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Three Things: Shocker, Badger, Vapor

Summer doldrums are hitting hard here; it’s too steamy today to do much but watch the garden grow and the ‘hot takes’ bloom. Let’s breeze through these.

~ 1 ~

Shocker: The White House had its ass handed to it last night, alongside a serving of vanilla ice cream and peach cobbler. While it was kissing up to some über conservative Senators, Utah’s Mike Lee and Kansas’ Jerry Moran announced they would not support the Motion to Proceed on the latest POS edition of AHCA.

Excellent work on the dual tweets dispatched simultaneously at 8:30 p.m., by the way (see this one and this one). Live by the tweets, die by the tweets, Littlehands.

What I find particularly interesting is the secrecy this announcement revealed. Not just the discreet collaboration between two senators from very red states, taking advantage of the additional time afforded them by John McCain’s personal health care challenge. Apparently Senate Majority Leader Mitch “Yertle” McConnell has had such a tight grip on the legislative process that even his wingman, John Cornyn, doesn’t know what’s going on until McConnell’s office emails his deputies.

Not exactly a way to win friends and influence enemies, that.

(For some reason McConnell’s super-secret hyper control makes me think of the compartments Washington Post wrote about with regard to the Russian election hacks and the subsequent investigation. Why is that?)

~ 2 ~

Badger: Russia is pissed off about its dachas-away-from-home, threatening retaliation if they’re not returned. Uh, right. Like the U.S. suddenly decided to boot Russian occupants out of the Long Island and Maryland digs for no good reason last year. Russian Foreign Ministry “reserves the right to retaliate based on the principle of reciprocity,” forgetting that Obama took a too-measured response to repeated incursions by Russia into U.S. information systems — including hacks of the White House and Defense Department in 2015 — not to mention the ‘Illegals Program‘ spy who worked at Microsoft circa 2010. (Let’s also not forget an ‘Illegals Program’ spy worked their way close to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign co-chair.) The U.S. could and should have been far more aggressive in its response; Russia isn’t entitled to reciprocity.

This is a test for Congressional Republicans. Either cement sanctions against Russia including the ‘foreclosure’ on these two compounds, or admit complicity in the undermining of democratic process last year. The GOP needs to revisit a CRS report on U.S.-Russia relations and Executive Orders 13660, 13661, and 13662 before they give any ground. [EDIT: See also EO 13964, issued April 1, 2016 in response to “malicious cyberactivity” — this EO the GOP will probably ignore just as it has all signs of Team Trump collusion as well as Russian interference in the 2016 general election.]

If there are truly compelling reasons in the nation’s interest for conceding these compounds, give them back — but only after the buildings have been razed and permits for reconstruction are denied under sanctions. The Russian government can work out of trailers on the property, or on boats from the dock. They do not need to be any more comfortable than they have been.

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Vapor: No longer a ghost — we  now know who the eighth attendee was at Donnie Junior’s June 9th meeting at Trump Tower last year. Lucky number seven is believed to be a translator — and wow, so is number eight!

Which seems kind of odd — in the information Junior dumped online, there was no mention that Veselnitskaya didn’t speak English and needed a translator, or who would be the translator. Doesn’t it seem strange that there would be no concerns about security clearance into Trump Tower or a meeting with a presidential candidate’s son and/or campaign team given the meeting requester was a foreign national?

Perhaps because there was little concern, Body Number Eight, Ike Kaveladze, purportedly showed up as Veselnitskaya’s translator only to learn she had brought her own, Body Number Seven, Anatoli Samochornov. It’s not clear from USA Today’s reporting who asked Kaveladze to attend; did Junior just let any Russian in the neighborhood attend the meeting? Aras Agalarov sent Kaveladze “just to make sure it happened and to serve as an interpreter if necessary,” Kaveladze’s lawyer told NYT. Why so many witnesses?

The room must have been a little crowded with Junior, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Rob Goldstone, Veselnitskaya and two translators as well as Rinat Akhmetshin.

Given the two translators, Akhmetshin’s presence seems even more curious. Why was he there if there were two translators?

~ ~ ~

That’s that. I could go on but it’s too damned hot here. Refresh your iced tea and settle yourself in front of the fan. This is an open thread — behave.

And Now Akmetshin, or Why the Hell *Didn’t* Obama ‘Tapp’ Team Trump?

A couple days ago Marcy pointed out that Donnie Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya on June 9, 2016, offered proof the Obama administration didn’t ‘wiretapp’ the Trump campaign.

Which is all fine and dandy until today’s revelation that a former-GRU-agent-cum-campaign-hacker-now-lobbyist present at the same meeting.

What. The. Actual. Fuck?

It’s bad enough contacts with foreign nationals have to be teased out one by one from Team Trump, but to appear to hide multiple Russian contacts attending one meeting, particularly those with background in military and/or intelligence, is utterly ridiculous.

If this meeting was completely on the up-and-up, wouldn’t Junior have included the names of ALL the attendees in his online spill-fest?

It’s almost as if Junior and the rest of Team Trump knew that the presence of more than one Russian, particularly Rinat Akhmetshin, wasn’t a good thing.

It’s almost as if Natalia Veselnitskaya knew Akhmetshin’s presence wasn’t a good thing, either, since the communications Junior dumped online don’t indicate her intention to bring Akhmetshin with her to the June 9th meeting.

Read the AP’s reporting and see if you don’t come away with a bunch of new questions about Junior’s meeting. I sure did…

— Did Veselnitskaya leave documents with Junior and the rest of Team Trump? Akhmetsin is very sketchy on this point.

— Did any U.S. law enforcement or intelligence agency have any indication that Akhmetshin as well as Veselnitskaya were in NYC let alone at Trump Tower? Keep in mind the Evgeny Buryakov case and the “others known and unknown” who had been supporting Buryakov and two other Russian spies in 2013.

— Were members of the Gang of Eight, including Mitch McConnell and Devin Nunes, told last summer before the election of the multiple Russians meeting with Junior and Team Trump, even without any ‘wiretapp’ used on foreign national attendees? Is this one of the issues which riled up former Sen. Harry Reid, encouraging him to send a letter to former FBI Director Jim Comey to ask for an investigation?

— Are U.S. intelligence agencies not following Akhmetsin because he was believed to be a registered lobbyist, in spite of the fact he’s accused of being a hacker AND the U.S. government had been repeatedly hacked by Russia in 2015-2016?

— Has Team Trump been in contact with DHS’ Mike Kelly at all about Akhmetsin, especially since Sen. Chuck Grassley sent a letter to Kelly [pdf] in April this year asking for more information about Akhmetsin?

If I think about this much longer, I’m sure I’ll come up with a few more questions. I don’t know how there wasn’t some form of ‘tapp’ following so many Russians in one spot, considering the Prevezon money laundering case was still open in the background. I get it — wiretapping defense lawyers is a no-no. But a meeting at which Rinat Akhmetsin was present, in a building where Russian money laundering had been conducted?

The whole situation stinks like a week-old kulebyáka left in the sun.