It’s hard to reconcile the level of quiet emanating from Capitol Hill these days. Not just from the GOP, frankly. I hear much less protest than I thought I might from the Democrats.
Perhaps they are gun shy, given the number of times either a story didn’t pan out or, worse, it did but no one seemed to care. The litany is, frankly, too long to list, but it starts with a campaign that began by accusing Mexico of sending us their rapists, skipped blithely along to openly mock a handicapped journalist, and wasn’t even getting warmed up when an audio tape showed the Exalted Cheeto to be a serial sexual predator…in his own words. So maybe I should not be surprised by the quiet.
Well, last night, sometime around midnight or so on the East Coast, I heard a noise. I think. We’ll see. But first, let’s take a step back and survey the landscape.
There have been dozens of stories describing contacts between members of the Exalted Cheeto’s campaign and administration and Russians. There have been twice as many denials and claims of “fake news.” Yet, one-by-one, the stories have proven to be true. I’m going to skip over the incidental players in this story, including Carter Page, Roger Stone, Rex Tillerson, Felix Sater, and several others. Just consider the following:
- Michael Flynn (Advisor to the campaign and named National Security Advisor to the administration)–On February 8th, he tells the Washington Post he did not discuss the US sanctions of Russia with Ambassador Kislyak during any of the “several” phone calls he made to him December 29th (the day Obama announces sanctions on the Russians). On February 9th, his spokesman retracts that denial, saying Flynn “can’t be 100% sure” that sanctions were not discussed. All this, of course, occurs well after Acting Attorney General Sally Yates has personal warned the White House Counsel, Donald McGahn on January 26th that Flynn may now be at risk of blackmail by the Russians because of the lies he has told Pence and others about his conversations, which were captured on tape because, surprise surprise, the US intelligence agencies “routinely” monitor the Russian ambassador’s communications (something Flynn really should have known, frankly, but no special dispensation for being stupid).
- Paul Manafort (Campaign Chairman)–Five months after he was forced out of the campaign because, in part (and let’s not go off on a tangent about how there had to also be other issues to force him out), multiple reports linked him with pro-Russian business dealings and individuals, he submitted a retroactive Foreign Agent Registration Act filing, admitting his consulting firm was paid more than $17m over a two-year span between 2012 and 2014…by a pro-Russian political party that controls the Government in the Ukraine. This filing, completed in late June, was approximately 3 years overdue and, apparently, only happened because he was found out. A spokesman claims the registration process began in September, but that still is two years after the work was performed and after he’d already been fired from the campaign. For more, see #5 below)
- Jeff Sessions (US Attorney General)–During his confirmation hearing on January 10th and in response to a written questionnaire on January 17th, Sessions twice claims not to have had conversations with “anyone connected to any part of the Russian Government about the 2016 election, either before or after Election Day.” On February 8th, he is confirmed as the AG. On March 1st, the Washington Post reports Sessions met twice with Kislyak. The first time was DURING the Republican National Convention, the week of July 18th. The second time was in Sessions office with Kislyak and two of the Russian Ambassador’s senior aides, on September 8th. Despite denying the campaign was discussed, he recuses himself from any investigations into Russian meddling in the election.
- Jared Kushner (Senior White House Advisor and son-in-law)–Claimed multiple times not to have had contact with Russians, most notably by not including any on his SF86 (the form that is used to apply for a security clearance and which specifically instructs applicants to list ALL foreign contacts). He has since submitted multiple updates to his form (an option I was not aware existed. I have filled out the SF86 multiple times myself, as I currently hold an active clearance) to include the fact that he had more than 100 phone calls with representatives of more than 20 countries, mostly during the transition. Most notably, again, he included the meeting discussed in #5 below.
- Donald Trump, Jr. (son) –Along with Manafort and Kushner, Junior Cheeto met with a Russian lawyer on June 9th, 2016. This is two weeks after the Exalted Cheeto has clinched the Republican nomination and 6 weeks before the convention. Jr. originally claimed (on July 8th, 2017) the meeting was “primarily about an adoption program.” (The part of the meeting that WAS about adoption was actually about an attempt to secure support from the Exalted Cheeto’s campaign to do away with the Magnitsky Act, which penalized Russia for their treatment of a whistle blower, including his murder). After five unnamed sources (including THREE who were willing to be identified as “White House Advisers”) contradicted his story, Jr. changed it (on July 9th), admitting that he was told there would be information damaging to Clinton. The email traffic between Jr. and his friend, Rob Goldstone, indicates that Junior went to this meeting fully expecting to get damaging information on Hillary Clinton AND that the information had been gathered by the Russian government.
Let that last line sink in for a moment. The son of the Republican nominee for president had been told someone had information that would have an effect on the US presidential election and that the information was coming from a foreign government. Not just any foreign government, but Russia.
Was his first instinct to report the contact to the FBI and potentially help capture foreign spies who were attacking our democracy? Don’t be silly. His only complaint about the encounter was that she didn’t have any useful information and apparently just dangled it out there as an excuse to talk to him about the Magnitsky Act.
So, on the one hand, we have an administration (and campaign) that continually denies ANY contact with Russia, but, on the other hand, just as continually has to update their stories and admit that, yes, on numerous occasions, VERY senior members of both have had such contacts. These are not “fake news” stories, these are words out of the mouths, pens, and keyboards of the principals themselves.
That noise I heard last night? Maybe, just maybe, it was the sound of the other shoe dropping.