Wednesday, January 11, 2017

IS IT EVEN POSSIBLE TO BLACKMAIL DONALD TRUMP?

Before I get to this Trump/Russia story, let's look at the New York Times front page from October 29:



Now let's look at today's front page:



On October 29, every above-the-fold story was about Clinton and the emails. Today, the Trump/Russia story is barely above the fold.

So here's what we know:
A classified report delivered to President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump last week included a section summarizing allegations that Russian intelligence services have compromising material and information on Trump’s personal life and finances, U.S. officials said.

The officials said that U.S. intelligence agencies have not corroborated those allegations but believed that the sources involved in the reporting were credible enough to warrant inclusion of their claims in the highly classified report on Russian interference in the presidential campaign.
The source is said to be an intelligence pro hired by Trump opponents from both parties:
The raw memos on which the synopsis is based were prepared by the former MI6 agent, who was posted in Russia in the 1990s and now runs a private intelligence gathering firm. His investigations related to Mr. Trump were initially funded by groups and donors supporting Republican opponents of Mr. Trump during the GOP primaries, multiple sources confirmed to CNN. Those sources also said that once Mr. Trump became the nominee, further investigation was funded by groups and donors supporting Hillary Clinton.
The U.S. intelligence community obviously thinks this former agent is credible, or the information wouldn't have put into the briefings. Political insiders thought the agent was credible enough to hire. John McCain confronted FBI director James Comey about the agent's information last month.

None of which means that what the agent claims to have learned is true. All of it might be true, or some of it, or none of it. I think some is true and some is hyperbole.

BuzzFeed has posted what it says is the agent's reporting. Some are calling BuzzFeed's dossier "obviously fake," but with not much to back up that skepticism.

As I say, I don't know which allegations to believe. I guess I should stop dithering and get to the most eye-popping story:



Do I believe this might have been reported to a professional spy? Sure. Does that mean it's true? Not necessarily. Could it be true? It's a very Howard Stern-ish scenario, and Trump used to be a regular Stern guest. Maybe a decadent guy like Trump would want to see a show like this. I can't tell.

But I agree with something Hot Air's Allahpundit wrote before we had this specific tale from BuzzFeed:
The recurring question whenever Trump is accused of being some sort of stooge for Russia is “What could the Russians possibly have on him that would damage him?” He survived the “Access Hollywood” tape. He survived accusations of sexual assault. He survived about 8,000 different “gaffes” and outre statements on the trail that would have sunk any other candidate. Even if Russia had covert video of Trump in a compromising position, why would that damage him? He’s a playboy who’s boasted about his conquests for years. A sex scandal wouldn’t leave a scratch.
I can imagine this leaking in October, even with video -- and I can imagine Trump winning in spite of it. The deplorables would actually have thought it was a tremendous idea. The rest of the GOP electorate would have shunned the video and/or assumed it was doctored. Some Trump voters would say they disapproved, but it's his private life and that's not their concern.

The more important allegations are that Trump and his people colluded with the Russians on the anti-Clinton campaign. Allahpundit again:
One thing that would hurt him, though, is the mere fact of coordination with Russia. If it could be proved that his campaign and the Kremlin were quietly colluding during the campaign, especially if money was changing hands, that would wreck him forever with everyone outside his own hardcore populist base. He’d have to somehow govern despite being perceived by many as an illegitimate president, a de facto Russian agent, and he’s already under suspicion for that thanks to his curiously consistent apologetics for Putin and Russia’s role in the hacking. I don’t know how he could recover.
I disagree. The GOP electorate can see that Trump is pro-Putin and doesn't care. I'm sure that wouldn't have been enough to cost him the election, because there's literally nothing he could have done that would have persuaded his voters that a victory by the hated Hillary Clinton was preferable.

Trump certainly isn't going to step aside. He's not going to release tax documents that would clarify the extent of his involvement in Russia. He's not going to tolerate further investigations of this by the intelligence community.

Republicans in Congress will circle the wagons around Trump, because they need him to sign their bills. (I heard Senator Jeff Flake, a persistent Trump critic during the campaign, downplaying this story on NPR this morning.) Maybe John McCain and Lindsey Graham will keep pushing for a serious investigation, but Mitch McConnell will put the kibosh on that, and Jason Chaffetz in the House will just keep investigating Hillary Clinton's emails.

Maybe things would change if Democrats shut down the government while demanding a serious investigation, or if there were a million angry people in the streets of D.C. calling for Trump to resign. But short of that, I think Trump will muddle through, despite his woeful 37% approval rating, according to Quinnipiac. There are no inviolable norms anymore, at least if you're a Republican. There'll be no rerun of the Watergate years. We're just not that country anymore.

11 comments:

Victor said...

Today's Republicans:
Party over people!
Party Over Country!!
PARTY UBER ALLES!!!

Kathy said...

I have to say the golden showers story seems consistent with Trump's habit of being vindictive at a distance. I wonder if he plans a similar ceremony at the White House. I'm afraid you're right than none of this, even if it's all proven, will make a difference to Republicans. How far we have fallen when we will tolerate a Russian agent in the president's office.

rclz said...

What's the Chinese curse....oh yea, May you live in interesting times.

Ain't it the truth.

rclz said...

If Hillary and Bill have killed as many people as the wingers claim how come they haven't taken care of that little weasel Jason Chaffetz?

CF2K said...

On election night, I was very wrong and Steve was very right. He's taking the safe bet here, but I really am starting to wonder whether this might not be the big unraveling.

The New York Crank said...

I beg to differ here. I think Trump isn't much worried about reports, whether true or not, of financial or other corrupt transactions — too wonky, detailed, technical for his base.

I don't think he'd worry if the reports were that he had sexual relations with a hooker. Some of his base would say, "Good for him."

But imagine if a video from a hidden camera comes out showing Trumpster sitting at the side of a bed, his fly unzipped, his (small?) you-know-what in his hand, masturbating while a pair (or more) of hooker pee on each other.

Considering he want crazy over some discussion about the size of his fingers....

Do you wonder why, in today's news conference, he wouldn't say whether President Obama's sanctions against Russia would continue?

I rest my case.

Yours crankily,
The New York Crank

Jimbo said...

It's not true that the GOP needs Trump to sign their bills; that's what Pence is for. In fact, he's even more reliably extremist than Trump who knows nothing about policy and could care less. However, the GOP is probably not wanting to see another Republican President forced to resign from the office so they will try to protect him no matter how much chaos and damage he causes.

Professor Fate said...

What's really really depressing about the golden shower story is that it's plausible, that is the depressing bit.

Diane Rodriguez said...

Yup, nothing has any meaning to the GOP other than their regressive policies, because, well they're regressive white guys who just KNOW what is best for everyone, especially those pesky brown and black people and of course, women. But it is kind of satisfying that Ryan is devolving into a frustrated mess. He's trying to balance his decades old and irrelevant ideology with "managing" Trump. Clearly, he has no experience in managing someone who is a malignant narcissist. They tend to be unpredictable if you aren't in the room sroking their ego at all times.

John Taylor said...

Trump has trampled on every conceivable norm of ethical and decent human behavior so what's another transgression between friends.

rclz said...

I never ever want to hear another sneer about President Clinton's sex life.

I also want to hang this asshole around the neck of every single person who said, "Think of the children" when they were making a public spectacle of Clinton and a cigar.

Every "Christian" who voted for Trump should be ashamed of themselves. They knew what they were getting and it didn't matter. Their sky buddy would be appalled if he existed. :)