Thursday, March 23, 2017

That Russia issue

The daily news in the US has been reading like a spy series lately. I can't pretend to be keeping up with it all.

But here a few recent articles and reports I've flagged.

Two weeks is a long time in the story at the pace it's currently unfolding. But Matt Taibbi makes a a warning to Democrats and to the legitimate press (corporate and alternative) to not get giddy with the Russia-Trump story in Why the Russia Story Is a Minefield for Democrats and the Media Rolling Stone 03/08/2017 that is still not outdated.

Digby has a similar caution in Was Trump compromised by Russians? We don’t know — but we do know he adores authoritarian thugs Salon 03/09/2017.

Marcy Wheeler is consistently careful on this stuff. She's good at parsing what's being said and what's only being implied or assumed . She does that in The Feedback Loop In Christopher Steel's Dossier Emptywheel 03/06/2017.

And Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo is obviously intensely interested in the story, but is also warning about getting ahead of the evidence on the very murky Russia angles. The Center for the National Interest recently shot down a minor flap on one direct encounter that Trump really did have with the Russian Ambassador, Statement Regarding President Trump’s April 27, 2016 Foreign Policy Speech at the Center for the National Interest 03/08/2017. I haven't noticed that claim popping up lately, so maybe everyone realized there was no scandal in that particular incident.

Rachel Maddow is one who seems to be erring on the giddy side in her reporting on this lately. Here's an example of one of her recent reports, in which she basically speculates in the absence of any actual evidence that the Delay in staffing senior positions in the State Department is being done to benefit Russia, Donald Trump Weakens State Dept As Vladimir Putin Would Want MSNBC 03/08/2017:

She hasn't dialed it back in the last couple of weeks. As in this 03/21/2017 report, Russia Continues Info-War Tactics In US:

Jordan Chariton and Michael Tracy mention Maddow's reporting in this discussion of the Russia issue in US politics, Jordan and Michael Working For Russia?! TYT Politics 03/13/2017.

The Young Turks' crew have taken a wide range of approaches on this. Nomi Konst and Ryan Grim have a good discussion in this 42 minute report, Trump/Russia Hearings a "Cloud" Over White House Swamp TYT Politics 03/20/2017:

Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian harsh on Paul Manafort over this week's revelations in Russian Agent Ran Trump's Campaign The Young Turks 03/22/2017:

I would love to see a thorough and realistic investigation of this whole thing. But the Reps will do everything they can to cover it up. And the Dems have a big comparative disadvantage with this thing, even apart from not controlling either House of Congress. As we saw from Watergate to Benghazi! Benghazi! BENGHAZI!!!, the Republicans and their media network will flog a pseudoscandal without end. But the Democrats are so worried about upsetting those nice Republicans that they can barely rouse themselves to go after real scandals and make an adequate stink over them. For instance, Halliburton, Blackwater, the Cheney-Bush torture program. Maybe they can carry it out this time without running for cover if some sensational claim turns out to be a bust. (What's that saying, "hope dies last"?)

Their waffling on the Neil Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in their ability to persist in such confrontations.

One of the most bizarre moments in American politics to me was when Dick Durbin made a straightforward condemnation the Senate of torturing prisoners and made a Holocaust reference. The pro-torture Reps went ballistic, as always. And Durbin responded by making a near-tearful apology to Holocaust survivors. Only an American Democrat could manage to convince themselves that Holocaust survivors would be offended by ... someone condemning torture!

The Congressional investigation is grinding into motion. If the Democrats held one House, after being defeated by Trump and hurt badly down-ticket in 2016, even they might rouse themselves to do an aggressive investigation. But the Republicans will do their very best to cover up as much as they can. I don't see any "Howard Bakers" in today's Republican Congressional representation. The Dems also have the disadvantage that the Republican have a majority in both Houses of Congress and seem strikingly disinclined to do a serious investigation.

But the Republicans have been bumbling enough that the Democrats haven't had much a chance the last couple of weeks to help Trump and the Republicans get off the hook. Morning Joe, whose participants have been pretty appalled by Trump's Presidency so far, reports in Joe: Devin Nunes Blew Up Hopes Of Independent Russia Investigation 03/23/2017:

Marc Bennetts also makes an important point in What if Donald Trump played the Kremlin? 02/28/2017:

Consider the possibility that Trump misled the Kremlin with vaguely positive statements on issues crucial to Russia, such as lifting economic sanctions and recognizing Crimea, with no intention of following through. In the process, he would have gained, without overtly asking for it, assistance in his White House bid, in the form of cyberattacks and fake news.

Entirely speculative and without watertight proof? Definitely. But so is the oft-repeated trope that Trump is a Manchurian president, his every move controlled by coded messages from Moscow. And Trump’s recent reversal on previously Kremlin-friendly positions increases the probability that Putin was the pawn in this game all along.
A different example of speculation comes in Vladmir Putin’s battle of Berlin: No country in Western Europe is more vulnerable to Russian propaganda than Germany by James Kirchick Politico EU 03/10/2017.

John Kiriakou talks in this interview talks about how he has only slowly become convinced of the seriousness of the Trump-Russia scandal, Ex-CIA Analyst: I Was Wrong on Russia. FBI Director Comey's Testimony Is Game Changer A Trump Show 03/22/2017.

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