Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Russian To Judgement

“You may be the first president in history to go down because you can’t stop inappropriately talking about an investigation that, if you just were quiet, would clear you,”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).


Is Donald Trump now under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller for possible obstruction of justice? Well, Li'l Donnie says he is. But his own attorney says he's not. It is very likely that Trump is merely parroting speculation in the press as a done deal. Which wouldn't be the first time he's done that.

Still this whole... "Russia thing". How did we get to this point?

To understand that, let’s look at some key questions that have driven this mess and Trump’s repeated efforts to undermine his own position.


Did the Russians try to interfere in the 2016 Presidential Election?

The consensus from all of America’s intelligence agencies was yes, they did. Nothing overt like hacking voting machines but playing a long game of hacking other resources like the computers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the active planting and distribution of fake news items to influence public opinion.


Trump immediately refuted these findings, casting doubt on the capabilities of America’s intelligence agencies. Why? Mostly ego. He wanted nothing to taint his victory. He even took issue with Hillary Clinton’s popular vote count as a result of fraudulent voting (of which there was zero evidence). Trump saw the Russian interference story as a made up effort to undermine his victory. Which brings us to the next question…


Did the Russians interfere in the 2016 Presidential Election to benefit a particular candidate?

Here the evidence is circumstantial but it does begin to pile up. Information being hacked then released was always to the detriment of Clinton and the Democratic Party. The ‘fake new’ stories planted in social media were emphatically anti-Clinton. There was Vladimir Putin’s known dislike for Hillary Clinton while Donald Trump kept talking up what a great guy Putin is. Again, circumstantial but it keeps pointing in the same direction.


And again, Trump is in complete denial for pretty much the same reason: he had zero patience for anything that would undermine the validity of his electoral victory.  Which brings us to the next question…


If the Russians did interfere in the 2016 Presidential Election to benefit Donald Trump, was there any “inside help” from the Trump campaign?

This is the “collusion” part you keep hearing in the news. Once more, evidence is circumstantial and perhaps on shakier ground. Yes, there were several contacts of  Trump campaign staff and surrogates with the Russians. Russia’s ambassador to the United states pops up a lot in these contacts. And the CIA regard him warily as a security risk who’s in deep with Russia’s spy operations. And we know Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was caught interacting with Russians after saying he didn’t. We know this because he was talking to a Russian the US was spying on. (Remember Flynn’s name; it’s important to the next question.)  And Flynn is not the only one on Trump’s team to have Russian contacts that were not disclosed. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was busted for talking to a Russian after he had told the Senate he did not do that. Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation. 


Trump is in “oh hell no” mode,  not just protecting the validity of his electoral victory but now it’s getting personal. NOTE, at this point, Trump himself is not being investigated but he’s still taking it personally. Then he fires FBI director James Comey and admits on national television that he did it because of the Russia thing.  And he tells 2 Russian visitors to the White House he fired Comey to take the pressure off from the investigation. Which leads us to the next question…


Is Donald Trump guilty of obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation?
Two things point to an answer of "yes". One is Comey's testimony that Trump asked him if he could cut Michael Flynn some slack and hoped Comey could let this go.

The other is Trump's own admission to NBC News and to his Russian visitors regarding his motives for firing Comey, specifically citing the Russia investigation. 

"Obstruction of justice" is not an easy thing to prove. Trump's comments to Comey were sufficiently vague; he didn't order Comey to let the investigation go, Trump just expressed a "hope" he could let it go. And firing Comey would not end the investigation.

That being said, there is sufficient reason to be concerned about Trump's flagrant abuse of power to further a personal goal in opposition to the investigation of Russian influence. 

If the story is as non-existent as Trump says, why would he impede the investigation? Let it run it's course, get vindication neither he nor his team did anything wrong and move the hell on. Instead, the more Li'l Donnie snarls and barks at what he calls a "witch hunt", the more he stokes fires of suspicion. It is not in his best interest if he's innocent to do what he's been doing. Hell, if he's guilty, his behavior is still not in his best interest.

And it all goes back to before the inauguration when Trump disputed the findings of America's intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the election, a consensus accepted by almost everybody else. Which just led to more questions and more suspicions.

So Trump or his team is guilty of some form of collusion with the Russians. Or maybe not. And if he's not, then he's just plain stupid and exposing himself once more as being completely unfit for office. Because if he or his team is not guilty, then the only answer remaining is that Trump is a petulant man-baby with no patience for anything that might take his grand accomplishment, winning the 2016 election, away from him in even the smallest way.

Sneaky or stupid. One or the other. Neither is a good answer.  

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