The bottom line about RussiaGate: no explanation makes sense

Summary: The bottom line about RussiaGate is that something is happening in Washington, but none of the explanations make sense. Read the stories carefully, since most are deceptive. We have to watch and wait to learn the truth.

“To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.”
— From Benjamin Disraeli’s novel Sybil, or The Two Nations (1845).

RussiaGate

There are two obvious scenarios explaining RussiaGate, claims that the 2016 was illegitimate and that the President has dangerous ties to Russia.

(1)  The intelligence community (IC) has evidence of Trump’s guilt. Hence the months of leaks (typical of high-profile investigations by US law enforcement). These leaks, and perhaps back channel conversations, have convinced leaders of the Democratic Party that RussiaGate might lead to Trump’s resignation or impeachment. Hence their massive investment of resources to focus the public’s attention on RussiaGate, preventing it from being “swept under the rug.”

(2)  A small group of senior CIA and FBI officials have allied with the Democrats to do a soft coup against Trump for political reasons. Lacking strong evidence, they rely on leaks (agitprop) to turn public opinion against Trump to cripple his administration (perhaps breaking Trump’s spirit so he will resign). Anonymous leaks also provide some protection if elements of the Justice Department or intelligence community move against them (they are quite vulnerable to this).

In both scenarios, the major news media have helped by providing uncritical reporting. Both of these scenarios have large numbers of believers. Neither makes much sense.

(1)  The intelligence community (IC) has evidence of Trump’s guilt.

If so, why have they not revealed it? For example, the CIA report given to Obama about Russian cyber-interference in the election. As Lambert Strether said, “If all this was happening in August, why was the story kept under wraps?” The explanations given are weak.  But the stakes seem too high to have concealed the evidence from the American public, especially when they are leaking so many hints about it. Even now they will not release even a redacted version of the report.

Worse, both the leaks and the officially released evidence are weak. They become weaker still as we learn more about them. This is a typical example of the “evidence”.

“Comey confirmed that the FBI didn’t independently collect any evidence to connect Russia to the Democratic Party breaches. ‘We got relevant forensic information from a private party, a high-class entity, that had done the work,’ he said, almost certainly referring to Crowdstrike, the cybersecurity company the Democratic National Committee had hired. That firm’s reports about the cyberattack, and other efforts to pin hacks on Russian intelligence services, haven’t always been convincing.”

— “Missing From Comey’s Fireworks: Trump-Russia Collusion” by Leonid Bershidsky at Bloomberg — “The investigations haven’t revealed much so far on one of their most important questions.”

I consider it bizarre that after 12 months the FBI has not been able to confirm the key points of Crowdstrike’s report — yet they still considers it credible, despite the firm’s links to the Democratic Party. Also odd is that the Democratic National Committee has not given the FBI access to its servers for analysis of the alleged hack. (See more about Crowdstrike here.)

(1)  …have convinced leaders of the Democratic Party that this might lead to Trump’s resignation or impeachment.

The Democratic Party’s leaders must be confident of this, given their massive investment of time and credibility in RussiaGate. But why is removing Trump a rational goal? President Pence is likely to be both more competent than Trump, more popular with the mainstream GOP elected officials, and a more effective advocate for far-right policies.

(2)  A small group of senior officials of the CIA and FBI have allied with the Democrats to do a soft coup against Trump for political reasons.

This would be an unprecedented change in the behavior of the CIA and FBI’s leaders. Why would they take such a large risk? Also, consider the mechanics. The group would have to be small to maintain secrecy, but large enough to execute this large project.

Also, these are not partisan agencies or known to have staff strongly aligned with the Democratic Party. Remember the news stories about Republicans in the FBI driving the investigation of Hillary, despite Comey’s objections?

“It is impossible as I state it, and therefore I must in some respect have stated it wrong.”
— Sherlock Holmes in “The Adventure of the Priory School.”

Tentative conclusions about RussiaGate

United States of Russia
Protest on 3 June 2017 at Washington, D.C. Alex Brandon/AP.

The definitive conclusion is that we do not know what is happening. RussiaGate is like a puzzle where the picture becomes less clear as we add pieces to it. When we eliminate the scenarios which don’t makes sense, we have nothing. It’s like T. S. Elliott’s “wilderness of mirrors” (see Trump and the Democrats stumble into a ‘Wilderness of Mirrors’), and even more like the wilderness of mirrors described by James Angleton (the CIA’s great counterintelligence ace).

Marcello Truzzi’s insight applies here: “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”. Yet after 12 months we not only lack extraordinary proof, but any substantial proof (see Caitlin Johnstone’s series “Debunking Russiagate“). That makes the past 12 months of rising hysteria look pathological, not political — more like the Salem Witch Trials than Watergate. (Despite claims, one year after the Watergate burglary there was ample evidence of guilt by senior members of the White House staff).

But something big is happening. Too many power centers have invested too much for this to be a kerfuffle. We’re looking at waves and trying to describe the great beasts swimming below (whales or sandworms, as you prefer). All we can do is watch and withhold judgement until we know more.

In extraordinary events ignorance of their causes produces astonishment.”
— By Cicero in De Divinatione II. 22.

The essential fact to remember when watching this story

Be skeptical. Since WWII government officials have lied to us, increasingly often. Which makes analysis of these situations difficult. For more about this see The Big List of Lies. Yet despite this history we still believe them. This gullibility is perhaps our most serious problem; reform of America is impossible until this changes.

“It’s better to be uninformed than misinformed.”
— Orville Hubbard (Mayor of Dearborn, MI) in the The Detroit Reporter, 10 December 1955.

For More Information

Useful articles.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about Trump and the new populism, about the Trump years in America, about ways to reform America, and especially these…

  1. Is Trump a tool of Putin? See the story & the debunking.
  2. Here are the facts so far about the Trump-Russia file.
  3. Deciphering the scandalous rumors about Trump in Russia.
  4. Exposing the farcical claims about Russian hacking of the election.
  5. What Trump told Russia, why it matters, and why journalists ignore the smartest man in Washington.
  6. Trump and the Democrats stumble into a ‘Wilderness of Mirrors’.
  7. ImportantThe GOP might impeach Trump, changing our politics forever – for the better.

A book about impeachment in America – and the case against Trump.

The Case for Impeachment
The Case for Impeachment

One of the best introductions to impeachment in modern American politics is The Age of Impeachment: American Constitutional Culture since 1960 (2008) by the historian David E. Kyvig (deceased). For more background see these five books about the process and history of impeachment in America.

The latest and most provocative book on this subject is Allan Lichtman’s The Case for Impeachment, released in April. He is a professor of history at American University. From the publisher…

“In the fall of 2016, Lichtman made headlines when he predicted that Trump would defeat the heavily favored Democrat, Hillary Clinton. Now, in clear, nonpartisan terms, Lichtman lays out the reasons Congress could remove Trump from the Oval Office: his ties to Russia before and after the election, the complicated financial conflicts of interest at home and abroad, and his abuse of executive authority.

The Case for Impeachment also offers a fascinating look at presidential impeachments throughout American history, including the often-overlooked story of Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, details about Richard Nixon’s resignation, and Bill Clinton’s hearings. Lichtman shows how Trump exhibits many of the flaws (and more) that have doomed past presidents. As the Nixon Administration dismissed the reporting of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as “character assassination” and “a vicious abuse of the journalistic process,” Trump has attacked the “dishonest media,” claiming, “the press should be ashamed of themselves.”

“Historians, legal scholars, and politicians alike agree: we are in politically uncharted waters—the durability of our institutions is being undermined and the public’s confidence in them is eroding, threatening American democracy itself. Most citizens—politics aside—want to know where the country is headed. Lichtman argues, with clarity and power, that for Donald Trump’s presidency, smoke has become fire.”

Read the first chapter here.

 

54 thoughts on “The bottom line about RussiaGate: no explanation makes sense

  1. My best guess (key word here) is that all of the interested parties are slowly becoming detached from reality, preferring to pursue comforting myths instead. I expect this will go on another couple of years and then reality is going to hit them (and us, because we allowed it to happen) upside the head with something that cannot be ignored.

    What happens at that time is beyond my ability to predict but has a large likelihood of being negative because people rarely react well when confronted with a big surprise that they had been studiously ignoring.

    1. Pluto,

      That seems unlikely, imo. Leaders of both political parties plus senior members of CIA and FBI “becoming detached from reality”. My usual rule is that an explanation is probably invalid if it requires a large group to act in an outright stupid manner.

      Can you give some examples from US history of that happening to such a large fraction of our ruling class?

    2. You have given me multiple large challenges, FM, and I have limited time. But I shall do my best to answer your comment.

      Examples of ruling class stupidity:
      1. Bush administration run up to the invasion of Iraq
      2. The belief that counter insurgency would lead to stable popularly-supported national governments that would thank us for what we did to them
      3. Most of the Vietnam war
      4. The lack of belief in fourth generation warfare by the Pentagon
      5. Every stock market bubble in history (need to include wealthy people in our definition of ruling class but I am comfortable doing so given the nascent emerging plutocracy)

      But when I stated that senior members of the CIA and the FBI are “becoming detached from reality,” I didn’t mean to imply a shared hallucination, that is not necessary. We are looking at the story of the three blind men and the elephant with many more blind men involved and the blind men not allowed (in the name of national security) to share all the information they possess. Which leads to a game of “telephone” where people repeating partially understood messages distort the message further. Individuals each come to their own conclusions and do their best to nudge the government towards the path that will lead, in their opinion, to the best possible outcome (either for themselves or the country, depending on the nature of the person).

      This frequently leads to high-level individuals leaking stories to the press that try to sway large numbers of readers to support their favored course of action.

      I agree with your basic reasoning, FM, that large numbers of well-trained leaders who know that they are being monitored by the public are not very likely to make major mistakes. But you constantly complain that the public is not monitoring the government and our leaders know this. Furthermore, in a secretive environment, like the one we’ve been cultivating since 9/11), fewer leaders know the full picture and have more influence than normal. Finally, we’ve been seeing the Trump administration (at least thinking that it is) getting away with ignoring reality and that provides an example for individuals to follow their lead.

    3. Pluto,

      “Examples of ruling class stupidity:”

      Those are all “stupidity” if you define much of what people do as “stupid”. Your standard is how things look in hindsight. You mention, for example, the Vietnam War. Very few people with military expertise thought that US actions in it were “stupid” at the time — until roughly 1968.

      You say lack of belief in “4GW’ by the pentagon is “stupid”. Who are the master intellects who tell you so?

      You say “stock market bubbles” are stupid. They are an inherent behavior of free markets, and can be easily produced in a classroom (with some time). Also, they are identified only in hindsight. Stock yields lower than corporate bond yields were a sure sign of a bubble. This told smart people to sell in 1955. When prices continued to rise they screamed “bubble”. This was madness! This was the beginning of one of the great bull markets. Now we “know” that stock yields are normally below bond yields.

      Statement in your previous comment: “My best guess (key word here) is that all of the interested parties are slowly becoming detached from reality, preferring to pursue comforting myths instead.”

      I don’t see how your explanation here (about compartmentalization of intel staff) supports that statement. Compartmentalization leads to somewhat differing views in the different units, but seldom differences that are radical. Why would it lead to people adopting “comforting myths”?

      “Individuals each come to their own conclusions and do their best to nudge the government towards the path that will lead, in their opinion, to the best possible outcome”

      That sounds like business as usual, everywhere and always in most organizations (not just government). How does compartmentalization make that more likely?

  2. What’s your opinion of the increasingly common stories of Trump and Kushner financial ties to Russian money? That’s not necessarily the same thing as evidence of political collusion.

    1. John,

      They are a mish-mash of obviously bogus stories and real ones. But we’re not at war with Russia — despite the elites who want to reactive the cold war (a self-licking ice cream cone for them).

      Why are commercial ties with Russia inherently bad? It gives our leaders an understanding of Russia, useful personal contacts, and makes them less likely to see Russia as only a tool to boost America’s fear and military spending.

      We have ample laws for disclosure and management of such ties. Let’s try enforcement rather than mindless hysteria. Who knows, it might work.

    2. Get the facts. What a novel thought. Neither side of this battle seems to want that.

    3. John,

      That’s an essential insight. Our political and public policy battles are largely fact-free because we see these as entertainment for peons, not debates for citizens. Contrast the debates in Campaign 2017 with the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

      That’s why this post — giving an explanation of this problem — is one of the most important on the FM website.

    4. Yes, that one is well worth reading. I try hard to read a diversity of viewpoints, but I will readily admit that its easier to sit around the campfire with the tribe and listen to the stories of the elders.

    5. John,

      I agree. Which is part of the problem here at the FM campfire. The analysis and recommendations are non-consensus (by design; why else bother posting it?). But much worse, the message is for Americans to assume responsibility for America and work to change it.

      Sensible business people tell Americans that their tribe are angels, oppressed by satan and his minions, victims who will receive their reward in a future great day when they arise and smite their enemies! As you can see, this is a classic formula — successful when people are peons in their souls.

      How to change that is a question to which nobody here has a solution. Ideas are welcomed.

    6. What to make of the many omissions from disclosure forms in regards to Russia contacts i.e. Kushner, Flynn and Sessions? What was the Kushner back channel all about? Where is the evidence of hacking, and as FM also mentions, if the security agencies have any evidence why has it not been disclosed? Perhaps they just have lots of evidence of potential crimes but no smoking guns and are working to see where they lead? Lots of unanswered questions. As with Ken Starr and Clinton, we may even find more light gets shed on unrelated malfeasance.

      Hopefully we’ll all learn the full truth, and sooner than later. If I were a betting man I’d wager that it was as simple as promises to rescind the Ukraine sanctions in exchange for the release of emails damaging to the DNC and Hillary, but as always I reserve judgement till further evidence is provided.

      Good to see we’re back to reserving judgement on this issue here at FM.

    7. Loki,

      (1) “What to make of the many omissions from disclosure forms in regards to Russia contacts ‘

      Flynn was cashiered for these. What more did you want?

      (2) As for the others, the disclosures were trivial. I was accepted as a foreign service officer in 1979, and the paperwork was fantastic (I declined). Now the paperwork for a senior govt official now is beyond belief, fantastic. I’ll bet an inspection of the forms for most people with an active international business career would see omissions. At some point this becomes trivia pursuit. We’re already past the point at which qualified people decline the offer of senior positions — the pay is absurdly low, the work and responsibility are crushing, the odds of vilification and reputational damage are high, and the paperwork like a four-year anal examination.

      (3) “What was the Kushner back channel all about?”

      Most Presidents since WWII have set up back-channel links with other major powers, including the Soviet Union. That was one of the first things JFK did. Given the imobility and untrustyworthy nature of the government’s bureaucracy, it’s a sensible thing to do. At some point this pearl clutching — esp by people who know it is bs — becomes nutty.

      (4) “Perhaps they just have lots of evidence of potential crimes but no smoking guns and are working to see where they lead?”‘

      Any perhaps they don’t. What is the point of such statements?

      (5) “Lots of unanswered questions.”

      Nice of you to acknowledge what I spent 1200 words stating. But you make it sound like a rebuttal. Did you read the post?

      (6) “If I were a betting man I’d wager …”

      As a retired bookie, I’d bet that if you bet on such things (wild guesses about matters outside your experience about which you have little info) you’d be living in a cardboard box under a bridge.

      (7) “Good to see we’re back to reserving judgement on this issue here at FM.”

      I assume you’re kidding. I’ve done several dozen of these multi-post analysis of these kind of situations. The result is usually debunking the media narrative, recommending that people “reserve judgement” until we have actual facts.

  3. Fabius Maximus,

    I’ve read that American politics has always been dominated by conspiracy theories. From before the Revolution, you can look back and find Americans who are obsessed with the machinations of wily or nefarious political leaders. History usually only write about the conspiracies that prompted the winners to end up winning or that actually cause change, but they are always there.

    You have written compellingly that there is not a lot of there, there for these conspiracies on either side. It is worth noting that the vast majority of conspiracy theories are mostly or entirely untrue. I don’t know if you can expect to have much success in persuading Americans to look past their conspiracies though. It may be more useful to encourage readers to view their leaders as conspiring against them as opposed to telling them that their leaders are lying. False rumors that led to conspirators burning down buildings or murdering people in our past rarely prevented the next rumor from being taken as seriously. A country of people who are primed to believe the worst of their enemies will believe the worst even if one thing is wrong.

    The part that interests me most about Russiagate is that a) such a larger number of Americans could be persuaded so easily that either Trump or the CIA/Democrats are political monsters and b) how little we’ve done about it. Conspiracies in the 1770s led to hundreds of deaths in riots over rumors. Today it leads to lots of angry words but little beyond #resistance. Conspiracy, I fear, has become (probably has for some time now) a very profitable media scheme. This makes it unlikely that the middle class can actually govern or profit through government action, we have no idea what’s happening!

    Trump and future president’s stand to gain the most from this conspiracy-mongering. He doesn’t have to do anything for his constituents, let alone the country! His long vacations are not the subject. His waste of our treasury or his gross incompetence are ignored for something more exciting and nonexistent. Trump would be worse off, in my opinion, if the news got bored of this and looked elsewhere at Trump for the many, many ripe targets.

    PF Khans

    1. PF,

      (1) “I’ve read that American politics has always been dominated by conspiracy theories.”

      That is not accurate. Conspiracy theories are common in most western societies because conspiracies are common (i.e., not omnipresent, but not extraordinary either). Also, we know so little about what’s going on that it is easy to imagine fearful things in the shadows — like looking out into the forest from a campfire.

      But politics in America have seldom been dominated by conspiracy theories. There have been many small ones — like those about JFK’s assassination — but they never dominated US politics. The McCarthy era had its conspiracy theories. But the Soviet Union did breed conspiracies in the West, and there were both traitors and commie sympathisers (as shown when their records were briefly opened after the fall). There were conspiracy theories during the Watergate era, most of which proved either too small or correct.

      What makes RussiaGate different in two ways. First, the magnitude of the claims — that a rival superpower attempted to influence the election and has illicit relationship with the President. Second, that it is dominating political discussions. See the Media Research Center’s report about its large share on TV news. Yet so far there is little hard evidence that there is anything to it.

      (2) “such a larger number of Americans could be persuaded so easily that either Trump or the CIA/Democrats are political monsters”

      Why is that unusual? Several US presidents have been “monsters” in some sense. Nixon, to take the obvious example. As for the CIA, their evil deeds are legion.

      (3) “Today it leads to lots of angry words but little beyond #resistance.”

      Probably because so far there is little public evidence to justify action. Presumption of innocence and so forth.

      (4) “Trump and future president’s stand to gain the most from this conspiracy-mongering.”

      I disagree. RussiaGate is severely impacting his administration. It diminishes his support and consumes his scarcest and most valuable resource: mental bandwidth. His senior team only has so much attention to divide among the many necessary tasks. This is the primary role of scandals as a political tool used to attack political figures.

    2. Fabius Maximus,

      I think the distinction between our positions is that when I say American politics, I’m thinking dating back to the 1770s, whereas your examples suggest you’re thinking about this from a more contemporary era. From that perspective, conspiracies have been usually marginal to our politics. 1) In the first hundred years of our country, though, that seems wrong. We had multiple armed revolts, Jackson conquered Florida against orders, regular and repeated violent reprisals against black slave communities for suspected revolutions, armed ‘state-sponsored’ violence in Kansas, multiple calls for revolution/secession based on rumors of all sorts of things. Lincoln was accused of so many conspiracies. So were Clay and Jackson. In the 1850s, thousands of northerns joined ‘wide awake’ societies against southern perfidy.
      I’ll grant you that this is probably more human than an American phenomenon, though.

      2) The strangest thing that I’ve found is the verbal inflation in American politics. Our insults get stale and so we escalate them over time even if things are the same. So what is ‘monster’? I meant that it seems odd that so many Americans think that the election was rigged/illegitimate. Either because Russia or because illegal immigrants. And in the case of Trump, he cheated intentionally at the expense of our national security. That seems unique as far as accusations go.

      3) I hope so, but I know plenty of people who assume he’s guilty. They just don’t know what to do besides watch TV and cheer or boo. On the other side, I’ve seen plenty who are expecting some sort of coup but don’t have any idea that if this happened that it requires some action on their part.

      4) I expect that you are correct that Trump is accomplishing less than he ‘could’ otherwise but that assumes he ‘could’ do something if he wanted to do so. I am unconvinced that Trump has the managerial or political skills to accomplish something outside of his quite skillful manipulation of attention. I am unclear why he wants to be President but accomplishing policy goals was never something that I expected from him. For instance, do you think he is frustrated right now? Do you think that if he accomplished a lot of things he would be less frantically trying to stay in front of the cameras?
      From this perspective then, the President has been hampering his ‘chance’ to get things done and not really lost anything. I expect that at the current rate, he can still be re-elected. Trump has understood that we proxy media skill (mostly entertaining) as an assessor for political skill. He is a phenomenally entertaining person.

      PF Khans

      PS As a side note, would you consider going to the extra mile from ‘the government lies to you’ to ‘the government lies to you to keep you poor/powerless etc?’ In my mind, the difference between the two are minimal but may give you a broader base of readers.

    3. PF,

      (1) “We had multiple armed revolts, Jackson conquered Florida against orders, regular and repeated violent reprisals against black slave communities for suspected revolutions, armed ‘state-sponsored’ violence in Kansas, multiple calls for revolution/secession based on rumors of all sorts of things.”

      Few or none of those things were “conspiracies”: a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful. Most are the opposite of conspiracies. Some were public acts. Some were very public acts.

      (2) “They just don’t know what to do besides watch TV and cheer or boo.”

      You must be kidding.

      (3) “I am unconvinced that Trump has the managerial or political skills to accomplish”

      You are misstating what I said. Let’s replay the tape: “It diminishes his support and consumes his scarcest and most valuable resource…” RussiaGate diminishes his ability to do things. Guesses whether they would succeed or not I leave to people who like to guess.

      (4) “From ‘the government lies to you’ to ‘the government lies to you to keep you poor/powerless etc?’”

      Absolutely not. We are the people who keep us weak. The govt lies to influence us because we have shown that we don’t care, and inflict no penalty when we learn about the lies.

      What keeps us weak is that we see ourselves as victims, and so act as victims. How fun to sit on our butts and whine that the service in America is not what our awesomeness deserves. We are exploited because that is what happens to peons. It’s the Great Circle of Life, as we were taught by Disney.

    4. Possibly the best analogy to the current situation is the claim that Aaron Burr, who invented party politics in America, conspired with General Wilkinson to carve out a nation in the middle of the continent contrary to the interests of the U.S. Wilkinson was almost certainly a bad guy. It’s not so clear that Burr was, but his career was devastated by the claim. Fascinating reading. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burr_conspiracy

    5. John,

      Great minds think alike. Six minute before your comment I posted a comment mentioning that, with the same wikipedia link.

      It’s a provocative analogy. But not helpful. From today we can’t tell if the Burr conspiracy was real or not. However, there was more evidence of Burr’s plan (legal or not) than there is for RussiaGate.

    6. I concur with your comment no conspiracy theories in the early days of the Republic. Jefferson’s Democrats had an abiding fear that Adams’ Federalists were conspiring to instate a monarchy in the U.S.

    7. Fabius Maximus,

      4) I meant no offense. You are not wrong.

      1) Those public acts were heavily influenced by real and imagined conspiracies. I can say that today has maybe the high ratio of conspiracy to normal politics outside of times that led to violence. It is absurd, but I can recommend the ‘Cousin’s War’ by Kevin Phillips as a source for this perspective.

      2) I am somewhat surprised by your incredulity. Isn’t this the basis for your concern? That Americans do not behave like citizens?

      3) Thank you for the clarification, and I can better appreciate that you are correct about his administration. I’m sure Mattis and Sessions are quite frustrated and exhausted. That being said, I don’t think it has nearly that effect on Trump, personally. Trump doesn’t do politics. He does media. He does entertainment. All of his attention is focused on that as it is. I conjecture, he thinks his political legitimacy is derived from his ability to entertain, not to govern.

      PF Khans

    8. PF,

      (1) “I meant no offense.”

      None taken. There are no personalities here. We’re just searching for truth and the path to a better future. It’s the peaks of the internet, cold with high winds.

      (2) “Those public acts were heavily influenced by real and imagined conspiracies.”

      Yes, quite so. As I said, conspiracies are a backdrop to US history. My point, which keeps getting lost, is that they have rarely dominated politics as they have for the past year. On the rare occassions when they did, there was a basis for them. For example, we don’t know the truth about the Burr Conspiracy (there is some but not definitive evidence), but there were communists part of a global conspiracy led by the USSR.

      (3) “I am somewhat surprised by your incredulity.”

      Nobody sits on their butt doing nothing who is serious in their interest about fixing America. Even if they have no ideas, they know people who do have ideas or can point them somewhere — or they can easily find places to get involved. “Don’t know what to do” is among the weakest possible excuses for apathy and passivity.

      (4) “I don’t think it has nearly that effect on Trump”

      This is not a factual question. A president only works so many hours, and cannot do everything necessary. If x are spent dealing with RussiaGate, then there is “x” less time for other tasks. Trump must be spending a lot of time on RussiaGate, including tweeting about it.

      (5) “Trump doesn’t do politics.”

      You must be kidding.

      (6) “he thinks his political legitimacy is derived from his ability to entertain, not to govern.”

      Professor Xavier, I presume?

    9. What’s the basis of your confidence that there will be no violence arising from the current situation?

    10. Fabius Maximus,

      2) I think we’re on the same page, but perhaps speaking past each other. My contention is that conspiracy in American politics is normal and regular, but I should add that it is only normal and regular when things are bad. Conspiracies that dominate politics and have little basis for fact are a sign of impending civil chaos and violence. For example, before the Civil War:
      http://www.cwbr.com/civilwarbookreview/index.php?q=3970&field=ID&browse=yes&record=full&searching=yes&Submit=Search
      I think that the consolidation of popular culture and information has allowed for more truly national conspiracies to flourish, but I don’t know that what we’re seeing is something truly new. It is just a really ominous signal for where things are heading. It is normal in the sense that a hurricane is normal, a disaster but knowable and comparable with events in the past.
      I think that this conforms with what you are saying.

      3) This has not been my experience in life. I think that the schools of thought which lead to effective action and collective reaction to tyranny require certain environmental settings which have been gone for decades. We’ve spent the past several decades removing the best and brightest from American towns and communities and consolidating them in our citadels. That has consequences we are only seeing dimly, but this is one of them.

      4) 5) 6) I’ll simply ask this question. If Trump is a politician, he should have lost to the significantly more accomplished and better supported politicians. Clinton and Bush represented significant political groupings that dominated politics for decades. That a political amateur could win against both, plus a handful of other determined candidates, suggests something is way off. Possibly our politicians are paper tigers and they were just waiting for someone to come around and simply try to win. Possibly our politicians got stuck in particular political strategy that was the best at beating the old strategy but was very vulnerable to a new one which Trump mastered.

      My guess is that reality rests somewhere between those two polls. Trump tried a different strategy to win office and our politicians found themselves much weaker than anyone believed they actually were. Trump’s strategy, from the beginning, has been to control the narrative. No matter what. Including causing a scandal or being incompetent. He figured out that our politicians lived in a bubble and he could exploit that. He’s got a con man’s ability to promise one thing and then never deliver without ever losing the ability to do it again. That’s his best game, and it has some merit to it. He won.

      Given this was his campaign strategy and his means of winning favor in the entertainment world, I assume that’s his strategy for his presidency. He’ll control the narrative and let his underlings make policy as it fits them and as long as it doesn’t get in the way of his narrative stuff. So while Russiagate impedes his team, it still satisfies that goal.

      PF Khans

    11. PF,

      (1) Re: conspiracies: “I think that this conforms with what you are saying.”

      I agree.

      (2) “think that the schools of thought which lead to effective action and collective reaction to tyranny require certain environmental settings”

      Again, that’s not what I said. Let’s replay the tape: “Even if they have no ideas, they know people who do have ideas or can point them somewhere — or they can easily find places to get involved.” I said nothing about “effective action” or “collective action.” I just said people who want to act can easily find ways to act. This is the advantage of replying to direct quotes.

      (3) “If Trump is a politician, he should have lost to the significantly more accomplished and better supported politicians.”

      That’s false on many levels. First, elections are not a personal competition measuring relative political skill or support. Skill politicians often lose. Well financed politicians often lose.

      Second, the two political parties in America are of roughly equivalent strength at the national level. There is no reason to suppose the Democratic candidate was better supported, broadly speaking, than the GOP one.

      Third, there is little evidence that Clinton was a more skilled politician than Trump. His performance skills dwarfed hers. Her career successes were largely those of a machine politican slotted into the Senate and the SecState — in neither of which did she do much. Her election was a comedy of errors on every level, from its incompetent organization to its looney-toon ads. To say that Jeb Bush was a skilled politician is absurd.

      (4) “That a political amateur could win against both, plus a handful of other determined candidates, suggests something is way off.”

      Political amateurs often win elections. But Trump’s win as an outsider is significant, as I explained in Trump’s win revealed the hollowness of US politics. Stronger leaders will exploit this. His is the opposite of Macron’s win in France, where the political class unites to put their man in office.

      (5) “Trump’s strategy, from the beginning, has been to control the narrative.”

      Every political movement seeks to control the narrative. He was able to do so during the election because Clinton allowed him to do so, running an issue-free election as “not Trump.” Also, it is a tactic – not a strategy.

      (6) “He’s got a con man’s ability to promise one thing and then never deliver without ever losing the ability to do it again.”

      That’s SOP for US presidents since FDR, and perhaps before. He ran in 1932 to the right of Hoover (e.g., against Hoover’s fiscal deficits) and on a peace platform in 1940 (while siding with Britain in the war).

      (7) “He’ll control the narrative and let his underlings make policy as it fits them”

      That’s an interesting guess. I doubt it will prove accurate, and know of nobody who knows Trump who believes that theory. Time will tell if you are correct.

      (8) “So while Russiagate impedes his team, it still satisfies that goal.”

      You believe that Trump does not care as he and his senior officials are grilled by the press and Congress, some forced to resign, and the other business of his Administration is stalled? His tweets show otherwise.

    12. Changing topics a bit, what is your opinion of Mikegate? Growing up in the South we were taught to hold doors for ladies and are mostly still allowed to do so). My sense is that this personal ad hominem attack has been perceived by some folks important to and still supportive of the President as going too far. Morning Joe has been conducting a conscious campaign to goad the President into doing something beyond the pale stupid and today they appear to have succeeded by attacking his son-in-law. That the President can be that easily manipulated raises serious questions as to his ability to maintain the control needed to negotiate with/resolutely confront a determined adversary. I fairly sure that this has been duly noted in many world capitals.

    13. John,

      My guess — emphasis on guess — it that it is another pebble in the wall of Trump’s self destruction. He lacks the temperament, experience, and knowledge to successfully act as President. Two of the three would work. Perhaps having one of the three. With zero of three — my belief (in several posts) that the GOP will dump him to save the party.

    14. Fabius Maximus,

      2) “I just said people who want to act can easily find ways to act.”
      That’s fine, but watching television or reading Facebook and commenting is doing something.

      3) Please excuse the inexact language. I will try to improve upon my statement. Elections are collective decisions by an electorate on who will best fill the role. They are attempts to make a good decision about who should run the nation and, to a certain extent, in what way.

      In the past several decades we’ve moved more and more strongly towards a standard that says the candidate that appears the best in front of the media is going to be a good President. Trump cavalierly flouted that rule and emerged victorious. The past thirty years have been run by groups of politicians able to maximize their media exposure while managing to execute political dealings.

      Trump pushes even further on the media exposure, ignored the electoral ramification of scandal, and still shows little inclination to run the government in anything like business as usual. He hasn’t appointed people to do the job! He’s on vacation in Florida all the time!

      4) Apologies again, outsider is a far more apt term. I agree with your post and worry about the implications.

      5) 6) 7) I do not know Mr Trump personally, but I have read some of his works and read about his works. I can agree that his behavior exists on a scale that is similar to past Presidents. I can agree that he certainly has somethings he cares about and wants done. But, I don’t see how your points detract from my point that Donald Trump’s game is to go for attention above all else.

      8) “You believe that he does not care…” I do. Or at the very least, he cares less about it than not tweeting. Which is my point. He has continued to hamstring himself. Sometimes he does it intentionally and without being forced into it, and my guess is that it is a product of a plan that sacrifices political effectiveness, at least in the short term, for the attention.

      Thank you for taking the time to respond. I have enjoyed and learned from this discussion.

    15. PF,

      (1) “That’s fine, but watching television or reading Facebook and commenting is doing something.”

      I disagree. It’s nothing.

      (2) “In the past several decades we’ve moved more and more strongly towards a standard that says the candidate that appears the best in front of the media is going to be a good President. ”

      Do you have any evidence of that? Neither Bush Sr or Bush Jr or Trump or Hilary Clinton were the most photogenic major candidates in 2016 — not even close.

      (3) “I don’t see how your points detract from my point that Donald Trump’s game is to go for attention above all else.”

      You have shown no evidence for that theory. It’s possible, as are a dozen other theories. It’s fun to speculate about people’s internal states — goals and such. But that’s all it is, unless there is substantial evidence supporting the theory.

    16. John,

      Do you think that this current scandal is any different from the others that have occurred at any time in the past year plus? It is entirely a matter of Donald Trump saying something he’s not supposed to say about a person that should be shown more respect than he does.

      PF Khans

    17. This one seems to be getting a bit stronger reaction from the Republican side than many similar over the top insults in the past. The major issue is when does the moment arise when the President does something that sufficiently scares the Republicans in Congress that they are pushed to replacing him with Pence.

    18.  

       

      Criticism of Trump from Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE), PhD in History from Yale.

       

      Criticism of Trump by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

    19. Fabius Maximus,

      1) “It’s nothing.”
      I think you should reconsider this stance. Your strongest competition for attention comes from entertainment products. More importantly, people respond to crisis through training. The every day civilian has experienced political crisis regularly since 2001 and the response is: get information from the media, post about it on social media.

      2) I will try and re-phrase. Candidates that cultivate good relationships have been winners. Those who have kept them at arms length have been losers. This article has some evidence of this: http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-first-reality-show-presidency/
      I think that it is also a reasonable observation given the way we tell our history. In 1960, Kennedy beat Nixon because of a televised debate, not positions or something else, just a television appearance. Same with Regean to a certain extent. That’s obviously a self-serving perspective and only part of the answer, but it is a clue to what certain people value.
      Trump, though, presents a different strategy than the one of close participation with the media. The media has low legitimacy and a short attention span (you’ve written about this yourself). Trump’s campaign exploited this and showed that you can cheat the media gatekeepers if you can keep up a constant stream of attention on yourself.

      3) I have provided a deductive explanation for the facts and not facts in and of themselves. Here’s the facts behind my theory:
      1. Trump’s behavior has been consistent about choosing scandal over some other story getting out there. Do you dispute the consistency?
      2. Trump’s behavior has been effective in getting him electoral wins. Do you disagree?
      3. Trump has the capacity to change but chooses not to, therefore it is intentional. Do you disagree?

    20. PFK,

      (1) You said “we’ve moved more and more strongly towards a standard that says the candidate that appears the best in front of the media is going to be a good President.” Now you say “I will try and re-phrase. Candidates that cultivate good relationships have been winners.”

      They are not remotely equivalent statements. The first is false. I don’t know what the second means.

      (2) “In 1960, Kennedy beat Nixon because of a televised debate, not positions or something else, just a television appearance.”

      That’s an urban legend. Kennedy won by a hair. We have no way to attribute his victory to any one of the countless factors and events involved.

      (3) “I have provided a deductive explanation”

      Let’s replay the tape. I said “You have shown no evidence for that theory.” You string three assertions together and call them an “explanation”. There are a thousand and one such “explanations” than can be given. Also, all three of your statements are — in different ways — problematic. None are evidence.

    21. Fabius Maximus,

      1) Apologies for my lack of clarity. I appreciate your willingness to continue this conversation and wait for me to articulate a more understandable thesis.
      Trump appears, to me, to be a President that embodies style over substance. I say this because he didn’t and doesn’t hire enough staff, care to read the details, or is interested in handling the day-to-day activities of governing. You may disagree with this, and I would love to know why. His vacation schedule is knowable and huge. His failure to hire were and are well known stories. His disinterest in reading or knowing about the details are also well known.
      That we should have such an outsider President who appears to bring nothing of substantial value to the table besides his style is shocking. Usually shocking events have some explanation, though, and how we cover campaigns and consume media about them seems to me to be the most straight forward explanation on that matter. It has changed drastically from a generation ago and has rewarded candidates that excel at exploiting those media fields at the expense of candidates that do not, even if those candidates are likely to be better governors. Getting in front of viewers, in any and all medias, is a winning formula with very little known ceiling. The only ceiling to this strategy is that you need to be already popular, be shameless, and be rich. That’s a big deal. It should cause any ambitious individual to pause and consider how to become President.

      2) I know this to be true and agree. My point is that there is a reason this myth perpetuates and is used, and I think that it is useful in justifying the power we give to the media in helping us make our electoral decisions.

      3) I’m confused about what evidence you would like to see. Are you looking for some confirmation from the Trump camp that this is how he operates? Would you accept a timeline which indicates the possibility of my theory?

    22. PFK,

      (1) “Trump appears, to me, to be a President that embodies style over substance.”

      That’s hilariously wrong. His administration has already made a quick start by removing many of Obama’s regulatory protections on workers and the environment. They’ve taken large steps to limit immigration of Muslim migrants (inevitably having to fight these thru the courts). They’re gearing up to substantially expand the WOT. They’re starting to appoint judges to reshape America’s legal system. I could continue this list. And it is only June.

      You appear to believe the President is a Priest King, who personally makes the fabric of the world change. This was a common narrative during the Reagan years — the “slacker idiotic” president who somehow left the US government looking quite different than when he arrived. And also true of the “slacker idiotic” president Bush Jr., who should be on Mt. Rushmore in terms of the magnitude of the changes he made to the US govt.

      (2) “I know this to be true and agree.”

      Why did you say something your agree is wrong? It’s not helpful.

      (3) ” I’m confused about what evidence you would like to see.”

      Try giving any evidence, for a start. It’s not my job to work out your theory.

    23. PFK,

      Follow-up note about the Trump’s administrations effective actions

      The news media is obsessed with the dubious — often bogus — stories about RussiaGate. That is a blessing for Team Trump, as they bury the many regulatory changes being made — small changes that cumulatively have large effects on Americans. Such as “Trump administration sides with big business over working people by acting to weaken the overtime rule” by the Economic Policy Institute.

    24. Fabius Maximus,

      “The news media is obsessed with the dubious — often bogus — stories about RussiaGate. That is a blessing for Team Trump, as they bury the many regulatory changes being made”

      This is fascinating. The point I have been trying to make, and failing, is that I think that these ‘blessings’ are intentionally sought by the President. This isn’t random or a mistake. He seeks this. He did it after the Democratic convention, he did it after the massive protests across the country, and he’s been doing it in some form or another to distract from the challenges of law making.

      I think that my communication has been a failure if you think I don’t know that the President has some agenda and that he is doing things. I appreciate that I’ve used hyperbolic language, but I don’t feel well understood.

    25. “Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.”
      ― Adam Smith

      It appears that both of you have reached a similar conclusion, i.e. the tweeting is an intentional action which is distorting the media coverage of the administration. We can see that much change is being wrought in the structure of the national government “deconstructing the administrative state”. My understanding of government is that regulatory schemes are usually adopted to address real problems, but become coopted by vested interests with access to lawyers, lobbyists, etc., making it more difficult for entrepreneurial upstarts to compete on a level playing field. Do you believe that the current administration will successful in eliminating the maze of regulatory restrictions that currently protect large corporate interests in industries such as telecom, pharma, etc .?

    26. Joh,

      “the tweeting is an intentional action”

      What is the alternative, if not an intentional act?

      “which is distorting the media coverage of the administration.”

      I don’t agree with that. I don’t even know what “distorting” means in this context.

      “Do you believe that the current administration will successful in eliminating the maze of regulatory restrictions that currently protect large corporate interests in industries such as telecom, pharma, etc .?”

      I assume you’re kidding us. The regulatory acts being dismantled — like the overtime rule I cited — protect individuals against powerful business.

    27. Substitute the word manipulate for distort. Trump is most definitely trying to manipulate the media, but the media also appears capable of manipulating Trump.

      The original version of my post, which I edited at the last minute for simplicity, was as follows:

      Do you believe that the current administration will be more successful in eliminating the maze of regulatory restrictions that currently protect large corporate interests in industries such as telecom, pharma, etc . or in eliminating those regulations that protect individual consumers?

      The American People did not elect Trump to foul the air and water or to empower employers to take advantage of employees. Trump may not even have believed that is what he was running for. The real question is who is in charge of the actions being taken in his name.

    28. John,

      “Trump is most definitely trying to manipulate the media, but the media also appears capable of manipulating Trump.”

      Yes. This has been the case for every presidential administration since George W. What’s your point?

      “Do you believe that the current administration will be more successful in eliminating the maze of regulatory restrictions that currently protect large corporate interests”

      That’s hilarious. What makes you think that they will even try to do so? Can you give some examples, based on statements by senior Team Trump officials?

      “in industries such as telecom, pharma, etc . or in eliminating those regulations that protect individual consumers?”

      No need to guess. That have been doing so since the first cabinet secretaries took office.

      “The American People did not elect Trump to foul the air and water or to empower employers to take advantage of employees.”

      Yes, those who voted for him were conned. As I have long said in posts here, America is Exceptional! Exceptionally gullible.

    29. This speech originally given by Margaret Chase Smith, first woman to serve in both houses of Congress, in 1950 feels both quaint and perfectly on point to the current conversation. The only difference is that today we are dealing with a would be demigod President instead of a demagogue Senator.

      Video of Margaret Chase Smith’s “Declaration of Conscience” (Wikipedia) recited by Jessica R. Velasquez (test here):

    30. John,

      It is an interesting speech. But time has not been kind to her partisan framing, as in the opening:

      “The Democratic administration has greatly lost the confidence of the American people by its complacency to the threat of communism and the leak of vital secrets to Russia through key officials of the Democratic administration. There are enough proved cases to make this point without diluting our criticism with unproved charges.”

      It reads now as the usual framing of “we’re great” and “you are traitors.” Well, OK ther. How has that worked out for us? IMO its led to a multi-generational escalation of largely empty rhetoric. Now every president is described as Hitler by opponents, and political discourse is mostly poo-throwing by apathetic “citizens”.

    31. Sen. Smith was speaking to her Republican colleagues, who were mindlessly defending McCarthy or at the least failing to take him to task for his depredations. I interpreted the preamble as nothing more than her way of saying “you know I’m one of you guys, but enough is enough.” The important part of the speech is her condemnation of the behavior of Sen. McCarthy and a demand for civil discourse and an end to character assassination. Actually Congress (or at least the Senate) was pretty good on that score for quite a while after that speech in 1950.

    32. John,

      Yes, the Republicans made some efforts to restrain McCarthy. But went he went wild in 1953 they did almost nothing, neither Congress nor Ike. It’s like helping to put out a burning barbacue in my background but ignoring a grass fire that might burn my house down.

      Color me unimpressed with the GOP response to McCarthy. I agree with you about the courage and boldness of Margaret Chase Smith in this speech.

  4. Hi FM — great essay as usual. Below are some thoughts. Apologies for the long comment.

    I could easily be wrong, but I think an explanation involving internal power dynamics among factions within the MIC makes the most sense to me. I hypothesize that the factional split involves broad aspects of American strategic posture towards Russia, with vast networks of alliances and billions of dollars of defense spending (and overseas sales) at stake. This is not quite your explanation (2), but it’s similar: the motivation boils down to money (and/or foreign policy philosophy) not politics. The hypothesis is that a *successful* “soft coup” was executed by the CIA (taking advantage of internal divisions within FBI) and targeted at *Flynn*, not Trump. (A secondary hypothesis is that given Trump’s weak political position, magnified by partisan media exaggeration, the forces behind these events might be perfectly happy to see Trump go, even if that wasn’t their primary objective.)

    The first piece of evidence that leads me towards this conclusion is Flynn’s role as head of DIA. In one of the most interesting FOIA-disclosed documents of recent years (http://www.judicialwatch.org/document-archive/pgs-287-293-291-jw-v-dod-and-state-14-812-2/), DIA analysts predicted accurately in 2012 that US policy in Syria would lead to the ISIS situation. On the other hand, it seems clear that CIA leaders were (together with Sec Clinton) fully on board with arming jihadists to undermine Assad. Assuming Flynn trusted his own analysts within DIA, there has been a serious rift within NSC concerning Syria strategy since almost the beginning of the civil war. Obama’s decision seems to have been to avoid making any real decision about who to trust. That said, at some point Flynn was purged (I forget exactly when). When Trump picked him for NSD, the foreign policy think tank community Blob’s knives came out fast and hard. Since I think neoconservatives (and/or “liberal interventionists” if you prefer) basically dominate the Blob, my conclusion is that Flynn was insufficiently interventionist for their taste. This is a somewhat surprising conclusion, since Flynn’s public record is extremely anti-Iran (and Iran is among other things a Russian ally/client). But the basic strategic idea people on Flynn’s side of the factional split might have looked something like this:

    * Iran is the major threat (aside from N Korea and maybe in the long run China) we should worry about.

    * Therefore we should isolate Iran from Russia diplomatically, by pursuing detente with the Kremlin.

    * While Syria is an Iranian client-state, it’s also a Russian client for independent reasons (Tartus naval base, possibly certain oil/gas pipeline routing factors).

    * Therefore aggressively trying to topple Assad is contrary to our interests.

    Alternatively, maybe Flynn is secretly a realist about both Iran and Russia and is therefore anathema to the Blob for that reason.

    Somewhat supporting this hypothesis (that some Deep State elements viewed influence for Flynn’s perspective as a deal-breaker), there were multiple uses of security clearance revocation as a tactic to block Flynn’s appointees to NSC positions. See e.g. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/top-flynn-aide-denied-security-clearance-cia-nsc/story?id=45427487, http://freebeacon.com/national-security/pentagon-pulls-security-clearance-trump-white-house-aide/.

    Suppose we accept (for the sake of argument) the above as evidence that something like “Flynnism” — which includes a willingness to reduce tensions with Russia, but need not involve any “collusion” with the Kremlin — is a minority view within the the MIC that has existed for several years, but is regarded as anathema by the dominant neoconservative faction. Suddenly a candidate under the influence of Flynnism (interacting synergistically with Bannon’s views on foreign policy) wins the GOP nomination. This is a crisis moment in the Deep State.

    It happens to occur simultaneously with a parallel crisis in another part of the Deep State — the FBI, which institutionally probably had no particular dog in the fight about the direction for foreign policy. But there are a few reasons why various parts of FBI might have been willing to take sides:

    * I read the events of summer 2016 as showing a lot of internal division within FBI about Clinton’s fitness for office (because of the email investigation).

    * Flynn himself may have had enemies at senior levels of FBI leadership http://circa.com/politics/accountability/did-the-fbi-retaliate-against-michael-flynn-by-launching-russia-probe

    * There’s a long history of tensions between FBI and CIA (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge:_The_Secret_War_between_the_FBI_and_CIA).

    So in this interpretation, in summer 2016, CIA (motivated by a desire to prevent Trump’s victory) starts feeding intelligence to Obama about a phony Russia-Trump nexus of collusion. But the FBI is in such disarray, and not particularly institutionally aligned to investigate unsubstantiated claims from CIA, so the story is not formally debunked by an actual investigation. Fast forward to after the election, Clinton is no longer relevant, and the Blob / CIA are finally able to leverage a combination of FBI factions (those pissed at Coney for his October surprise, and Flynn’s enemies) to start the flood of leaks that successfully undermined Flynnist influence on Trump’s actual foreign policy before it could affect outcomes.

    At this point the Blob’s mission is accomplished, and they don’t particularly care about completing a “soft coup”, as long as they maintain control over Trump’s NSC. But the left-dominated media is in such a frenzy that we’re still left with talk of impeachment, etc. And Democrats in Congress were able to leverage Trump’s own ineptitude to expand to force Mueller’s appointment and expand the scope of his investigation to obstruction of justice. So impeachment is possible, and maybe the Deep State actors who pulled all this off would be fine with that, seeing Pence as more predictable and manipulable than Trump.

    1. sflicht,

      Perhaps you are correct. But I am extremely opposed to such speculation. The factual basis is too thin, the number of speculative scenarios too large, and the time wasted is too large.

      As for Flynn, the evidence against him is largely uncontested — and 10x more than sufficient to sink someone more senior than him.

  5. There is no logical reason Trump himself had to conspire with the Russians during the campaign. Putin is too smart for that. It’s doubtful he even would bring any of Trump’s team in – other than the typical wink-wink, “Of course, Mr. Manafort, it’s unfortunate these sanctions block all those business deals you represent. If only something could be done…”

    Trump’s best-and-brightest just looked for ways to monetize and got caught in FISA. Putin had his bots dig around to mess with Hillary, probably didn’t think himself that it would make much difference.

    But The Donald is clearly terrified of something and the trolling is driving him nuts. It’s probably something older, a bank loan or something they have on him from 10 years ago. He can’t shut up, he’s got to put on a show he’s working on it lest Vlad drop the hammer.

    Vlad’s best play isn’t to draw this out forever. He wants sanctions gone and the only way that’s going to happen now is if Pence takes over.

  6. One thing strikes me about the level of importance the Russiagate story has been given. For most of the US audience, other criticisms of Trump are more potent. The one group for whom the accusation of foreign influence is worth having as the lead seems like it would be the national-security crowd. So just to hypothesize a little, part of me gets the feeling it is they who are the audience of the entire show, rather than the general public.

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