Donald Trump Jr. Wikileaks, and Russia

License under Creative Commons 2.0

Analysis by Reporting San Diego
Nov 14, 2017 (San Diego) The plot thickens regarding the Trump campaign and Wikileaks. The expose from The Atlantic reveals a series of communications, mostly one sided, from Donald Trump Jr, and Wikileaks. The stakes are very high. According to the Atlantic:

The messages were turned over to Congress as part of that body’s various ongoing investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. American intelligence services have accused the Kremlin of engaging in a deliberate effort to boost President Donald Trump’s chances while bringing down his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. That effort—and the president’s response to it—has spawned multiple congressional investigations, and a special counsel inquiry that has led to the indictment of Trump’s former campaign chair, Paul Manafort, for financial crimes.

It’s not clear what investigators will make of the correspondence, which represents a small portion of the thousands of documents Donald Trump Jr.’s lawyer says he turned over to them. The stakes for the Trump family, however, are high. Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with connections to Russia’s powerful prosecutor general, is already reportedly a subject of interest in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, as is the White House statement defending him. (Trump Jr. was emailed an offer of “information that would incriminate Hillary,” and responded in part, “If it’s what you say I love it.”) The messages exchanged with WikiLeaks add a second instance in which Trump Jr. appears eager to obtain damaging information about Hillary Clinton, despite its provenance. 

This is painting a picture of a campaign likely had cooperation with the Russians at some level. Whether it was willingly, or not, is a good question. Also how much of this was a successful influence operation in the United State, and specifically why the President still refuses to challenge Vladimir Putin? Why did the president believe Putin over his own intelligence agencies on whether the Russians interfered in American elections? We are linking to the linking of the document by the Washington Post.

Intelligence services around the world run influence operations on people who could potentially could be used by foreign actors. The role of counterintelligence services, which is what the FBI does, is to detect and stop them. This is not new. Nor is this limited to the United States. This game goes on all the time. But facts are fact. 

What is clear is that Trump Jr did engage with a Russian lawyer who wanted, among other things, the repeal of the Magnitsky Act. This is not a minor policy goal for theRussians since those sanctions have hurt the Russian economy. Then you have Carter Page and George Papadopoulos (who has already pleaded guilty) apparently going to bed with the Russians.The story that Page tells keeps changing and keeps getting closer to at least cooperation with a foreign power. 

We have to ask how deep did the Russians go? We also must ask if they have anything on the President of the United States, that makes the president quite compliant, even maybe afraid, of Vladimir Putin. 

Incidentally, this story also gets Steve Bannon into this tangled web, since at the time he was in the chain of people that Trump Jr emailed information. It is not surprising that Bannon would be involved. While he is an American nationalist, he admires the work of both Alexander Dugin and the Russian Oligarchy. He wishes to achieve something similar in the United States, including going back to “traditional values” and a society where people know their place. The Russians that he admires are also white supremacists. Vice President Mike Pence also is implicated, mostly by omission. 

The reaction from campaign people, like Corey Lowandowsky on CNN in the morning is to both deflect (but Clinton), and to justify these communications. We expect more of the same. They are desperate to change the subject. Why? In our view the skeleton of a conspiracy is starting to take shape. 

Let’s be clear, we must move away from the word collusion. It has no legal meaning. Coordination and conspiracy do have a legal meaning. We are entering into the territory where cute terms are no longer appropriate. Terms that were first used by the same people under investigation. The stakes are extremely high for the Trump family. The stakes are very high for the president as well. While he has said there was “no collusion with the Russians,” it is getting closer to the White House. 

For the moment, and this is the jewel in the communications between Don Jr and Wikileaks in the Atlantic story. There was no guessed password. This was a hack. Under federal law that is a crime. Wikileaks admitted to a federal crime. 

This should also lead to some interesting questions for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is also getting closer to perjury in his testimony to Congress. 

We keep making a reference to Watergate. That scandal also took years to build up and for the dots to connect. Most Americans, and the same is happening now, did not really care about it. Not in the begging, nor in the middle of the scandal. By the end President Richard Nixon was read the facts of life by his own party leadership and resigned. It is suspected that he was told by his own party leaders that if he did not, the votes for impeachment were there. More importantly, the conviction would likely come in the Senate. 

One has to wonder if part of the deal was the pardon, that latter on Jerry Ford issued. There were valid reasons for President Ford to issue that pardon. Just from a practical point of view the White House in general, the Oval Office in particular, were crime scenes. So doing work for the new president was a real problem. Here is what many miss about that pardon. Nixon admitted to a crime when he accepted it. That was not a minor thing. 

One more thing, this is how high the stakes are. When all was said and done, 40 government officials were either indicted or faced jail time when all was said and done. This time around we are just starting to see indictments roll out. We already have one conviction as well, or rather a plea. There are still supporters of the president who call this a witch hunt, or a nothing burger, but the same happened in 1973. We are far more divided and partisan. So one has to ask whether Republican leadership will do the right thing if the time comes?

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Categories: analysis, Russiagate, Trump Jr, Wikileaks

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