This episode covers Attorney General William Barr’s testimony about the FBI spying on the Trump campaign, Pete Buttigieg’s official entry into the 2020 primary race, what it means to be a “millionaire” running for president, and alleged billionaire Donald Trump’s latest assault on asylum seekers and sanctuary cities.
This short podcast serves as a prequel for the upcoming 200th More Perfect Union episode, covering Betsy DeVos and her attack on the Special Olympics.
On this week’s episode, the gang does a post-mortem on the findings of the Mueller Report and its impact on the 2020 election, the once-rumored pairing of Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams, and whether Pete Buttigieg could emerge as a real 2020 contender.
Dear Mr. Attorney General,
While we await public word of what is in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, here is a summary of the publicly known facts and evidence in the matter of Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election for president of the United States and the Trump campaign’s direct complicity in those efforts.
In June 2015, Donald John Trump announced his candidacy for president, and by April 2016, he had secured enough pledged delegates to become the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. Russian President Vladimir Putin has publicly admitted he had a strong preference to see Trump defeat his Democratic Party opponent, Hillary Clinton, and Russia began a series of covert espionage efforts to help Trump win.* (*See the enclosed links for details and evidence of all findings in this summary.) The facts and evidence that the Trump campaign was involved in this criminal conspiracy to effect the outcome of the election are as follows:
During the months of April through November 2016, agents of the Russian government began a secret espionage campaign to advance Trump’s candidacy and harm Clinton’s reputation and candidacy. As court records show, 12 Russian intelligence officers have been indicted in this effort, and many more agents of the Russian government worked to advance that effort. Part of this effort was to secure and make public emails and other private documents owned or relating to the Democratic candidate, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and other high officials of the Democratic campaign. The Russians were able to hack into DNC email servers and private servers to steal private electronic correspondence that they believed would be harmful to the Democratic candidate.
In August 2015, Trump publicly parted ways with his longtime friend and political advisor, Roger Stone, a well-known political operative with a reputation for “dark arts” dirty tricks campaigns. It’s believed Trump and Stone set up their public fallout as a pretext for plausible deniability so that Stone could conduct his dark arts dirty political tricks for the Trump campaign without being tied back to the candidate. Indeed, Trump has publicly asserted this deniability several times to the press, even though Trump and Stone stayed in constant contact during the presidential campaign.
In April 2016, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort gave the campaign’s private polling data to his business client, Russian operative Konstantin Kilimnik. It is reasonable to surmise that Russian operatives then used that data to craft how they could most effectively target American voters with the hacked emails and their content.
On June 9, 2016, Manafort, Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner met with Russian operative Natalia Veselnitskaya and other Russians to discuss how they could work together to disseminate those illegally stolen emails to the American public to maximize damage to the reputation and candidacy of the presumptive Democratic nominee. Once this meeting became public knowledge, President Trump dictated a factually false press statement to cover up the collusion element of the meeting. Further, Trump Jr. lied to congress and committed perjury in an effort to hide the true surreptitious intent and content of the meeting. In that way, both President Trump and his son attempted to obstruct justice to cover up their role in the conspiracy to mislead and defraud the American public.
On July 22, 2016, candidate Trump in a televised press conference urged the Russians to make public any stolen emails they may have in their possession. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens.” Later that day Russian hackers began attempts to break into and hack DNC servers.
From July through October 2016, Trump associates Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi had multiple contacts with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and a Russian agent known as “Guccifer 2.0” about the imminent release of those hacked emails. It’s known that Stone bragged about these contacts to Corsi, radio host Randy Credico, and on radio and YouTube broadcasts hosted by InfoWars owner Alex Jones. In August 2016 Stone tweeted, “It will soon [be] the Podesta’s time in the barrel”, a reference to the chairman of the Democratic campaign, whose hacked emails were publicly released by WikiLeaks six weeks later.
There is evidence that Stone and Corsi conspired with Assange to arrange the email “dump” at a time of maximum damage to the Clinton campaign. Further, there is evidence that this conspiracy was communicated to Trump campaign Chief Executive Stephen K. Bannon in an email exchange between Stone and Bannon on October 4, 2016. In that exchange, Stone told Bannon that there would be “a load every week going forward.” The email evidence suggests that Bannon was “directed” to contact Stone by someone in the campaign. As the campaign chairman, the only person who would be in a position to direct Bannon was his boss, candidate Trump. Further, there is sworn testimony from Trump attorney Michael Cohen that Stone personally advised candidate Trump about the coming WikiLeaks email dump in a phone call overheard by Cohen in July 2016, and that Trump responded “Wouldn’t that be great.”
It is reasonable to surmise from this pattern of facts that candidate Trump knew about and was involved in the efforts of his campaign staff to enlist and encourage the Russian government to release the stolen emails. There is evidence that, as president, Trump has taken numerous actions to cover up this conspiracy up to and including criminal obstruction of justice.
In all, there is evidence of at least 102 contacts between Trump campaign staff and associates and operatives of the Russian government. And there is a multitude of evidence that Trump and his associates lied about and attempted to cover up those connections. As president, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and took other actions designed to hamper the investigation into his campaign and thereby obstruct justice.
At the Republican National Convention (July 18-21, 2016), Manafort approved of and led a successful effort to amend the Republican Platform to be favorable to the Russian government’s position un Ukraine. We have evidence to suggest that candidate Trump knew of and approved of this effort to reward the Russian government with the platform amendment.
Trump defeated the Democratic candidate on November 8, 2016 to become the president-elect. In one of his first major moves, Trump appointed campaign associate Michael Flynn to be his National Security Advisor. Flynn subsequently secretly met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to discuss lifting U.S. sanctions against the Russian government. Flynn then lied to the FBI to cover up those discussions.
On January 20, 2017, Trump was sworn in as President of the United States. Within days Trump led efforts to lift sanctions on Russia that had been imposed by the Obama Administration, but congress reportedly blocked those efforts. In 2018 Trump successfully lifted sanctions on a company owned by Oleg Deripask, a Russian oligarch with deep ties to Vladimir Putin. As president, Trump has also made numerous public statements and pushed foreign policies that are favorable to Russian interests. Further, Trump has held private, secret diplomatic talks with Putin without the presence of advisors or an official transcript, suggesting a continued secret quid-pro-quo relationship and possible conspiracy to advance Putin’s agenda in return for his help in winning the 2016 election and support of Trump’s private business interests.
In these ways, it can be proved beyond reasonable doubt that a conspiracy existed between Trump, his campaign, and elements of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 presidential election through hacking, espionage, and other illegal means, and that Russia was paid back through foreign policy decisions highly favorable to Putin and Russia by the Trump administration and the president himself. Further, Trump engaged in multiple counts of criminal obstruction of justice in an effort to avoid detection and prosecution for those crimes and to avoid impeachment in the United States Congress.
Based on the facts set forth above, I hereby propose a citizen’s arrest of Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Stephen Bannon, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and President Donald John Trump, and recommend indictments of each individual for a coordinated conspiracy to steal and disseminate private emails, conspiracy to commit espionage with a foreign power, obstruction of justice, and a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Kevin Kelton, concerned citizen
by D.J. McGuire
I understand that there are very few of us left who still place a priority on defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan. I further understand that none of those few are anywhere near the president. That doesn’t change the fact that the president and those who are near him are wrong to be entering an agreement with the Taliban that the latter will almost certainly break in the re-conquest of the country if – and, sadly, when – American troops leave.
Trump himself announced in his latest State of the Union that he wanted out of Afghanistan. He used the common – albeit understandable – trope of timing (Politico): “We do know that after two decades of war, the hour has come to at least try for peace.”
He went off the rails, however, with this assertion: “And the other side would like to do the same thing.”
The “other side,” of course, is the Taliban: the shelterers of Osama bin Laden, allies of his al Qaeda, and de factojailers of the Afghan people from 1996 to 2001. Much of rural Afghanistan still suffers under their reign.
Many isolationists and realists will insist that last part is not really relevant. They will say how a regime treats its own people shouldn’t matter. They couldn’t be more wrong. Tyrannical regimes have always chafed by comparison with the United States and its fellow democracies. In the 21st Century, they have found it easier to team up against us and – in the case of Vladimir Putin – attack our democracy itself. Allowing the tyrants another victory – even a small one – is deeply unwise absent a major benefit to American interests.
Moreover, the developing “deal” with the Taliban not only provides no such benefit, but is based on a ridiculous lie, as Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio noted in Politico.
As the United Nations Security Council found in two recent reports, al-Qaida and the Taliban remain “closely allied” and their “long-standing” relationship “remains firm.” Al-Qaida’s leaders still view Afghanistan as a “safe haven,” and their men act like a force multiplier for the insurgency, offering military and religious instruction to Taliban fighters. Indeed, al-Qaida is operating across multiple Afghan provinces, including in areas dominated by the Taliban.
In short, any claim that the Taliban has ended or will end its alliance with al Qaeda is folly. The perpetrators of the 9/11 attack are just as tied to the Taliban now as then. Any “deal” would be as useless as the Munich 1938 deal.
I suspect none of that matters to the Administration. They are far more interested in ending the war than in winning it – a mistaken view that is certainly not limited to the president, or to his faction, or even to his party. America isn’t used to long wars. It’s lone experience with them in the 20th century was Vietnam. Yet both there and in Afghanistan, the assumption that a war could be limited only limited the prospect for victory. The Taliban still think America can be beaten. They’re looking increasingly correct.
The long-term affect for America could be devastating. The alliance that launched the most deadly attack on American soil could end up in exactly the same position a mere two decades after the attack. The message would be unmistakable: the United States is no longer willing to defeat its enemies, no matter how badly those enemies strike.
Or, as a certain president remarked: “We don’t win anymore.”
I’m not saying it will be easy to defeat the Taliban; I’m not saying it will be quick. I’m not even saying that military force is the only tool to use; in time, it may not even be an efficient one. I am saying that the Taliban is not a partner in peace, but an enemy, and that our priority must be defeating them – for the sake of Afghanistan, for our sake, and for the sake of everyone in between.
This week’s MPU podcast looks at Paul Manafort’s “otherwise blameless life” prison sentence, the latest turns in the Democratic primary race, what’s behind Chelsea Manning’s refusal to testify against Julian Assange, and Rebekah puts forth a strong feminist view on a woman’s right to control her own body.
by D.J. McGuire
There are two governments in what is sometimes called “Anglo-America.” One of them is facing charges of corruptions, demands for resignation, and the real risk of defenestration by the voters in the upcoming election.
The other is the Trump Administration.
It’s been that kind of month in Canada, where former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould pointedly accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his staff of attempting to waylay a prosecution of a government contracting firm that, (1) donated $100,000 illegally to Trudeau’s Liberal Party, (2) is being tried for massive bribes to the Qaddafi regime in Libya, and (3) has insisted that any judicially imposed restrictions on its ability to win future contracts would cripple it.
The firm, SNC-Lavalin, has demanded a Deferred Prosecution Agreement ever since DPAs were enacted – as a paragraph buried in a multi-hundred page omnibus budget passed last year. The Director of Public Prosecutions said no; as AG and Justice Minister (the posts are combined in Canada), Wilson-Raybould ratified that decision. Trudeau and his minions tried to talk her out of it for months afterwards before demoting her to Veterans Minister. The current AG – who, like the PM, just happens to have his district in the same city as SNC-Lavalin’s headquarters – insists a DPA is now possible (Global News).
As I write this, the PM himself has just addressed the issue. Stunningly, he didn’t contradict Wilson-Raybould’s assertions that he personally intervened – he even acknowledged he mentioned his own political situation (although he laughably insisted it “wasn’t partisan in nature” – Maclean’s transcript). He even goes so far as to say he should have intervened further(same link):
In the months that followed that meeting, I asked my staff to follow up regarding Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s final decision. I realize now that in addition, I should have done so personally, given the importance of this issue and the jobs that were on the line.
It’s that last bit that begins to reveal how Trudeau, in his increasingly desperate attempt to save himself, may unintentionally be giving Trump a lifeline.
Yesterday, the PM’s former top mandarin – Gerald Butts – testified before the House Justice Committee about his own interventions. He, too, defended them on the basis of the jobs lost if SNC-Lavalin went under. Paul Wells of Maclean’s(full disclosure: my favorite columnist in North America) explains the disconnect (emphasis in original):
To put labels on the two viewpoints here, Wilson-Raybould obviously thought a decision by the AG to interfere in decisions about public prosecutions should be exceptional. Butts thinks it should be routine. Wilson-Raybould wants the independence of the director of public prosecutions to be robust. Butts wants that independence to be minimal.
Does any of that sound familiar?
At first glance, Trudeau’s excuse may seem more policy-driven than Trump’s. First glances can be deceiving though. In both cases, the national leaders are using the economy as a cover for stopping legal proceedings that would hurt their political prospects. They are both hoping their voters and their intra-party allies focus not on the damage done to the rule of law but rather the supposedly noble goals they were pursuing while doing the damage.
Of course, Trudeau and Trump would list those “noble goals” rather differently, but both lists include “jobs” – now more than ever. Moreover, with an election seven months away, Trudeau is almost certain to use Trump as a foil in the upcoming campaign, insisting the opposition Conservatives are kinsmen of the rancid Trump Administration in the hopes his Liberal base will stay with him via outrage and fear.
Of course, what works for Trudeau in 2019 can – and almost certainly will – be used by Trump in 2020. In fact, unless the Conservatives do dethrone Trudeau this October, Trump could use “Crooked Justin” as an asset for his own re-election, even as he borrows the PM’s playbook.
by D.J. McGuire
About a week ago, I wondered if Trump would cave to Kim Jong-un at the Hanoi summit. It turns out he did. However, it wasn’t enough to get a “deal,” for which we should all be very grateful.
Prior to the summit, there was widespread concern about what Trump might offer the bloodthirsty tyrant of northern Korea. As it began, we found out (NBC News).
U.S. negotiators are no longer demanding that North Korea agree to disclose a full accounting of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs as part of talks this week between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, according to current and former senior U.S. officials.
The decision to drop, for now, a significant component of a potential nuclear deal suggests a reality that U.S. intelligence assessments have stressed for months is shaping talks as they progress: North Korea does not intend to fully denuclearize, which is the goal Trump set for his talks with Kim.
Negotiations between U.S. and North Korean officials in advance of Trump and Kim’s second summit…have focused heavily on a core component of Pyongyang’s program, the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, officials said.
To be fair, Donald Trump is notthe first president to decide a deal with the Kim family is worth jettisoning key priorities in the American interest. In this case, he was merely repeating the mistakes of his three predecessors.
Within hours, however, he ventured into territory none of them dared – and that wasn’t a good thing (NBC).
Kim Jong Un was not responsible for the horrific injuries sustained by American student Otto Warmbier, who died shortly after being released from 17 months of detention in North Korea, President Donald Trump said Thursday.
“Some really bad things happened to Otto — some really, really bad things. But he tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word,” Trump said, referring to the North Korean dictator.
The president added that Kim told him that he “felt very badly about it.”
There’s no way to spin this: that was utterly nonsensical and offensive to the Warmbier family – who made their feelings clear afterwards (NBC).
“We have been respectful during this summit process. Now we must speak out. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto,” Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement. “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that.”
The concessions and “lavish praise” were not followed by a codification of surrender, although Trump did cancel a military exercise with South Korea (Fox News via Twitter), likely to make Kim happy.
So while the summit was not the failure it could have been it certainly wasn’t a success. Avoiding a bad deal can be done without any meetings. All one has to do is look at the disastrous proposal from the other side and turn it down. Instead, we got … well, we got the aforementioned – with some added “likes,” if you will, afterwards (Fox News via Matt Gertz).
A few years back, the UN Human Rights Commissionerreported on the regime led by the fellow Trump “likes.” Now, I get the “UN” and “Human Rights” have been hard to say in the same breath sometimes, but this paragraph in the report says it all.
“These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation,” the report says, adding that “Crimes against humanity are ongoing in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea because the policies, institutions and patterns of impunity that lie at their heart remain in place.”
Oh, and they developed and produced nuclear weapons despite promising not to do so in 1985 … and in 1994 … and in 2007.
Donald Trump has a horrible blind spot when it comes to tyrants: from Vladimir Putin to Kim Jong-un. The only nice thing to say about his meeting with the latter is that it could have been a lot worse …
… but that was a reason not to have the summit in the first place.
by Kevin Kelton
Democrats, forget left vs. moderate for a moment and talk raw primary politics. Because ultimately primary races are a battle of personalities, not political purity. Once Joe Biden and Beto O’Roarke jump into the 2020 race, the field will be set.* Now the game is primary chess. So let’s look at the board.
Bernie Sanders is likely to win or do very well in his neighboring New Hampshire, the second big prize, a place where an old school candidate like Biden is not likely to run well. (Granite staters tend toward newer flavors.) And South Carolina will be tough for both Joe and Bernie, two guys not known for playing to the grits crowd.
That means Joe must win Iowa. Otherwise he’ll be 0 for 3 in the first three contests⁺ and no one comes back from that except the ’04 Red Sox.
If Beto or Kamala Harris can knock off Sanders in New Hampshire, that could douse The Bern for good. Harris seems positioned to do well in minority-heavy South Carolina. But neither of them is likely to break free if they don’t win Iowa. At best, one might emerge as the fresh-face candidate who will still have to fend off the old guard to prove their mettle.
So once again Iowa is key, even more so this time than normally. (How do a few hundred thousand caucus voters kidnap the nation every four years?) Should Biden somehow win there, it’s probably a Biden-Bernie or Biden-Beto or Biden-Harris race.⁺⁺
That would set up yet another epic battle for the ideological soul of the party, with pragmatists behind Biden and ideologues splintering between Bernie and Beto or Harris. There’s only one lane out of that bowling alley, while Biden would be free to play to the pragmatist, anti-Trump crowd.
But for Joe to get there, it’s Iowa Iowa Iowa. Can he out-caucus Sanders in the heartland? Or will a smooth-talking Music Man (or Woman) from out west come in and steal their swooning Iowan hearts?
If Biden stalls in Iowa, NH and SC become the game. The party will lurch left. Everyone will be touting Medicare For All and play some version of a Green New Deal hand. “I’ll see your carbon tax and raise you a solar jobs bill.” Each will have their own version of a Robin Hood wealth tax, turning the debates into a giant Mathletes club. “Is 70% of an eight figure salary greater than 2% of a nine figure estate? Please show your work.”
And Trump will run against socialism, no matter who tops the ticket. Meaning the world may finally learn what would’ve happened if a Democratic Socialist had secured the 2016 nomination and ran against Trumpism.
There. I just spared you the next year of your life. Now, who do you like for 2024?
* No one is waiting to see what Jeff Merkley or Michael Bennett will be doing. And Sherrod Brown doesn’t have the fire to catch fire.
⁺ The Nevada caucus actually comes before SC this time, but I don’t see that traditionally blue state being much of a factor. Considering it’s so far west compared to the others and what that entails in travel time, it may not get much candidate play at all.
⁺⁺ At this point I don’t give Amy Klobuchar much of a shot, but we can’t rule her out, since “Midwestern nice” plays well in Iowa. And though I personally like Elizabeth Warren, I doubt she can compete in this field. She has no lane that I can see, and I get no sense of traction for her in Open Fire, my Facebook focus group.
This week the MPU gang tells you why the Mueller Report is unlikely to be the dud that some cable news talking heads are claiming it could be, why Trump’s meeting with Kim Jung Un will be a bigger dud than Trump is would like it to be, and what they’ll be snacking on when Michael Cohen drops a dime on The Donald in his televised congressional testimony.