More on Trump and Russia

Trump doesn't want anyone to know what he and Putin discussed.

Via WaPo:  Trump has concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin from senior officials in administration.

President Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter and instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials, current and former U.S. officials said.

Trump did so after a meeting with Putin in 2017 in Hamburg that was also attended by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. U.S. officials learned of Trump’s actions when a White House adviser and a senior State Department official sought information from the interpreter beyond a readout shared by Tillerson.

The constraints that Trump imposed are part of a broader pattern by the president of shielding his communications with Putin from public scrutiny and preventing even high-ranking officials in his own administration from fully knowing what he has told one of the United States’ main adversaries.

As a result, U.S. officials said there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years. Such a gap would be unusual in any presidency, let alone one that Russia sought to install through what U.S. intelligence agencies have described as an unprecedented campaign of election interference.

This is, at a minimum, bizarre and unprofessional.  Beyond that it is highly suspicious and fits into a troubling broader narrative of Trump’s relationship with Putin.

Here is the piece’s best interpretation of the events:

Trump allies said the president thinks the presence of subordinates impairs his ability to establish a rapport with Putin, and that his desire for secrecy may also be driven by embarrassing leaks that occurred early in his presidency.

I recommend the whole piece.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. reid says:

    I thought this was highly troubling at the time. We knew enough about his ties to Russia then that it was suspicious. It’s good that it’s not forgotten.

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  2. Blue Galangal says:

    In addition, Trump is taking steps to conceal the content of his meetings with Putin.

    Trump has concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin from senior officials in administration

    President Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter [emphasis mine] and instructing the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials, current and former U.S. officials said.

    There’s more, but this article doesn’t pull punches.

    The constraints that Trump imposed are part of a broader pattern by the president of shielding his communications with Putin from public scrutiny and preventing even high-ranking officials in his own administration from fully knowing what he has told one of the United States’ main adversaries. [emphasis mine]

    As a result, U.S. officials said there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years. Such a gap would be unusual in any presidency, let alone one that Russia sought to install through what U.S. intelligence agencies have described as an unprecedented campaign of election interference.

  3. CSK says:

    To the extent Putin has a well-developed sense of humor, he must laugh hysterically every time one of these news reports is published.

  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    This has all been obvious for more than two years. It was obvious that Trump was owned by Putin. I’ve been saying it for two and a half years. People would say, “Oh, come now, Michael, maybe he’s done some shady real estate deals, but surely. . .” It has been absolutely obvious from Day One. I cannot tell you how frustrating it has been to watch the media grown-ups move glacially along the path to the fcking obvious. It’s like when my techie kid has to watch me try out a new app, you just want to strangle someone and yell, “are you blind?”

    Now we get, “Wait. . . wait. . . is it possible that Trump actually is owned by Putin? Could it be?”

    Could it be? How could it not be? It was the only answer that fit what we knew. This wasn’t hard. This wasn’t string theory. This required zero Hawkingses. Anyone armed with an Occam brand razor and imagination could see quite clearly that it had to be true, because there was literally no other possible explanation that fit the facts.

    It is one of the blind spots of intellectuals that anyone below a certain IQ is impossible for them to relate to. It’s the sheer, mountainous extravagance of the stupidity, the vast, endless plain of imbecility in this scandal that made it possible for so many very smart people to miss the obvious. They look for policy, for ideas, for plans because that’s what smart people like. They dismissed character and character was the key. Once you understood that Trump is a stupid psychopath you could see that what was simply too fcking stoopid to be true. . . was, nevertheless, true.

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  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    Come on guys, Tiny is just playing 9 dimensional chess and he’s really controlling Putin.

  6. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Anyone armed with an Occam brand razor and imagination could see quite clearly that it had to be true, because there was literally no other possible explanation that fit the facts.

    There are other possible explanations, but they aren’t good either.

    – He’s embarrassed by how out of his league he is when dealing with world leaders, so he wants to destroy the evidence.

    – He desperately wants Putin’s approval. And Kim’s.

    We do know that he reflexively destroys the documents he reads, tearing them into little pieces and requiring someone to tape them back together for archival purposes. This could be similar.

    What I am suggesting as an alternative is that he does all of this willingly — that if Putin has anything on him, he hasn’t had to even show his hand. He might suspect they have something and cooperate out of fear before Putin canthreaten anything — after all, Trump isn’t weak if he does it voluntarily.

    People want to see a grand conspiracy. I suspect that it is really just a bunch of sad and pathetic people doing sad and pathetic things to try to maintain some dignity. And failing. And maybe a small conspiracy.

    Also, I bet if we had transcripts of Trumps conversations with Putin, we would discover that he was complaining that he can’t even get a wall built.

    It’s Fredo all the way down, but the “real” Fredo would walk all over these people.

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  7. Warren Peese says:

    The troubling part is that, before the Helsinki Press Conference Debacle, Trump met for two hours with Putin (and two translators), but no readouts were available to anyone. What exactly was said? Nobody knows. Very troubling.

  8. JohnMcC says:

    Over at balloon-juice there are several principals who’ve had significant foreign policy experience (Cheryl Rofer, Adam Silverman) who’ve been discussing this report (and the NYT’s recent similar piece) pretty much along the lines of Michael Reynolds above. They ask ‘what would Mr Trump have done differently if he was/is NOT a Russian asset’. There aren’t any good answers.

    There is a list assembled by Dana Houle that asks ‘IF this is found to be true, what does the future require?’

    –Are laws signed by a foreign agent legitimate? Do we abrogate those laws?
    –What do we do with judges and other officials appointed by a foreign agent?
    –Why did a Repub-only delegation of US Senators travel to Russia last year?
    –Why did Paul Ryan tell Kevin McCarthy to not talk about Trump being paid by Russia?
    –What do other country’s intel agencies know r/t Trump that Congress does not know?
    –Has Trump revealed codes, specs and such to Putin?
    –Why was one of Trump’s first acts as Prez firing the WH cyber-security chief?
    –Who else in our gov’t or national leadership is compromised by Russia or other foreign gov’ts?
    –Has Trump been given information that compromises OTHER national figures?
    –Have Trump’s attacks on corporations been goaded or directed by Russia?
    –Who has been placed in the administration b/c of Russian influence?
    –Is anyone in the US press been compromised by Russians?
    –Does Trump’s legal team include co-conspirators?
    –What does the US military know about Trump & Russia?
    –How intertwined is Russian control/influence over Trump with Wall St/DC law firms, financial orgs/lobbying firms.
    (Lightly edited)

    They also discuss things like ‘truth and reconciliation counsels’ that might become useful is there is a widespread overturning of major national figures, institutions, media firms and such.

    Highly recommended.

  9. CSK says:

    Trump told Jeannine Pirro that he was “very insulted” by the NYT story.
    He did not, however, deny it.

  10. Tony W says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I cannot tell you how frustrating it has been to watch the media grown-ups move glacially along the path to the fcking obvious.

    Reminds me of the Gulf War aftermath when the media twisted around themselves trying to understand how we could have missed that the U.N. Inspectors didn’t find any evidence of WMDs.

    Anybody with two functioning brain cells knew in the moment that Bush was avenging his father’s ‘mistake’ of not marching on Baghdad and looking for any excuse to do so.

  11. Teve says:

    Xeni Jardin
    Xeni Jardin
    @xeni
    ·
    7m
    You know those silly fast food signs we make fun of where the pig is eating BBQ or the chicken is eating fried chicken or a cow eats steak? It’s funny because they’re cheerfully eating it up and contributing to their own anhilation? That’s what I see when I see a Trump supporter

  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:
    The piss tape, or its equivalent, is real. The money-laundering is real. The fact that Trump’s lies are known to the Russians to be lies, that’s real. The hiring as campaign manager of a man who was also in bed with Putin, is real. A dozen or so Trump officials who’ve lied about contacts with Russia, that’s all real. The attempts by Trump to serve Putin by ending sanctions is real. So there’s really no doubt that Putin owns and controls Trump.

    But I’ve never thought Trump set out one day to become a traitor, he’s too clueless to manage such a complex thought. No, he was just heedlessly chasing money like the greed pig he is and the Russians had 100 years of experience in compromising people like him. And then, since he’s Trump and not a smarter man or a moral one, once he found himself in a hole he just kept digging.

    I don’t think he intended to be a traitor. I think he intended to be a money-launderer. I think he intended to be as corrupt as he’s proven to be. Treason is a byproduct, but that’s irrelevant. Aldrich Ames – currently serving life without parole – became a traitor for the very same reason: greed.

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  13. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher:

    If you mean that Dennison isn’t an actual Russian agent, I agree it’s not likely.

    But there seems to be more than merely being pro-Russia and wanting the approval of autocrats, or to being won over with flattery. The latter, remember, did not work for Macron.

    Trump is positively obsequious to Putin, but thinks nothing of it. Remember how he said, after making his best impression of a dog licking Putin’s hand, he thought that had gone rather well?

    Also consider what he’s done for Russia, from alienating allies in NATO, to refraining from imposing additional sanctions, to trying to ease some sanctions, and the mere spectacle of aiding and abetting Russia’s meddling in the election after the fact.

    His crush Kim, Duterte, and other monsters he admires don’t rate such tender, loving care.

  14. wr says:

    @JohnMcC: “There is a list assembled by Dana Houle that asks ‘IF this is found to be true, what does the future require?’”

    Time to re-read The Honourable Schoolboy, which was to a large extent about British intelligence trying to repair itself after the revelation in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy that one of the agency’s leaders was a Soviet mole…

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JohnMcC:

    –Does Trump’s legal team include co-conspirators?

    Yes. (satsq)

  16. gVOR08 says:

    @Tony W:

    Anybody with two functioning brain cells knew in the moment that Bush was avenging his father’s ‘mistake’ of not marching on Baghdad and looking for any excuse to do so.

    It’s true that the Administration never offered a credible reason for invading Iraq. But I think the field of speculation goes beyond Ws insecurity re his father. PNAC had been banging the war drum for years, also with no transparent motive. I tend more toward it being Cheney’s Underpants Gnome plan to get the oil. Prince Bandar, aka Bandar Bush, was manipulating W to eliminate a threat to Saudi Arabia. (In perhaps a preview of Trump/Putin. Except the Saudis probably spent way more money.) W was still basking in the polling after Afghanistan and Rove probably thought if one war is good, two must be better.

    I remember reading some insider saying there was never actually a decision to invade. Described the meetings as just sliding from considering the possibility, to contingency planning, to formal planning, to logistics buildup and troop movements without anyone actually saying ‘I’ve decided.’ It may be that that W just sort of slid into it. He wasn’t called a feckless twit for nothing.

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  17. gVOR08 says:

    @Gustopher: Remember the Eric Prince thing? He was in Seychelles to set up a back channel for Trump to Putin, and apparently failed. It may be that Putin doesn’t want a very direct link. A chat he can’t easily avoid at a summit now and again may be more than Putin really wants. But what can he do? Trump’s so needy.

    From what I’ve read, Kompromat typically involves a lot of ambiguity. You don’t go to the victim with a photo of him in bed with a prostitute and say give me a copy of Plan 9 or I mail it to your wife. You drop hints that you know something, but don’t get specific enough the guy can innoculate himself by, say, fessing up to his wife. You leave him guessing what you have, all the while being very friendly, even giving small rewards without saying exactly that it’s a reward, or what for. You ease him into compromising activities. You don’t demand specific things, you drop hints. ‘There are so many opportunities for business, but alas, we have these sanctions.’ Then let the mark worry about what he can do for you.

    It may well be that Trump did not set out to be a Russian asset, and may not think himself a Russian asset. Which matters not at all.

  18. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy:

    His crush Kim, Duterte, and other monsters he admires don’t rate such tender, loving care.

    Putin leads a modest superpower. Kim leads North Korea. Detergent leads the Phillipenes. Clearly, Putin is more successful, and more worthy of the hand licking.

  19. MarkedMan says:

    This is a “Spotlight” moment for the whole country, and especially the Republicans. Spotlight was the Boston Post investigative team that really blew the doors off the Catholic Priest and bishop child abuse scandals. That blowback is so pervasive now that we are forgetting the initial reaction of many: rally around the Church institution and personnel, attack the message and the messengers, blame the victims. That reaction was widespread, from the church ladies and “Smokers Club” fathers in the local parishes to the local police who felt obligated to help the bishop “work these things out”, to governor’s mansions all over the country. That’s what we see happening with the revelations about collusion with Russia, whether it be the grotesque obscenities of Trump and the NRA to what currently appears to be lesser crimes (think of the priests who merely covered up rape in order to protect their own, nonsexual, crimes) of McConnell, Nunes and Ryan.

  20. Pylon says:

    @Kathy: Part of the way Russians create agents is that they don’t even know they are agents the way people think of them. They flatter, entice, cajole, and eventually suborn. The mark thinks he/she is doing seomthing that doesn’t hurt anyone. They only realize they are traitors when they try and get out, and find out the Russians have too much on them.

    I think this played out much the same way. I’m betting Trump is completely compromised, through money and information about him, but he’s convinced himself that he’s working on good relations with Russia, which “can’t possibly be a bad thing”.

  21. grumpy realist says:

    @gVOR08: Also don’t forget that the Iranians were also there with their fingers in the pie, a.k.a. Curveball, helpfully dropping “evidence” right in front of the noses of the neocons convincing them that their “worst fears” about Saddam were true. (Not that the neocons needed much convincing and were perfectly happy to spread the “evidence” far and wide to buttress their argument for attacking.)

    Know what this reminds me of? The period which started when Louis XIV was on the throne, when Europe was littered with royal secret services and they were all playing “The Great Game” with each other.

  22. Kathy says:

    @Pylon:

    He’s denied working for Russia. We can conclude, then, he’s giving it away for free.

    The Great Negotiator can’t even get paid. Sad.

  23. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    You know how Republicans are all about projection? How they are generally guilty of what they accuse others of? They accuse others of being fiscally irresponsible while they explode the debt. They accuse others of being weak on foreign policy while they blunder into Iraq. Etc.
    Think about that projection, and then apply it to Republican claims of the so-called “Deep State”.
    What if the “Deep State” is really the GOP and it’s relationship with Russia. Clearly plenty in the GOP are doing Russia’s bidding; Graham, McConnell, Meadows, Rohrbacher, Paul, Cruz, the NRA.
    What if Putin’s outreach has been wildly more successful than just Individual-1?

    Caveat: I did spend the weekend in Vermont, which is awash with legally grown marijuana.

  24. Tyrell says:

    @MarkedMan: Many people don’t seem to care about this Mueller investigation. They blow it off as politics as usual: “Both parties do it. What’s the big deal?” And many have no idea what is going on: “Who’s Mueller?” is the response I hear if someone, including me, brings it up. I well remember the Kenneth Starr investigation of Clinton: too long, too political. It seems the main people interested are politicians, and the news media. The regular people out here got put off by the news media saturation of this.
    If the Democrats get back in the White House, it will be the same thing. Republicans will start an endless investigation. That is why I have come to the conclusion that these investigations, while they originally may have served some purpose, no longer help things at all. A policy should be passed that would not allow any more of these investigations unless approved by 4/5 (80%) vote of the Senate. The working people who are outside the D.C. establishment and the political arena are more concerned about other issues that directly relate to them.
    Now they are saying that if the Mueller report shows no collusion connections to Trump, that some (Maxine Waters) of the members of Congress will push for more investigations. There is no end to this stuff.
    “It’s all politics” ( CNN great Larry King talking about the state of CNN)