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Friday, May 19, 2017


Can liars tell the truth when it counts?

by Tom Sullivan

Now what? Now that the FBI has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate Russian interference with the 2016 elections and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters Thursday, "It was a counterintelligence investigation before now. It appears to me now to be considered a criminal investigation."

President Trump on Thursday called the investigation a "witch hunt," telling reporters, “There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself, and the Russians, zero.” Trump's word-salad delivery seemed to suggest he is speaking both for himself and the Russians. Whether that was a poor choice of words or a Freudian slip Mueller will have to sort out.

Trump has spent his shady career in business among a host of sketchy partners and investors, including Russian oligarchs and convicted mobsters. Now his relationship with former national security adviser Michael Flynn has brought on an FBI investigation.

Zack Beauchamp writes at Vox:

Trump has loved Flynn for a long time. In November, he loved Flynn enough to appoint him to be his national security adviser despite knowing that Russia had paid Flynn $45,000 to attend a dinner with Vladimir Putin. Trump loved him enough to keep him on despite, as the New York Times reported late on Wednesday, Flynn informing the Trump transition in early January that he was under FBI investigation for secretly lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government.
Included in a lengthy report from Time on Russia's social media disinformation operations in 2016, is news that U.S. intelligence last May intercepted a Russian military intelligence officer bragging to colleagues that the GRU "was getting ready to pay Clinton back" for what Vladimir Putin perceived as her support as secretary of state of protests in Russia. "The GRU, he said, was going to cause chaos in the upcoming U.S. election." What seems like a red flag now at the time lacked context for senior intelligence officials to know what it meant.

Mueller's investigation will seek to uncover just how much of the Russian effort was aimed at undermining Clinton and how much was part of a wider, sophisticated effort to undermine "the credibility of American democracy," and how much Trump and his campaign knew about it or were part of it.

Steve Benen (The MaddowBlog) believes Trump's "speaking for himself" statements indicate Trump is circling the wagons around himself:
A not-so-subtle picture is starting to emerge. The president seems to realize that people around him – officials at the highest levels of his political operation during the campaign – may be brought down by the Russia scandal, but Trump is prepared to throw them under the bus and keep driving, as quickly as possible, to protect himself. He likely assumes that so long as there’s no evidence of him personally chatting with Vladimir Putin, helping coordinate Russia’s attack on the U.S. election, then Trump is personally in the clear.
Trump may be alarmed at the consequences of sending that message to current staff and his former campaign, Benen says.

The Hill reports that online bettors in the U.S. and the U.K. are "putting their money on the odds that Trump will be impeached before the year's end." And that might have nothing to do with the Russians.

Because whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, Donald Trump will be under harshest legal scrutiny of his life. So long as he was a creature of real estate, he could use his wealth to out-lawyer any wronged contractor who sued him. He could afford clever tax attorneys to minimize the bottom line on his 1040. As a reality TV star, he could leverage celebrity to get what he wanted and insulate himself from the consequences.

Now after a career spent using intimidation and bravado to get his way — and to win the presidency — Trump faces a special counsel who will not be intimidated by him, and situations where "truthful hyperbole" and "alternative facts" amount to perjury. For Trump, lying "isn’t just a tactic, but an ingrained habit," something he seems to do "for the pure joy of it." A habitual liar, a pathological liar even, Trump faces an investigation where, innocent or not, the habits of a lifetime can get him impeached if not land him in federal prison. And not only him, but any staff, family, and friends who follow his lead and lie with him and for him.

Connections to the Russians won't get Trump impeached. His own nature will.