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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Why the Trump situation is confusing

As an independent journalist and analyst, the Trump situation can be confusing because there are different threads to the story. Here is an effort to keep the stories straight.

Story #1: Russian Interference in Election 2016

"They sowed confusion and chaos, and there’s strong evidence (according to multiple intelligence agencies) that they ultimately sought to help Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton. Their most infamous move was the theft of e-mails from the Democratic National Committee, which were likely passed to WikiLeaks before becoming the basis of a slow drip of damaging information about Clinton and the Democratic party released into the news cycle."

The trouble is that Donald Trump discredited the reports from the US Intelligence agencies and the FBI. Why did he do that? What did he call the investigation a hoax?

Story #2: Trump's Campaign Coordination with Russians 

"First, Trump had hired Paul Manafort as campaign chair and was receiving campaign advice from Carter Page. Manafort and Page, in particular, had longstanding business ties to Vladimir Putin’s allies. Manafort had allegedly received millions of dollars in payments from Putin allies in Ukraine and had in the past actively worked to advance Putin’s interests. General Michael Flynn, a prominent campaign surrogate who later became Trump’s first national-security adviser, also had business ties to Russian firms and RT, the Kremlin-owned propaganda network. And Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone, who remained an informal adviser to the campaign even after leaving a formal role during the primaries, had still-unclear relationships with the Russians as well. The candidate’s reliance on these men during the campaign, combined with his odd and persistent praise for Putin, raised serious concerns of pro-Russia bias and improper Russian ties. Indeed Trump himself acted late in the race to remove Manafort and Page from his campaign team, allowing Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway to step in and help steer him to an upset win."

Story #3: Trump's Emolument Clause Violation

"Democratic state attorneys general, a chief roadblock to some of President Trump’s most controversial policies, escalated their campaign against him Monday, alleging in a lawsuit that payments by foreign governments to Trump’s businesses violate anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution."

Today 200 Democratic Congressmen initiated a separate lawsuit claiming Emolument violations.

"Below is an attempt to catalog the more clear-cut examples of conflicts of interest that have emerged so far. The most recent entries appear at the top: 
That Saudi Arabian Lobbying Effort
That Golf Course in New Jersey
That Meeting in Brussels
That Tower in Toronto
That Caribbean Villa
Those Condos for Sale
Those Reelection-Campaign Funds
That Second Hotel in Washington, D.C.
That Property in Azerbaijan
That Trump Tower Penthouse
That Resort in the Dominican Republic
That Chinese Trademark
That Meeting at Mar-a-Lago
That Defense Department Trump Tower Rental
That Red Cross Ball
That D.C. Labor Dispute"

Story #4: Trump's Misprision of Fraud Violation or Misprision of Treason

"Trump fired Comey just after former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates delivered devastating testimony about Trump's non-response to her warning that the Russians had likely compromised his National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. It closely followed Comey's request for additional resources for the Russian investigation from Jeff Sessions' Justice Department and the issuing of subpoenas for Michael Flynn and his associates."

Story #5: Suspicion of Trump's Tax Illegalities

The IRS is auditing.

Story #6: Trump's Ethical Violations

Aside from conflicts of interest, there is nepotism and other alleged ethics violations.

Story #7: Trump's Lying and Slandering, including Obama and Comey

This list may not be complete. Interlaced among all of these main topics are President Trump's Tweets and public declarations that some Republicans call "hyperbole." Hyperbole means "exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.

Synonyms: exaggeration, overstatement, magnification, embroidery, embellishment, excess, overkill, rhetoric."

At what point does hyperbole become a lie? Some people believe that hyperbole is a euphemism for lying.

"Former prosecutors who have served in both Republican and Democratic Administrations told me that an obstruction-of-justice case against Trump is a no-brainer. “Comey’s testimony in a grand jury would be enough to get an indictment,” Julie O’Sullivan, who was part of the team that investigated Whitewater, the Clinton land deal that attracted a special prosecutor in the early nineties, said. To O’Sullivan, Comey’s detailed account of the Oval Office meeting in which Trump cleared the room and then told Comey to let go of the investigation of Michael Flynn, whom Trump had fired, the previous day, was especially damning because it showed that Trump knew that what he was doing was wrong. 
“For a prosecutor, this attempt to hide the conversation, all antenna are going up,” O’Sullivan told me. “That tells you that he has a consciousness that what he’s about to do is wrong. It’s like having a bonfire with documents in the back yard. It’s wonderful. Seriously, this is the best thing ever for a prosecutor.”

Image from The Atlantic

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