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

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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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