Monday, February 26, 2018

Elected Employees of the NRA


     With the story of the shooting in Parkland, this NRA story has been getting short shrift. The FBI is investigating whether a Russian banker with ties to Vladimir Putin illegally funneled money to the gun lobbying group to help Donald Trump win the election. The NRA spent $30 million to help him. This money came from a wing of the group which doesn't have to reveal who their donors are. Don't know if Congress is looking into it. They did spend $40 million on electing other candidates so all signs point to no. It's odd that an organization that "defends America's freedoms" would take money from a Russian oligarch to help subvert democracy. If I was really cynical I might think it's another reason Congress is releasing memos to tar the FBI.

     Do want to say a word of condolence for the students and praise for them waking a lot of people up. They're showing moral leadership Congress can only dream of. David Hogg on the respect of the NRA for their members, "(Dana Loesch) wants them to think she's on their side, but she's not. She's working for the gun manufacturers."

     In discussions with gun fanciers online, I've come to the conclusion the justification for owning assault style rifles is to take on a tyrannical government. So, Congress is protecting the rights of would-be subversives against our government. Not to worry though because they're also increasing funding for the military. Nothing is more profitable than arming both sides in a war. Loesch isn't the only one working for the gun manufacturers. No wonder they spent $70 million to put them into office. March for our lives, March 24th.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Who What When Etc

Commenter Rick Camp left a link to a timeline at Bill Moyers that gives everything you wanted to know and more on the Trump/Russia scandal. Undying gratitude to him.

If for whatever reason that doesn't work because I seem to be too simple to embed a link today.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

More Thoughts and Prayers from Elise

I'm still curious as to whether our congresswoman is actually praying or not. I can guarantee you I am praying very hard that she gets shown the door in November.

When asked about the high number of Facebook comments regarding the shooting on her page, Stefanik, through her spokesman Tom Flanagin, responded by email: “The news of this devastating shooting is heartbreaking and the thoughts and prayers of our nation are with the families impacted in Parkland, Florida. In the coming days, we will learn more about how this happened and hopefully how we can work to prevent something like this from happening again. Right now, we pray for those who lost their lives and those who were hurt by this tragedy, and we thank the first responders and law enforcement officers who worked heroically to save lives.”

Pat Tuz is not running, but I love her and lots of good people are anyway. We're up to 10 contenders now with the latest being someone named Dylan Ratigan from CNBC. Pat Tuz:

 “As long as Elise Stefanik, her boss Paul Ryan and many others in Congress are funded by the National Rifle Association, we will not have any necessary and meaningful federal legislation that works to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people,” said Pat Tuz of New Yorkers’ Against Gun Violence, Saratoga Springs. “We’ve had how many school shootings this year, but, how many of them have been in NY? That’s because New York with the SAFE ACT has a ban on assault weapons, limited capacity magazines, a good pistol permit law and background checks.”

The amount Stefanik has taken from NRA ghouls is relatively small. And good for Dan Donovan for taking nothing. It's still a matter of how do you vote. Do you vote in lockstep to avoid a primary opponent?

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan ranked No. 64 out of 532 in the 2016 campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association with $61,401; U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, ranked 225 with $7,179.

In that same campaign contribution cycle, 14 Democratic representatives from New York took no funding from the NRA, along with one New York Republican, Dan Donovan, NY-11.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

An Old Gun Grabber Letter

From June 20, 2014:

Candidates’ NRA ratings not needed

Congrats to candidates Matt Doheny and Elise Stefanik on the AQ ratings from the NRA. Highest rating! The NRA recently affirmed support for a group called Open Carry Texas. OCT was in the news for showing up at restaurants with assault rifles slung across their backs. It would be interesting to know if there are any questions on the test pertaining to open carry laws.

All the candidates running for representative have expressed support for the rights of hunters. I don’t believe that is where the argument is joined, though. Anyone short of a PETA member is good with that. Me? I like living in a state where I can stop for a burger and not have to worry about the posse walking in. Gives me indigestion. Paradoxically, six with guns is better than one, though.

The NRA has become nothing more than a mouthpiece for the gun industry. I can’t see why anyone running for office still seeks their approval.

August 25, 2014:

In reading some of the anti-President Barack Obama letters, I get the feeling democracy is not such a popular form of government in some circles. Mr. Syrell seems to favor skipping all that impeachment folderol and going straight to the military coup. The justification for the overthrow of the president being public opinion polls and the threat to this country of, what he himself refers to as, barbaric cave-dwellers. Not sure what his strategy toward ISIS is, but since he likes polls, 74 percent of the citizenry is against putting troops back into Iraq.

On the poll thing, there were periods during President George W. Bush’s and President Ronald Reagan’s administrations when their numbers were worse than Obama’s are now. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have been suggesting coups as a remedy then.

I survived eight years of their reigns, and I’m certain Mr. Syrell can survive two full terms of Clinton and Obama (barring a coup, naturally).

Also, in response to Mr. Farenell’s letter on Matt Funiciello — I like Mr. Funiciello and praise him for the many things he has done for the greater Glens Falls community. He made a statement that troubles me, though. He said, “If you don’t feel that we need to have guns to defend ourselves against tyranny, then you are not paying attention.” I’ve been paying attention for some time and prefer to put some faith in our system of government. We have enough Republicans in Congress making statements that sound a lot like that. I’d prefer we elect a moderate, sensible Democrat to replace the moderate, sensible Bill Owens.

Oct 17, 2015:


I want to join The Post-Star in commending Congresswoman Stefanik for cosponsoring legislation to reform our mental health system. I'll mention Congressman Gibson for his efforts as well. I also wanted to comment on a story that ran in Monday's paper on funding for gun violence research. The article mentioned how the Republican-led Congress, at the behest of the NRA, killed this funding. What funding the CDC has received is only on account of the White House.

In a report they managed to put together for 2013, the statistics showed 33,636 firearm deaths in the U.S. Of these, 63 percent were suicides and 33 percent were homicides. Under 2 percent were from mass shooting events. So that's fewer than 700 from incidents like Roseburg and over 21,000 that are self-inflicted. The solution suggested by the NRA after every massacre is to arm more people. Looking at the stats above makes that sound like less than a good idea.

I'd also like to point out that there have been 3,380 deaths from terrorists since 2001, mostly on 9/11, of course. There have been 406,456 deaths from firearms. How much has been spent on the War on Terror? God knows, but we do know that Congress is spending as little on research into deaths from firearms as they can get away with. Zero.

I believe most NRA members are as concerned about this as any of us. Wayne LaPierre and its leadership are in the business of selling guns and ammunition though. My campaign advice is probably worth what I'm charging, but I'd urge Mike Derrick to reject Big Gun. Having rational ideas about overcoming this scourge will absolutely put him ahead of his two rivals in our district.

June 23, 2017:


Hopefully enough time has passed so we can mention the shooting that wounded Rep. Scalise. As I write this, he is still hospitalized. We all wish him a speedy and full recovery. I also wish him and our representative a speedy change of heart.

Mr. Scalise has received $18,900 from the NRA and Ms. Stefanik, $4,000. Much has been said, in the wake of the shooting, about the lack of civility in our discourse. The NRA sells a T-shirt with an eagle clutching a rifle. The slogan is "Because you can't fist fight tyranny." Classy. We have a healthy enough system of government and a free press to prevent tyrants from taking root. It’s worked well so far and seems to still be.

Maybe it's time for Congress to make gun policy without the aid of these lobbyists for the gun industry. Would merchants of death have been uncivil? It's past time to get rid of the Dickey Amendment prohibiting funding of the CDC to reduce gun deaths. Jay Dickey himself, before he passed, called for its repeal. How about our reps doing the very least they can to address the problem? They can do it while they wait for the white puffs of smoke from the Senate chimney portending the "new and improved" AHCA.

Fortunately I got better at making sure I put these up on the blog at some point. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Navalny Tape

I'm not familiar with the Navalny Tape. It seems to be a recent piece of the whole Trump/Russia universe. This is a Twitter feed from Seth Abramson who has been following the story closer than anyone besides the Mueller team. I took this from Lena M's and have removed comments for easier digestion. Going to throw a few more bucks to Seth.

Link to tweet.

The just-released "Navalny Tape" gets us *much* closer to seeing the whole of the Trump-Russia coordination narrative. In this thread I explain how a dozen Trump aides fit into the narrative—with Manafort and Papadopoulos as the stars. Hope you'll pass this on.
1/ The Trump-Russia coordination narrative becomes much less confusing—particularly after today (more on that in a moment)—if you just (a) know all the key players in the narrative, and (b) understand the relatively limited role that nearly all of them except four or five played.
2/ Here are the names to know: Trump, Trump Jr., Kushner, Manafort, Gates, Sessions, Page, Papadopoulos, Clovis, Lewandowski, Hicks, Flynn, Prince, Cohen, Sater, Phares, Gordon, and Bannon. That's 18 names—but most played a relatively small role in the narrative. I'll show you.
3/ J.D. Gordon made some trips to Hungary—the HQ of Russian intelligence in Europe—that people find suspicious, and may have been present for some Sessions-Kislyak meetings, but mostly his role was being ordered by Trump to change the RNC platform to benefit Putin and doing it.
4/ Corey Lewandowski was, by his own admission, "functionally not in control" of the Trump campaign beginning April 7, though he was nominally campaign manager until May 19. His role was doing nothing to stop—and possibly encouraging—key Trump-Russia (Page/Papadopoulos) contacts.
5/ Sam Clovis, National Co-Chair of Trump's campaign, didn't—much like Lewandowski and Gordon—have consequential Russia meetings. But he hired Page and Papadopous and, like Lewandowski, did nothing to stop (and rather more to encourage) Trump-Russia (Page/Papadopolous) contacts.
6/ You may be noticing a pattern so far: major figures in the Trump-Russia coordination narrative whose primary role was to do one of three things: (1) bring more important players into the campaign; (2) follow the orders of more important players; or (3) encourage others to act.
7/ As far as we know, Rick Gates' role was primarily to plot with Manafort—as his deputy—and oversee key Trump-Russia operations like the RNC platform shift. It's not clear he had any major Russia meetings, though like Manafort he may have stood to gain financially from contacts.
8/ Bannon's utility to Mueller is he kept his eyes open and his hands fairly clean as he watched others do worse than anything he did.
9/ I'm going somewhere with all this.
10/ Hope Hicks is who you emailed if you wanted to get a message to Trump—so she saw and heard everything. She also participated in events initiated by others above her in the chain of command, like assisting Trump in fashioning a false statement for Don. She wasn't an initiator.
11/ Walid Phares seems to only be relevant at two points: he participates in the RNC platform-shift effort orchestrated by others and is encouraged by Clovis to travel to Moscow with Papadopoulos (a key player) in the late summer of 2016. So he saw a little and initiated nothing.
12/ Felix Sater is *enormously* relevant as the main Trump-Russia liaison from 2002 to 2015—he saves Trump from bankruptcy by creating a money pipeline between the businessman and Russian oligarchs—but his involvement during the campaign focuses on two major stunts I'll mention.
13/ First, Sater tries to help Trump profit off his presidential run by brokering a Trump Tower Moscow deal with Russian investors in late 2015. During the transition, he tries to be himself useful by ferrying a sanctions plan from a Putin pal to Trump—via Trump's attorney Cohen.
14/ But neither stunt is successful, and the former is focused on helping Trump enrich himself (and because the plan doesn't work, it can't *really* explain Trump-Russia coordination during the campaign). The 2017 stunt is mainly useful in helping us see sanctions as a big focus.
15/ At this point we're down to Trump, Don Jr., Kushner, Manafort, Sessions, Page, Papadopoulos, Flynn, Prince, Cohen—10 men. Keep in mind that while a successful criminal conspiracy may be a scheme many are aware of, the number of people carrying out the operation must be small.
16/ Jeff Sessions wasn't as useful as a key operator because of his high profile—but what he *could* do was use his position as a Senator and head of Trump's NatSec team to surreptitiously negotiate sanctions with the Russians on three occasions and then lie about it to Congress.
17/ Here's where we *begin* to approach today's news: the Navalny Tape, fundamentally a story about Manafort and Papadopoulos—one already indicted, one already convicted. During the campaign, Manafort made clear only a "low-level" Trump aide could make direct contact with Russia.
18/ That's why Sessions only met with Russia's ambassador—he had the right cover for such a meet, as a Senator, but wasn't low-profile enough to be in on meetings beyond that. Still, as the Trump-Russia conspiracy was a sanctions-for-aid deal, he *could* work the sanctions angle.
19/ To recap where we're at: the Trump-Russia coordination conspiracy was a straight-up sanctions relief-for-specified/unspecified Russian assistance deal. Russia was able to make contact with Sessions as needed to see where Trump was at—at various points—on the sanctions piece.
20/ The key thing to understand about Erik Prince and Michael Flynn is that, like Jeff Sessions, they were major players—but with far, far fewer scruples because they had no Senate position to lose. Trump made them operators by keeping them from the limelight during the campaign.
21/ Prince was a shadow NatSec advisor during and after the campaign; he was never acknowledged as such. Flynn was left off Trump's first three NatSec teams, despite being Trump's lead NatSec advisor. He only came out of the shadows after Jared made it possible in the transition.
22/ Frankly we don't *know* what the hell Prince was doing behind closed doors—though we do know that once Trump is elected he becomes comfortable enough letting Prince out of his box that he sends him to the Seychelles to negotiate with Russia (in the form of the RDIF) directly.
23/ For our purposes, Prince is relevant for two reasons: (1) how assiduously Trump kept him hidden, and (2) how quickly post-election he activated him as a negotiator with Russia. The interesting thing is, Michael Flynn is critical for the exact same reason and in the same ways.
24/ Flynn, like Prince, was, it seems, too powerful/self-interested to be willing to take a risk and meet with the Russians during the campaign—it only became safe for a major player like him to do so post-campaign. So Trump had Flynn negotiate with Russia during the transition.
25/ The exception to this came early in the campaign—when it wasn't yet clear Trump would be a major player in the primary. Flynn advised Trump throughout late 2015 and may well have reported back to Trump—or taken orders from Trump—regarding his December 2015 dinner with Putin.
26/ Don is an interesting case because (a) he's obviously a moron, but (b) his father trusts him. The result was (a) attempts to actually make contacts with Russia (because his dad trusted him for something that sensitive), and (b) those attempts failing (because Don is a moron).
27/ Don had contacts with WikiLeaks, but they may have had no more effect than Don passing on to his dad that WikiLeaks was going to be helpful to him—and Trump in response inserting *praise* of WikiLeaks into every one of his stump speeches for the last 45 days of the campaign.
28/ Just so, I think that everyone on Mueller's team believes Don told his father about his June 9, 2016 meeting with Kremlin agents at Trump Tower before and after it happened. It was a ham-fisted attempt to use the Agalarovs—Trump family friends—to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.
29/ The reason I call this end of things moronic and—in a sense—beside the point is that, again, the Trump-Russia coordination conspiracy was a sanctions relief-for-specified/unspecified Russian aid deal. For it to work, Russia just needed a) sanctions relief, b) to do its thing.
30/ While of *course* the Trumps *wanted* direct assistance from Russia in the form of opposition research—to put a finer point on it, stolen digital property—on Clinton, by mid-June, days after the Trump Tower meeting, it was clear that the Trumps would get *other* in-kind aid.
31/ This is what's *really* important about the Trump Tower meeting: going into it, the Trumps thought Russian aid would come in the form of valuable—stolen—Clinton property. Within a week, the Kremlin clarified: no, we just want sanctions relief, and we'll take care of the rest.
32/ Remember, Trump's Trump Tower agenda on June 9, 2016, was to huddle with Jared, Don and Manafort to discuss Clinton dirt. This has been reported. (Trump wanted material for a speech.) Then Don and Jared go downstairs one floor to discuss *that same topic* with Kremlin agents.
33/ So the chances Trump didn't know what Don and Jared—and, sorry, Manafort too—were doing are *zero*. But it also appears that—as of that date—Trump believed Russian assistance was going to be of the most literal and mundane kind: opposition research. He soon learned otherwise.
34/ Within a week, the scope of Russian hacking had become clear, and it had likewise become clear that—mirabile dictu!—he never had to handle any of the stolen material himself, as Russia would release it personally. (He must've felt very stupid to ever have thought otherwise.)
35/ And that's why, by July, he could publicly, almost as if in exaltation, say on national television, "Russia, if you're listening..." He knew by then that Russian assistance was *never* going to be traceable to him—all he had to do was (a) win, (b) immediately drop sanctions.
36/ In this view, Don—like many of these other witnesses—is primarily important because of what he knows (which still puts him well within the conspiracy) not what he actually *accomplished*. Which is why he's so smug: he thinks, ironically—like a moron—his failures protect him.
37/ Who's left? Trump, Kushner, Manafort, Page, Papadopoulos, Cohen. Cohen knows nearly *everything*—which we know because of his fanatical loyalty to Trump and the Trumps' belief (accidentally revealed by Don) that anything they said while Cohen was *in the room* was privileged.
38/ So yes, Cohen worked with childhood pal Sater on the 2015 Trump Tower Moscow stunt and the 2017 "Artemenko Peace Deal" stunt—and yes, the latter of these was an attempt to seal the sanctions-for-aid deal with Russia—but his biggest value lies in the *secrets* Trump told him.
39/ Jared goes in the Prince/Flynn bucket: powerful, self-interested, not entirely a fool, willing to show his cards only *after* Trump was elected. Did he call Kislyak in April 2016 and invite him to the Mayflower? It appears so. But his major activities came in the transition.
40/ During the transition, Jared—yes, with his wife Ivanka—fired Chris Christie so Flynn (remember, in Jared's bucket role-wise) could finally come aboard the team publicly. And he smuggled Kislyak into Trump Tower to chat, and he smuggled Putin's banker into Trump Tower to chat.
41/ The Gorkov meeting looks—based on what's been reported—like venality: Jared's trying to profit from his father-in-law's election. The Kislyak meeting is in *exactly* the same mold as the Prince-Seychelles and Flynn-Kislyak clandestine contacts: post-election sanctions chats.
42/ We're getting very close to the Navalny Tape now (which I will link to).
43/ What you can see so far is that we have people who really came out of the shadows as operators post-election (Flynn, Prince, Kushner); those who mainly took orders (Phares, Hicks, Gordon, Gates); and those who looked away, watched, or encouraged (Clovis, Lewandowski, Bannon).
44/ Then we have an inner circle of shady operators who tried to pull stunts and definitely know Trump's secrets: Don, Sater, Cohen. Obviously others—like Hicks—are secrets-magnets, but they weren't pulling high-risk stunts like Don, Sater, and Cohen were willing to do for Trump.
45/ What we're missing are persistent conduits: the men who, on occasion, worked their contacts to get messages to the Russians that Trump indeed was game for a sanctions aid-for-specified/unspecified assistance deal. Sessions could do a bit on this score, but only with Kislyak.
46/ And this is why I'm telling you that—besides Trump—the three figures to pay the most attention to as to the nuts-and-bolts of the Trump-Russia coordination conspiracy *during the campaign* (not post-election) are Manafort, Papadopoulos, and Page. They're the key players here.
47/ What do these three men have in common? They were expendable. Papadopoulos and Page were nobodies only too happy to do dirty work if it brought them close to power in U.S. politics (Papadopoulos) or money and Russian elites (Page). And Manafort was his own kind of expendable.
48/ Manafort was an old crook dragged from retirement from U.S. politics to be the bag man in a conspiracy—which he was known to be willing to do based on his reputation, past associations/actions, and the fact that he owed some dangerous people money and needed to make it right.
49/ Paul Manafort has spent decades one step ahead of the law, so we're kidding ourselves if we put him in a different bucket than Page and Papadopoulos just because he was Campaign Manager, Page was/is an imbecile, and Papadopoulos an over-ambitious nobody in Middle East policy.
50/ So to understand the Trump-Russia coordination (criminal) conspiracy, all you really need is a timeline of what three men were doing from early March 2016 through roughly September 2016—a six-month period during which the terms of coordination were set. That's the key period.
51/ Before March 2016, there's minimal activity: it's mostly the Sater-Cohen-Trump trio trying to parlay Trump's presidential run into riches via Russian oligarchs—with Flynn as a key late 2016 liaison, due to him dining with Putin. After September, the die had been cast already.
52/ (By the way, if you've been following the Trump-Russia story for the last year, as I have, you'll know that what I've summarized so far is contained in the major-media reporting of The Washington Post, The New York Times, POLITICO, Reuters, the BBC, The Guardian, and others.)
53/ So here's the relevant timeline of Manafort-Page-Papadopoulos events, culminating in what the Navalny Tape taught us today. As I said atop this thread, it's a sort of "missing link" that completes the circle. This preface contextualizes how and why the Tape is so significant.
54/ Early March 2016: Papadopoulos is brought aboard the campaign by Clovis. Papadopoulos—per The Guardian—volunteers to work on Russia issues, after Clovis says Russia is a top Trump priority. Almost immediately he is sent to Italy by the campaign—knowing he's on the Trump team.
55/ Carter Page has somehow become aware he's going to be a part of the national security team for Donald Trump by sometime in January—again, Clovis is the person who brings him on, presumably because he knows (from Trump) Russia is a top priority and Page has known Kremlin ties.
56/ March 21, 2016: Page and Papadopoulos are two of the first five men named to Trump's NatSec team, which will eventually number 13 men. Trump personally vouches for Papadopoulos—the only person on the team he personally vouches for. Papadopoulos says the two men met in person.
57/ By March 21, 2016, Papadopoulos has already successfully made contact with the Russians—which it's not hard to believe he was sent to Italy to do. Remember that Papadopoulos and his wife-to-be both say *all* his trips abroad were specifically sanctioned by the Trump campaign.
58/ Given that Papadopoulos says he met Trump in person on March 21—which Trump lied about—it's reasonable to think that he reported back to Trump on that date that he had successfully made contact with the Russians. It pleased Trump, so he personally vouched for him to the NYT.
59/ Manafort officially comes aboard Trump's campaign on March 29. But remember: Manafort and Trump began discussions about this happening within the 2 to 4 weeks prior to that. So Trump is speaking with Manafort about coming aboard as Papadopoulos is making contact with Russia.
60/ So by March 29 several things are clear:
(1) Russia is Trump's top national security priority.
(2) He's brought on one unqualified, suspect person (Page) due to his Kremlin ties, and another unqualified person (Papadopoulos) because he agreed to work on Russia and go abroad.
(3) Trump has negotiated terms with Paul Manafort—a washed-up politico who lives in Trump Tower and is known to have shady ties to Putin allies—to come aboard. Manafort says he'll work for free—which if Trump didn't know it for *sure* is a clear sign Manafort's in the game.
62/ March 31, 2016: Papadopoulos reveals to the entire national security team that he has been in contact with Kremlin agents, and has been authorized by them to try to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin. Trump doesn't seem surprised by the news, and *doesn't* shut it down.
63/ It's possible—accounts vary—Sessions didn't know then what Papadopoulos had been up to, and was truly surprised. It seems certain that Trump *wasn't*. Further proof: he gets the news from Papadopoulos and immediately (at that meeting) orders Gordon to change the GOP platform.
64/ So Trump, who should've fired Papadopoulos on March 31 and reported him to the FBI, instead isn't surprised to learn Papadopoulos is a Kremlin agent and indeed rewards Putin for reaching out with his new marching orders for Gordon. And he promotes—yes, he *does*—Papadopoulos.
65/ Within 48 hours, Papadopoulos is sent to discuss Russia policy with the Israelis, and is soon after given the task of helping Trump edit his first foreign policy speech (at that point just a few weeks away).
So Papadopoulos is *rewarded* for making contact with the Kremlin.
66/ Page is mysteriously absent from the March 31 meeting at the Trump International Hotel, which is *crazy* because (a) it's the first meeting of Trump's NatSec team, and (b) getting named to that team is the best thing that's ever happened to Page. No one will say where he was.
67/ Many people think Manafort wasn't doing anything at the time—but they're wrong. Manafort was hired March 29, and by April 7—that's just 9 days—Lewandowski says Manafort is "functionally in control of the campaign." Even though he *wasn't* hired to be Trump's Campaign Manager.
68/ So Page is hired despite shady Russia ties and disappears; Papadopoulos agrees to work on Russia, goes to Italy, makes contact with Russia, gets promoted; Manafort—shady Russia ties—is hired to work behind the scenes, and Trump lets him take over the whole campaign in 9 days.
69/ When is Page put on the foreign policy speech editing team? Right when Manafort takes control of the campaign. Who tells Trump he's going to give a major pro-Russia foreign policy speech? Manafort—the speech is his baby. And Papadopoulos continues working his Russia contacts.
70/ Kushner calls Kislyak; Kislyak breaches diplomatic protocol to show up at the Mayflower for Trump's speech—not the original venue, but Manafort has switched it a day before the event to allow for a cocktail hour where he, Sessions, Kushner, Don Jr. and Trump can meet Kislyak.
71/ Trump delivers the Papadopoulos-edited speech, and that day Papadopoulos tells his Russian contacts—who Trump knows about, just as he knows Papadopoulos helped edit his speech—they should take Trump's promise of a "good deal [on sanctions]" (said in the speech) as a "sign."
72/ Within a week—May 4—Papadopoulos tells the NatSec team and Manafort that Putin's ready to meet. Trump has now ordered a platform-shift to benefit Putin, let Putin's liaison to his campaign edit his Russia policy, offered a "good deal" on sanctions, let it be called a "sign."
73/ All this is from public reporting. This isn't a "theory."
74/ Manafort responds to Papadopoulos' email—which he shares with Gates—by noting that only a "low-level" person can be allowed to make contact with the Kremlin, not Trump. Within days Papadopoulos has taken a secret campaign-sanctioned trip to Athens to "develop contacts" there.
75/ Key background on the trip: Papadopoulos' top Russia contact runs the RIAC, a sister organization of the RISS. The RISS is (and has been since late 2014) in a Memorandum of Understanding with The Institute of Geopolitical Studies, run by Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos.
76/ Papadopoulos meets with Kammenos on his first (of two) campaign-sanctioned trips to Greece in May '16, the first trip taken immediately after Manafort has told him that only a "low-level" Trump aide—and from *one* view Papadopoulos qualifies—can make contact with the Kremlin.
77/ But wait! you say. Even if Panos Kammenos is a Russia ally, Putin pal, has made multiple trips to Russia, is in an MoU with a Kremlin-linked think-tank, would be a perfect cut-out for the Kremlin—just as Papadopoulos is for Trump—that's not the same as meeting with Russians!
78/ And *that's* why I said Papadopoulos made *two* campaign-sanctioned trips to Greece in May 2016.
 79/ On May 29, 2016, Vladimir Putin makes his only trip to an EU country of the entire U.S. presidential campaign. He goes to Greece—Athens—to discuss (per Russian media) getting Russian sanctions dropped. He meets with Panos Kammenos. Guess who else meets with Kammenos that day?
80/ You know damn well who meets with Panos Kammenos that day: George Papadopoulos.
81/ Here's the number of *hours* after Papadopoulos meets with Kammenos in Athens, Greece—the same day Putin does—that Rob Goldstone emails Donald Trump Jr. to say that Emin Agalarov (whose father is Putin's real estate developer) has information he wants the Trumps to see: 120.
82/ It'd make sense for Putin to offer something to Trump. Trump had shown his interest in negotiations by promoting Papadopoulos, hiring Manafort, ordering Gordon to change the GOP platform, offering Russia a good deal on sanctions in a speech Papadopoulos edited... he was owed.
83/ And according to at least one witness to the Trump Tower meeting, a file was left behind for Don by Natalia Veselnitskaya. And guess who—just days before the inauguration in January 2017—was telling Trump (via an intermediary) to use what he had on Clinton: Paul Manafort.
84/ Never forget: Manafort lied about whether Trump ordered a GOP platform change; lied about whether he was listening at the Trump Tower meeting (he said he wasn't, but we've seen his notes); lied about his ties to Kremlin allies. He was at that meeting to oversee Don and Jared.
85/ Don and Jared did exactly what you'd expect: Jared wasn't ready to stick his neck out, because it was pre-election and he thought Trump would lose, so he left. Don overplayed his hand in a ham-fisted way. And Manafort calmly took notes apprising the opportunity being offered.
86/ But before Trump could do anything with the intel he'd been given—within a week of the Trump Tower meeting—the Kremlin had made clear that, in fact, Trump didn't have to do anything at all, because the Kremlin would push any/all leaked materials on their end. Great for Trump.
87/ I swear, I'm not trying to tease anyone: I'm getting to the Navalny Tape. But this is a d#mn complicated story, and you have to understand the context for today's news.
88/ What else happens after the Trump Tower meeting? Page is summoned to Moscow under the pretext of giving a talk—see his Congressional testimony for how evasive he was about how this invitation came about. Both sides have now given something—it's time for a more permanent link.
89/ Page, who's been completely out of the public eye, who's completely trustworthy because he's venal and odd and adores Russia, is to be tested as an ongoing Trump-Russia link—a courier to keep the dialogue open. This is exactly what the Steele Dossier claims he's meant to be.
90/ In keeping with that, in the first week of July Page goes to Moscow and meets Kremlin officials, meets Rosneft (Putin-linked) execs, reports back to Clovis and Gordon—presumably then on to Manafort, the now-Campaign Manager—and lies to *everyone else* about what his trip was.
91/ Intel experts have often said on cable news that Page *is*—in fact—*exactly* the sort of guy who's a perfect cut-out for both Trump and the Kremlin. And we now know he claimed to be a Kremlin advisor in 2013 even *after* the FBI caught him being recruited by Russian spies.
92/ You might be saying, OK, if Manafort, Papadopoulos, and Page are the big three pre-election operators in the Trump-Russia coordination conspiracy, how come only Manafort and Papadopoulos were charged? Answer: Page has met with the FBI more times than anyone else in this case.
93/ I'm going to try to put this delicately: there's something wrong with Page. And that something wrong makes it unnecessary to charge him. He's going to ultimately—in his weird way—give the FBI what it needs, just as he did when they cornered him back in '13. He's an info-pump.
94/ Look at it this way—I'll rank these men by sophistication and then how Mueller dealt with them.
1. Manafort (Genius)
2. Papadopoulos (Ambitious)
3. Page (Idiot)
95/ OK, but Seth, are you really saying that once it was time to establish a) permanent contact with the Kremlin, and b) a good "direct" courier for the most sensitive information, Manafort actually *trusted* Page to serve both roles? No—he absolutely did not. He did it himself.
96/ Within 48 hours of Page being in Moscow, Manafort wrote his old Putin-pal boss, Oleg Deripaska, to offer him "briefings." It was understood that that information would then get to the Kremlin. And it was understood that the "briefings" would be on Trump's Russia policy plans.
97/ Manafort knew Russia's assistance of Trump's campaign would only continue if the Kremlin was certain Trump wasn't wavering in his drop-all-sanctions Russia policy (and indeed, we learned in January 2017 that he remained true to Putin—that *was* his policy on entering office).
98/ Today we got audio and video of Deripaska secretly reporting to the Kremlin on Trump's activities. He claims Manafort never briefed him—we know he's a liar, however, as this video proves in general terms (he said he had nothing to do with any of this).
99/ The early-August video was taken a month after Manafort offered Deripaska briefings—enough time for one to occur. A week later, Trump got his first intel briefing confirming Russian crimes against America. Three weeks after, he had Sessions negotiate sanctions with Kislyak.
100/ By September's end, Manafort and Page were gone, and Papadopoulos was on ice—brought back in the last week of the campaign just to keep him close and (per Papadopoulos) offer him a job, likely to ensure he wouldn't snitch. It was OK letting them go—the deal was already done.
And today we got proof Manafort tried to seal the deal in Summer '16. This is what went down—and Mueller knows it.

CONCLUSION/ Manafort, Papadopoulos, Page—perfect patsies, and the key figures in the pre-election Trump-Russia coordination conspiracy. All charged or cooperating.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Elise Votes to Release Memo

The quiet woman votes to release memo.

North Country Rep. Elise Stefanik voted in favor of releasing a controversial memo compiled by the House Intelligence committee's Republican majority.

For the record.