I think that one reason people have taken up the Steele dossier as a key to Donald Trump’s election wrongdoing is that it is a relatively compact telling of events, from which a narrative may be extracted.
Most of the news coverage is of one small piece of the story at a time. The format of the articles tends to be a general statement of that small piece, perhaps with a bit of background, then a more detailed explanation of the small piece, and then more background. Space is limited, and the story is big. The cast appears to include thousands.
I find those articles largely unreadable and uninformative. Journalists seem to be having trouble too. Sally Buzbee, the executive editor of AP, said the Trump-Russia probes have “gone on so long that it’s difficult to be able to assess what in this investigation is truly very serious and what is not as serious. So that is one thing that journalists struggle with a little bit…” (video here; quote begins at 4:30) That certainly could be one reason that their articles are unreadable.
We need an overall story into which we can fit the breaking news. That will help us figure out what is truly very serious. Elliott Broidy, as far as we know now, is not as important to the story as Erik Prince, who is not as important as Donald Trump Jr. A master narrative can show where characters and subplots fit. Then the subplots can be written separately, noting the connections.
So I’m going to stick my neck out and provide a narrative. It is a bare-bones framework on which we can hang the many subplots and add in facts as they emerge. I’ve also added questions that need to be answered. I suspect that Robert Mueller has answers to some of those questions.
I invite you to suggest subplots. I’ll add them to my list and perhaps write another post in which I try to incorporate them into the narrative.
The narrative is below the fold.
The Trump Narrative
- Early Days
In the late 1980s, Trump became interested in arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union. He advised one participant in those negotiations to stride into the room, stick his finger in his interlocutor’s chest, shout “Fuck you,” and march out. It was during this period that he began to move toward interactions with Soviet officials and businessmen.
Questions: How did this interest develop? Who was advising Trump at this time?
- Contacts with the Soviet Union and Russia
Felix Sater and Michael Cohen were long involved with organized crime in the US and other countries, including Ukraine and other Soviet republics that became independent nations after the breakup of the Soviet Union. As an advisor to Trump, Sater set up visits to Russia for him and his children. Cohen has been Trump’s fixer and has family ties to Ukrainian organized crime.
Trump wanted to build a Trump Tower Moscow and negotiated to bring that about through the campaign and election season of 2016. Both Sater and Cohen were involved in these negotiations. Ivanka Trump was heavily involved in building a hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic. Aras Agalarov and his son Emin, Russian entrepreneurs, helped Trump with Russian and other contacts. Trump mused that Vladimir Putin and he could work together to solve the world’s problems.
After his bankruptcies, American banks would not finance Trump. His financing came from foreign banks and may well have been Russian.
During this time, he also became the celebrity boss of “The Apprentice.”
Questions: What contacts did Trump have with New York organized crime? What was the overlap with organized crime in other countries? How much Russian money financed Trump? Does he still owe money to Russian organizations? What happened during his and his childrens’ visits to Russia and other former Soviet countries?
- The Campaign
Paul Manafort, who had advised the Russia-leaning candidate for the presidency of Ukraine, was Trump’s campaign manager for several months, taking no salary from the campaign although he had enormous debts. He also continued his Russian contacts. The contacts between Russian organizations and Trump campaign personnel were many: Russian money contributed to inauguration funds; Michael Flynn, during the campaign and as National Security Advisor; Donald Jr. and others in a June 9 meeting to get “dirt” on Clinton; Roger Stone and Wikileaks got the Clinton emails out; George Papadopoulos and Carter Page as foreign policy advisors to Trump. The Trump campaign managed to bend a Republican campaign plank on Ukraine toward Russia’s preferences.
Additionally, Flynn and Erik Prince, Betsy DeVos’s brother and an “informal advisor” interacted with Saudi Arabian representatives on policy matters. Their meetings included Russian participants.
The primary driver on the Russian side seems to have been a desire to get sanctions lifted, and Trump was the candidate who might do that. They also mounted a social media campaign via Facebook and Twitter that continues.
Maria Butina convinced NRA members she was a friend. She attended Trump rallies and asked him a question at one. The NRA contributed heavily to the Trump campaign.
Questions: Did Trump direct these interactions? How much did he know of the Russian social media campaign? Did Russia contribute to the NRA as a pass-through for Trump? How were the improbable “foreign policy team” chosen? Manafort?
- The Presidency
Since Trump has been President, one of the few people he has spoken no bad words about is Putin. He has said a number of times that it would be better to be friends with Russia than our current standoff, but he seems unable to develop that sort of relationship. He has not acknowledged the illegality of Russia’s occupation of Crimea nor Russia’s role in the 2016 election. After his meeting with Putin in Helsinki, he said he took Putin’s word rather than that of the American intelligence community. Photos from that meeting show him looking shaken.
He has raised questions about American support of NATO, been rude or hostile to leaders of allied nations in person and by tweet, has given orders to withdraw from Syria, has said nothing about the poisoning by Novichok in the UK, and disrupted multinational meetings.
His rhetoric divides Americans. Some of his policies, like the separation of immigrant children from their parents, are likely human rights crimes. Even when he makes a decision that arguably is right, he executes it badly.
Much of what he does damages America internally and externally. This is in line with Putin’s desire to diminish other countries so that Russia’s place is improved relative to them. However, some of the government continues to levy sanctions against Russia and other parts, like the military, behave in what can be considered a normal manner toward Russia.
Questions: Is Russia using kompromat on Trump? Why the disconnect between Trump’s Russia policy and that of other parts of the government? In terminology used about the Soviet Union, is Trump a useful idiot (unknowingly furthers Russia’s goals) or a fellow traveler (knowingly in sync with Putin)?
The biggest hole in the publicly available evidence is in connecting Trump to the activities of his family and people who work for him. But the number of Russian contacts alone makes it hard to believe he knew nothing about those contacts. The circumstantial evidence is there. Impeachment can be justified in a number of ways; it does not depend on finding direct evidence for that connection.
Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.
Maybe note about Helsinki that he and Putin met without any official record of the proceedings.
What hold does Putin have over him? Why is he so obsequious in Putin’s presence, for example in Helsinki.
What about Seth Abramson’s book – Proof of Collusion?
Trump laundered millions of Russian mob money by selling them overpriced condos for cash. That kept Trump afloat for years.
This Politico Magazine article from 2017 has a lot of good info about the Soviet Union visit, how they cultivated Trump, etc.
Mike in NC
He’s been a Soviet/Russian asset since about 1989.
@BretH: Seth Abramson and a few other people spending a lot of time on Trump on the internet leap to conclusions on the basis of too little evidence. I don’t read them.
Thanks Cheryl, I always appreciate your contributions.
Yes, of course. They had a section for kompromat on him in their files on him going back to the 1970s, according to the article I linked above.
I didn’t see you mention Trump Models, which was filled with underage girls who were recruited from other countries, many from Russia and who worked without visas.
Link. The stories about human trafficking that are yet to come out will involve Trump Models.
That’s a tough one, since there’s potentially money and blackmail both involved, but also from watching his body language and what Trump says he admires, Trump thinks Putin is the coolest of the cool kids and wants to be his friend. Trump REALLY loves brutal, murderous dictators and has said he wishes he could be one. It’s one reason I think he may consider himself a Nazi.
hells littlest angel
I’ve managed to tune the whole thing out. I’m sure there’s accurate information out there, along with a massive amount of disinformation generated by the Trump-Putin Partnership, LLC. I’m content to let Mueller take all the time he needs to get his ducks lined up, at which time I will pay very close attention. I have no doubt Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice, since he committed it in plain sight, and that alone means he belongs in prison, but I’ll wait for the documentary evidence of his other crimes. In the meantime, speculating on the existence of the Pee Tape is an exercise in pointlessness (which is why I think the tape story is disinformation straight from the pros at the GRU).
@Yarrow: Seems like Eastern Promises was not just a movie.
He was not chosen for The Apprentice by accident. Mark Burnett has ties to Russia and in fact was going to produce a reality show about Putin before he created The Apprentice.
Remember that Burnett is married to Roma Downey and they are big in Christian circles. The Christian right is all mixed up with Russia, just like the NRA and other “conservative” cultural organizations.
Fascinating, Cheryl. Can you include some sourcing? Thx.
@Cheryl Rofer: Good to see you confirm my feelings about Abramson.
Mike in NC
Trump and his master share many traits: paranoia, vanity, greed, and the inability to accept any criticism, for starters.
@Cheryl Rofer: @schrodingers_cat: I don’t trust Abramson. He also takes other people’s work without credit. I do not trust someone who does that.
@Yarrow: What do you think about Kendzior. I find her relentless gloominess and self-promotion off-putting.
To be fair, Putin in 2001 was a very different animal.
Just having “ties to Russia” isn’t necessarily nefarious. I’ve had ties to Russia for decades, but I haven’t stolen any elections.
I think you are spot on. We are looking at a 25 year relationship wherein Russian Oligarchs and financial institutions financed Trump’s projects and in return Trump laundered Russian money through the sale of Trump property condos.
@sgrAstar: I have tried to keep to facts that are pretty widely accepted. I am trying to keep things simple, thus no sourcing.
@hells littlest angel: Agree. I don’t see the point in speculating, when there is (we assume) an end-point for the investigation at which time the relevant information will either be released or leaked. The Trump camp profits when a proliferation of untrue or halfway true theories serve to “flood the zone with shit.”
@Cheryl Rofer: Sources for everything I’ve said can be found by googling.
I’m wondering who Turner Classic Movies was throwing shade at by showing the subpar Tracy/Hepburn movie Keeper of the Flame yesterday. I suspect John Kelly, but it could have been Mattis instead.
(The link goes to Wikipedia instead of IMDb because Wikipedia gives the spoilers that explain what makes me think they were throwing shade at Trump’s generals.)
@schrodingers_cat: Agree with your take. She’s got a good understanding of some things but overall she’s a gloom purveyor. Every time I read her I feel down. The spreading of gloom is a specific technique adjunct to other active measures, which is designed to keep people from feeling like they can make a difference. I consider her dangerous in that regard.
@zhena gogolia: Sure, lots of people have “ties to Russia” but most of them aren’t going to get close enough to power to be able to make a reality show with the leader of the country. My shorthand is probably not specific enough but those are the kinds of “ties to Russia” I meant. Regular people don’t get that kind of high level access.
I guess that in the spirit of what Cheryl’s trying to do, I’d like to keep some perspective. In 2001 it looked as if Russia might develop into a true ally, and Putin hadn’t shown his authoritarian tendencies yet, if I remember correctly. I hold no brief for Burnett, but the whole Russian-Orthodoxy-as-a-branch-of-government hadn’t developed in Russia at that point, so the Christian connection wouldn’t have had the same force.
@Cheryl Rofer: Cheryl, I think it would be helpful to have some of the activities described in connection with the applicable laws that have been broken. I think this “fatique” the AP editor described exists in part because not everyone knows what makes the conduct illegal.
There is some pretty good evidence that Putin has been courting American fundamentalists, in part by using the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia to do outreach to American fundies and sing his praises.
Cheryl and other people who have worked in national security have described what it was like when they ran into someone from Russia or China who seemed to have ulterior motives. I’m pretty sure you also would have shut down any contacts who seemed to be asking for information beyond what you were comfortable providing.
@Lapassionara: I’m trying to tell a story that we can wrap our heads around to make sense of the news. So I’m keeping it simple. Lawfare has been very good on the legal issues.
I know it’s not the main thing or anything you mentioned above, but I keep coming back to emoluments.
No, I’m being a bit coy about it. I think the emoluments issue has a strong chance of being the cornerstone of the case that brings Trump down. While there are still a lot of issues under contention (see the Maryland/DC suit on the subject), what is now legal fact is the Trump foundation, while under the direction of the then-candidate Trump, took money from foreign donors. And because of the way he did not separate himself from control and information on it, the money from foreign donors while he was president were at least nominally to his information if not at his direction.
And all of this is courtroom fact due to the court’s decision on what to do with the foundation.
Yes, I think the other stuff is worse. But this? I think it’s the Capone Tax thing
Under 3. The Campaign, I think it would be worth exploring why Mike Pence was Manafort’s hand-picked choice as Trump’s VP candidate. IIRC, Trump wanted out of the commitment to Pence just hours before the official announcement, and when he introduced Pence he quickly strode off-stage leaving his running mate symbolically abandoned. Clearly, he hated the whole idea. How was he pressured into making that choice?
Buzbee’s getting burned on Twitter.
Apparently from Whitewater to Benghazi!!!!!!!! none of the other “investigations” were too long, ( 7 years) or too confusing, ( Uranium #1) for Associated Press to cover relentlessly, stitch up a narrative for, or publish Wingnut Narratives relentlessly.
I understand the Trump/Russia narrative so far, both what it might be, what it has been shown to be, and it’s current and possible impacts and results.
It’s not that “complex”, but it does have a “cast of thousands”.
But then, I don’t work in MSM Journalmentalism. I have a real job.
Villago Delenda Est
@Yarrow: I think it’s advisable to put rabbit ears around the word “Christian” because these vile people do not follow Jesus of Nazareth. They follow Mammon and/or Moloch. The NRA is heavily into Moloch.
“The Apprentice” debuted in 2004 and put Trump back into the public eye in a very flattering way.
I don’t trust Mark Burnett, but YMMV. The problem is not that he’s a vocal Christian, it’s that he seems to have been using his Christian contacts to boost Putin and Trump for over a decade.
I don’t think his interest was in “arms control negotiations” with the Soviet Union, but rather needed a smoke screen to cover his own dealings with Soviet players.
When did reputable banks cut him off and when did the influx of soviet money / services bail his ass out?
Villago Delenda Est
@sukabi: Right after the publicly traded Trump corporation went tits up, leaving the investors high and dry with tons of debt that the corp took on from Donald’s private ventures.
@Villago Delenda Est: which was about the time of his “arms control” interest?
Again, 2001 and 2004 are very different times in Russia. Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003. That was a kind of watershed, and things started moving fast at that point. All I was doing was trying to point out that wanting to do a show with Putin in 2001 was not necessarily a horrible thing.
I am making notes of suggestions for questions and subplots. Although nobody has called what they’re saying “subplots.”
Just a reminder: Trump was given money for border security. He’s only spent 6% of it. #TrumpShutdown
@Cheryl Rofer: follow the money. This started back when his “respectable” money dried up.
@zhena gogolia: I appreciate your take on the issue. I have a different opinion about Putin from what I’ve read about him, even during that era.
As for Mark Burnett, I didn’t include the second half of that paragraph about his wanting to make another show with Putin but here it is:
Like I said above, that kind of thing takes access and connections. It’s my understanding based some other reading I’ve done that Putin has kompromat on Burnett.
@Villago Delenda Est: I don’t because that’s what they call themselves.
Yes. Your take is also my understanding.
The Midnight Lurker
Whatever Steele uncovered is bigger than Trump. Mueller is going global. It’s that pesky third mandate that has the money men shaken. IMHO.
@Cheryl Rofer: Thanks.
Michael Cohen says he didn’t go to Prague, but it appears that his phone went to Prague. Who speaks Czech, has family in the CZ Republic, and could claim they were merely visiting? (Hint: Their mom’s name is Ivana Trump).
@The Midnight Lurker: Agreed. If we start talking about a global conspiracy we sound like nutjobs but I don’t know any other way to describe it. Mueller has taken down organized crime several times before. This is his biggest case yet and it has the potential to upend all sorts of things all over the world.
Right, and if Burnett’s only tie to Putin was that 2001 attempt at doing a reality show, then it would be silly to harp on that. But it’s not his only tie to Putin, and Burnett has continued to help Putin and boost him to other fundamentalist Christians for the last 17 years. People suspect that creating “The Apprentice” in 2004 specifically to showcase Donald Trump was part of Burnett’s assistance.
Again: it’s Burnett’s ongoing ties with and assistance to Putin that are the problem. The 2001 reference is just to show where the Burnett/Putin story seems to begin.
I’ve come to believe it’s more Trump’s an agent of influence.
It may be obvious, but I’ve come to the conclusion Trump is the easiest of marks.
He is the fish at the table…RU, the Saudis, and Adelson all realized early on not to tap the glass.
Need a better pejorative to gently shame such people with and to alert some of their readers. I’ve used “gloom porn”; with “nihilistic” or “nihilism” in the mix. A wordsmith could do better though.
I think it needs to be stated very clearly, as opposed to implied, that Trump became involved with (and indebted to) Russian organized crime back in the 1980s, ahead of his brief, blazing glory as a a c*sino owner.
@Mnemosyne: Yes, this is my take. Although I’d guess it began earlier than that but at that point Putin got kompromat on Burnett. I’ve read it’s financial at least but could be more.
Burnett seems to be a pretty boring dude in his personal life, so financial kompromat would make sense. The life of even a successful TV producer can have some major financial ups and downs, and taking a loan or two from his friend Vladimir might not have seemed so bad.
If Cohen’s phone went to Prague, Cohen went to Prague.
Cheryl, I think the narrative needs more questions for each section, especially general questions. They motivate investigative journalists.
Schema seems to work; I may try it out on some people at a NYE party tomorrow.
Elliot Broidy’s influence-peddling operation found customers in Malaysia who were conncted to the 1MDB scandal. I would be curious to know of any interactions with he Trump camiaign and/or administration.
Donald Trump Jr.’s “we get all our financing from the Russians” is a good place for a subplot to begin. That leads straight into the money laundering story. That may also be about the time that Cohen and Sater came on board the Trump train. You might also note that Steve Bannon has ties to the US and Russian mobs (take a look at Daniel Hopsicker’s Mad Cow Morning News for some fascinating dot connecting.
Remember those two asshole made a TV movie an the Bible & just a silly little coincidence the person who played Satan looked exactly like President Obama
Cheryl: this is terrific work. Thank you.
I think it might be simple enough for some of our journalistic hacks to follow. Should their corporate masters allow it. And, if Trump is tanking the market (the glory of US of A being mammon to these types), it could happen.
@Bill Arnold: I am happy to note down any questions you can think up.
@Amir Khalid: I just saw that today, I think in a longish NYT article. The extent of the corruption is mindboggling.
Okay, I may be reading more into what you’ve said here than I should be, but it sounds like you’re maybe worried that some of your contacts with Russians post-2001 could be held against you? I seriously doubt that, except maybe by some trolls trying to make trouble.
At most, there might have been a few conversations or discussions that you thought were weird at the time that were attempts at getting kompromat information out of you, but they went nowhere because you weren’t interested in betraying your country. The FSB probably has a file on you, but it’s probably a carryover from your old KGB file anyway.
Again, it’s not that any contact with any Russians is automatically suspicious. It’s that any contact with the Russians that boosted Republicans and Republican organizations like the NRA is suspicious.
Thanks, Cheryl. I agree that the news stories have been hard to follow because they do not connect to a larger narrative.
There were parts of the narrative where other countries came into play such as Turkey. What were the connections with the people involved and Turkey? Was there a reason that we did not crack down on Erdogan after his thugs beat up those people protesting in DC? Was Flynn the only connection to Turkey?
I’ve seen a list of all the Trump-related Russian contacts– I think the number of items in the list came to 17. The length of the list and the number of different people involved is what convinced me that there was both smoke and fire there. It might be useful to either find the list (it was in the news) or create a new one. It’s a potent argument all by itself, and it identifies a large group of ‘players’.
We got to the Easy in the late pm. Loaded the dogs up in their cart and pushed them around the Quarter. People loved em!
@Yarrow: My issue with Kendzior (at least what I’ve read of her) isn’t so much that she’s too pessimistic, but that she tends to use the word “authoritarian” as if it has magical significance. It’s like: (paraphrase) “Sure it’s easy to see that the Trump administration is extremely right-wing, and dishonest and corrupt, and is abusing its power, and egging on neo-Nazis, and if they were to obtain even more power it would obviously be worse for everyone… BUT what you may not realize is, these are qualities of an AUTHORITARIAN regime! Here are the ten warning signs that you should watch for, and also the signs that have already happened. Keep a checklist handy.” It’s a kind of “here, you can have this special insight that most people don’t have, even if you can’t actually do anything with it” approach to politics that isn’t any more informative than just reporting on what is happening.
BCHS Class of 1980
@Bill Arnold: And oh man, she’s Sister Mary Sunshine compared to Masha Gessen. She reminds me of Ivanova from B5 (“Always boom tomorrow.”) and makes me feel like the self-immolator that Robert Hays talks to on Airplane!.
No, I’m not worried in the slightest about myself. I don’t travel in those circles. I guess I just think we need to keep focused on things that are documented as fishy financial dealings rather than perhaps a showman thinking he’s got a money-making spectacle. I really don’t know that much about Burnett.
Given that Trump can’t learn and that much of his conception of how the world works comes straight out of the past, what if his conception of Russia’s relative strength is based on that of the Soviet Union? Russia only punches above its weight due to its ownership of a sizable nuclear arsenal and doesn’t have much economic pull beyond an arms industry. It seems Trump formed an idea about the Soviet Union/Russia sometime between the late-60s and the Soviet collapse and failed to reassess in light of new information.
Sticking to Josh Marshall’s idea that when it comes to Trump usually the stupidest explanation is correct I’m gonna assume that he still thinks Russia is number 2 on any given metric and that guides how he approaches Putin (along with willingness to be flattered and openly bought).
“Yeah, every German was a little girl during the War. Either that or they were in Switzerland.”
@Schlemazel: Yes they did make it. Horrible thing. Burnett is also made “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.” I could go way down the conspiracy route talking about how her husband was a member of the Alaska Independence Party and how Russia has boosted all separatist parties around the US, but it makes my head hurt.
@notjonathon: Remember Eric Trump’s claim they get their funding for golf courses from Russia? Link.
It was Jr. who said “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
The 1MDB corruption is just immense. All sorts of people are going to be wrapped up in that.
I can’t wait for Ivanka’s turn to arrive.
Ah, okay. Well, trust me when I tell you that Burnett is fishy as hell, and has lots of equally fishy contacts. He may be a relatively minor player in the whole plot, but the Russian ties that he promoted to his fundie Christian friends are not innocent, IMO, and it’s not a coincidence that he picked has-been Donald Trump to be the star of his show and showcased Trump’s Large Adult Children, to boot. After the first season, a female Trump Organization manager was replaced on the show by Ivanka, and Jr and Eric both made multiple appearances.
Completely off topic, but I’m proud of my state:
I found the AP article a bunch of whining bullshyt.
Folks acting real simple, like we haven’t made movies like The Bourne series a hit. Like folks never read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
I find all this White Privilege pushed to the extreme.
If this was 44?
The Electoral College never would have certified the election.
We have a President who is an asset of a hostile foreign power.
Beginning, middle end of the story.
His entire WH is compromised.
Not complex at all.????
??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??
So I’m guessing those Trump Apprentice tapes are probably long destroyed if Burnett is compromised?
totus thug impeached is the only narrative I am interested in.
I think you might have the start of something very useful. A living document that grows as we learn more. Consider this as a route forward.
Stick with your ” overall story into which we can fit the breaking news”. Tell the story as simply as possible and as accurately as possible. Make it something like an Executive Summary in which the most important information is given without detail and documentation. Then let contributors add information and ideas on separate pages that cover each topic (Trump money laundering, Russian disinformation bots, etc.)
One way to set this up would be to use Google Documents. Create an ExSum document and then a document for each issue/topic. Links to those additional pages could be pasted at the bottom of the ExSum.
Set the pages up so that others can comment but only you can edit. That way you can copy in useful information and throw the chaff. When a page is reworked of when significant questions arise bring that page here and let people have a go at it.
Alternative Fax, a hip hop artist from Idaho
@Cheryl Rofer: @schrodingers_cat: Likewise.
I had a summer job in the South once many years ago. I stayed with a friend in a cheap apartment for three months. Being from Chicago, I had never seen cockroaches before, but the first time I turned on the kitchen light at night I saw dozens of them scurrying to get out of the light. Trying to think of what they were doing in some organized manner amounts to about the same thing Cheryl is trying to do here.
@Mnemosyne: Interesting to hear your take as someone who knows more about the industry. That’s my take on him coming from an entirely different perspective. He also completely creeps me out on a personal level.
The rats eat them all up.
??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??
Major Major Major Major’s Pathfork site would be a great tool for this as well. It was designed for story plotting and writing but could be adapted to write documents like that.
Twitchy has a list of people tearing Sally Buzbee a new one:
@rikyrah: When your salary depends on pretending not to understand at all. The art of learned helplessness.
@??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??:
Depends on who owns them and who is archiving them. If NBC owns them, they could well be sitting in the NBC/Universal archive out of Burnett’s reach, but also out of the reach of anyone who doesn’t have a court order in their hand since it looks like NBC executives don’t want to release them.
And, no, the archivists would not delete them. Plus the odds that only one copy exists are very, very low.
Alternative Fax, a hip hop artist from Idaho
@Raven: How could they not?
I should probably say that I have zero personal knowledge about Burnett. I’m just saying that it’s VERY common for even high-powered independent producers to run short of ready cash and I could easily see Russian kompromat money coming to him through that route. Financing for movies and TV is frequently shady — Get Shorty is an only slightly exaggerated version of where quite a bit of “independent” money comes from.
@rikyrah: come sit by me. ?
@Raven: That’s awesome! We need some pictures!
Is this a new thing in the industry? I remember a big chunk of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show being erased by his network. And the BBC routinely erased old TV.
If this practice has stopped, then it’s about time. I’m not a Carson fan, but these things do have historical significance and it’s a shame they disappeared.
??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??
Maybe somebody should pull a Lois Lane and steal the tapes and anonymously release them.
But to be honest, I doubt anything in them would bring him down, unless they showed him acting like a decent person. His supporters would drop him so fast.
That happened because broadcast-quality videotapes used to be really, really expensive, so TV productions would routinely erase and re-use them rather than buy new ones. I don’t have links handy, but the stories about Terry Jones from Monty Python buying their tapes from the BBC explains it pretty well.
The price of videotapes went WAY down in the 1980s, so there would be no need to erase and re-use Burnett’s tapes in 2004. Most likely, they’re locked up in a vault somewhere.
That’s also what happened to a lot of historic animation cels from the early days — they were washed and re-used so the studios wouldn’t have the expense of buying more.
If this is true, then awesome karma.
??? Goku (aka Amerikan Baka) ??
It’s like clowns stepping on rakes forever with Trump and his sycophants, I swear to god.
@plato: This sounds awesome, but is Krassenstein a trustworthy source? I honestly don’t know.
I suppose it isn’t part of this storyline, but what about when McConnell refused to sign on to making a bipartisan statement about Russian interference in the election?
That may not involve Trump directly but it helped elect him. And I don’t want the Russians “meddling” in future elections.
Yup, it’s been reported elsewhere,
@Bill Arnold: @Jay: Good.
@germy: He and his twin brother are fierce fighters from our side. Though he is not good at citing sources, I have often found his takes confirmed elsewhere.
eta: others beat me to it.
Cheryl, I re-read your post and in the first paragraph this framing stood out to me:
I think it’s not a complete framing and in fact lets the Republican party off the hook. The Republicans were complicit in what happened. It’s not just about Trump and what he did. He’s the figurehead but they let him get away with it. Why is that?
Why did they allow the platform change re: Ukraine? Why was Kislyak at the Republican convention? Was there any other reason besides just winning the election that kept McConnell from joining with Obama to warn the American people about Russian involvement in the election? Why did Paul Ryan shut up McCarthy when McCarthy said “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” What does Paul Ryan know? Remember, he was the chair of the aforementioned convention.
I could go on but all of this sort of thing points to the entire thing being bigger than just Trump. Just wanted to put that out there because I think it’s easy to blame Trump when he’s not the only one.
Was it you who said that “meddling” is what Scooby-Doo does?
“Data from the Federal Election Commission show that Blavatnik’s campaign contributions dating back to 2009-10 were fairly balanced across party lines and relatively modest for a billionaire. During that season he contributed $53,400. His contributions increased to $135,552 in 2011-12 and to $273,600 in 2013-14, still bipartisan.
In 2015-16, everything changed. Blavatnik’s political contributions soared and made a hard right turn as he pumped $6.35 million into GOP political action committees, with millions of dollars going to top Republican leaders including Sens. Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham.”
This has puzzled me from the beginning. Why Pence?
Yes, following up on that McConnell thought; what of the GOP Reps and Senators like Rohrabacher and Gaetz and Nunes who seemed oddly rabid about derailing the Special Counsel’s work? Might they have benefitted from some spare rubles tossed their way, or was it kompromat?
And hold the NRA’s feet to the fire until the fat renders. For a broke org they had an odd amount of cash to throw around in ’16.
The Steele dossier is useful as a strawman, since the information in it is admitted by everyone including Steele to be unreliable and some of it is probably bogus. So people trying to dismiss the whole Russia story can claim it’s based on the Steele dossier and then use that association to knock it down. Trump was doing that for months.
But he hasn’t done it lately, so maybe the power of that attack has waned.
@germy: “Old TV” is relative. Many shows up into the 70’s were “filmed before a live audience”. Those shows weren’t erased, but the film they were on may have seriously deteriorated beyond recovery. As TV switched over to tape, 2 things were happening – the studios were being cheap and very few were thinking of archiving things. So, tapes weren’t necssarily erased as they were taped over just like your favorite VHS was.
I know. I have to think someone has some huge kompromat on him, but I can’t quite connect the dots to figure out why Trump accepted a running mate he clearly didn’t want. And in the past two years, Pence himself has routinely been inhumanly quiet and emotionless. There is just something very off in his affect and for that matter in that whole relationship. Pence gives me the creeps.
I also think that the MSM KNOWS that it practiced Professional Malpractice in 2016.
The biggest story EVER, and they passed it up for “HER EMAILS”.
YES, there are people like me who will NEVER not throw it in their faces.
Has this already been mentioned? The early meeting in his presidency with the 2 Russians and no other US people present in which he apparently disclosed secret Israeli intelligence (Do I remember that meeting correctly?)
[Haven’t ye read through comments]
I can’t find a definitive answer, other than Pence is dumb as a post, less physically attractive, corrupt as the day is long, and brings in the Evangelical vote.
Lemmee stop you right there. Trump is only interested in two things, making money and getting his pole polished (which, in turn, takes money if you are gonna gets said pole polished by porn stars and centerfolds). That’s it. Scene.
How could this have been prevented? If nothing else, make it such that a President has to qualify for Security Clearance the old fashioned way. Trump could no more qualify for a clearance than there will be leggy twin models that find my nerdiness sexy tonight and want nothing more in life than to bear my children.
@SiubhanDuinne: Trump is Putin’s b**ch on a very creepy, personal level since the 80s.
I’m pretty sure he got beat up over some real estate deals and ever after, he has been a puppet. Not a well-guided, disciplined one, but one who would do anything for his master and to avoid the reveal of his shame.
Everything follows from this. As for Pence, Russia wanted Pence, it’s as easy as that. Trump blusters while always giving his master what he wants. Whether he liked Pence being installed as VP and his replacement has NOTHING to do with it.
I think this varies widely, and most of them are in the “Why are you always picking on me?!” level of knowing, since they think like a high school clique. The second biggest group is “Now that I have confessed to this error, I am completely absolved and can keep right on making it.”
You haven’t put ego or white supremacy on that list. Trump is very, very interested in both. Certainly more than sex, and he has spent large amounts of his personal money on white supremacy, so that one’s up in the air.
Correction, the Steele Dossier is “raw intelligence”. Cheryl did a post on it recently, breaking it down where roughly 4/9ths has been “proven”, 3/9ths has supporting evidence and other allegations, and 2/9ths are unconfirmed so far.
@Mnemosyne: I do remember back in the late 60’s a British actor, Dudley Moore, had a deal with Universal Studios to star and direct in a film of his own making. In the film, as he began to fall behind schedule, he kept being visited by the men from Universal, who looked like hoods straight out a James Cagney movie.
Well, your whole comment scares me worse than anything else in this thread.
@Frankensteinbeck: Just bear in mind he is not a free actor.
In other contexts this can be the libertarian fallacy: “Given that everybody does exactly what they most want, what conclusions can we draw?”
Trump does EVERYTHING to avoid exposure and shame, and constructs an entire life of self-aggrandizement to cover up realities about himself that he can’t bear.
Since he is amoral, childish and totally shameless about his own lusts and desires, all he has left to conceal is great weakness and the fact that he’s living an enormous lie. He doesn’t have money: Russian oligarchs have money and let him pretend it is his. He doesn’t have power: if he doesn’t do what Putin wants, Daddy will reveal his shame. He sure doesn’t have love: he thought he had, before Putin was so cozy with Middle East dictators and cut him dead.
It’s not that he fears revealing that he had whores pee on a bed, or on him. It’s that he’s the crawling slave and his whole life is an elaborate, gilded lie.
Trump is BAD. He’s really creepy.
@Yarrow: Russian involvement in the National Prayer Breakfast–guests at the breakfast since Trump’s been president.
Note–after the fall of the Soviet Union many Evangelical and Pentecostal ministries went on missionary trips to Russia.
IIRC the Tulsa megachurch Victory Christion sent several groups. I think Marilyn Hickey ministry based in CO went several times. She was — and may still be– on the Board of Regents of Oral Roberts University.
Double Yup, ?????
@SiubhanDuinne: Why? It makes him a very weak reed. Imagine how bad off we’d be if Trump had keeled over early 2017 and Pence, who obeys Russia but isn’t as batshit crazy and twisted, began to patiently serve his true masters but with more cooperation from our government, with the media all parroting the line ‘the drama is over, now the nice stable Republican is in charge’.
We could be doing a LOT worse than we are. It’s just a very nasty tangle to have to untangle (something part of our government often personified by Mueller is patiently doing).
@Yarrow: The Ukraine part has really bothered me. Cory Gardner is on the foreign relations committee and supported Ukraine, and he suddenly had no opinion after the election. He represents a pretty purple state that is moving blue and chose to be a middle of the pack Republican than represent the constituents of his state.
@Mnemosyne: IIRC for some time Franklin Graham et al have been praising Putin for his extreme opposition to homosexuality.
American groups have visited Russia, held joint conferences on ‘christian morality’ with them, exchanged ideas and plans for their joint ‘holy war’
@SiubhanDuinne: I consider the Pence choice as Manafort’s most important contribution to Trump’s win. Pence is a rock star in fundie circles, and he brought the Christianists into Trump’s camp.
When my wife and I got to New Orleans a couple of years ago, we arrived at our hotel at about 11:30pm on a Saturday night, one week before the start of Mardi Gras. We then went for a stroll on Bourbon Street. The phrase “What a zoo” had never been more applicable in my lifetime.
@zhena gogolia: No, but it is true that “meddling” is not a strong enough word for what Putin/Russia did. I am using it ironically, hence the quotation marks.
I don’t know what word to use. “Interference” isn’t any better, and accusing them of “throwing” the election seems over the top. I’m open to suggestions for more fitting and accurate verb.
I think @Yarrow: does a better job of expressing what I was trying to get at, and @Jay: gives a good example of one of the many methods the Russians used to meddle/interfere in the election.
Cheryl, this is a much-needed initiative for the reasons you stated, and a generous offer of time and effort on your part. And lol who knows, maybe if enough of Marcy Wheeler’s twitter followers find alternative resources like this, there won’t be as many of them getting yelled at by her as they keep futilely trying to sell her on the dossier, whether Michael Cohen went to Prague, etc.
In case it helps, CNN has been trying a similar thing for awhile, and looking at the dates it appears they are keeping it up to date. Since I’m not a close follower of the story, I’m not really qualified to judge the quality of such endeavors, but Wheeler has spoken positively of the CNN timeline in the past, and in my opinion she IS an expert on the investigations.
Here’s the home page for the CNN tracker, and it contains three links to different means of tracking: Investigations, Charges, and People. I just more-or-less randomly clicked around the CNN site before coming over here, and found it very informative – there are some names there I’d never heard of, or at least I don’t remember having seen.
Anyhoo, that CNN page might be helpful in what you’re working on.
@SiubhanDuinne: I agree with you that Pence is creepy. As for why he was picked, I haven’t seen anything that seems definitive. His brother worked at Cummins Engines, which is based in their hometown, all his career. Cummins Engines has done a lot of business in Russia, including for a short while providing engines for Russian tanks. Snopes looked into the issue and reported it “Mixture.”
Pence’s emails while he was Governor were subpoenaed for something and were highly redacted when released. Speculation is there’s some good stuff there. I’ve seen some speculation of a sexual nature, which if true would be useful kompromat for someone.
I don’t think Pence was chosen just for his evangelical credentials. Manafort wouldn’t have made up mechanical trouble for the plane so that Trump could stay one more night in Indianapolis just for some garden variety evangelical. There has to be more there.
Except for the detail that in the 1980s nobody had heard of Putin.
@Mnemosyne: Do you have links to his work with christisn fundamentalist people and groups? I’d really like to know who they are. Thanks
Particularly for a Fundy with a non-normie relationship with his spouse. I’ve similarly seen a comment speculating about his kinks (from someone who is correct improbably often), and if he’s ever indulged his kinks with internet activity it is possible one or more somebody (a) has his browsing history (b) is using it for leverage. Or maybe there is something non-virtual (IRL).
It has been an interesting puzzle for the last couple of years.
@Ladyraxterinok: From his Wikipedia page:
Thanks for this, Cheryl.
I’m not one to look for Communists under every bed, but another thing that is very curious about this whole Trump fiasco is:
FTFNTY (from July 2016):
This was an absolutely outrageous statement by Trump, and even FTFNTY called it out in the first paragraph. And nothing was done.
And we now know that Vlad’s minions ramped up the attacks against Hillary’s campaign the same day.
Where was law enforcement? Why wasn’t Trump’s campaign thrown in jail pending a counter-intelligence investigation? Why wasn’t the RNC RICOed back to selling apples on sidewalks? Why didn’t the FCC pull Fox’s affiliates’ licenses?
The above is obviously hyperbolic, but the point is that Trump’s traitorous behavior was normalized by too many important people and institutions well before the convention, election, and taking office.
It’s not just the Trump Organization and Putin. Too many saw tremendous value in destroying our norms and the national government. We need to know much, much more about what happened and why.
@Yarrow: I remember when some of the KGB files were opened after the fall of the Soviet Union and made available to the West and the US. GOP made a big deal about info there that some dem congressman in the 30s was controlled by the Soviets. ‘See, McCarthy was right!!’
Now GOP pulls a Sergeant Schultz — I see nothing!! I see nothing!!
Lots of people in the 1980’s knew Putin.
Many were grooming him.
@Another Scott: Cui bono, even.
@Jay: Thanks for reminding us of this post. I knew that claim was flat out wrong but could not support my disagreement.
This might already have been mentioned but where are the Mercers with Bannon, Crowley, Brexit, Bannon, and Cambridge Analytica? And Facebook with yandex of course.
@Yarrow: You and others have suggested issues that I feel are at a lower level than what I’m trying to achieve in the narrative. But I am writing them down as subplots. In that framing, the role of the Republican Party and Paul Ryan become a subplot, because I want to keep the focus on Trump.
I keep thinking though, as the discussion goes on, that the narrative could be stood on its head. What if Russian influence through the NRA was the primary channel? What if Roger Stone were the mastermind?
My best guess is that many people were working many schemes on both sides.
@sharl: Timelines are always good. When I first saw the Russia connection as an important theme in Trump’s life, around the early summer of 2016, I thought I’d make a timeline. But I quickly realized that following the story at that level of detail would take up my entire life, and I didn’t want that. So thank you for the CNN timeline. I’ll stash it away with my other Trump-Russia resources.
I have hard time with this, because it seems to me that if he was getting enough money from those oligarchs, they would tell him to keep his head down, rather than run for president. I would certainly suspect that most of that money laundering has stopped, now. Would oligarchs that want to launder money like that?
I am puzzled. I also expect that no crimes will be found in his tax forms.
Cathie from Canada
Where does Kushner fit, or other advisors? I have wondered whether people close to Trump – like Flynn, or Kushner, or Stone, or Bannon or ? — have been compromised by Russian Intelligence and are feeding Trump his lines. He so ill-informed that he would just believe anything he is told and then think it was his own idea.
There’s a bunch of different ways to launder money.
Keep in mind, most of the Russian money laundering involves people “stealing” roubles from arms of the Government, from Company coffers, or bribes they have recieved.
Moving the money offshore moves it out of the reach of other Ogliarches.
Buying real estate, in “ever rising markets”, like London, New York, Vancouver, Toronto, etc, even at an overpriced cost, will eventually turn a profit.
“Investing” off the books, in a Golf Course, at usury rates, turns a big bundle of illegal cash, into a steady, monthly stream of “washed” money.
Given Treason Tribbles past tax illegalities, in both real estate and his “foundation”, a deep dive into the Orange Bloat’s taxes will reveal many, many felonies.
Sadly, in response to further budget cuts, the IRS is going for more “poor people” audits and fewer Corporate and Billionaire audits.
@catclub: Assuming that Donald Turnip was or is invlved in laundering money, I assume a few more things:
1) Turnip is not the only person laundering money for the crooks. Other players in high-priced real estate may also be in deep, knowingly or not.
2) Putin is aware that Turnip is old, with a family history of dementia, and likely to be nearing the end of his useful working life. Why not expend the asset, to damage the GOP (sometimes the more aggressive of the two parties) and maybe, just maybe, really screw up the free world by winning the US presidency?
@Cheryl Rofer: It’s your narrative so of course you should frame it the way that best works for you. My framing is more along the lines of what Adam has discussed, the unpleasantly worded phrase “penetration at all levels.”
Trump gets the attention at the moment because he won the presidency. Most people did not expect he would win, even Trump himself according to some accounts. Russia’s larger goal seemed to be to damage Hillary Clinton so she wouldn’t be as effective as president and possibly even have a hostile Congress. Remember Democratic House candidates’ campaigns were also hacked.
My view is that their general goal is to cause disruption in the US, turn Americans against each other and generally weaken us by making us sick (Russia pushed anti-vaxx messaging), stupid (charter schools, home schooling) or dead (NRA) so that they can achieve their goals more easily. If Donald Trump ran for president and lost they still had hundreds of other avenues to pursue.
That’s why I think that focusing on Trump alone is missing the larger picture. We have to start somewhere, though, and it’s certainly the main focus at the moment because he’s president.
Thanks for putting this all together. I appreciate your work on it. It’s hard work and you’ve done a great job of summarizing it and categorizing it. Thank you.
@schrodingers_cat: (In passing) My take on Kenzdior (I tweeted it a while back): “I think most of the authoritarianism we are now experiencing can be summarized as ‘same s*** different century.’ It’s not new, it’s not brilliant, it’s not anything except brutal and terrifying.”
And, yes, she does good work, but she treats Putin and Trump like they are new and unique things, whereas they seem to me actually very old things.
Mrs. D. Ranged in AZ
There is a website, run by a committee of folks from former US intelligence, former government and others, called Committee to Investigate Russia. I think Jackie Schechner is the editor. I have not found it as user friendly as I would like but there is a very helpful list of key players. It seems like a good resource.
Mrs. D. Ranged in AZ
@Cheryl Rofer: I understand your point about keeping it simple. My question is, and if this seems unbearably stupid to you please forgive me, but my question is who was the audience for this summary? If the audience is the press then I think you need to have among your questions “why are these facts important” and some basic answers as to why. For instance, you don’t have to give the actual law being violated. But it is important to say “because it’s a potential conflict of interest, crime, etc”. The American people seem to be quite ignorant of why the investigation is important. I think part of the problem the press is having is that they don’t quite know how to express why these things are important. They get lost in the weeds and as a result the American people do as well. This may seem obvious to us junkies but to my entire extended family this is a complete mystery to them. The Why it matters is crucial to communicating what happened. Just my two cents.
@Cheryl Rofer, while I would not disagree with your assertion that there’s probably enough circumstantial evidence to warrant Trump’s impeachment, those aren’t the only reasons. What about the ones in plain sight, where Trump regularly trashes the oath of office he took to “protect and defend the Constitution” or “to see the laws are faithfully executed?” As in the way he tears up the 1st Amendment when he casts the press as the enemy of the people. Or when he deliberately sabotages the ACA.
Seems to me those constitutional breaches ought to matter.
But as it stands now, impeachment won’t happen, because GOP Senators won’t vote to convict. And until there is certainty they will vote to remove him from office, all the evidence in the world wouldn’t make impeachment any more than an exercise in futility.
@Mary G: Way to go, California! Let’s make sure every pet animal available is the result of an accidental or irresponsible breeding!
Seriously, where does this put reputable dog/cat/rabbit breeders/fanciers? Dogs particularly – Not every breeder is a puppy mill, and not every person wants a shelter dog. Some dogs are bred for specific purposes – am I supposed to try to get a gun dog, bred for that specific purpose, from a shelter?
I can see banning sales of animals at pet stores, but if there is no provision made for responsible breeders, this sounds like a recipe for extinction of purebred animal breeds, and basically means that every dog, cat, or rabbit you find in the state is the result of an accidental breeding. Is that really what you all want?
I want to see pet stores banned from breeding animals, and puppy mills are horrific, but if the ban is really as sweeping as you make it sound, it seems like overreach to me.
@Richard Guhl: Oh yes. I was thinking about all that when I wrote about impeachment. Far more than is necessary, if we had a Congress that followed its duty.
@Mrs. D. Ranged in AZ: The audience I’m thinking of is everyone who is following the Trump-Russia stuff, starting with me. I have a hard time putting things into context as they break and just getting my head around the story. Sally Buzbee’s comment was a peg to hang the press on. I do think they have a hard time reporting because there hasn’t been a narrative.
Your point is a good one. I think that overall the reporting has been terrible.
@Yarrow: This narrative is not incompatible with Adam’s. I’m focusing on Trump, you’re focusing more widely. It’s like untangling a ball of yarn. You start with a loose end. There are others, like Maria Butina or those articles in the Dallas Morning News about donations to Republicans. But there’s more about Trump, and we need to get him out as soon as possible, so I’m starting there.
@Cheryl Rofer: Yes, definitely. The yarn analogy is a good one. I do think we need to get rid of Trump, but I think that too much focus on him versus a focus on the larger issue will mean the people responsible for keeping him there can more easily slither back into society and be poised to hurt us again. I think of Nixon and his people and here we are decades later and Roger Stone is involved in the Trump campaign. Ugh.
When I talk about this issue in my daily life I’ve moved from talking about solely Trump to talking about Trump and Republicans who have allowed him to stay and get away with what he does. I keep emphasizing that they are letting him do these things so the people I talk to don’t overlook that part of the story. But that’s my take on it and it’s good to look at it from all angles.
@Cheryl Rofer: Haven’t looked but has anyone brought up the direct link in Trump Tower and the Russian bank? That might untangle a few threads. Is this how Trump receives his marching orders?