Monday, July 10, 2017


It's been clear since the 2016 campaign that Republicans can't get along with the rest of America because, among other things, we don't even have a set of agreed-upon facts. In our news, Donald Trump and his campaign aides engaged in suspicious pro-Russia activities that helped Trump win, and now a terrible presidency is punctuated by continued acts deferential to Russia. According to right-wing news, Trump ran a brilliant campaign, which has been followed by an extraordinarily successful presidency; on questions of skulduggery, Trump and his team are blameless -- the people likely to be jailed soon are "deep state" leakers and prominent Democrats (the Clintons, Loretta Lynch).

The rest of America hasn't been able to agree with Republicans on what's actually happening -- except right now. At this moment, there's a story in The New York Times with a damning headline:
Trump’s Son Met With Russian Lawyer After Being Promised Damaging Information on Clinton
Donald Trump Jr. hoped to receive dirt on his father's opponent from a government-connected Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya! Surely the right-wing press has a set of alternative facts.

Nope -- here's the Fox Nation headline for a story at
Searching for Kremlin Dirt on Hillary? Trump, Son Donald Jr. Push Back on NY Times Story Suggesting Russian Collusion
What seems to us to be the scandal is, to the right, the pushback.

To us, the facts as laid out are strong evidence of unacceptable and probably illegal behavior. Jonathan Chait writes:
So the Trump campaign took a meeting with Russians who promised to supply them with damaging information on their opponent. This is the defense. Given that Trump is fervently denying that his campaign colluded with Russia to steal and disseminate Democratic emails, it is not a very strong one.
But to the right, Junior has acquitted himself. Here's the New York Post's Michael Walsh responding to a passage from the Times story:
"President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.”

To which a rational response is ... who wouldn’t? And also: so, what?
The charge is: Junior tried to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians! The defense is: Yes, Junior tried to get dirt from the Russians ... on (ick! ptui!) Hillary Clinton!

They don't even need alternative facts anymore to sustain the belief that Trump is a great and completely innocent man. If we ever find smoking-gun evidence of Trump team collusion with the Russians to sway the election, they'll probably brag about it and say that it proves they were trying to steer Hillary to her long-deserved stay at Leavenworth.


In case you need one, Jonathan Chait has a useful timeline:
... the timing of events around this meeting is instructive. The hacker Guccifer announced the theft of Clinton emails the month before, and Guccifer’s only publicly known connection to Russia was his use of Russian proxy servers. But three days after the meeting with the Trump campaign, Julian Assange, Putin’s pass-through publishing source for email hacks, announced, “We have upcoming leaks in relation to Hillary Clinton … We have emails pending publication, that is correct.”

The most interesting follow-up question is, what was the nature of the damaging information that Veselnitskaya promised? Stolen emails, perhaps?
And BooMan has some breadcrumbs to follow:
The story is very, very complicated and I spent several hours last night reading up on it. One lawyer involved in the case died in a Russian prison at the hands of the Interior Ministry. Another was recently pushed out of 4th story window. The key figure in the whole thing, Denis Katsyv, was represented by Natalia Veselnitskaya who was in the meeting with Trump’s inner circle. Another key figure, Andrey Pavlov, is described as “the consigliere for the Klyuev Group.” Members of the Klyuev Group are described as Russian mobsters linked to the Russian government.

One thing I did last night was sit down and read the complaint that Preet Bharara filed against Denis Katsyv. It makes for fascinating reading. The sophistication of their money laundering is dizzying. The reach of their corruption into Russian courts, the tax ministry and the Interior Ministry is simply astonishing. Preet Bharara was of course fired while conducting this case and it was recently settled for about 6 million dollars without Katsyv or his companies having to acknowledge any guilt.
Nope, nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

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