So, it seems like the big story today might be the Presidential-level dossiers about the Russian government cultivating, supporting, and aiding Trump for 5 years, as well as the Trump campaign colluding with them to hack the DNC, spread fake news, and discredit Hillary Clinton.
Buzzfeed has the whole 35 pages, which were compiled by a British former intelligence officer, given to the FBI by John McCain (though they already had much of it) and then given to both Obama and Trump last week. It’s pretty explosive, as Chris Hayes just told me.
There are salacious bits, of course: some very salacious, but those aren’t the main points.
Some quick thoughts on this.
- Start with the naughty bits: sex parties, and Trump paying prostitutes to urinate on hotel beds in Russia in which the Obama had stayed. This bothers me, for a few reasons:
- Unless the FSB releases the tapes, it’s just rumor, and people won’t actually believe it.
- I sort of don’t, because he’s such a germaphobe, but who knows how fetishes work, exactly?
- It is going to be a distraction. People can argue about the sex stuff, without actually discussing anything else.
- And that’s sort of the point: none of this has been verified. At all. And that means that the whole Russia stuff can be easily denied, conflated with some unverified nonsense. That worries me. Any time you bring up the actual issues with Russian involvement, even if it doesn’t involve Trump, it’ll be easy for people to say “oh, you mean the bullshit sex pages? Come on!”
- That said…it’s weird to give these to Trump and Obama without some idea. I know the official story is just that “we wanted to make them aware these were out there”, but do they do that for every rumor? I doubt it. It seems that they had to have some belief in them to present them to POTUS and Trump.
- Like, with Hillary and emails, does this RAISE QUESTIONS about TROUBLING BEHAVIOR? Of course not.
- Last political thing: I’ll bet five American dollars he skips the presser tomorrow.
- On to more substance: it’s surprising, to me, that they would cultivate Trump for so long. Very few people would have taken him seriously in 2013 as anyone to, well, take seriously. Certainly not as President. He was just a rich clown at the time. But what it might be is that they were talking business, and thought, long-term, that he could be helpful. After all, people did listen to him about birther issues, and for whatever reason Fox had him on all the time.
- If they really did think his Presidential, than it shows the Russians know more about the US than we should be comfortable with.
- In any case, that’s true. The fake news, the allegations, the nonsense: the knew that we were so divided and stupid people would fall for idiocy and the media would lap it up. Any rational person would look at the hacked DNC emails and say “there’s nothing damning here.” But they released them anyway, and were right about our reaction.
- Mostly, it seemed what they wanted to do was cripple Hillary so that even if she won she’d be too busy picking up the pieces of her coalition to bother Russia.
- Some of the interesting parts come from tension between Putin and Medvedev, who was angry about the hacks, as well as the surprise the Russians had at the backlash to their interference. There’s also a sad part where Putin is angry that the leaks had such little impact on the polls. Sad, because at the time, Putin thought, like all of us, Trump was going to lose.
- But the most damning parts, and the parts that matter the most, are that Michael Cohen, his lawyer (he of “you can’t rape your wife” fame) met with Russian agents in Prague to discuss payment of hackers. If that is the case, that is a crime, and that could be, if traced to the top, impeachable. This is direct collusion between the Trump campaign and a foreign power to commit a crime against a political opponent.
After just one read, to me, that’s the most damning thing. Much of the report was allegations of cultivation and discussions, and Trump becoming close to Putin. I don’t know if any of that is illegal, and I know that people will excuse literally anything. There isn’t the “in hock to Russia” that might be the most damning thing of all. The blackmail is dangerous, of course. But now that it is out, how dangerous is it?
What might be most sobering–other than the Michael Cohen stuff, which can’t be buried–is how the Russian viewed Trump. Someone on Hardball said that he wasn’t being “recruited” per se, which: of course. Who would want Trump as a spy? He’s too dumb and too self-centered to be a real asset for Russia.
What he is, of course, is a chaos agent. I think the Russians recognized that his mastery of social media, lack of ideology, and incredible need to satiate his ego, made him someone who coud rile up a fractured America. We’ll be discussing the legal ramifications of the revelations, as well as what they all mean for a President, for a long time to come. What might be the msot frightening part is that the Russians understood how fragile our democracy is, and how easily it can be shattered, and found the perfect person to do it. And it worked.