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Where There’s Trump Smoke, There’s Likely Dumpster Fire

[ 50 ] July 13, 2017 |

 

To add context to my post from yesterday about Trump and corruption, go read Seva Gunitsky’s commentary on Twitter. It’s occasioned by a letter that Democratic House Judiciary members sent to Jeff Sessions, which demands to know why the Department of Justice suddenly—and unexpectedly—settled a Russian money-laundering case. A very quick summary:

Democratic congressmen on the House Judiciary Committee want to know why Attorney General Jeff Sessions abruptly settled a money laundering case in May involving the same Russian attorney who met with Donald Trump Jr. during the presidential election to offer “dirt” on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

The civil forfeiture case was filed in 2013 by Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York — who was fired by Trump in March. The case alleged that 11 companies were involved in a tax fraud in Russia and then laundered a portion of the $230 million they got into Manhattan real estate.

The forfeiture case was heralded at the time as “a significant step towards uncovering and unwinding a complex money laundering scheme arising from a notorious foreign fraud,” Bharara said. “As alleged, a Russian criminal enterprise sought to launder some of its billions in ill-gotten rubles through the purchase of pricey Manhattan real estate.”

But Instead of proceeding with the trial as scheduled, the Trump Justice Department settled the case two days before it was due to begin. By then, Bharara had already been axed by the president. Bharara’s assistant did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Seva’s thread contains links to article with more details, including the defense lawyer’s account of the surprise settlement as too good to refuse. It starts here:

We’ve spent decades being flooded by pseudo-scandals driven by right-wing media and politicians. We’ve seen the GOP base become convinced that the Obama Administration—which will likely be recognized as the cleanest administration in modern American history—was a wretched hive of scum and villainy. There’s reason to believe that the left is increasingly vulnerable to hucksters and conspiracy theorists when it comes to the Trump Administration. So I think we need to be careful about getting ahead of what we actually know, or can reasonably surmise.

But as Scott’s post reminds us, even what we know is all kinds of awful. There’s basically no way to game out the possibilities that doesn’t lead to a barrel of bad. And so it’s hard to ignore as set of dots here, and a set of dots there, connect up.

The revelations of the past few days put to rest any doubt about whether there’s fire within the smoke. Three senior members of the Trump campaign attempted to collude against Clinton with someone they believed to be brokering for the Russian government, and then lied about. The sequence of events makes it very hard to believe that the President didn’t know, and hasn’t been aggressive deceiving Americans, since during the campaign. More recently, the Trump White House concocted the cover story for Jr., and Trump approved it.  So the only question is how broad and how deep the blaze.

The trick now is not losing our minds.* Welcome to post-truth America.

*Well, okay. The real trick is how to prevent the destruction of American democracy, the gutting of social insurance, an accelerating transfer of wealth to the rich, foreign-policy disasters of various magnitudes, ethnocratic policies targeting vulnerable minorities, the rollback of LGBTQ and women’s rights, ecological collapse…. but not losing one’s mind is important too.

Image by NPS photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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  • Mike in DC

    At the extreme, if the Russians laundered money into congressional campaigns, it would implicate pretty much the entire leadership cadre of the Republican party, including Preibus, Ryan, McConnell and perhaps lower tier leadership. That seems like a potential extinction level political event, if all the facts of it came out. Thats the “hundreds of indictments” scenario. Still seems unlikely, but less unlikely than it was a year ago.

    • NewishLawyer

      IOKWYAR will save the day.

    • Yixing’s Fluffer

      Pence will smirk, shake his head, and use his years of talk radio training to explain that it’s a nothing burger unlike Grand Wizard of the KKK Nancy Pelosi.

      • Mike in DC

        In the spirit of the late Liu Xiaobo, I recommend optimism and taking the long view.

  • Cervantes

    As far as losing your mind is concerned, anybody who isn’t paranoid right now is nuts.

    • Jon_H11

      When my dad was skeptical of the Russia stuff last July I wrote him:

      ” Paranoia routinely confirmed is called vigilance.”.

      I’ve gotten a hell of a lot of I-told-you-so’s out of that thread.

    • epidemiologist

      I am reading “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” right now. One of Hofstadter’s components of the style is an unrealistic belief in the knowledge and effectiveness of the conspirators.

      I have noticed this belief in myself sometimes since November and it has been a great place to draw the line between accurately noting the evil at the top, and tipping over into being ruled by fear or being a crank. Also it suggests that even though things are really terrible, hope and resistance may actually be the rational responses.

  • BloodyGranuaile

    TNR just published a rather excellent longread that gives an overview of money laundering and Trump’s properties over the past 30 years. Some very excellent mafia movies are going to be made about this someday.
    https://newrepublic.com/article/143586/trumps-russian-laundromat-trump-tower-luxury-high-rises-dirty-money-international-crime-syndicate

    • The Cohen Brothers will film the movie. it will be a cross between “Burn After Reading” and the Big Lebowski but it will be called “All The Presidents Men II: No Country For Orange Men”.

      Cast:
      John Goodman as Steve Bannon
      John Turturo as Donny, Jr.
      Francis McDormand as Kellyanne Conway
      and introducing Chris Cillizza as Jared Kushner

  • rm_rm_rm

    If they succeed at this shit without convictions and ruined careers, then they will have won and will get to write the history, and in the future the Obama administration will be viewed as a bed of corruption and the Trump presidency the founding of a shining new era. Like Reconstruction was all bad, and Richard III was a deformed monster, and the Alamo was a noble defeat that rallied support for a good cause. A fiction written by the winners.

    I don’t think they can pull it off, but I am a starry-eyed idealist sometimes. It’s kind of hard to imagine everyone going to jail who should be going to jail in this situation. Lots of voters think it’s fake news.

    • Chet Murthy

      If they succeed at this shit, it won’t be -American- historians writing that history, my friend. Nobody takes NORK historians’ claims (I’m sure there are some) that L’il Kim is a Great Democratic Leader with any seriousness *grin*.

      As to the rest of your comment, yeah, i agree 100% I also still have faith in our citizenry. After all, it’s (along with the IC and some of the press & judiciary) all we got.

      • Unemployed_Northeastern

        Yeah, the ~2075AD Oxford History of the United States volume covering the Trump years will be an interesting read.

    • reattmore

      Richard III was a deformed monster
      Ever since they dug up the body, it has been clear that Richard III really was deformed.

      • wjts

        They should have called him “Johnny Deformed”.

        • N__B

          “Deformed” is John Barron’s middle name.

      • Cervantes

        But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,

        Nor made to court an amorous looking glass;

        I, that am rudely stamped and want love’s majesty

        To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;

        I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion,

        Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,

        Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time

        Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,

        And that so lamely and unfashionable

        That dogs bark at me as I halt by them—

        Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,

        Have no delight to pass away the time,

        Unless to see my shadow in the sun

        And descant on mine own deformity.

    • Lurking Canadian

      It’s a shame none of us will be around in the year 4000. They’ll be picking apart whatever records remain in the same way we pick apart Suetonius. “The consensus of historians is that some of Trump’s financial misdeeds as reported by Suetonius II are probably accurate, but he was almost certainly just repeating court gossip with the stuff about ogling underage beauty pageant contestants in their underwear…”

      • There won’t be any historians examining records in 4000. Stone-Age tribes trying to eke out a subsistence living in a biosphere ravaged by climate change don’t have time for that sort of thing.

    • EdLES

      They have succeeded. Trump isn’t the beginning, it’s the end–the result of over 40 years of regulatory capture and oligarch maneuvering (legal and otherwise). It will not be undone easily or quickly, or possibly at all. See “Tentacles of Rage” in the Sept. 2004 Harpers, or Tom Sullivan’s “Tentacles of Rage Revisited” at Digby, May 6, 2017.

  • Kevin

    This is honestly where I think the story is going to shift, and this is the part of the story that is going to lead to jail time. It’s all looking pretty blatant. But we shall see…

    • BiloSagdiyev

      What has he done that wasn’t blatant?! It’s amazing that such an asshole can do so well. Oh wait, now the godbotherers have laid HANDS-uh upon his BOD-y, so everything’s fine with that share of the 28% that hold American hostage.

  • Murietta

    Over on the Twitter, Maggie Haberman tweeted that the mood in Trumpland is good — they think they’ve turned a corner. Yglesias replied that yes, of course they are in a good mood, they’ve now learned that even with public proof of collusion Republicans will do nothing (I paraphrase). That is depressingly right. The thing we said we knew is now a proven fact, and Repubs have given Trump proof that they are willing to eat it. That is so fucking dangerous.

    • Daglock

      The GOP’s willingness to feast on the dog’s breakfast is exasperating and scary. EMAILZ!

    • TheBrett

      The nice thing about Trumpland thinking they’ve turned a corner is that next week they always find some new way to screw it up and stir the pot all over again.

      • howard77

        the exact point i wanted to make: while it’s true that gop congressional electeds found yet another way to live with the unspeakable, the investigation(s) continue, both formally by mueller and informally by every investigative reporter in the country,

        as a result, the corner will never be turned, but it’s cute that they are such unsophisticated thinkers that they keep imagining this time for sure….

        • Deborah Bender

          If you keep turning corners in the same direction, you either go in circles or in a spiral . . .

          • Jared Teets

            Like some kind of…death spiral…

          • NASCAR has been turning left for decades but at the end of the day, they still support the GOP

          • Not yet circles for them because with other things they are still wrecking havoc and getting richer

    • Also, you know, that the Republican base could give two shits as well.

    • Ithaqua

      That doesn’t mean, however, that Mr. Mueller will do nothing.

      • The Lorax

        And then Trump will fire him, or find his Bork to do so, and the GOP will do nothing.

        • reattmore

          From a political point of view, Trump’s best course might be to pardon everyone in sight, and thank and excuse Mr. Mueller on the grounds that his investigation is moot, quickly, before anything else comes out.

      • Deborah Bender

        Can Muelller bring charges over the opposition of Jeff Sessions?

        And what is the correct pronunciation of his surname? The hosts on MSNBC say “Muhler” but my guess would be “Mewler” except to a German who would say the umlaut.

        • Hogan

          In what is undoubtedly the best only good decision of his life, Sessions has officially recused himself from the Russia investigation.

        • Katya

          It’s pronounced MULL-er.

    • Karen

      “Pride goeth before a fall, and a haughty spirit before destruction.”

  • Brien Jackson

    NEO-MCCARTHITE!

  • I think it is quite reasonable to believe that anyone who is up to their neck in the pricey Manhattan real estate market has laundered some money, Russian or otherwise.

  • The Lorax

    I think it is highly likely DOJ settled this because Putin has dirt on Sessions.

  • Murc

    I feel like the title of this post is a missed opportunity to use the pun “Trumpster fire.”

  • Adam Short

    I’ve stayed out of most of the Trump/Russia stuff as I have heterodox views it seems on whether it’s a crime to collude with a foreign power to influence a US election (I don’t see how/why it is illegal to do this, but am more than happy to be wrong and I agree it SEEMS like it should be illegal). but all along I’ve been in favor of the investigation into Russia because the real story has little to do with that and everything to do with the fact that the President of the United States has run the New York chapter of the Russian mob for about twenty years.

    I heartily applaud this inquiry and cannot wait to see what it uncovers. Even though I already know what it uncovers but I still want to see it. Let’s do this.

    • Murc

      Ironically, it’s covered under campaign finance.

      Basically, people are forbidden from accepting foreign cash or in-kind contributions to their political campaigns, for reason that ought to be obvious.

      Oppo research is an in-kind contribution.

      Basically, it is illegal for the Russians (or the Chinese, or the British, or the Canadians) to write a big old check to Trump’s campaign, and it is also illegal for them to present that campaign with any other contribution that has value that is even vaguely monetary.

      • sigaba

        It seems like, as a collateral concern, any sort of “opposition research” from a foreign government would, in any other context, be called “espionage.”

    • the fact that the President of the United States has run the New York chapter of the Russian mob for about twenty years.

      “Run with”, maybe; “run by”, almost surely; “run”, no way—they’d have to be crazy to let him anywhere near their levers of power (except, indeed, at the business end).

  • pylonius

    But Hilary’s charity got donations from people who also wanted a meeting with her at State (and didn’t get one).

  • Bri2k

    When that Nazi dirt bag Gorka is the one you tap to defend you, you know you’re in trouble.

    • the most odious of them all- and that’s saying quite a bit

  • cpinva

    dnexon, dude, you must be a really fun date. losing our minds might actually be a blessing in disguise.