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The Week Where There was No Collusion Whatsoever
...and also Steve Bannon got arrested.
Happy Monday my beautiful babies.
There are very few “should-reads” from last week that are not boring. Yes, the Democratic National Convention happened and they nominated Joe Biden, who gave a really good speech. And, while you should read this great Vox piece on Biden’s policy proposals, I think everyone wants to talk about the Select Senate Committee on Intelligence’s (SSCI) report on Russian interference.
So, what does collusion mean nowadays? I wrote a long piece in 2019 about how the definition of “collusion” changed over time, mostly because collusion started out as a catch-all phrase for the really weird overtures between Trump’s campaign (sometimes coming from Trump himself) and the Russians. As those contacts became more and more obvious, the definition of “collusion” changed, and began to range from some sort of coordination with Russian Intelligence to Trump himself being a Russian asset for 30 years (the latter of which has been debunked by both Robert Mueller and SSCI).
The early reports in 2016 were heavily focused on Paul Manafort being connected to the campaign and also his work for Russian oligarchs and Russia-aligned politicians in Ukraine.
LoL and behold, the SSCI report provides extensive, new details about Manafort’s communications with Russian intelligence while he was working on the campaign.
SSCI explicitly describes Manafort’s primary contact - Konstantin Kilimnik - as a Russian Intelligence officer, which really puts to rest all the “no collusion” claims. If your campaign manager is handing off internal polling data to RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE and you are still saying, “No collusion!” then what does collusion even mean?
I always go back to John Podesta’s interview on Meet the Press about a month after the campaign was over. He uses the word “collusion” at a time when it was still at its genesis, and pointedly asks, “What did Trump, Inc. know and when did they know it?” He also asks, “Were they in touch with the Russians?” which is now an adorable question, looking at it in hindsight.
He also specifically mentions how Roger Stone seemingly knew about the Wikileaks drops before they happened. As we know from the Mueller Report and now with more details from SSCI, the Trump Campaign was actively coordinating their activities with Russian intelligence and Wikileaks around the timing of these drops. The SSCI report identifies one instance where Stone hears about the Access Hollywood tape, makes a phone call, and has Wikileaks drop a set of Podesta’s emails.
After Wikileaks dropped those emails, Stone had a conversation with Manafort and Trump himself, and then drafted tweets for Trump to send that talked about friendlier relations with Russia. The SSCI report also makes clear that Trump lied to Mueller about his conversations with Stone, and that - to some extent - Stone and Trump were able to cover up their activity and successfully obstruct Mueller’s investigation.
It’s also why Trump’s commutation of Stone’s sentence is so important: The obstruction actually happened in plain sight. Stone - who was under indictment - was able to read and hear Trump’s statements about Stone being treated “unfairly,” implicitly suggesting that it would be better for Stone not to cooperate with Mueller. Stone did not, and Trump assisted his friend. In the end, their obstruction was successful.
Manafort, too, was able to hide much of his illicit activity. Like Mueller, SSCI was unable to determine why Manafort was passing internal polling data to Kilimnik, and a large reason for that is because Manafort destroyed their communications. Mueller engaged in somewhat routine criminal investigation tactics: Get the mid-level goons and have them flip on their boss; that didn’t happen here because the goons refused to flip (including some of the low-level ones).
So, here is an open question I have that I swear is not rhetorical: The Trump Campaign actively coordinated their activities with Russian Intelligence. They were aware of when the illegally hacked emails of their opponent were dropping and organized their campaign activities around those drops. The primary liaison between those contacts (Stone) was indicted and sentenced, and after being uncooperative, was essentially released by the President himself, who had benefited from Stone’s activities, and also his cover-up.
The Russians are not neutral actors. The first page of the first volume of SSCI’s report (the most recent one is volume five) states that the Russians were probing voting machines in 2016, specifically in Illinois. And while they were unsuccessful then, SSCI expects them to try again. The Russians also placed bounties on the heads of US soldiers in Afghanistan, and the Trump Administration has been aware of those bounties since 2017.
These are the people Trump coordinated his activities with and he thanked one of his accomplices for helping him cover it up by commuting his sentence (and there are rumors Trump is currently considering a pardon for Manafort as well). These are all cold, hard facts, so bearing that in mind: How do you vote for Trump in 2020 and call yourself a patriot? I don’t think you can. At the very least, I will go out on a limb and say you don’t love the country as much as I do.
And let’s not even bring Ukraine into this argument. At the very least, a vote for Trump in 2020 is a declaration that you are OK with the Trump Campaign’s coordination with a foreign country who was - at that time - paying the Taliban to kill our troops. I am honestly open to the counterargument, but it seems pretty air-tight.
I also wanted to include one last thing about QAnon and its infiltration of US churches. This piece is super important: https://religionnews.com/2020/08/17/qanon-the-alternative-religion-thats-coming-to-your-church/
Lastly, I was forced to work out of Hallack Park in Denver today because Xfinity continues to actively target me for abuse. Pic above, hope everyone has an enjoyable week. As always, be prepared to flex on your haters and get that paper.