Thursday, April 15, 2021

One Fewer Degree of Separation

     As I've said several times before, it's one thing to have enough dots to connect until a coherent narrative picture starts to emerge. But in the case of the revelations of the widespread collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government in 2015 and 2016, there are so many dots that, like a TV screen, they make the picture.
     In the immediate wake of the Biden administration's announcements of a fresh wave of sanctions against Russia, the Treasury Department, of all places, dropped a bombshell on this morning's news cycle by announcing the government had finally closed some of the troubling gaps in the Mueller Report that had gone unanswered for five years.
     Among those gaps were, what did Constantine Kilimnik do with the internal voter polling data he'd received from Trump campaign chairman Manafort and his stooge, Rick Gates at Manhattan's Grand Havana Club on August 2, 2016? It was a meeting as notorious and disturbing to the Rod Rosenstein-hamstrung Mueller team as was the one between Donald Trump, Jr. and Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower on June 25, 2016 and Jeff Sessions' meeting with then Russian US ambassador Sergei Kislyak at the Mayflower Hotel the same exact month as the Manafort-Kilimnik meeting.

     All those seemingly countless ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia had long since been established (Don't forget Maria Butina and her ties to GOP politics and money funneling into the NRA and Roger Stone and Wikileaks, in which stolen information and emails from the Clinton campaign were released into the public domain). And the coverup was so deep and viciously enforced at the highest levels of the government, it made speculation fruitless and redundant. This was because the right wing coverup and loud sneering about "the Russia hoax" had proven remarkably effective, especially among right wing voters who for years got all their guidance, news and, literally, even marching orders from Trump's now-defunct Twitter feed.
     Until now, the Mueller team, Congress and the American people who cared about the real news knew large chunks of the narrative's meat. The problem was in establishing some of the connective tissue. We knew that Gates was ordered by his boss Manafort, a longtime stooge of Russian and pro-Russian Ukrainian interests, to pass along to Kilimnik throughout the last three months of the 2016 campaign sensitive polling data that targeted Midwestern battleground states such as Wisconsin.
     And, while the investigators within the Mueller team must have had some educated speculation, what they couldn't prove, or even speculate on in the report, was what Kilimnik had done with that polling data.
     But now we know. Manafort, through Gates, had given Kilimnik sensitive polling data obtained directly from the Trump 2016 campaign, who in turn had handed it off to the Russian GRU, their answer to our DIA.
     The questions that remain are, did Manafort do this of his own volition or was he acting on Trump's initiative?
     The jury's out on that one (hopefully, someday, literally) but Manafort hastily offered his "services" to the Trump campaign for gratis in the summer of 2016 and Trump gladly hired him to be his campaign chair for certain reasons. Remember, Manafort had done some lucrative business with Russia and pro-Russian interests that included Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch whose plane was spotted at a New Jersey airport the day of the Grand Havana Club meeting across the Hudson in Manhattan. And Trump must have been all too well aware of Manafort's treasonous relationship with Putin's Russia.
     But one could also make a persuasive case that Trump, being the lazy, incurious oaf he is, whose Mr. Bill understanding of the complex US-Russian relationship consisted solely of, "Obama bad and Russia good!" perhaps didn't wish to read the fine print of the agreement between his campaign chair and a proven Russian agent. And, typical of mob bosses for over a century, Trump used Manafort as his one degree of separation between him and Putin's government just as Manafort had used Gates as his go-between separating him from the GRU. Maybe Trump didn't issue the order from Trump Tower but he certainly must have known Manafort would do something beneficial to him and his campaign.
     Manafort, don't forget, got an early Christmas gift from Trump on December 23 last year: A full pardon, a reward for his loyal silence, another asset highly-prized among mob bosses whose underlings had taken the fall for the Godfather.
     However, Trump may still be on the hook because, instead of playing the fruitless, "What did Trump know and when did he know it?" game, federal prosecutors ought to be looking in whether they can charge Trump with knowingly accepting something of value from a hostile foreign government during a campaign for high office and not reporting the collusion, as he was mandated to do, to those same federal authorities.


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