Politics postsFriday July 20, 2018
The Trump Tapes, Part I
The big story of the day was this one from The New York Times, although its headline was a bit misleading:
At least it misled me. I thought this meant Cohen taped Trump talking to the model. Nope. Cohen taped him and Trump talking about the model. Specifically how to keep her quiet in the months leading up to the election. Money was apparently involved. That's all we know so far.
The Playboy model in question is Karen McDougal who says she had an affair with Trump in 2007 or so. She eventually sold her story to The National Enquirer, but they squelched it. They paid $150k not to run it. As a favor to Trump.
Of course, Trump's current lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, jumped in today with a topnotch defense:
“Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that Mr. Trump had directed Mr. Cohen that if he were to make a payment related to the woman, write a check, rather than sending cash, so it could be properly documented.
“In the big scheme of things, it's powerful exculpatory evidence,” Mr. Giuliani.
Right. It's exculpatory because a man running for president directed his lawyer that if they had to pay off a woman who said she'd had an affair with him, probably in violation of election laws, please use one of your own checks.
There's more tapes, btw, and all of this will eventually come out. But the fact that it's taken so long—a year a half into Trump's presidency—even though it's about a president makes me wonder what CEOs and other titans invariably get away with on a daily basis.
Suggestion: Sub in a shot of the Trump blimp baby. At least we'll get a laugh out of it.
12 Russian Intelligence Officers Indicted
The indictments were announced as Pres. Trump was in the midst of a European trip involving meetings with NATO leaders, British Prime Minister Teresa May, the Queen of England and Putin.
“Today is actually a significant moment in American history. We‘ve only had 45 presidents. And here we now know that one of them was elected with the explicit and intentional help of a foreign power, in violation of American law, with the aggressive and open support of the candidate who was the beneficiary of those crimes.”
Jeffrey Toobin, last night on Anderson Cooper 360, in the wake of special counsel Robert Mueller issuing a 29-page indictment on 12 Russian intelligence officers, charging them in the hacking of the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. A good piece and podcast on the indictments can be found at LawFareBlog.
A lot of the above is already known, or assumed, but we get some interesting details:
- By the end of June 2016, Russian military intelligence (GRU) had hacked into at least 33 computers in the DNC orbit.
- Though the DNC hired a cybersecurity agency, malware remained on some computers until at least October.
- The conspirators created an online persona, Guccifer 2.0, a “lone Romanian hacker,” in order to undermine and misdirect claims of Russian responsibility.
- By August, Guccifer 2.0 received and responded to requests for intel from:
- a U.S. congressman
- a reporter regarding Black Lives Matter
- “a person who was in regular contact with senior members” of the Trump presidential campaign
- On July 22, 2016, the government asserts, Wikileaks released more than 20,000 emails and documents stolen from the DNC network by the conspirators and “did not disclose Guccifer 2.0’s role in providing them.”
Plus, as they say, much, much more. And more to come. At the least, the names of the congressman, reporter, and Trump presidential campaign contact.
BTW: I highlighted the above in Toobin's quote because as I heard it I was thinking this charge might relate to new info from the Mueller indictments. It doesn‘t. It relates, I assume, to Trump’s July 2016 public declaration that Russia hack Hillary's emails. Toobin is tying it all together. The bow isn't neat yet—I doubt it will ever be, even Watergate remained messy—but it's not looking good for Trump. Which means it's looking good for the rest of us.
Other Peter Strzok text messages, per Rachel Maddow.
This won't shut up the GOP but it would be great if it helped shut them down.
Much-maligned FBI agent Peter Strzok (pronounced: Struck) was trotted before the House of Representatives yesterday as a sacrificial lamb in the GOP's and Pres. Trump's attempts to accuse the opposition (hard-working Americans, basically) of its own crimes. In this alternative reality, the narrative of which gets aired daily on Fox News and the like, the FBI, in the person of James Comey, didn't help Trump win the 2016 election; the Bureau actively tried stopping him. Exhibit A is Strzok, who, in private text messages with an FBI lawyer with whom he was having an affair, slammed Trump during the 2016 campaign. Here, for example, is one from July 21:
“Trump is a disaster. I have no idea how destabilizing his presidency would be.”
More prescient than anything. The one the GOP likes to wring its hands over is from a few weeks later:
Lisa Page: Trump's never going to become president, right?
Strzok: No. No. He's not. We‘ll stop it.
OMG! A smoking gun!
Not so fast, says Strzok. The “we,” he’s said constantly, is not the FBI but the American people. Who, sadly, were not up to the task Strzok gave them. We stopped shit.
Anyway, in the hearing yesterday, Strzok didn't stop there. Not nearly. He laid out the apparently revolutionary idea, to Republicans, that one can still be a professional even though one has political opinions. Unlike the GOP, and folks like Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), he puts the professional before the political:
I can assure you, Mr. Chairman, at no time in any of these texts did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took. Furthermore, this isn't just me sitting here telling you. You don't have to take my word for it. At every step, at every investigative decision, there are multiple layers of people above me—the assistant director, executive assistant director, deputy director, and director of the F.B.I.—and multiple layers of people below me—section chiefs, supervisors, unit chiefs, case agents, and analysts—all of whom were involved in all of these decisions.
They would not tolerate any improper behavior in me any more than I would tolerate it in them. That is who we are as the F.B.I. And the suggestion that I, in some dark chamber somewhere in the F.B.I., would somehow cast aside all of these procedures, all of these safeguards, and somehow be able to do this is astounding to me. It simply couldn't happen. And the proposition that is going on, that it might occur anywhere in the F.B.I., deeply corrodes what the F.B.I. is in American society, the effectiveness of their mission, and it is deeply destructive.
Cf., my review of “The Post.” Also see the above image. Strzok not only didn't like Trump; he didn't think much of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Loretta Lynch. He was like much of America in 2016 in this regard.
The New Yorker's John Cassidy has a nice piece on Strzok's testimony, and ends it this way:
As Strzok spoke, Gowdy leaned back in his chair, a cold look on his face. What was he thinking? He hasn't served entirely as a White House patsy on the Russia affair. At one point, he suggested that Trump should start acting more like he is innocent. But Gowdy and other House Republicans invested what was left of their credibility in a conspiracy theory that was now blowing up in their faces, live on television. After Strzok said the words “deeply destructive,” there was a brief silence in the hearing room. Then there was a round of applause from the public gallery.
Great ending. But you know the GOP. They simply ignored reality and shopped its narrative to the usual suspects. They have way too much invested in this.
What a sad side they've chosen.
This is the President of the United States
Twitter is getting rid of fake accounts at a record pace. Will that include the Failing New York Times and propaganda machine for Amazon, the Washington Post, who constantly quote anonymous sources that, in my opinion, don’t exist - They will both be out of business in 7 years!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 7, 2018
This is the president of the United States.
This is the president of the United States cheering for the failure of American businesses.
This is the president of the United States cheering against the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
This is the president of the United States equating our two greatest newspapers, fact-checking bastions of free speech, with the often-Russian bots whose lies and slander helped elect this president of the United States.
This is not normal. Don't let this be normal.