretary of the Navy
    — The Secretary of the Air Force
    — The Chairman, Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    — The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
    — The Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    — The Director, Information Security Oversight Office

    (The administrative order also lists OCA for SECRET, but that’s not necessary for this comment.)

  4. klynn says:

    “In other words, one of Trump’s top priorities for the Lame Duck period is to give Vladimir Putin a consolation prize.”

    I said this to my family last night while discussing all the quick appointments. I added, it proves Trump’s Russia relationship.

    My added guesses/commentary/observations include:
    1) This had been planned to win by manipulated vote tabulating which has been tested out since Ohio 2004 which is why Blackwell was on Trump’s Voter Fraud Panel. But hey, COVID altered that.

    2) When it became clear too many people would early vote or vote by mail and deliver their ballot to a BOE drop box, the tabulating manipulation could no longer be a working cheat. That’s when the postal decimation and fights against drop boxes went into full gear along with the propaganda campaign to delegitimize vote-by-mail as high voter fraud. (Also helped by Blackwell and friends.)

    3) If 1 & 2 failed to deliver another DT term in order to shred our nation’s institutions further as payoff and hand vital info to Putin, then “burn the house down with quick illegitimate appointments” would be the end game along with releasing national security info.

    Add in the October surprise(s) of Hunter Biden and “the laptop” as well as the “I beat COVID” on top of the Biden anti police and Biden China and Biden Socialism propaganda campaigns being implemented and overall, failing – builds on the desperation to “burn it down” and make a functioning national security structure destabilized as much as possible in hopes of making Biden ineffective. The hoped outcome is to leave Biden fighting national security fires for his first term in hopes it makes him a failed leader due to distractions.

    A really great analysis right now would be to parallel a study of the propaganda campaigns (information war) Russia waged on Ukraine before Crimea and compare it to what has been happening here.

    https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/08/02/russian-disinformation-distorted-reality-in-ukraine-americans-should-take-note-putin-mueller-elections-antisemitism/

    • emptywheel says:

      I actually don’t think it proves that Trump believes he has a tie with Putin. He believes that Stone’s tie may not be Russian. He may not be. And that may be why Trump keeps digging in: because there’s an American face to this, which has made him reckless.

      • klynn says:

        While I agree, you have to ask, “What is the carrot?” Trump wants Putin’s kind of power or to be aligned with his power.

        So, I think the American face just makes Trump more reckless because he thinks he won’t be connected directly and that gives him deniability.

        • emptywheel says:

          That’s possible. It’s possible he’s doing this to diminish the chances that, out of office, he’ll be held accountable for conspiring with Russia.
          Maybe it’s just that he wants to be able to build Trump Moscow w/o making it look like he sold out the entire country.
          Or maybe he really is trying to deny that he needed help to win the first time.

          • klynn says:

            Still, it is important to ask why Mitch and Lindsey are fine with the intel and security risks happening with Trump’s actions.

          • MattyG says:

            I tend to agree the maneovers are about “…diminishing the chances that, once out of office…” by encouraging an American face to all this. But will it work? The breakneck pace of eleventh hour firings and reassignments suggest someone was caught off guard. This increases the possibility mistakes will be made in whatever “cleanup” DT is trying to accomplish.

            • subtropolis says:

              If, by “caught off guard” you mean “lost the election”, sure. This fight has been going on for awhile. This move to emplace Patel et al is both a sign of desperation and a bid to assert his control in the face of a lost cause. Everyone has been urging him to give up on this information, both because it doesn’t prove what he thinks it does and its release will damage sources and methods. Mistakes are certainly being made.

              • MattyG says:

                By “caught off guard” I was implying DT may have had what he felt was a good reason to expect a Russian assisted win. That didn’t happen – the Kremlin may have recalculated given the huge numbers of mailing/early votes in play. Now DT has to speed ahead with his “unpaid bills” instead of spreading it out at a more leisurly pace over the next 4 years.

    • MattyG says:

      I was recently discussing the situation along similar lines. I wondered aloud whether COVID forced the Kremlin to reassess it’s *own* plan. With so much of the vote now coming in my mail etc., they may have calculated that the risk of direct tampering was too high in the changed environment. The possibility of a new Administration would increase the chance an “active measures” operation would be detected – not an ideal scenario without a DT WH for cover. The Kremlin may have backed off.

      On the other hand they would not discourage DT from anticipating their assistence, so it’s possible that his bafflement is “sincere” in a certain twisted shameful context.

    • greengiant says:

      The court order in Georgia to use paper ballots must be noted. As Wisconsin has shown in 2016 paper ballots are not hack proof. When machine scanners are used the scanners can be hacked. Also if the voter puts the ballot in the scanner then biased poll workers correct upside down ballots from people “like” them, but not others. When the county precinct election reports are controlled by state then only the state needs to be corrupted except for those dang precinct reports.

  5. BobCon says:

    This article in the Washington Post about fears of Trump disclosing classified information after he leaves office seems relevant:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/trump-possible-security-risk/2020/11/09/f19c853e-229e-11eb-952e-0c475972cfc0_story.html

    There is obviously the risk that the flunkies Hoover a ton of info and hand it over to Trump before he is out of office, and he continues blabbing it out after January.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the comments in that article are also a warning to Patel and crew, and possibly Trump, that prosecutions for disclosing state secrets are on the table.

    I suspect Patel is bombing ahead with confidence that the Hill GOP has his back, and articles like this and the Ignatius piece are channels to warn them off that assumption.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      Yeah, Ignatius is the spook-whisperer, and if there are spooks who feel as though they can wait this one out and let the incoming administration discover what was going on, they may have to revise their plans. (I would very much like Kash Patel to be asked under oath why he decided to play at being the NSC’s Ukraine specialist.)

      I’ve said it before, but the current president’s real business has always been in secrets, and it feels as if the minions are being given the keys to the codeword cabinet.

      • BobCon says:

        I’m really curious what kind of passive aggressive resistance they’ll be getting as they try to pry information out of the bureaucracy.

        Some analysts did their best to put off requests Cheney made in person, and he knew what he was after and had the power of a well-entrenched president behind him, while these guys have a lame duck with the clock ticking out and holidays coming up.

        If all they want is a few specific bits of information, they may be able to get it, but if they are on the beginning of a wild goose chase, the risks of bureaucratic resistance probably go up.

    • taluslope says:

      There are some problems with information I’ve read in newspapers and online:

      1. The supposition that DOD officials were replaced so that information can be declassified and released to the public. The problem with this theory (as I see it) is that the information Trump wants declassified is probably from NSI so DOD officials are not legally able to declassify it. Legally (full disclosure, I’m not a lawyer) cabinet level officials hold the classification authority for information in their departments only. It makes sense, the state department has no business mucking around with DOE nuclear computer codes, for example.

      This makes all of the noise regarding Clinton’s emails a little amusing.
      Secretary Clinton could declassify any email she wanted to (though getting information hacked from some server is not the process for that).

      2. The president is the only person who has classification authority over information throughout the government. Therefore Trump could declassify whatever he wants, although I think he is too much of a coward to actually do something like that himself. Better to tweet something and let someone else do the dirty work.

      However, Trump better be very careful after January 20, 2021. Stray pieces of information he may pick up in briefings now better remain in his head and not on his tongue or he faces serious jail time. He will be a private citizen with no security clearance and therefore no access to a SCIF where he is allowed to speak.

      • taluslope says:

        On a side note, the vice president does not have authority to declassify anything. I don’t remember the details now but it seemed to me that Cheney was skating on thin ice the way the Scooter Libby affair was handled.

  6. John Paul Jones says:

    I wonder if this is part of the reason behind the refusal to concede. Once the transition team is operating, it will have people in the agencies on a daily basis, giving staffers plausibility for denying Flunky demands to release classified information. So look for early releases.

    • vicks says:

      Trump’s ego is legendary, and when you consider how unqualified so many of Trump’s staffers are it’s easy to imagine multiple reasons why he and his team would go great lengths to avoid facing the experienced members of Biden’s transition team.

  7. square1 says:

    There has been one aspect of the whole Stone-Russia angle that I feel like has not been sufficiently covered.

    In 2015, Stone was originally working for the Trump campaign. Then Stone left, although neither Trump nor Stone could agree on who fired whom.

    Stone then went on an anti-Clinton book tour, with at least one interview with Russian TV (the existence of that interview was originally posted by Stone to Twitter, but it has subsequently been scrubbed and I have seen no other references to it).

    At the time, the Trump-Stone divorce had all the hallmarks of a sham effort to create legal distance between the Trump campaign and Stone, presumably because Stone intended to engage in acts that were politically embarrassing, if not illegal. Including if Stone’s efforts were financed in a manner that would have violated campaign-finance laws were Stone engaging in acts in the name of the campaign.

    All this is to ask, does anyone know about any serious efforts to investigate Stone’s 2015 activities?

  8. Coyle says:

    One can only hope the IC is prepared for this and will send Trump, Nunes, etc. out the door with some helpful bits of disinformation of its own. Might also be fun to float Hillary Clinton’s name as a possible Biden replacement for Haspel.

    • Raven Eye says:

      The IC will need to conduct a pretty thorough damage assessment, which would include reviewing the addition of information into the holdings, access logs for those that viewed items, and destruction logs.

      And one thing might happen…Even though you are constantly reminded to get rid of classified materials that are no longer needed, folks sometimes keep “working papers” for their areas of interest. Items that departing personnel might have assumed were deleted, might still be around.

      • subtropolis says:

        I’d include visits to the homes of Patel, Cohen-Watnick, and the others, to take a thorough look at any documents they have. Followed by lengthy questioning. It looks to me that there’s a good case to be made that their activities require a deep counterintelligence investigation. And fuck the niceties.

        • Raven Eye says:

          A debrief at separation, and signing certain documents, is standard procedure. In some cases technicians would remove a government phone and there may be a government computer.

  9. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    The changes to the GOP convention platform regarding Ukraine would have been made the week of July 11th, 2016, at Trump/Manafort’s behest — two weeks before the dates highlighted in this post. That item alone would have triggered some kind of FBI curiosity, but then “Russia, if you’re listening” on July 27th would dialed up the curiosity meter.

    Assuming this is only about disinformation, it still does not explain why the US DoD head of nuclear materials has been fired, nor does it seem to explain other firings in DoD. Add in news of a recent weapons deal to ?UAE, and someone(s) appears to be racing before Jan 20th, 2021.

    What are all these people in DoD trying to cover up, and why do they think that they can pull it off?

    Ten years ago, Maddow did a report about some quirky division of US government sneaking nuclear material out of Ukraine: https://www.mediaite.com/tv/rachel-maddow-exclusive-uranium-removal-ukraine/
    It still haunts me, partly b/c I spent a chunk of my childhood ‘downwind from Hanford’ (US Nuclear Reservation). [Read “Refuge” by Terry Tempest Williams, of Utah, and your picture sharpens.]

    And Trump was always obsessing on Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine. Add in his efforts to sabotage Biden’s campaign via ‘Ukraine!!!-Hunter-Biden’s-laptop!!!’. There were a million ways Trump/GOP could have tried to f*ck Biden, so why did they use that strategy? Why Ukraine? Again?!

    Also, recall that it was the Ukrainian ambassador who was ‘going to go through some things’, and Lt Col Vindman who was fired for revealing the Ukraine plot to screw Biden.

    I’m not disagreeing with this post in the slightest, but I don’t fully understand the implications. But it sure feels as if there is a darker backstory. All these appointments simply to create an absurd story to blame Hillary don’t seem to fully explain what’s happening with bizarro firings and appointments. Also, if Putin obsesses on Hillary Clinton as much as the GOP does, I am going to be laughing the rest of the day: that would be absolutely hilarious.

    …All of which makes me eat multiple helpings of Humble Pie, because I am increasingly convinced that I seriously underestimated Joe Biden…

    • Raven Eye says:

      The removal of HEU from Ukraine was hardly a hush-hush operation.

      From a NON-paywalled site: https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2012/03/27/fact-sheet-ukraine-highly-enriched-uranium-removal

      That doesn’t sound like “some quirky division of US government sneaking nuclear material out of Ukraine”.

      If you recall, Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), resigned her position effective immediately on November 6. Part of the Trump purge.

    • Norskeflamthrower says:

      “…I am increasingly convinced that I seriously underestimated Joe Biden…”

      Me too. I have been trying my best to talk all my kids off the ledge by referring them to the political history of 1932-34 in both the USofA and Germany. The conditions surrounding the fall of Weimar ( economic depression and pluralistic political division ) and the ascension of FDR are eerily similar. FDR was a political hack who took power and listened to the left wing folks who pressured him early ( “OK, it sounds good now go out and make me do it.”) and as a result created a regulated capitalism. I’m hoping Biden can carry the weight.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        FDR was a unique political talent, and I begin to wonder whether Biden is similarly gifted. Although, I’d add that the Biden of 2020 is much wiser, IMVHO, than the Biden of 2008, or 2012.

        And if Biden integrates climate change into all areas of government (which IIRC the US military has made a case for doing), then your kids should take heart. As should we all — after choking in smoke here for weeks a mere two months ago, climate change is a BIG deal with every single person that I know.

        • Norskeflamthrower says:

          I agree that FDR was uniquely politically talented but both FDR and Biden share one ability that secured their political power: they listened to those who got ’em elected. That along with 50 Democratic senators could really increase Biden’s political intelligence.

      • graham firchlis says:

        One overwhelmingly significant difference between FDR then and Biden now is what voters did with Congress. Biden will take office at best with a small House majority and tenuous tiebreaker sort-of Senate majority. Republican Senate control is still likely.

        FDR held office with a 58-60 vote Senate majority and 312-318 advantage in the House his first two years. The next election increased Democratic caucus majorities to 70 in the Senate and 325 in the House. Republicans were so cowed they seldom even criticized FDR initiatives.

        Without commanding Democratic congressional control, any comparison of Biden expectations to FDR achievements is unfounded.

  10. Peterr says:

    In other words, one of Trump’s top priorities for the Lame Duck period is to give Vladimir Putin a consolation prize.

    This is certainly true, but not the only possibility here. It could also be true that one of Putin’s top priorities for the Lame Duck period is to squeeze as much as he can out of Trump before January 20th.

    While Trump has long had a strong affinity for powerful authoritarians, the suspicion lingers that at least some of Trump’s actions may be driven by Putin having some kind of carrot (“Sure, let’s reopen talks about Trump Tower Moscow”) or a stick (“We’ve got some documents/photos/videos featuring you that would be terribly awkward to explain — much more awkward than the Access Hollywood tapes. It’d be a shame if they were to come out . . .”) to encourage Trump to do what Putin would like to have done.

    Whatever the truth is about the relationship between Trump and Putin, I can easily see Putin looking at the Lame Duck session and scheming to get his while the getting is good. Flatter Trump, squeeze Trump, deceive Trump . . . whatever it takes to throw one last truckload full of sand into the gears of the Western Alliance.

    • emptywheel says:

      Fair!

      I guess what I was trying to say, inartfully, is that you can explain Trump releasing secrets Russia wants without having to assume he’s doing it for Russia. It would be easy to explain it bc he *knows* that the Russian attribution is wrong and someone suggested that the way to prove it was to release this shitty intelligence that says nothing about content but everything about sources and methods.

      • subtropolis says:

        Although I do believe that Trump has revealed more to Putin than he’d ever wish to be known, I do not think that this — the subject of the post — has anything at all to do with Putin, nor an attempt to gift anything to Russia. Rather, he has simply grasped onto a blip of intelligence which the Nunes gang has idiotically convinced itself is proof of something. (I’m with you on the Russians merely passing on info that could be gleaned from reading the papers.) And, having convinced themselves of this “bombshell” information, they have foolishly disregarded warnings about sources and methods. The stronger the arguments put forth by the adults in the room, the more that they are convinced that the Deep State is in a panic to hide the information.

        It’s kind of pathetic, really, that threats to national security could turn on such idiocy.

        • Spencer Dawkins says:

          My apologies for not chasing down details, but I read yesterday that some of the fruitbasket turnover of Trumpkins was moving people from political-appointee slots to career service slots, so they are harder to fire in a Biden administration.

          I’m not sure if any of Ellis, Cohen-Watnick, or Patel are being moved to career service slots, because there are so many people bouncing around that I can’t do my day job and keep up.

          But I’m going to think happy thoughts that the Biden transition team is aware of that, if it’s the case.

          And rule-of-law and all that, but it must be difficult to resist saying “yeah, (for example) the Senate is supposed to confirm those appointments, but since we seem to have gotten out of the advise-and-consent business, here’s MY list of temporary appointees”.

          I’m counting on Biden to be a better person than I am.

          • subtropolis says:

            Those who cannot be fired outright can be made to spend all of their time with Counterintelligence, answering questions. There’s not a chance that any of them will continue on onbothered.

            • BobCon says:

              Yanking security clearances can be done quickly if necessary. That puts them at a huge legal risk.

              A career person might have grounds to fight a downgrade as an unreasonable retaliation, but it is possible they will have enough sketchy behavior that can be dredged up while the fight goes on that they don’t want to go down that road.

          • GKJames says:

            That’s the concern. When it comes to people with civil service status, administrations tend to be squishy. One would hope that, when it comes to people in the national security apparatus, there’d be less of that.

    • PeterS says:

      I heard that some of the Trump people have been appointed as “career officials”, the implication being that they are somehow harder (or more expensive?) to remove.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Political appointees, only a relative handful of which require Senate confirmation, serve at the pleasure of the president, but civil service employees have statutory employment protections.

        The irony is that Trump has worked hard to gut civil service protections, including his most EO regarding them. He – more likely, whomever thinks for him – would expect Democrats to react by bolstering such protections, permanently encasing Trumpist stay behinds in the civil service.

        • P J Evans says:

          IIRC, he was removing protections from the senior civil servants, the people who know where all the bodies are buried, and how the system works. (I was corporate memory for a lot of stuff in my workgroup, even though I was low on the official seniority list.)

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      It’s a given – they’ll be gone before the end of the first week. The game plan must contemplate that. Whatever their goals, most of it will be a kind of smash ‘n grab. That could still cause considerable damage, especially if Trump or his patrons (foreign or domestic) look on this as if it were a Black Friday shopping spree.

      I’m also worried about something else, which I suspect is going on now. That is the hiring of hundreds of Trumpist stay behinds into the permanent civil service, or the conversion of political appointees to it. That was a BushCheney specialty, too, and I don’t think the Obama administration ever seriously addressed it.

    • emptywheel says:

      Biden will have to move Ellis, at least, to GC of the local laundry basket, as he’s now a Civil Service employee.

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        Can the flunkies that Trump has been putting in real positions recently be sent by Biden to a joint office well supplied with crayons and coloring books and that is their only responsibility ? Is there a legal way to send them into a cul de sac where they can do no additional harm ?

        That is presuming they are difficult to fire.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Probationary periods usually apply to civil servants. Although I don’t know how long they are now, at one time they ranged from 6 – 12 months. It was rare, but I knew of employees who did not pass the probation. Also, I knew people who were fired for falsifying information on their applications. And, of course, there is also the progressive disciplinary route which can eventually lead to firing.

      In addition, administrators have the option to “redline” positions, meaning the position can simply be eliminated. After the employee is effectively gone, then administrators can simply create a new title for the position and hire someone new to fill it.

  11. Robot17 says:

    To me it looks a lot like somebody burning the books on the way out. Bilking his supporters by starting a flame war about non-existent vote irregularities allows him to distract attention while he covers his tracks and has the added bonus of skimming more money from the Trumpsters.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    If Trump feels compelled to give Vladimir Putin a consolation prize – he never does anything for free or to promote anyone’s interest but his own – it must be because he owes Putin even more.

    Russia remains opposed to US interests and, while its economy is small, its defense and intelligence apparatus are formidable. I wonder if Donald’s drive to reward Putin – and do considerable harm to American interests and its intelligence apparatus – relates to possible Russian backing for his hundreds of millions in outstanding back debt. Or, is Donald falling again for the Lucy’s football of a Moscow Tower deal?

    Pity the Supreme Court virtually defined away the crime of bribing a public official. But there may still be others that a responsible DoJ might pursue.

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    If Trump wants to sell American secrets, he would do it before leaving office, and get what he can for them, including promises of future performance by his buyers. That’s a possible aspect of the recent enormous sale of war materiel to the UAE. The UAE has an even more enormous sovereign wealth fund, which has been kind to the Kushners in the past.

    For Trump, delivery is the problem, whether in or out of office. But criminal conduct is harder to prove while he is in office than, say, in his office at Trump Tower, NYC.

    On that theme, a facial reason Trump might quickly leave for foreign parts – Russia or a Middle Eastern country with no US extradition treaty, the sort of place that attracted Erik Prince – would be to build a new Trump Tower. Moscow comes to mind, but there are other locations. He could stay away for years, claiming that he was busy rebuilding his business empire.

  14. vvv says:

    It strikes me that some things we are kind of ignoring here include the failed president’s heath, and the much-discussed possibility of post-presidency prosecutions, not to mention current and possible future investigations relating to same (there is mention re the latter two by Ms. MW of, “something … to counter what will be very damning allegations”) …

    This is just me, perhaps, being optimistic.

    • skua says:

      45’s schedule during the last section of the campaign seemed hectic and demanding. It would have required a lot of energy. If it was largely drug-assisted energy then we should have seen a subsequent collapse of energy and health. 45’s health appears, in terms of his ability to create havoc, to be not bad.

      • Kate Freedman says:

        I have to respectfully disagree with your comment that 45’s health is not bad. His physical and mental deterioration are clear. Physically, his balance has worsened and he’s making uncontrolled involuntary movements. Two hands to drink water. His noticeable slant forward is common to many types of frontal temporal dementia. He has made no sense for the last few years; his word salad has worsened and he repeats himself constantly. He slurs and forgets names. Now add in years of substance abuse and he’s a sick, sad old man.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          I think that forward slant might be a result of him wearing lifts in his shoes. It’s been fascinating me forever, like his rightward head-flop, another unconscious tic. But the slant derives from his vanity, the same vanity that makes him wear those ridiculous ties and elephant pants.

      • P J Evans says:

        He’s made few physical appearances in the last week – he can tweet from bed or a comfy chair, without using much energy at all.

  15. jaango says:

    I have to disagree with most of what’s been written via DT once he leaves the Oval Office.

    Take, for example, selling our nation’s secrets to some foreign nations, have no real value since today’s “open” society, makes these “secrets” secrets only among the grifters and operators. And the sale of these ‘secrets’, when marketed from the standpoint of National Security and Defense, or the annual spending of over $1.7 trillion annually, is pretty much well known among our Allies and “perceived” Enemies–i.e., China and Russia, would not pose an economic or political dilemma for them or for the Biden and future administrations.

      • jaango says:

        One of the incessant attributes, is that there has never been a substantive Status Report, in which a blogger has ever interviewed their first ‘conquest’ –that being a interview conducted with a Chicano-oriented Elected or Appointed Official of which there are over 8,000 of these Public Servants..

        Today, our nation is currently living in Reagan’s Era of Intentional Ignorance given that all of America’s “answers” can be found in the Christian Bible or for the more elastic bent of “trickle down economics,.”

        Of course, via the ‘first counting’ the first 10,999 bloggers have never ‘interviewed’ a Chicano Public Servant. Obviously, being the first is not high on anyone’s agenda for any public discourse.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Bmaz is being kind. The range of projects and secrets has become virtually endless. Their “market” value is in the eyes of the beholder. Even confirmation of a secret’s existence has value.

      Also of value, as LBJ would have said, is having Trump’s pecker in the pocket of whomever he deals with. That might be an asset of dwindling value. But it is influence over him, anyone he owes, and those who expect to profit from him, starting with his extended family. (It affects his power and the value of his estate.)

    • harpie says:

      Marcy retweeted that while she was in the middle of a harrowing thread which begins:

      https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1326606323514040322
      2:22 PM · Nov 11, 2020

      Far too many people are thinking of Trump’s actions in terms of what is legal.
      He has broken the law, before and during his presidency, over and over and over.

      Moreover, Trump is busy setting up a civilian chain of command at DOD that is absolutely loyal, and he has an Attorney General who has rubber stamped all sorts of crimes of his. […]

      I feel like screaming:
      LISTEN TO MARCY, PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Chris.EL says:

        dear people: we are listening to Marcy.

        Marcy is awesome and brilliant.

        What are we [can’t speak for others], so what are we supposed to do?

        Not trying to be mean, looking for guidance.

    • harpie says:

      OH! And look at this, now:

      He Sidestepped Pompeo and Got Slapped Down. Now He’s the New Pentagon Chief.
      President Trump’s new acting secretary of defense began a since-aborted diplomatic gambit last month to negotiate with a Somali terrorist group — drawing the ire of the secretary of state.
      https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/11/us/politics/christopher-miller-pentagon-shabab.html
      Nov. 11, 2020, 2:49 p.m. ET

      A little-known counterterrorism official named Christopher C. Miller flew to the Middle East last month to pursue a diplomatic idea: asking Qatar to help devise plans to buy off or otherwise marginalize some senior leaders of the Shabab, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, who are more committed to attacking the West.

      Mr. Miller had obtained a blessing from Kash Patel, then a senior official at the National Security Council. President Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, was also aware of the trip, officials said. But they bypassed the nation’s chief diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — and when he found out, he deemed the idea half-baked and shut it down. […]

      • Raven Eye says:

        So just who is the lead horse(shit) whisperer? This all looks WAY too focused and coordinated to come out of Trump’s brain.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Undoubtedly, it starts with Stephen Miller. There are probably multiple aspects here, with different participants. I suspect one of them is Len Leo,with others acting as cut-outs for Trump patrons.

          • bmaz says:

            Don’t think it will be Len Leo. Trump was a vehicle to let him and FedSoc install all their pet judges. He will have little use for Trump out of office.

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I keep reminding myself that there’s a lot going on here, and for a multitude of reasons. I think Trump knows he’s lost. He and his minions are trying to make space for him to deal with it without getting burned.

    But lots of other things are going on. Trump is trying to trash the parts of government he feels most threatened by. That would start with intelligence and law enforcement, and probably the IRS.

    As Marcy lays out, he’s probably trying to obtain American intel for his personal use. He wants to know what the USG has on him, starting with evidence that he’s been compromised by Russia. He wants to pay part of the vig he owes Putin. He probably also wants whatever he can get to exchange with anyone who might buy it (cash, in-kind, protection), including the Russia, the UAE and SA.

    He wants to keep people afraid of him so that they’ll pay attention to him, on the assumption the he personally commands the votes of 70 million Americans. Inflaming that with things like his fantasy Dolchstosslegende is important to keep their attention. He’s demonstrating in Georgia that he will use that to extort aid for himself, even from United States Senators. (What he has on Lindsey Graham is anybody’s guess, but it must be an ugly file.)

    He’s fighting the inevitable dwindling of attention. That’s his ego, but it’s also the source of his market power. He’ll need every bent dime he can get for years, just to keep his head above water.

    • MattyG says:

      Indeed, that he may (try to) generate income by using USG intel either as blackmail or as info for sale to the highest bidder seems a possible/likely scenario. Assuming he’s a free citizen after all this, as an ex-president all he’d need to do is *imply* “…I know certain things…” to get people to oblige him. Assuming he’s a free citizen of course.

    • PeterS says:

      Republicans genuflecting before Trump is the norm, not the exception, so why need there be a “file” on Graham?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Bless your heart. This is normal? The GOP’s “genuflecting” to Trump is beyond even its followership under BushCheney.

        No one plays softball inside the Beltway. Getting to yes is hard, sometimes dirty work. Presidents have files on those who can most help or hinder their wants. If Trump doesn’t have them, Stephen Miller does. Both are vindictive as hell and happy to extort cooperation, as their treatment of Loeffler and Perdue suggests.

        Lindsey, among others, has dramatically changed his position on Trump, going into permanent fully-prostrate kowtowing. Something besides generic loyalty to the new GOP president made him do that.

        • PeterS says:

          Generic lack of principles and ambition to succeed in a Trumpist future. There’s a cynical explanation which doesn’t demand blackmail. But, to be clear, I am only guessing.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Having a file doesn’t imply blackmail, though one would be necessary to make it work. It is also necessary for the repeated exchanges and exertion of pressure – sometimes rising to the level of de facto extortion – involved in the constant formation and reformation of political deals.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          According to Greg Miller’s review of Mr. Obama’s memoir, the former president regards Lindsey Graham as, “the guy in the spy thriller or heist movie ‘who double-crosses everyone to save his own skin.’”

          https://twitter.com/gregpmiller/status/1327009859670319112

          Wrestling with so slitherin’ a character would require a well-crafted file. Mr. Graham’s unremitting support for Mr. Trump suggests that he or Stephen Miller have all the file they need.

  17. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The phalanx of Republicans marching steadily in front of Trump is holding steady. Each of them (starting with Loeffler and Perdue) is too afraid of reprisals – from Trump, GOP hit-men, and their billionaire patrons – to fall out of step. No one wants to be the first to be lined up against the wall.

    But together, they are lining us up against the wall. The least of their objectives is to burn into American society the belief that Democrats are not Americans, and that their governance is inherently illegitimate and could not possibly result from a fair election.

    Battling that is a full-time occupation. It starts with great public diplomacy, followed by implementing progressive policies that help all Americans, not just corporations and the people who own them. In the short term, though, unless we want to receive the same virtual knee-on-the-neck treatment as George Floyd, we need to stand up and say, No, NFW are you doing this.

  18. Molly Pitcher says:

    For those of you with ‘inside baseball’ understanding of the workings of the Presidency, were Trump to leave the country for, shall we say an extended visit to a friendlier country, what happens to his post presidency Secret Service detail ?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      They would accompany him wherever he goes, for life.

      Even if Congress were to change the statutory authorization, there’s an argument that any president who served before the change was made would be entitled to continued coverage.

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        That is what I thought, so essentially we get a tail on him for the rest of his life. Could be worse. At least they will be able to use ‘spy stuff’ (technical term) to keep tabs on his activities.

        I wonder if he realizes this, hahaha.

        • Raven Eye says:

          I think he does — and that’s another worry for him.

          Those Secret Service folks aren’t just bodyguards. They’re federal LEOs and have earned their chops doing real investigations, catching bad guys, etc. At some point in time, he’s going to consider every one of them a spy.

          • Molly Pitcher says:

            TSK, TSK, TSK, What a shame.

            Just think of all the people who won’t want to meet with him because of this….

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I assume a former president could refuse the coverage, but it would need to be spelled out clearly in writing. I doubt Trump would give up the status, though I imagine he would shoo them away from time to time.

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          He has put so many unqualified people in positions this week. What is the likelihood that the career people under them will be able to keep the newbie leaders like mushrooms and protect the institutional info from them ?

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Naturally, it will vary. But a lot of senior civil servants got that way because they know their jobs better than their political overlords, and know how to deal with politically ambitious shits. Plus, the horizon here is not that far off.

  19. mospeck says:

    Scares me David Ignatius reports that we are right now deep into this thing.
    But I bet on Gina and the spooks :)

  20. Dave Noble says:

    I always found the Homeland TV series to be fascinating, enjoyable, and remarkably prescient.

    The series which particularly comes to mind just now is the one in which a woman is elected President after much violent opposition, whose first mission is to arrest every top official and functionary until she has confirmed their loyalty. Presumably a special on handcuffs at Costco.

    Perhaps Biden has been steeped in politics too long to take such a major step, but one wonders if the Vice President elect would be so inclined.

    Anyway, from Canada, we watch the ongoing horror show and wish fervently for ourf American friends, and the world, tht a resolution is coming soon and the guilty are sent off to their next accommodation

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      They don’t plan for anything else, why should they start now? Come January 20th, the Secret Service will happily escort him from the building. They might whisper into his ear that now he and Elvis have something in common.

      • Blueride27 says:

        I sincerely hope your right, but I keep searching for the worst because thats the trend of this administration.

  21. punaise says:

    So in the interest of restructuring or reforming the political system can we refer to Ellis, Cohen-Watnick, and Patel as the Palace-troika?

  22. bmaz says:

    WOW – Chris Hayes just reported that Ron Klain will be Biden’s Chief of Staff. An absolutely great, and inspired, choice.

  23. ApacheTrout says:

    Re: Mike Flynn – if Sullivan rules against him and the Trump DOJ appeals, can the Biden DOJ withdraw the appeal and resume prosecution/sentencing?

  24. bmaz says:

    Yes. But there is that pesky pardon thing still out there. Though not sure it is really in Trump’s best interest. On the other hand, Trump is a reactionary idiot, so who knows.

    • vvv says:

      Re Flynn, I still kind of wonder why they just didn’t accept the sentencing and then commute, as in Stone.

      I mean, that would have been, I think, DOJ and Trump’s easiest outcome, when it became clear they would have such a hard time going at it as they have. “Losing face” can’t really concern them at this late date.

      They really don’t want a trial, if that was ever really even in the cards.

      What is forcing DOJ/trump’s play on this? Ennui? Does Flynn have that much leverage?

      (I acknowledge that it’s likely too late to do it that way now.)

      • Rugger9 says:

        It’s a question similar to one I’ve been asking for a long time as well, and with the press having the attention span of a dimwitted goldfish, such an action would be forgotten in the mainstream press list of topics. So, it’s probably pardon time now, and don’t think for a minute that Flynn will tell the whole truth when interviewed following one or offer any useful information (I predict a massive attack of amnesia).

        The pardon would also have the effect of opening the door for the Army to prosecute for bringing discredit upon the service and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman, which is the catch-all for when nothing else can be used. The Army needs to step up for the good of their branch.

  25. vicks says:

    There is something off about the whole declassification thing, Trump behavior towards Putin over the past four years brings up he obvious question of whether Trump has a need to make himself “whole” with this dangerous man.
    It’s a long shot, but I think Vlad would like to know the whereabouts of the CIA asset that had gotten close enough to him to confirm that it was Putin calling the shots during the 2016 election.
    That information would be important to the Russia investigation, how far would Trump’s monkeys have to dig to get to it?
    Speaking of Trump’s flunkies, does anyone think if Trump has plans to sell secrets to our enemies he would risk telling those boneheads?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      You don’t have to tell your staff what you’re doing, you just have to tell them what you want them to do.

  26. x174 says:

    misread Peterr (supra) as “It could also be true that one of BIDEN’s top priorities for the Lame Duck period is to squeeze as much as he can out of Trump before January 20th.” Which seems rather consistent with Biden’s devil-may-care attitude right now about his blocked access to the pdbs: they-would-be-useful-but-not-necessary stance. What i’m now wondering is if the new administration is allowing trump the opportunity–via his lackeys and nunes’ stooges–to commit crimes so that they can be apprehended and maybe even expose some of their contacts. certainly makes biden et al seem almost superhuman, but i have long wondered whether people have been waiting to see when our parasite-in-chief sends out his stooges, cut outs and go-betweens so that they can not only catch them in the act but to identify their contacts b/c there’ one thing no one would dispute: these guys are beyond incompetent.

  27. Chris.EL says:

    don’t the multiple recently installed personnel pretty much fit the very definition of Deep State pawns that Trump has been crowing about all these years?

  28. Rob says:

    Obviously Trump wants Mike Ellis to destroy the other transcripts/recordings (chats with other world leaders that Trump would prefer not see the light of day) which is exactly why he put him in this new position. He needs to be stopped. These transcripts need to be saved. Americans need to see how Donald sold out his country and he cannot get away with this.

    • Rugger9 says:

      If the transcripts existed in the first place, that is. However, I think your point is quite valid here given how much covering up has gone on and significant changes to regulations all made “quietly”.

      The problem with conversations is that the other side might have tapes too, as we saw with the Russians posting their version of WH visits on RT, etc., and when it’s convenient releasing them to the world. As DJT continues to lose court cases, I would expect that a threshold will be reached where reaching out to Biden is far better policy than propping up a loser. If SCOTUS says no to any of this, I think the dam breaks.

      The other thing to consider is that it’s an actual crime to do the shredding under the Presidential Records Act and I think must be prosecuted this time.

  29. skua says:

    I see Putin* has got another prize – a military base in Armenia, and with it the end of any real possiblity of Armenia joining the West in the next 20 years.
    The former connoisseur of Western mail-order catalogues has done well for himself.

    * Was an informal version of “Putin” but then I remembered bmaz’ request.

    • punaise says:

      Now, if you’re screwed
      And you don’t know where to go, dude
      Why don’t you go where fascist sits
      Putin on the fritz

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