Friday, July 14, 2017


The best reporting on the latest Trump scandalette has been coming from John Solomon and Jonathan Easley of The Hill. They bring the story forward here:
Two months before Donald Trump Jr.’s encounter with a Russian figure, a key House subcommittee chairman received a similar overture in Moscow offering derogatory information about a U.S. policy that was upsetting Vladimir Putin.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican with a reputation as a Moscow ally in Congress, told The Hill the information he received in April 2016 came from the chief prosecutor in Moscow and painted an alternative picture of the Russian fraud case that led to the passage of anti-Russia legislation in Congress known as the Magnitsky Act.

“I had a meeting with some people, government officials, and they were saying, ‘Would you be willing to accept material on the Magnitsky case from the prosecutors in Moscow? ‘And I said, ‘Sure, I’d be willing to look at it,’” Rohrabacher recalled in an interview.

The congressman’s account provides the latest evidence that the overture to President Trump’s eldest son in June 2016 by a Russian lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya was part of a larger campaign by Moscow that predated the Trump Tower encounter and continued afterwards.
I don't think anyone is calling for Rohrabacher to be prosecuted for meeting with Russian operatives, at least not yet. There's more:
The focus was to sow distrust among American leaders about the Magnitsky Act, and influence far more than Trump’s inner circle. It included lobbying overtures to journalists, State Department officials and lawmakers and congressional staff from both parties, according to interviews with participants and recipients of the campaign.

Congress passed the law and President Barack Obama signed it in 2012, punishing Russia with sanctions for alleged human rights violations in connection with the prison death of a lawyer named Sergei Magnitsky who claimed to have uncovered a massive money laundering scheme based in Moscow.

U.S. officials argued the fraud was perpetrated by Russian government leaders and hurt American companies. But Russians have countered the fraud was actually committed by Magnitsky and his clients. Prosecutors in Russia eventually won a posthumous conviction against the dead lawyer, and retaliated against the U.S. for passing the law by suspending Americans’ ability to adopt Russian children.
So let's think about this. Knowing your audience is key to getting your message across. If you are a Russian and you want to get Team Trump's attention about an issue, how best to get the attention of Fredo Trump, who is thinking about how he can help his father beat Hillary Clinton? Pull a bait and switch, of course. Would Hillary's campaign take similar meetings or get help from a foreign nation? Of course:
Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found.

A Ukrainian-American operative who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee met with top officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

The Ukrainian efforts had an impact in the race, helping to force Manafort’s resignation and advancing the narrative that Trump’s campaign was deeply connected to Ukraine’s foe to the east, Russia. But they were far less concerted or centrally directed than Russia’s alleged hacking and dissemination of Democratic emails.
You may have heard this, but in case you were unaware, Russia and Ukraine tend to have an, ahem, problematic relationship. Also, Manafort was in the room with Fredo when they met the Russians, by the way.

So What Does It All Mean? Less than we think, as usual. Remember this?
As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.

And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.
That's from the New York Times, back in 2015. The bleating about corruption in the Trump campaign is coming from the same people who didn't say a word about what Team Clinton was doing.

One of my favorite songs from the 80s is "Welcome to the Boomtown" by David & David. The chorus sticks in my head:

So I say 
I say welcome, welcome to the boomtown
Pick a habit 
We got plenty to go around
Welcome, welcome to the boomtown
All that money makes such a succulent sound
Welcome to the boomtown

In the 80s, the boomtown in question was Los Angeles. It's been D.C. for a lot longer, though. People are going to fight for their prerogatives and there are a lot of people in D.C. who enjoy their prerogatives. At bottom, that's what this scandal is really about -- protecting the ol' rice bowl. And the ugliness and hypocrisy we're seeing at the moment are just the surface.

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