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Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Call it self-indulgent, but I cannot resist commenting on the furor caused by the news of the Intelligence services briefing of our President-elect on the unsubstantiated report that Russia has compiled a compromising dossier of financial and personal information about him.  Every news medium is talking about the report, which was shared with the President, the President-elect, the majority and minority leaders in both houses of Congress, and the chairs and ranking members of the Intelligence Committees in both houses.  The reporters and talking heads keep reiterating that the report is unsubstantiated, but having thus covered their asses, they cannot stop talking about it.

Is it true?  Who knows?  Is it plausible?  Of course it is.  I am sure our intelligence services have compiled a dossier of whatever compromising information they can lay their hands on about Putin.

I have three observations:  First and most delicious, this is what happens when you publicly bad-mouth the intelligence services.  Did Trump think they would take it lying down?  Those guys play hardball, God bless them.  I hope they dig up and leak every terrible thing they can find about Trump, Trump’s sons and daughters, Trump’s wife, and Trump’s dog, if he has one.  I am a firm believer in the old saying, quoted by Sean Connery in The Untouchables, “never bring a knife to a gun fight.”

Second, I personally believe there is good evidence, recently reviewed by the Financial Times, that Trump is deeply in hock to the Russians, to the tune of maybe 300 million dollars personally and 1.2 billion through companies of which he owes at least 30%.  I also am inclined to believe that there was communication between Trump’s campaign [by way of Paul Manafort, for example] and the Russian government, via intermediaries.  Do I know this?  Of course not.

Third, do I believe that Trump is actually taking direction from Putin?  This is of course the most salacious tidbit of rumor and the very hardest to substantiate.  But consider:  Trump seems determined to speak lovingly of Putin, to praise him, to bask in Putin’s praise of him.  Why Putin, of all people?  Trump even went so far as to quote Putin’s denial as evidence, for God’s sake, that the Russians had not tried to influence the American election!  But to me, conspiracy buff as I am becoming in the age of Trump, the “tell,” as poker players call it, is the fact that when it came time for the Republican National Committee to write the Party Platform for the 2016 election, the only clause in the entire worthless document that the Trump Campaign saw fit to weigh in on was a condemnation of Russia’s attempted takeover of Ukraine, which the Trumpians succeeded in getting weakened.

Now please, do not inundate me with knowledgeable caveats and corrections, or with breathless suggestions that the Americans do it to [surprise!].  Think of this blog post as a very cheap form of psychotherapy.  It makes me feel good to write it.


Ed Barreras said...

How is this self-indulgent? Everything you wrote seems sound and correct. The only people who would object, I imagine, are our comrades on the Left who like to screech about neo-McCarthyism even though they evidently have no idea what McCarthyism actually was.

My fantasy scenario is that T***p is revealed to have been successfully blackmailed by the Russians, at which point he is impeached and removed from office. Then the Russians go ahead and leak what they have on him, which turns out to be a video depicting acts that would make the Marquis de Sade blush. T***p retreats back to his rusting tower, a figure of world-historical disgrace.

levinebar said...

That Trump is at odds with our Intelligence Community is the brightest news of the season. If they were in his pocket, I'd be even more despondent. But I would ask them to spare those of his family (Melania, Barron) who are not part of his business dealings. Trump is a public figure; his business and those whom he includes in his business are proper targets of innuendo from our spies whom he so denigrates and of satiric treatments of all kinds (some of the most pointed political cartoons have been European). Leave the wife and child out of it (as long as they don't give her a microphone)
Barry H. Levine (levinebar)

Ed Barreras said...

I agree that the wife and kid should be left alone. First, what dirt would they have on a ten-year-old anyway? And second, hasn't Melania suffered enough? Before she was just some gold-digger who traded away her dignity for the chance to live as a Manhattan socialite. Now all her former "friends" despise her. In place of air kisses she gets dirty looks. Plus she's actually expected to *do* things now. Her agony must be unbearable. I foresee a play titled "The Passion of Melania."

s. wallerstein said...

Melania knew what she was doing when she married Trump. If she wanted to, she could leave Trump, ask for a divorce and endorse Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter. With the money from the divorce, she could live very well until age 110 and in addition, fund numerous progressive causes. Melania's been very well paid for her loyalty and she should accept the consequences of her decisions like the rest of us. As for the child, it's not his fault who his parents are, obviously, so I'd spare him as far as possible.

That does not go for Trump's 4 "adult" children by the way.

Paul Kern said...

I love this site and loath Trump and I would find it an impossibility to able to both like Trump and love this site. The dissonance would make ones head explode but having said that I offer a counter analysis of these findings. The Ideological critique would say that one should be careful of one's unexamined assumptions for fear you might fall prey to a confirmation bias. It strikes me that for those on the right who willfully accepted the likelihood that Obama was born in a different country were also confirming their suspicion that there was something already distrustful about Obama and that this fit with that suspicion. Aren't we being fed(from the CIA and FBI) exactly what we already believe about Trump and Putin? Shouldn't we be a little suspicious of these proceedings? I don't trust Trump but I also don't trust the CIA or the FBI or John McCain. Much, if not all, of the information is listed as "unsubstantiated" which at a minimum should raise an eyebrow and make one wonder what's the endgame here...who's zooming who?

The irony of Trump being hoisted on his petard is still a lovely thought but this whole affair is just infinitely weird.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Oh, I agree, I agree. But I cannot deprive myself of the pleasure of imagining Trump being hoist by his own petard [which is to say, being blown up by his own landmine.] I certainly would not base any serious judgments on this rat's nest of information, misinformation, and such.

Ed Barreras said...

Please let's not compare Birtherism with the web of suspicions and accusations about T***p and Russia. The former is a straight up conspiracy theory. The latter is based in facts and credible reporting -- some of which was rehearsed in Prof. Wolff's post. In fact, there's almost certainly some fire when it comes to Russia. (Even T***p now acknowledges that Russia hacked the DNC.) Of course, we don't know for sure that Putin has video of the minority-pres.-elect performing horrific, unspeakable acts in a Moscow hotel room. But it's possible! -- unlike the proposition that Obama was born anywhere besides Hawaii.

Paul Kern said...

Hi Ed,
It seems to me that truth or facticity is not on trial here as much as manipulation of appearances. The birther issue never reached the point of “truth” its work was to de-legitimize Obama and consequently, to be embraced by a segment of society. It had nothing to do with the veracity of the accusation but only the taint of illegitimacy. I think to some degree it worked for Trump. Whether the Russia imbroglio is “true” or not is hardly the point now, Trump is damaged goods in so many ways and it’s my guess the Republicans would be glad to have him gone and replaced by Pence, a more predictably “Republican” entity. Why else would McCain release unsubstantiated evidence?

Anonymous said...

Watching the CIA actively undermine the office of President of the United States of America makes me feel good, too. God help us all.