Russia

Carter Page

#NoPuppetNoPuppet | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Composite — Donald Trump: Detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc; Carter Page: AP Photo; Puti-Toots: Artist unknown.

This is Carter Page. Honestly, it is pretty much what it looks like. The headlines can tell you quite a bit, and either read along or don’t; there is a lot there, and the tale really is as clumsy and ridiculous as it seems.

• Milder, Zachary. “Trump’s New Russia Adviser Has Deep Ties to Kremlin’s Gazprom”. Bloomberg. 30 March 2016.

• Ioffe, Julia. “The Mystery of Trump’s Man in Moscow”. Politico. 23 September 2016.

• Nechepurenko, Ivan. “Carter Page, Ex-Trump Adviser With Russian Ties, Visits Moscow”. The New York Times. 8 December 2016.

• Schwarz, Jon. “Carter Page, at Center of Trump Russian Investigation, Writes Bizarre Letter to DOJ Blaming Hillary Clinton”. The Intercept. 15 February 2017.

• Woodruff, Judy. “Former Trump adviser says he had no Russian meetings in the last year”. News Hour. 15 February 2017.

• Reilly, Steve. “Two other Trump advisers also spoke with Russian envoy during GOP convention”. USA Today. 2 March 2017.

• Helsel, Phil. “Carter Page, Adviser Once Linked to Trump Campaign, Met With Russian Ambassador”. NBC News. 3 March 2017.

• Herridge, Catherine, Pamela K. Browne, and Christopher Wallace. “Ex-Trump adviser Carter Page rips ‘false narrative’ on Russia collusion”. FOX News. 30 March 2017.

• Ross, Brian and Matthew Mosk. “Trump campaign adviser Carter Page targeted for recruitment by Russian spies”. ABC News. 4 April 2017.

• Groll, Elias. “Russian Spy Met Trump Adviser Carter Page and Thought He Was an ‘Idiot'”. Foreign Policy. 4 April 2017.

• Kaczynski, Andrew. “Former Trump adviser Carter Page says he didn’t disclose Russian spy contacts to campaign”. CNN. 5 April 2017.

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Rather Quite Obvious (Priorities)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Mexico City on 22 February 2017. The visit is the second foreign trip of Tillerson’s tenure at the State Department. (Carlos Jasso/Reuters)

The lede from Reuters:

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to skip an April 5-6 meeting of NATO foreign ministers for a U.S. visit by the Chinese president and will travel to Russia later in the month, U.S. officials said on Monday, a step allies may see as putting Moscow’s concerns ahead of theirs.

And a bit of the detail:

State Department spokesman Mark Toner had no immediate comment on whether Tillerson would skip the NATO meeting or visit Russia. Two U.S. officials said Tillerson planned to visit Moscow on April 12.

“It feeds this narrative that somehow the Trump administration is playing footsy with Russia,” said one former U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“You don’t want to do your early business with the world’s great autocrats. You want to start with the great democracies, and NATO is the security instrument of the transatlantic group of great democracies,” he added.

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A Canonical Quote: Goldman on Patriotism

#trumpswindle | #resist

“For surely it is not the rich who contribute to patriotism. They are cosmopolitans, perfectly at home in every land. We in America know well the truth of this. Are not our rich Americans Frenchmen in France, Germans in Germany, or Englishmen in England? And do they not squander with cosmopolitan grace fortunes coined by American factory children and cotton slaves? Yes, theirs is the patriotism that will make it possible to send messages of condolence to a despot like the Russian Tsar, when any mishap befalls him.”

Emma Goldman

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Goldman, Emma. “Patriotism: A Menace to Liberty”. Anarchism and Other Essays. New York & London: Mother Earth Publishing Association. 1911.

The Wreck of the Trump?

#UnbelievableTurmoil | #WhatTheyVotedFor

tswin-2016-putitrump-bw

The Trump administration is coming apart, quite frankly, faster than anyone seems able to figure. Via the New York Times:

“F.B.I. Interviewed Flynn in Trump’s First Days in Office, Officials Say”

F.B.I. agents interviewed Michael T. Flynn when he was national security adviser in the first days of the Trump administration about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, current and former officials said on Tuesday.

The interview raises the stakes of what so far has been a political scandal that cost Mr. Flynn his job. If he was not entirely honest with the F.B.I., it could expose Mr. Flynn to a felony charge. President Trump asked for Mr. Flynn’s resignation on Monday night.

“‘Unbelievable Turmoil’: Trump’s First Month Leaves Washington Reeling”

Gen. Tony Thomas, head of the military’s Special Operations Command, expressed concern about upheaval inside the White House. “Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war,” he said at a military conference on Tuesday.

Asked about his comments later, General Thomas said in a brief interview, “As a commander, I’m concerned our government be as stable as possible.”

“Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence”

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.

#DimensionTrump (#SpiceWorld)

#SpiceWorld | #WhatTheyVotedFor

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer speaks to the media during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., 14 February 2017. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Two observations on Sean Spicer’s press briefing today:

• There is an interesting circle in the logic: Flynn did nothing illegal. In fact, he was doing his job. Uh-huh. Yeah. The job he didn’t have. Which, sure, makes it illegal. But it was his job, so it’s not illegal. He just lied about it, or forgot, or didn’t realize, or something like that. But it wasn’t illegal. It was his job. Which he didn’t have. No, really, I’m pretty certain that’s the pitch.

• Convincing … er … ah … somebody?anybody? … that President Trump makes his own decisions is really on the White House’s mind.

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Your Lede of the Day (Tool Time)

#PutiToots | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Her plan is to penetrate us … (Detail of frame from FLCL episode 4, 'Brittle Bullet')

“U.S. intelligence has collected information that Russia is considering turning over Edward Snowden as a ‘gift’ to President Donald Trump―who has called the NSA leaker a ‘spy’ and a ‘traitor’ who deserves to be executed.”

Cynthia McFadden and William Arkin

NBC News explains:

That’s according to a senior U.S. official who has analyzed a series of highly sensitive intelligence reports detailing Russian deliberations and who says a Snowden handover is one of various ploys to “curry favor” with Trump. A second source in the intelligence community confirms the intelligence about the Russian conversations and notes it has been gathered since the inauguration.

Snowden’s ACLU lawyer, Ben Wizner, told NBC News they are unaware of any plans that would send him back to the United States.

“Team Snowden has received no such signals and has no new reason for concern,” Wizner said.

Snowden responded to NBC’s report on Twitter and said it shows that he did not work with the Russian government.

“Finally: irrefutable evidence that I never cooperated with Russian intel,” Snowden said. “No country trades away spies, as the rest would fear they’re next.”

We would simply note:

• “Team Snowden”.

• So this is the occasion a thin, unverifiable report from unnamed sources coming through mainstream media counts as irrefutable proof?

• No country trades away spies? But what about throwing away old tools?

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Image note: Detail of frame from FLCL.

McFadden, Cynthia and William Arkin. “Russia Considers Returning Snowden to U.S. to ‘Curry Favor’ With Trump: Official”. NBC News. 10 February 2017.

A Dwindling Conservative Pretense

#PutiToots | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, 14 May 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP Photo)

“Note, in this three-sentence statement, Team Trump (1) attacked the U.S. intelligence community in order to defend Russia; (2) flagrantly lied about the 2016 election results; and (3) and made no effort to deny the accuracy of the revelations, saying instead that we should ‘move on,’ rather than acknowledge Russian intervention in the American election, which Republicans chose to overlook, apparently to advance their own interests.”

Steve Benen

This is, genuinely, extraordinary. For all people wish to carry on about “both sides” and all that, some days it seems worth noting that there really is a difference.

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The Donald Trump Show (Puti-PWND)

A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, 14 May 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP Photo)

“Does Mr. Trump propose this collaboration with a regime obsessed with thwarting and weakening American power out of ignorance and naivete, or because of personal and business interests he has not disclosed? Mr. Putin surely knows the answer to that question―but U.S. voters do not.”

The Washington Post

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Image notes: A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, 14 May 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP Photo)

Editorial Board. “Donald Trump, Putin’s puppet”. The Washington Post. 10 October 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (One Man Wreck)

Donald Trump speaks to South Carolina voters in North Charleston, 19 February 2016. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

It really is hard to keep up:

FiveThirtyEight undertakes the obvious question―“Is This What It Looks Like When A Party Falls Apart?”―and, well, the answer is about as vague as you might imagine, but the conversation is either worth your time or not.

(Maggie Koerth-Baker’s feature on “The Secret Lives Of Rocks” is probably a more enriching read while offering just as much utility in comprehending the election in general or Republicans in particular.)

Nate Silver offers a headline that ought to be encouraging: “Women are defeating Donald Trump”.

Jack Shafer of Politico reminds why the devastating Trump video footage is “The Least Surprising ‘Surprise’ of the Campaign”.

• Speaking of Politico that is where historian Josh Zeitz recalls Horace Greely, whose death shortly after the 1872 election represents “the last time a major-party presidential candidate was unable to make it to the actual vote of the Electoral College”, which in turn raises all manner of whispers and rumors about potential chaos, thus somehow inspiring the question, “Is a Historic Hail Mary Possible for the GOP?”

• The Associated Press, by dint of its reporting, obliges an interesting question about Rudy Giuliani: If “Giuliani says Trump is better for the US ‘than a woman'”, how much longer is society oblieged to give just how much of a damn about what Rudy Giuliani has to say?

Phillip Bump chastises Kurt Eichenwald for missing a deleted tweet, or something, and, really, there’s nothing that could possibly go wrong with being so definitive as “The Trump-Putin link that wasn’t”.

• Also at WaPo, Aaron Blake explains, “Kellyanne Conway just demonstrated how impossible it is to defend Donald Trump right now”, which by no means should be construed as any reason to feel sorry for her; she did this to herself.

• Speaking of self-infliction, Matthew Rozsa of Salon takes a moment or three to marvel at how “The big loser in Donald Trump’s war against the GOP is Ted Cruz somehow”, and the only part of that we might contest is the last word, which seems to suggest uncertainty, though in the end the difference between Ted Cruz and the nation is a matter of priorities―some people reasonably argue that the American people are the biggest losers, but the American people also did this to themselves, and in any practical question that doesn’t render itself moot, yes, Ted Cruz is, well, a big freaking loser. Oh, right; but I digress.

Jonathan Swan of The Hill broke an interesting headline: “Trump campaign CEO wanted to destroy Ryan”.

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Image note: Donald Trump speaks to South Carolina voters in North Charleston, 19 February 2016. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

An American Lamentation (Two by “Huh?”)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016. (Detail of frame via YouTube)

Americans often lament the fact of their essentially two-party political league, and the top of the Libertarian ticket, Gary Johnson, is capable of providing spectacular reminders of why we tend toward the binary. The former New Mexico governor and middle-tier celebrity stoner has managed to reduce a human atrocity to yet another icon of American stupidity, which really is no good legacy to build. Yet it is true, in the American discourse, “Aleppo” is … well, Matthew Kitchen tries to explain for NBC News:

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson struggled to name a single foreign leader when asked who his favorite was during an MSNBC town hall Wednesday night.

“Any one of the continents, any country. Name one foreign leader that your respect and look up to. Anybody,” host Chris Matthews pushed during the event, causing Johnson to sigh loudly as his VP pick Bill Weld tried to jump in.

“I guess I’m having an Aleppo moment,” Johnson finally said, referring to his recent gaffe on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when he asked “What is Aleppo?” after he was questioned about how he would handle the conflict in the Syrian city.

So, yeah. Aleppo is … Gary Johnson being inexcusably stupid. (Look, dude, I mean, you’re, like, running for president, you know, like, aren’t you?)

And then there is Donald Trump.

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