Trump Tower

The Art of the Swamp (Smile Through)

#DrainTheSwamp | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Michael D. Cohen in New York City, 13 April 2018. (Detail of photo by Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

The setup, via Jonathan Chait:

Viktor Vekselberg. (Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images)Earlier this month, when Michael Avenatti reported that Michael Cohen’s Delaware shell company received half a million dollars from a firm linked to a Russian oligarch, it looked quite shady. But the firm, Columbus Nova, quickly asserted the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, had only a tangential relationship to it, and had not used it as a conduit to pay Cohen. Columbus Nova released a statement insisting it was “owned and controlled by Americans and not Vekselberg, and denied that Vekselberg had ever owned the company or used it as a conduit for payments.” So maybe it wasn’t a Russian bribe. Maybe it was just an investment firm, which happened to have a large Russian client, looking to get influence with the administration the way many businesses do.

As more information has dribbled out, the innocent explanation has looked less and less plausible.

And the punch line, from the New York Times:

Eleven days before the presidential inauguration last year, a billionaire Russian businessman with ties to the Kremlin visited Trump Tower in Manhattan to meet with Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, according to video footage and another person who attended the meeting.

In Mr. Cohen’s office on the 26th floor, he and the oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, discussed a mutual desire to strengthen Russia’s relations with the United States under President Trump, according to Andrew Intrater, an American businessman who attended the meeting and invests money for Mr. Vekselberg. The men also arranged to see one another during the inauguration festivities, the second of their three meetings, Mr. Intrater said.

Days after the inauguration, Mr. Intrater’s private equity firm, Columbus Nova, awarded Mr. Cohen a $1 million consulting contract, a deal that has drawn the attention of federal authorities investigating Mr. Cohen, according to people briefed on the inquiry.

(Rashbaum, Protess, and McIntire)

Such as it is, something about gravity goes here. There is a certain point at which it is not so much the notion of everything going downhill from there, but, rather, the appearance of trying to smile through a screaming, flaming plummet into a cursed abyss. No, really, there is even a clown car taxi joke in there having to do with a “series of coincidences” that really does sound like a its own manner of comedic setup about how there they all were minding their own business when all of a sudden . . . .

Something, something, #WhatTheyVotedFor.

____________________

Image notes: Top — Michael D. Cohen in New York City, 13 April 2018. (Detail of photo by Jeenah Moon/Reuters)  Right Viktor Vekselberg. (Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images)

Chait, Jonathan. “Did a Russian Oligarch Funnel Money From Russia to Michael Cohen?” New York. 25 May 2018.

Rashbaum, William K., Ben Protess, and Mike McIntire. “At Trump Tower, Michael Cohen and Oligarch Discussed Russian Relations”. The New York Times. 25 May 2018.

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A Question of Presupposition (Graham Cracked Edition)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

#PutiTrump: Protest image of Vladimir Putin, artist unknown. Donald Trump in detail of photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for msnbc, 2016.

“I always said he had a blindspot to Russia but things are changing for the better. He finally allowed the Ukraine to be given defensive weapons. But when it comes to Russia, I’ve said on your show a million times, he has an attitude toward Putin that I think is counterproductive. The president does believe his intel agencies.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

It really is easy to pin a lot on the quote; Steve Benen offers this take:

Now, it’s quite likely that Trump and Graham, who appear to now be rather close allies, have had private conversations in which the president has said things to the senator that he hasn’t shared with the public. But if Trump told Graham he now believes Russians stole Democratic documents, it would represent a dramatic change of heart.

As recently as mid-November—not quite two months ago—Trump told reporters that Vladimir Putin personally assured him that Russia didn’t meddle in the American election. “Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it,” the American president said in reference to his Russian counterpart.

It was part of a lengthy pattern in which Trump refused to accept U.S. intelligence agencies’ findings. “Nobody really knows for sure” whether Russia intervened in the American elections, the president said in July—after intelligence professionals told him they do know for sure.

But according to Lindsey Graham, sometime between mid-November and early-January, Trump changed his mind, and if the senator is right, the shift is a pretty important development.

The analysis is not wrong; we should always bear in mind, however, questions of presupposition.

(more…)

Something of an Update (Crackpottery Wrapped in Tinfoil Wrapped in a Bad Suit)

#trumpfoil | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President-elect Donald Trump delivers his first official news conference since winning the November election, 11 January 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

If it feels somehow familiar, yes, there really is a reason.

The Justice Department confirmed in a court filing late Friday that neither it nor the FBI has evidence that Trump Tower was the target of surveillance efforts by the Obama administration during the 2016 presidential election.

(Greenwood)

Six months. How strange it feels to look back to March as if the upcoming six-month mark should feel like some chapter from ancient history. What should have been breathtaking in its time might well have been, but how far down the #trumphole have we fallen, since?  (more…)

What Sounds Like a Tacit Confession

#confession | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump delivers remarks at a press conference in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C., 16 February 2017. (Photo: Associated Press)

The Washington Post reports―

President Trump on Saturday angrily accused former president Barack Obama of orchestrating a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap the phones at his Trump Tower headquarters last fall in the run-up to the election.

While citing no evidence to support his explosive allegation, Trump said in a series of four tweets sent Saturday morning that Obama was “wire tapping” his New York offices before the election in a move he compared to McCarthyism. “Bad (or sick) guy!” he said of his predecessor, adding that the surveillance resulted in “nothing found.”

Trump offered no citations nor did he point to any credible news report to back up his accusation, but he may have been referring to commentary on Breitbart and conservative talk radio suggesting that Obama and his administration used “police state” tactics last fall to monitor the Trump team. The Breitbart story, published Friday, has been circulating among Trump’s senior staff, according to a White House official who described it as a useful catalogue of the Obama administration’s activities.

―and a pressing question arises: Did Donald Trump just confess to something?

(more…)

The Donald Trump Show (Artful Dodger)

Donald Trump.

“Watching the video, it’s hard not to get the impression that Trump almost certainly hasn’t read the Bible; he probably doesn’t have a favorite verse; and the GOP White House hopeful has no idea what the differences are between the Old and New Testaments.”

Steve Benen

Uh … ya think?

The thing is that Donald Trump is clearly pulling a really simple sales bit; indeed, as annoying as we might find the man, we might also sympathize with the part of him that wrestles with the question of whether or not he believes they’re really gobbling it up like this.

(more…)

The Donald Trump Show (The Brim Horizon)

Donald Trump announces his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in New York City, New York, 16 June 2015. (Photo: Justin Lane/European Pressphoto Agency)

Steve Benen raises an interesting question:

… if Trump can rocket to the front of the Republican pack without the backing of a real national campaign, what happens when the GOP candidate starts trying?

We’re about to find out. Iowa’s Sam Clovis, a prominent Republican activist and media figure in Iowa, had served for months as the state chairman of Rick Perry’s presidential campaign, until this week, when Clovis gave up on the former Texas governor and joined Team Trump.

The problem with the Donald Trump Show is that it really does know how to get attention.

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The Donald Trump Show (Trump Dump)

Real estate mogul Donald Trump announces his bid for the presidency in the 2016 presidential race during an event at the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York City on 16 June 2015. Trump, one of America's most flamboyant and outspoken billionaires, threw his hat into the race Tuesday for the White House, promising to make America great again. The 69-year-old long-shot candidate ridiculed the country's current crop of politicians and vowed to take on the growing might of China in a speech launching his run for the presidency in 2016.

Welcome to the Donald Trump Show. We expect this will be, proverbially speaking, at least, interesting, and would encourage at all times to bear in mind that this is, after all, Donald Trump we’re talking about.

To wit, NBC has severed ties with Trump; Cynthia Littleton of Variety explains:

NBC is ending its long relationship with Donald Trump in the wake of the presidential hopeful’s recent comments about Mexican immigrants.

NBC said it will no longer carry the Trump-produced Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants. Nor will he return to the long-running reality show “The Celebrity Apprentice” as host, a role Trump already said he would give up because of his presidential bid.

“Due to the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBCUniversal is ending its business relationship with Mr. Trump,” NBC said in a statement. “At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values.”

Trump told CNN that he was considering filing suit against NBC. He said in a statement that “NBC is weak, and like everybody else is trying to be politically correct” before saying that NBC will support disgraced journalist Brian Williams “but won’t stand behind people that tell it like it is, as unpleasant as that may be.”

“We must have strong borders and not let illegal immigrants enter the United States,” Trump said. “As has been stated continuously in the press, people are pouring across our borders unabated. Public reports routinely state great amounts of crime are being committed by illegal immigrants. This must be stopped and it must be stopped now. Long ago I told NBC that I would not being doing ‘The Apprentice’ because I am running for president in order to make our country great again.”

So, here’s the thing: This might be a calculated gamble.

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