Puppet? Yes, Puppet!

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, L'Affaire Ukraine, Russia, Trump & Administration, Trump ImpeachmentLeave a Comment

Putin weighed in on Trump’s impeachment:

Huh. Much like the GOP talking points.

It’s getting harder and harder t believe this isn’t all Putin’s manipulation of Trump. We just don’t know for sure why Trump is so susceptible to it:

This story that just dropped in the Washington Post pretty much confirms it:

Almost from the moment he took office, President Trump seized on a theory that troubled his senior aides: Ukraine, he told them on many occasions, had tried to stop him from winning the White House. 

After meeting privately in July 2017 with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Trump grew more insistent that Ukraine worked to defeat him, according to multiple former officials familiar with his assertions. 

The president’s intense resistance to the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia systematically interfered in the 2016 campaign — and the blame he cast instead on a rival country — led many of his advisers to think that Putin himself helped spur the idea of Ukraine’s culpability, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions. One former senior White House official said Trump even stated so explicitly at one point, saying he knew Ukraine was the real culprit because “Putin told me.” 

Two other former officials said the senior White House official described Trump’s comment to them. The Ukraine theory that has consumed Trump’s attention has now been taken up by Republicans in Congress who are defending the president against impeachment. Top GOP lawmakers have demanded investigations of Ukrainian interference for which senior U.S. officials, including the director of the FBI, say there is no evidence. Allegations about Ukraine’s role in the 2016 race have been promoted by an array of figures, including right-wing journalists whose work the president avidly consumes, as well as Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal lawyer. 

But U.S. intelligence officials told lawmakers and their staff members this past fall that Russian security services played a major role in spreading false claims of Ukrainian complicity, said people familiar with the assessments. The concern among senior White House officials that Putin helped fuel Trump’s theories about Ukraine underscores long-standing fears inside the administration about the Russian president’s ability to influence Trump’s views. 

The White House did not respond to requests for comment. 

The Russian Embassy in Washington declined to address whether Putin told Trump that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 campaign, saying only that information about the two leaders’ conversations is available on the Kremlin’s website. This article is based on interviews with 15 former administration and government officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer their candid views about the president. 

Aides said they have long been confounded by the president’s fixation on Ukraine — a topic he raised when advisers sought to caution him that Russia was likely to try to disrupt future elections. “He would say: ‘This is ridiculous. Everyone knows I won the election. The greatest election in the world. The Russians didn’t do anything. The Ukrainians tried to do something,’ ” one former official said. Trump, the official said, offered no proof to support his theory of Ukraine’s involvement. “We spent a lot of time . . . trying to refute this one in the first year of the administration,” 

Fiona Hill, a former senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council, told impeachment investigators in October. The claims that Ukraine sought to tilt the 2016 election have taken several forms. One early version was promoted by Paul Manafort, Trump’s then-campaign chairman, who suggested to campaign aides as early as the summer of 2016 that Ukrainians may have been behind a hack of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), rather than the Russians, his deputy, Rick Gates, later told federal investigators. 

Gates said that Manafort’s theory “parroted a narrative” that was advanced at the time by Konstantin Kilimnik, an employee of Manafort whom the FBI has assessed to have connections to Russian intelligence. (Kilimnik, who is believed to be in Moscow, has denied such ties.) Two weeks after Trump took office, Putin floated another claim: that figures in Ukraine had helped boost Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. 

“As we know, during the election campaign in the U.S., the current Ukrainian authorities took a unilateral position in support of one of the candidates,” Putin said at a news conference in Budapest on Feb. 2, 2017. “Moreover, some oligarchs, probably with the approval of the political leadership, financed this candidate.” 

Ukrainian steel magnate Viktor Pinchuk’s foundation donated millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation, but there is no evidence that he contributed money to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, which would be prohibited under federal law. Pinchuk has also supported Trump: In 2015, he made a $150,000 donation to Trump’s foundation. 

RT, the Russian government-funded media network, spotlighted other arguments that Ukraine worked to help Clinton’s campaign, focusing on contacts between a part-time DNC consultant and Ukrainian Embassy officials in Washington.

It was Trump personally who took up the “crowdstrike” embellishment which, according to the article, had only been lurking round the dark corners of social media up until the time he pushed it out to his millions of followers. Nobody knows where he got it.

One of the officials who Hill said tried to convince Trump, former homeland security adviser Thomas P. Bossert, publicly pleaded with the White House in September to drop the Ukraine theory, which he called “completely debunked.” “The DNC server and that conspiracy theory has got to go,” he told ABC News’s “This Week.” “If he continues to focus on that white whale, it’s going to bring him down.” Bossert pointed to Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, as a persistent source of the server claim. “I am deeply frustrated with what [Giuliani] and the legal team is doing in repeating that debunked theory to the president. It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again.” 

Trump’s suspicions about Ukraine manifested in other ways. Early in the administration, then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was eager to secure a White House meeting with Trump — ideally before he met publicly with Putin — to demonstrate U.S. commitment to defending Ukraine against Russia. But Trump resisted the meeting, according to former U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the matter. White House aides were confused: Ukraine was an ally in a war against a country that had just undermined the U.S. elections. 

Meeting with Poroshenko was a “no-brainer,” one former official said. “It was utterly mystifying to us why Trump wouldn’t agree.” Another former official said it was clear from the beginning of Trump’s presidency that he wanted to improve relations with Russia and form a bond with Putin. 

John Kelly, who served as Trump’s chief of staff from mid-2017 until the end of 2018, marveled to other aides that Trump expressed far less skepticism of Putin, whom Trump sometimes called “my friend,” than other leaders, said a former senior White House official. Kelly tried to get U.S. experts to speak to Trump before his scheduled calls with the Russian president to push back on some of Trump’s misconceptions, the official said. Some wondered whether Trump’s coolness toward Ukraine was intended not to offend Putin.

Ya think? That has seemed obvious to me from the beginning. Of course that’s part of this. He’s not just trying to vindicate his election win, he’s trying to exonerate Russia. Of course he is. He finally allowed the Ukrainian Poroshenko to come meet with Pence and then stopped in for a brief “hello.”

The meeting stood in stark contrast to Trump’s warm reception a month earlier of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Sergey Kisylak, who was then Russia’s ambassador to the United States. Trump told his guests that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign because the United States did the same in other countries, an assertion that prompted White House officials to limit access to the remarks to an unusually small number of people, according to three former officials with knowledge of the matter. 

U.S. officials who had been working to deter Russia were aghast. They thought the Russians would take it as a signal that they were free to interfere in upcoming U.S. elections and those in Europe, as well. On July 7, 2017, Trump had his first in-person encounter with Putin, at the G-20 meeting in Hamburg. Their highly anticipated formal conversation lasted more than two hours. But later that day, they met informally for an additional hour, at a dinner for heads of state and their spouses. 

At the time, U.S. and Russian officials didn’t disclose the conversation. During the meal, Trump left his chair and sat next to Putin. Trump went alone, and Putin was assisted by his interpreter. For some White House officials struggling to understand Trump’s obsession with Ukraine, the Hamburg meetings were a turning point. Three former senior administration officials said Trump repeatedly insisted after the G-20 summit that he believed Putin’s assurances that Russia had not interfered in the 2016 campaign…

Trump also took steps to conceal the details of his formal meeting with Putin in Hamburg, taking the notes away from his interpreter and instructing her not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials, The Post reported earlier this year. Trump has concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin from senior officials in administration

They tried over and over again the convince him of the truth. He would not budge:

A year after Trump met Putin in Hamburg, they reconvened at a summit in Helsinki. After his one-on-one with the Russian president, Trump expressed doubt that the Kremlin interfered in the campaign. “My people came to me, Daniel Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia,” Trump said at a joint news conference, standing beside the Russian leader. 

“I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.” Intelligence officials were stunned that Trump would publicly side with Putin over his own advisers. His comments also revealed that he still clung to his suspicions about Ukraine. “I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server,” Trump said. … [A]fter returning to Washington, Trump continued to press the Ukraine theory with more frequency, former officials said. They worried that his meeting with Putin had again influenced his thinking.

Of course it did. It was obvious at the time. When he immediately launched into that “server” talk in Helsinki it was obvious that it had just been discussed in their private meeting! Anyone could see that they had been talking about it.

After Helsinki I think we all knew what was going on, although the Ukraine part of it was still obscure. In fact it’s interesting that he didn’t say that publicly until recently:

We still don’t know the character of this “influence.” Putin may have something on Trump or Trump may be so psychologically damaged that he will believe anything from anyone who tells him he had the Greatest Electoral Victory The World Has Ever Known.

But whatever drives this lunatic, it’s clear that Putin fed Trump’s deranged hallucinogenic fantasy that Ukrainians hacked the DNC and John Podesta because they were trying to help Hillary Clinton win the election! It’s literally insane.

I guess we can’t expect the millions of people whose brains have been rotted by Fox News to know this. No one on Fox will ever tell him. But every Republican in the US Congress still backs this lunatic and they know exactly what he’s doing. They just don’t care.

But it’s what I always say: L’Affaire Russe and L’Affaire Ukraine are the same scandal!