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Trump Campaign Reportedly In Contact With Russian Intelligence During Campaign

Trump Putin

The story of the day yesterday in Washington was, of course, the resignation of Michael Flynn as President Trump’s National Security Adviser. Administration officials and many Republicans on Capitol Hill spent the better part of the day trying to deflect questions about what Flynn’s resignations meant for the overall issue of the Trump team’s contacts with Russia that has been a controversy since before the election by arguing that the real story was who leaked the contents of Flynn’s conversations. Over on Capitol Hill, some Republicans have begun talking about investigating all of this, but the overall sentiment clearly seems to be one where they’d rather see this story go away than be forced to open investigations of a Republican President less than a month into his first term in office. Meanwhile, the story itself continues moving forward, and it seems clear that Flynn’s resignation is not going to be the last we hear about it. This morning, for example,  The New York Times is reporting that the Trump campaign had repeated contact with Russian intelligence and other officials throughout the campaign, which amounts to yet another indication that the story about the connections between President Trump and his people and Russian isn’t going to end with Flynn:

WASHINGTON — Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.

The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.

But the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public.

The officials said the intercepted communications were not limited to Trump campaign officials, and included other associates of Mr. Trump. On the Russian side, the contacts also included members of the government outside of the intelligence services, they said. All of the current and former officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the continuing investigation is classified.

The officials said that one of the advisers picked up on the calls was Paul Manafort, who was Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman for several months last year and had worked as a political consultant in Ukraine. The officials declined to identify the other Trump associates on the calls.

The call logs and intercepted communications are part of a larger trove of information that the F.B.I. is sifting through as it investigates the links between Mr. Trump’s associates and the Russian government, as well as the hacking of the D.N.C., according to federal law enforcement officials. As part of its inquiry, the F.B.I. has obtained banking and travel records and conducted interviews, the officials said.

Mr. Manafort, who has not been charged with any crimes, dismissed the officials’ accounts in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “This is absurd,” he said. “I have no idea what this is referring to. I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today.”

He added, “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.'”

Several of Mr. Trump’s associates, like Mr. Manafort, have done business in Russia. And it is not unusual for American businessmen to come in contact with foreign intelligence officials, sometimes unwittingly, in countries like Russia and Ukraine, where the spy services are deeply embedded in society. Law enforcement officials did not say to what extent the contacts might have been about business.

The officials would not disclose many details, including what was discussed on the calls, the identity of the Russian intelligence officials who participated, and how many of Mr. Trump’s advisers were talking to the Russians. It is also unclear whether the conversations had anything to do with Mr. Trump himself.

A report from American intelligence agencies that was made public in January concluded that the Russian government had intervened in the election in part to help Mr. Trump, but did not address whether any members of the Trump campaign had participated in the effort.

The intercepted calls are different from the wiretapped conversations last year between Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, and Sergey I. Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States. In those calls, which led to Mr. Flynn’s resignation on Monday night, the two men discussed sanctions that the Obama administration imposed on Russia in December.

But the cases are part of American intelligence and law enforcement agencies’ routine electronic surveillance of the communications of foreign officials.

The F.B.I. declined to comment. The White House also declined to comment Tuesday night, but earlier in the day, the press secretary, Sean Spicer, stood by Mr. Trump’s previous comments that nobody from his campaign had contact with Russian officials before the election.

“There’s nothing that would conclude me that anything different has changed with respect to that time period,” Mr. Spicer said in response to a question.

(…)

As part of the inquiry, the F.B.I. is also trying to assess the credibility of the information contained in a dossier that was given to the bureau last year by a former British intelligence operative. The dossier contained a raft of allegations of a broad conspiracy between Mr. Trump, his associates and the Russian government. It also included unsubstantiated claims that the Russians had embarrassing videos that could be used to blackmail Mr. Trump.

The F.B.I. has spent several months investigating the leads in the dossier, but has yet to confirm any of its most explosive claims.

Senior F.B.I. officials believe that the former British intelligence officer who compiled the dossier, Christopher Steele, has a credible track record, and he briefed investigators last year about how he obtained the information. One American law enforcement official said that F.B.I. agents had made contact with some of Mr. Steele’s sources.

The agency’s investigation of Mr. Manafort began last spring as an outgrowth of a criminal investigation into his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine and for the country’s former president, Viktor F. Yanukovych. It has focused on why he was in such close contact with Russian and Ukrainian intelligence officials.

The bureau did not have enough evidence to obtain a warrant for a wiretap of Mr. Manafort’s communications, but it had the N.S.A. scrutinize the communications of Ukrainian officials he had met.

The F.B.I. investigation is proceeding at the same time that separate investigations into Russian interference in the election are gaining momentum on Capitol Hill. Those investigations, by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, are examining not only the Russian hacking but also any contacts that Mr. Trump’s team had with Russian officials during the campaign.

Much of this report hardly comes as a surprise since it confirms what other reports had said during the campaign as well as suspicions voiced by many political observers regarding the connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. Some of these contacts, such as the long history that people such as Paul Manafort and Lt. General Flynn had with Russian officials and business interests with ties to the Putin regime, were well-known during the campaign. Given the revelations that later came out what clearly seems to have been a Russian effort to influence the outcome of the American Presidential election, though, the new information raises some rather serious questions regarding what these Trump officials may have been discussing with their Russian contacts, especially whether or not there were ongoing discussions regarding the potential direction of U.S. foreign policy in the event Trump managed to win the Presidency, something that of course seemed like only a dim possibility leading right up until Election Day itself. Additionally, there have been repeated questions raised regarding possible connections between Trump’s business interests and Russian banks that may have provided at least some financial backing to Trump projects after several large American and European banks reportedly began becoming reluctant to back such projects given Trump’s reported liquidity problems and history of using the bankruptcy process and formation of corporate shells to deal with creditors on projects that ended up failing in the end. In part due to the fact that Trump refused to release his tax returns during the course of the campaign and afterward. Add into this Trump’s obsequious praise of Vladimir Putin at every turn, and his dismissal of obvious evidence of Putin’s dictatorship at home and efforts to expand Russian influence abroad, and it all raises serious questions that can only be answered via further investigation. As Chris Cillizza put it yesterday, this story didn’t start with Mike Flynn and it isn’t going to end with his resignation.

As The New York Times Editorial Board notes this morning, this means that Republicans need to step up to the plate and show that they can put their country before their party:

There are many unanswered questions. Did anyone in the White House authorize Mr. Flynn’s contacts? Why has Mr. Trump not condemned him for discussing sanctions with the Russians when he was not yet in office?

All of this puts more pressure on Congress to act. Although some top Republican senators have pledged to deepen their investigation of Russian involvement in the election, the party’s response over all has been irresponsible. “I think that situation has taken care of itself,” Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said on Tuesday about Mr. Flynn. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was equally dismissive: “It just seems like there’s a lot of nothing there.” Then there was Senator Rand Paul, who put partisanship ahead of national security by declaring “it makes no sense” for Republicans to investigate Republicans.

Of course, Republicans pilloried Hillary Clinton for nearly two years for using a private email server, a bad decision, but one that didn’t endanger the nation. And they conducted eight futile investigations into Mrs. Clinton’s role as secretary of state during the 2012 Benghazi attack.

Now the same Republicans seem intent on helping Mr. Trump hide the truth by refusing to investigate Russia’s hacking and other attempts to influence the 2016 election, as well as Mr. Trump’s connections to Russia and affinity for President Vladimir Putin.

Thomas Friedman agrees:

If Republicans want to know how they should be behaving on this issue, they should ask themselves what they would be saying and doing right now if a President Hillary Clinton had behaved toward Russia the way Trump has, and had her national security adviser been found hinting to the Russian ambassador to hold tight because a softer United States policy toward Russia was on its way.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, what are you thinking by looking away from this travesty? You both know that if the C.I.A., N.S.A. and F.B.I. had concluded that the Russians had intervened to help Hillary Clinton get elected you would have closed the government and demanded a new election. Now it’s all O.K.? So you can get some tax cuts? Gens. Jim Mattis and John Kelly, our new secretaries of defense and homeland security, you are great patriots who both put your lives on the line in uniform to defend American values from precisely the kind of attack Putin perpetrated. Are you O.K. with what’s going on?

(…)

“The Russians did not just hack into some emails or break into some banks in America. They attacked the very things that make America what it is — that makes it so special: its rule of law and its democratic form of choosing and changing leaders,” said Nader Mousavizadeh, who was a senior adviser to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and co-leads the global consulting firm Macro Advisory Partners.

I am not looking to go to war with Russia over this. Back in the 1990s, this column was among the loudest voices warning against NATO expansion — that it would one day come back to haunt us, which it has, by making Russia feel threatened. I don’t care about Putin. His regime will fail because he is forever looking for dignity in all the wrong places, by drilling for oil and gas instead of unleashing the creativity of his people. But I am not willing to settle for evicting a few Russian agents and then moving on. We need to get to the truth, look it squarely in the eye and then act proportionately.

The Times and Friedman are, of course, absolutely correct. The allegations that have been made are serious indeed and go to the core of our democratic system. Congress owes it to the American people to fully investigate this matter and to be unafraid about uncovering whatever the investigation may uncover, even if it damages the head of their own party. If they could find enough reason to launch multiple investigations of the Benghazi attack, Fast & Furious, and the IRS targeting scandal then surely they can find reason to launch an investigation of the allegations regarding foreign interferene in our elections and, potentially, the possibility that members of an incoming Administration was conducting foreign policy behind the back of the sitting President of the United States.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Lit3Bolt says:

    To quote Dr. James Joyner:

    “Trump was duly elected whether we like it or not…”

    NO.

    NO.

    NO.

    The Republican Party was hijacked by Russian spies. Our President is a compromised Russian agent. Putin is waging all out war against the West….and he is winning.

    This has gone beyond tax cuts, Supreme Court Justices,or Obamacare. This is the biggest -Gate in the history of -Gates.

    And it will not get better.

    Trump needs to resign, and there must be a full, independent, bipartisan investigation to make sure Mike Pence is not compromised as well.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 37 Thumb down 7

  2. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Scattershooting a little because it’s hard, at this point, to even know what to say.
    The NYtimes report was last night…so today’s developments should be fun to watch; particularly Spicer’s press briefing.
    The idea that all this was going on behind the Mango Mussolini’s back is preposterous. Flynn, at least, is a military man and certainly wasn’t free-lancing.
    I was in high school during Watergate, and spent some time in the hospital, so I ended up watching a lot of it play out on TV (before there were more than 13 channels).
    Is this Watergate? No. Not yet. It certainly seems to be on a similar, if much faster, trajectory.
    At the minimum what little existed of this administrations credibility is shot. The credibility of their supporters as well. Chaffetz has been shown to be more of a hack than previously imagined. Ryan and McConnell too.
    Rand Paul, the poor little libertarian, simply embarrassed the fuq out himself:

    I just don’t think it’s useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 37 Thumb down 2

  3. Pch101 says:

    Congress owes it to the American people to fully investigate this matter and to be unafraid about uncovering whatever the investigation may uncover, even if it damages the head of their own party.

    But we’re talking about the Republican party here. The GOP will be loathe to make an aggressive move if it damages its party in general or Mike Pence in particular.

    If there is an full-fledged attack launched by the GOP establishment, then its primary intent will be to position Mike Pence as Trump’s successor. The Dems had better be sure to take down both Trump and Pence; Pence needs to be made to own this.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 4

  4. Gustopher says:

    We knew this during the campaign. The number of oddly pro-Russian campaign staff was large and when one would quit due to his ties to Russia, another would take his place.

    Again, I am reminded of priests molesting children — when I was growing up, there were countless jokes about it, and then one day, it was suddenly a very serious scandal.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 1

  5. James Pearce says:

    I don’t see what all the fuss is about. All the Republicans I know think a Russian mole in the White House is a small price to pay for a Muslim ban, a Mexican wall, and a tax cut for the rich.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 45 Thumb down 3

  6. MarkedMan says:

    I’ll repeat something here I just posted at he tail end of another thread:

    Trumps behavior in this is comparable to someone pulled over for DUI. He may be within his rights to refuse a breathalyzer but it is then incumbent upon the police to assume guilt as it is too dangerous to leave him on the road. Trump is refusing to cooperate in any way towards proving innocence. This certainly seems to indicate guilt and, more importantly, for the safety of our nation we should treat it as an admission of guilt.

    We should also look to who else in the government may be compromised by Russia. It certainly arouses suspicion that Ryan, Chaffetz and Paul are so quick out the gate to try to thwart investigations. Now, Chaffetz is such a total partisan hack it is easy to believe he is simply putting party over country and in his tiny unimaginative brain he may think stonewalling will help the GOP. But with Paul it is entirely plausible he was compromised during his long term association with white supremacist groups and the crazy fringe of right wingers, who we now know are intertwined with Russian propaganda outlets (Flynn, among other alt right figures, has accepted at least one paid engagement from Russia Today and used it to praise them and their mission. ) Ryan? As much as I dislike his policies it’s hard for me to believe he would sell out the country. But he is incredibly ambitious and perhaps he was compromised by some deal with the devil. It wouldn’t have to have been with the Russians directly; they could simply have obtained the leash.

    Nevertheless, all three could dispel suspicion by actively seeking out the rot within the Republican (and yes, Democratic) Party.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 2

  7. Lit3Bolt says:

    @MarkedMan:

    That’s why there needs to be an investigation. The Republican Party has to purge itself, and the sooner the better.

    May I point out that the idiots in the Trump campaign simply assumed they wouldn’t win and/or assumed their foreign contacts would not be monitored.

    PRO LIFE TIP: If your calls have been “monitored,” THEN THEY HAVE BEEN FLARCKING RECORDED. THERE ARE TRANSCRIPTS.

    There’s a Russian Spy Ship off the coast of Delaware, Russian agents in the White House, Russia using the threat of jihadi terrorism as a catspaw against the West, and conservatives and libertarians have been on record shouting “YAY! WE LOVE RUSSIA! WHITE POWER WHITE POWER WHITE POWER!”

    PRO LIFE TIP: RUSSIA IS NOT YOUR WHITE POWER FRIEND.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

  8. rachel says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Chaffetz has been shown to be more of a hack than previously imagined.

    Chaffetz has shown himself to be exactly the hack I previously imagined. I hope a vertebrate primaries him.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 1

  9. Argon says:

    Congress owes it to the American people to fully investigate this matter and to be unafraid about uncovering whatever the investigation may uncover, even if it damages the head of their own party.

    Rand Paul
    “I just don’t think it’s useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party,” he said. “We’ll never even get started with doing the things we need to do like repealing Obamacare if we’re spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans. I think it makes no sense.”

    House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes of California:
    Washington is a ‘rough town for honorable people’.

    House Speaker Paul Ryan:
    “I think we need to get all of that information before we prejudge anything…”

    A number of people in Congress appear to believe that they own nothing to the American people. One silver lining of this Administration is stripping from the GOP any remaining illusions of propriety and claim to be working in the interest of the American public in general.

    I wonder how Attorney General Sessions will respond.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0

  10. Lit3Bolt says:

    @Argon:

    Call Congress Critters.

    Say you don’t want to be a Putin-butt-slave.

    Capitol switchboard:

    202-224-3121

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  11. SenyorDave says:

    @James Pearce: All the Republicans I know think a Russian mole in the White House is a small price to pay for a Muslim ban, a Mexican wall, and a tax cut for the rich.

    And assuming he stays, Trump will now make sure to deliver on all of the above.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  12. CSK says:

    Here are I Yam What I Yam’s most recent tweets on the subject, made at 4:08 a.m. and 4:42 a.m. respectively:

    “This Russian connection non-sense (sic) is merely an attempt to cover-up (sic) the many mistakes made in Hillary Clinton’s losing campaign.”

    “Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  13. Slugger says:

    Both Rand Paul and Paul Ryan stated yesterday that removing Obamacare was more important than investigating this problem. Foreign intelligence penetration deep into the White House is obviously a minor concern compared to the real danger that somewhere in America there is a minimum wage worker who has health insurance. Thank you, GOP, for keeping our priorities in line.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 41 Thumb down 0

  14. SenyorDave says:

    I think it is fair to say that in less than a month in office the Trump administration has a bigger scandal than Obama had in eight years. Count me impressed!

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  15. gVOR08 says:

    Republicans need to step up to the plate and show that they can put their country before their party:

    Kicking and screaming every step of the way.

    We do seem to have arrived at a point that the best possible outcome, from a Republican point of view, is to find that the President of the United States was a witless dupe of Putin’s Russia. And even that seems unlikely.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  16. Kylopod says:

    One thing to keep in mind with all this: no matter what happens, no matter what gets revealed, Donald J. Trump will never resign from office due to a scandal. (Now, resigning out of boredom is another matter….) He’d have to be dragged kicking and screaming. He reminds me a bit of Rod Blagojevich, the only US governor in the past thirty years to be formally evicted from office, without forestalling the process through resignation. The flamboyant sociopathy, the shameless corruption, the weird-ass hairdo…

    So, in sum, until at least 2018 it falls back on the Republicans to decide what to do. And that isn’t encouraging. I’m not totally sure whether even 1970s Republicans would have shafted Nixon if they’d controlled Congress at the time. And while a lot of Republicans would be perfectly happy if the Donald dropped dead of a stroke or walked into a tractor trailer tomorrow, they seem to live in terror of upsetting the voters who put him into office.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  17. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:

    I think that’s it, in a nutshell: The Congressional Republicans are terrified of the Trumpkins.

    These people are over-the-top angry.

    And yes, I think the rest of the Republican party would be thrilled if Trump dropped dead tomorrow.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  18. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:
  19. Pch101 says:

    The Washington Post does a nice job of summarizing the latest stories, plus adds some content about Trump’s relationship with the Russians.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/02/15/daily-202-it-s-bigger-than-flynn-new-russia-revelations-widen-trump-s-credibility-gap/58a3c5b9e9b69b1406c75cb4/

    The implication is that Trump is inclined to suck up to the Russians because they are a source of cash for Trump’s real estate deals.

    It’s actually a positive to have the GOP dragging its feet on this. There will eventually be an investigation, and there will be a few Republican voters who will feel disgruntled about the party’s complacency. (Where was the RNC’s opposition research, and why did it not act preemptively?)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  20. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “All the Republicans I know think a Russian mole in the White House is a small price to pay for a Muslim ban, a Mexican wall, and a tax cut for the rich.”

    And they’ll give up the ban and the wall as long as they get the tax cuts…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  21. Argon says:

    @Lit3Bolt:

    Call the Congress Critters.

    My US House and Senate representatives are already on it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  22. al-Alameda says:

    Why do I believe that Republicans must be seriously considering
    the possibility of a Mike Pence presidency?

    I have a feeling that somewhere in Washington, in an undisclosed location Inside the beltway, a group of Republican legislators – maybe McConnell, Cornyn, Ryan a couple of others – are beginning to broach the subject. This has the potential to bring to light a lot of compromising information.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  23. MarkedMan says:

    Interesting question: what would cause Trump to resign? All I can think of is if he believes it’s the only way to salvage his business.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  24. Pch101 says:

    @al-Alameda:

    This is why the Dems need to go after Pence, not just Trump. No one should facilitate establishment Republican efforts to turn this into a win.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  25. Pete S says:

    @al-Alameda: I don’t see how anyone in Republican leadership can support a real investigation now. It is too late. To suggest that they have only become aware now of how bad the Trump situation is would beggar belief. Trump voters now make up the majority of the GOP who will never believe that he has done anything wrong, and an investigation started by Republican politicians will be viewed as an act of war by them. The non-Trump supporters are not stupid enough to believe that the leadership has been unaware of his wrongdoing so far. All they can do is keep their heads down, country be damned.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  26. wr says:

    @al-Alameda: “Why do I believe that Republicans must be seriously considering the possibility of a Mike Pence presidency?”

    I’m sure they’d love that… if they can protect him from the fallout of the investigation. Right now the story is that Flynn lied to Pence, who went on Sunday shows and repeated Flynn’s lies, and when Trump and co. learned the truth they didn’t bother to tell Pence for weeks.

    Yes, that sounds plausible.

    If they can keep Pence clean, that’s fine. But if/when it comes out that Pence knowingly lied about what Flynn did — or if he had any knowledge of the Russian stuff — if Trump goes, he goes, too. It’s true that could bring us President Ryan — but if it drags out long enough, it could be President Pelosi…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  27. Pch101 says:

    @wr:

    Right now the story is that Flynn lied to Pence, who went on Sunday shows and repeated Flynn’s lies…

    That version of the story carries the stench of blameshifting.

    The Dems should not let that one go. Pence needs to own this. Either way, he should lose; if the claim is that he didn’t know, then he should be attacked for being an empty suit who does not know what is going on right under his nose. Ignorance is not an excuse.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  28. Jen says:

    Meanwhile, a Russian spy ship was 30 miles off the coast of Connecticut today, Russian jets buzzed a US destroyer yesterday, Matthis told NATO that the US will “moderate” its commitments if they don’t start paying more, and Newsweek is reporting that our allies are so alarmed by the Russia ties that they’ve stepped up their spy craft.

    We’re halfway through week 4.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  29. HarvardLaw92 says:

    OT: Puzder has withdrawn himself from the nomination for Secretary of Labor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  30. Pete S says:

    @Jen:

    Meanwhile, a Russian spy ship was 30 miles off the coast of Connecticut today, Russian jets buzzed a US destroyer yesterday,

    I guess this is more Russian assistance to the president. If they did these things on the weekend, he would be in his public situation room in Florida and would have to pretend to care.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  31. CSK says:

    Well, Trump is addressing this situation in his usual fashion: He’s going to hold what The Gateway Pundit (one of Trump’s favored “news” sites) is describing as a “mega-rally” in Orlando, Florida this Saturday at 5 p.m. EDT.

    This will be his response to any crisis, whatever its nature. He’ll go out and hold a rally to whip his drooling acolytes into a hysterical frenzy. The information–if you can believe anything coming from The Gateway Pundit, which is about on the same level of reliability as Infowars–confirms what one of his sons told Breitbart months ago. Trump thinks being the president is holding rallies and being adored.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  32. Scott says:

    @CSK:

    “mega-rally” in Orlando, Florida this Saturday at 5 p.m. EDT.

    I am curious about this. He is not campaigning; he is President. Can he be selective in who attends anymore?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  33. CSK says:

    @Scott:

    If it’s open to the public, I assume anyone can attend. How would you prove your credentials as a Trumpkin?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  34. Pch101 says:

    @CSK:

    I suspect that the SA will help to keep out the undesirables. If that isn’t enough, a failure to know the lyrics of the Horst-Wessel-Lied will root out the subversives.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  35. CSK says:

    @Pch101:

    What’s the current version of the Horst Wessel Lied, in English? Maybe:

    Lock her up!
    Build the wall!
    Mexicans are rapists!
    Make America great again!
    In Putin we trust!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  36. Pch101 says:

    @CSK:

    In all seriousness, the anti-Trump folks would need to show up in a large, unified group and a few of them will have to be willing and able to defend themselves in the event that they are assaulted by some of Trump’s punkass minions. I would not attend a Trump rally alone with the expectation that your peaceful protest will be respected.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  37. DrDaveT says:

    I am trying to imagine the response from these very same Congressthings if, in the first few weeks of his Presidency, Barack Hussein Obama had
    1. Revealed that his people had been in repeated contact with Russian intelligence, including soft promises to back off on sanctions if they got elected
    2. Responded to a criticism of Vladimir Putin by saying that America had done some pretty terrible things too
    3. Been elected in part on the strength of released information from a Russian hack of the RNC

    The mind boggles. Heads would have exploded too quickly for the foam to actually make it all the way out of the mouth first. Impeachment proceedings would have begun within hours.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  38. CSK says:

    @Pch101:

    Apparently you have to register for this event. (Only two tickets apiece, folks!) It’s being held at a hangar at the Melbourne-Orlando International Airport.

    Trump knows he’s in a bad situation of his own making. So he has to rush out and prove he’s beloved by holding a rally.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  39. Pch101 says:

    @CSK:

    There was a guy who used to be fond of holding rallies in Nuremberg. I suspect that he may be a role model.

    I’m waiting for Kellyanne Conway to change her name to Leni Riefenstahl. (Triumph of the Donald coming to a theater near you.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  40. Hal_10000 says:

    Key quote here.

    The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.

    But I’ll repeat what I said last night: full investigation is now essential, critical even. Republicans and conservatives need to get their heads out of their butts and start pressuring Congress now. (I’m in Australia, but when I get back, I will be calling my GOP senator and Congressman to demand investigation). And regardless of the outcome, we need much stronger disclosure laws on Presidential candidates. Health, tax returns and financial positions are not an option any more; they need to be REQUIRED if you want to run for President.

    I know a lot of people are hoping this will bring down Trump. I really hope it doesn’t. Well, let me rephrase that. I hope this brings him down if it’s true, but I hope it’s not true. Not because I like Trump but because we might never recover from the blow. Civil society and functional government are fragile things, as we’ve seen in places like Greece. Question, disobey, defy … all good. Never worship those in power. But finding out that the so-called outsider betrayed us one very level. This could be very very bad

    God, this is awful. It’s almost like all that stuff we said during the primary about character, morals, temperament and mental health meant something.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0

  41. CSK says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Character, morals, temperament, mental health–and let me add a few more items to that list–knowledge, stability, some vague understanding of how government works, a nodding acquaintance with the Constitution, an adult disposition, and the ability to resist blatant manipulation apparently meant nothing when up against “build the wall,” “lock her up,” and “trash the press.”

    What reasonable people regard as Trump’s most loathsome traits are the very things his minions adore about him.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  42. CB says:

    @Hal_10000:

    I hope it’s not true as well, because I don’t see how his fan club, even in the face of indisputable proof, would ever admit that Trump is corrupt. If he were to be removed, even legally and with clear cause, I think violence would erupt.

    Also, either the IC is engaged in a coup attempt, or the executive is insanely compromised. We’re in so much trouble either way. I don’t think there are any happy endings here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  43. Hal_10000 says:

    @CB:

    Yep. We would definitely see riots at the very least.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  44. Jen says:

    @CB:
    @Hal_10000:

    Agreed. This whole thing is deeply concerning and no matter what the outcome it won’t be smooth sailing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  45. Terrye Cravens says:

    I think a lot of Republicans can’t stand Trump, but they voted for him anyway and they will hang in there with him for as long as they think they have no choice. That is partisanship for you.

    But a lot of Trump’s base were not Republican voters before he came along. And many of them will crawl back under their rocks when he is gone. Republicans need to remember that.

    This is a weird, scary situation and we are in this position because of Trump and the Russians. Congress can not ignore that forever.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  46. Pch101 says:

    @CB:

    If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with. No more appeasement.

    Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just quoting GOP hero Ronald Reagan’s comments about student demonstrations in 1970.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0

  47. Terrye Cravens says:

    @CB: I don’t think most of Trump’s supporters will get violent. They are too old. I am not kidding. If there was an investigation and it went on for months and a lot of bad stuff came out, a lot of Trump supporters would get sick of it and abandon him.

    I can remember the days of Nixon, the man won in a landslide and two years later you could not find anyone who said anything good about him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  48. CSK says:

    @Terrye Cravens:

    Most of Trump’s alt-right fan club appear to be under forty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  49. CB says:

    @Hal_10000:

    I’m honestly not sure if that’s snark or not…but definitely. Terrye is probably right though that the situation wouldn’t evolve rapidly enough to be a spark/powder situation and people would end up gradually abandoning him. At least I can hope.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  50. Kylopod says:

    @Terrye Cravens:

    I can remember the days of Nixon, the man won in a landslide and two years later you could not find anyone who said anything good about him.

    Nixon was never a cult figure the way Trump is. Lots of people voted for him (especially given that his opponent was George McGovern), but he wasn’t launched to power by a core of fans who made a cult of personality out of him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  51. Argon says:

    On the plus side, haven’t heard a peep from Kellyanne Conway today.

    We’ll have to set up another betting pool for Kellyanne if the Don no longer finds her service pleasurable. Again, how many day, post-dismissal, before she gets picked up by Fox?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  52. MarkedMan says:

    For what it’s worth I’ve thought of at least one way that Trump could be forced to resign. If the Republicans make clear that they will force him to reveal his tax returns, or at least force the IRS to reveal his tax returns, and they also make it clear that a long hard look will be taken at the $1 billion deduction that he took when he went bankrupt. If Trump thinks that he may end up having to pay $1 billion plus maybe that much or more in penalties or the alternative is that he resigns, I think he would choose to resign . I’m not saying I think this is likely, but it is a possibility.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  53. Guarneri says:

    Does anyone have actual evidence?

    Buehler?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 10

  54. Pch101 says:

    @Guarneri:

    Your Russian overlords must be censoring your internet provider.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  55. michael reynolds says:

    We ran Nixon out of town.

    One the one hand:
    The Democrats controlled Congress.
    There existed principled Republicans.
    The media was more or less universally believed.
    Partisanship was nowhere near as intense.
    J. Edgar Hoover?

    On the other hand:
    Nixon had been in power for 3 years, Trump just got there.
    Nixon had not brilliantly decided to sh-t all over the CIA.
    Social media is jet fuel.
    Nixon was only evil, he was not also a moron.
    Comey?

    This is hard to handicap. We’ve never seen this before. This malignant toddler the 46% have imposed on us is a new bacterium. We don’t know quite what will work against him. But so far our secret weapon is the man’s abject incompetence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  56. michael reynolds says:

    @Guarneri:
    Enjoying all this bidness man savvy and efficiency?

    He’s making your whole class look like the all-hat-no-cattle bullshit artists I always suspected you were. You guys don’t know anything, do you? Thanks for proving me right every day, in every way Drew.

    We’re going to put your boy in prison.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  57. Pch101 says:

    Max Boot, who isn’t exactly what one would call a liberal, wrote an LA Times op-ed in July 2016 about Trump’s many ties to Russia.

    As far back as 2007, Trump was telling CNN that Russian President Vladimir Putin was doing a “great job.” In 2013, Trump tweeted: “Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow – if so, will he become my new best friend?” In 2015, Trump told MSNBC that Putin was a real leader, “unlike what we have in this country,” and that reports of Putin killing political opponents didn’t bother him — “Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also,” he said…

    …Trump has sought and received funding from Russian investors for his business ventures, especially after most American banks stopped lending to him following his multiple bankruptcies…

    …Trump’s foreign policy advisor Carter Page has his own business ties to the state-controlled Russian oil giant Gazprom. He recently delivered a speech in Moscow slamming the United States for its “hypocritical focus on ideas such as democratization” and praising Russia for a foreign policy supposedly built on “noninterference,” “tolerance” and “respect.” (Try telling that to Ukraine.) Another Trump foreign policy advisor, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, flew to Moscow last year to attend a gala banquet celebrating Russia Today, the Kremlin’s propaganda channel, and was seated at the head table near Putin. Flynn is a regular guest on Russia Today; he refuses to say whether he gets paid.

    http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-boot-trump-russian-connection-20160725-snap-story.html

    It’s not hard to connect the dots here: Trumps needs their money. It’s not surprising that he would surround himself with others who are dependent on Russian cash and prizes.

    This is treachery of the worst sort. We have a president who would sell out the United States for a few rubles.

    If Mike Pence can’t use Google to learn about his coworkers, then he deserves to be run out of town on a rail. He’s either a liar or an idiot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  58. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    I am trying to imagine the response from these very same Congressthings if, in the first few weeks of his Presidency, Barack Hussein Obama had
    1. Revealed that his people had been in repeated contact with Russian intelligence, including soft promises to back off on sanctions if they got elected

    You don’t have to wonder:

    The terrible truth told by Obama’s open mic slip

    Obama to Putin: I’ll Surrender America After Re-election

    Reaction to the Medvedev conversation came swiftly on Capitol Hill. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) shot off a letter to the president demanding an “urgent explanation.”

    “Congress has made exquisitely clear to your administration and to other nations that it will block all attempts to weaken U.S. missile defenses,” wrote Turner, who has been a frequent critic of the administration’s nuclear policies and implementation of the New START treaty with Russia.

    “I want to make perfectly clear that my colleagues and I will not allow any attempts to trade missile defense of the United States to Russia or any other country,” he said.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  59. Munchtheterriblebox says:

    Enjoying all this bidness man savvy and efficiency?
    YES!
    Its amazing to me that doug would qoute an article that references Benghazi some how in relation to bullshit charges of Russian hacking/ involvment…like it has been some kind of coverup on Trumps part. The day before

    Transcript from September 12, 2012, Congressional Staff Call: Question from Congressional Staffer: ‘Was this attack under the cover of a protest?’

    Answer from Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy: ‘No, this was a direct breaching attack.’

    So here is direct evidence of a real cover up to downplay zero’s foreign policy dumpster fire that he created. Under the guise of re election the white house claimed it was a protest and sent rice on Sunday talks shows to lie about how it was really a protest about a video. Remember “the future does not belong to those that slander islam.”


    The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.

    Hahaha lol keep barking lap dogs its funny to watch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 13

  60. cian says:

    Listen, the games up and Russia won. No matter what happens next- Trump survives the growing evidence that he and Russian intelligence were working together to win the election, thus signalling to Putin that anything goes from now on, or the Republicans find a backbone and do something, resulting in a backlash that destroys America’s democratic institutions.

    Trump is governing exactly as he campaigned, without an idea in his head (other than screwing over the working men and women who made up the bulk of his support, in accordance with GOP priorities). What do we think he is doing now that would change the minds of a majority of Americans? No, they’ll continue to buy the grade A bullshit and swallow whole the ‘Trump is being sabotaged’ line.

    Here’s the shocking truth, Steve Bannon and Co have a better understanding of white America than anyone posting here. He knows that a majority of the white vote would rather align themselves with authoritarianism ( if it leads to white rule in perpetuity) than remain faithful to the institutions that have worked over centuries to ensure America is the most successful country in the world.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  61. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Pch101:

    If Mike Pence can’t use Google to learn about his coworkers, then he deserves to be run out of town on a rail. He’s either a liar or an idiot.

    Mike Pence is both.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  62. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Guarneri:

    Does anyone have actual evidence?

    You refuse to believe what 100% of the worlds qualified scientists tell you on a topic because it doesn’t comport with the beliefs that you have been programmed with by the cult you have fallen victim to…what possible evidence could ever convince you that the dear leader you worship is in bed with the Russians?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  63. Jake says:

    Cheering for failure of the President says more about you than him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 14

  64. Pch101 says:

    @Jake:

    “I don’t need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails.”

    -Rush Limbaugh, commenting about Barack Obama’s presidency before the beginning of his first team.

    Your hypocritical chickens are coming home to roost. I like mine fried.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  65. al-Alameda says:

    @Jake:

    Cheering for failure of the President says more about you than him.

    Have you ever heard the story about America’s first Black President, and how from the first day of his presidency the leadership of his political opposition pledged to obstruct everything this president did in order to make him a one-term president? Of how they attempted twice to leverage their opposition to his Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) to 2 federal government shutdowns, and once threated to leverage that same opposition to ACA by refusing to increase the debt ceiling limit, all the while saying that the potential negative results of a federal default were greatly overstated.

    Republicans were definitely hoping for failure – the thing is, they were rewarded for it. I think that Democrats noticed, don’t you?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  66. gVOR08 says:

    @Jake: @Pch101: Not to mention McConnell and Boehner getting together over dinner on Obama’s first Inauguration Day to plan to oppose anything, anything at all, Obama might try to do. Not a wish that Obama would fail, but a plan to make him fail. A plan they followed to the best of their ability for eight years.

    When we occasionally remind Doug and James that the Republican Party is an existential threat to the United States, really the only existential threat, we are not engaging in hyperbole. It is a statement of fact. That should be clearer this week than before.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  67. wr says:

    @Munchtheterriblebox: In case anyone is wondering if even the diehard Trump worshippers realize how bad it’s going to be for him if it comes out that he was colluding with the Russians, here comes the worst of the worst to start pewling about Benghazi. Just like the God King started whining about Hillary and debates in his press conference. They all know the axe is coming down…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  68. Munchtheterriblebox says:

    Wr…moron. look at the link …it came out the day before this hack job article. I only mention it because “Doug” had the gall to reference it above. Meanwhile The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.
    So again we were clearly lied to and zero’s admin worked overtime to cover up a direct breach attack with medium weight weapons. Laps dogs will bark away.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  69. Mikey says:

    Turns out Flynn basically lied to the FBI, which needless to say is a problem.

    Flynn in FBI interview denied discussing sanctions with Russian ambassador

    Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn denied to FBI agents in an interview last month that he had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States before President Trump took office, contradicting the contents of intercepted communications collected by intelligence agencies, current and former U.S. officials said.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  70. Munchtheterriblebox says:

    Wr…moron. look at the link …it came out the day before this hack job article. I only mention it because “Doug” had the gall to reference it above. Meanwhile The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.
    So again we were clearly lied to and zero’s admin worked overtime to cover up a direct breach attack with medium weight weapons. Laps dogs will bark away and thats all you will do. Sad. MAGA

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6

  71. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    Laps dogs will bark away and thats all you will do. Sad. MAGA

    Isn’t it cute how Trumps little lapdogs have started to copy his speech patterns as a clear sign of subservience? :D.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  72. Munchtheterriblebox says:

    B I G L Y.
    But I do find it crass of Doug to mention Benghazi in light of new YUGE revelations the day before.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7