Monday, July 16, 2018

Helsinki, July 16th, 2018: A Day That Will Live in Treasonous Trump Infamy** -OR- Putin's Asset Becomes U.S. National Security Emergency

NOTE: This entry was initially posted shortly before midnight on July 16th in order for it to have a time stamp on that day. It wasn't actually posted in final form until about 8:00 p.m. July 17th, 2018. I have added some additional content from July 17th as well.

**With sincerest apologies to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a towering historical figure and one of history's greats -- and who should never be said in the same breath as Donald J. Trump even though by the shameful turn of fate, both occupy the role of President of the United States of America.

*******

The Helsinki Summit with Putin handing Trump a sucker, I mean, a soccer ball, July 16, 2018 (Thanks to the usual FIFA corruption, Russia hosted the just-concluded quadrennial World Cup.)

*******

It has been quite a remarkable day -- in a historically disastrous in terms of United States presidential history -- as a result of Trump's truly shocking performance at the wholly unnecessary Helsinki Summit between him and Russian President and KGB kleptocratic murdering thug Vladimir Putin.

Washington post online headlines earlier today.

Of note, the then-lead story shown in the banner headline -- available here -- presently has over 21,000 comments associated with it.

*******

TPM headline of Neil Cavuto's Fox News reaction to the Trump-Putin shit show in Helsinki, July 16, 2018.

*******

Even quite a few of the "on air talent" at Trump State Television -- a.k.a., Fox News -- was at quite a loss all day to figure out what the Party Line response on this should be with some -- including Neil Cavuto -- simply condemning Trump outright. By contrast, the Usual Suspects -- Hannity, Carlson, Ingraham -- were busy Trump posterior-kissing while playing the now-familiar "What About?" game of eternal rightwing victimology. Ditto the Vulgar Lying Pigboy on Hate Radio.

New York Times online headlines, July 16, 2018.

Note: I removed a banner advertisement between the masthead and the actual content, so this image is really a composite of two images. I thought it important to capture the content.

*******

As for CNN and MSNBC, not to mention the world of elite Beltway journalism embodied in the Washington Post and New York Times, words just failed everybody -- but not for want of trying.


It wasn't just what that was said was remarkable but who was saying it. I assume I will read (and, indeed, look forward to reading) such things from Jonathan Chait and Charlie Pierce -- and both men came through -- but it doesn't surprise me. It is quite another when those descriptions are coming from folks such as Anderson Cooper, Thomas Friedman, David Gergen, David Frum, and James Fallows, among others.

As for Chris Matthews on Hardball, he was uncharacteristically subdued precisely because he was so shell-shocked.

CNN headline on about former CIA Director John Brennan's comments.

The actual Twitter tweet is shown as a screen capture here:


The Post's shitty Fred "why-won't-he-just-retire-and-go-away-already" Barbash decided to play some bullshit Georgetown dinner party semantics games about whether or not Trump behaved treasonously -- and he tendentiously decided that he did not.

This is Barbash's idea of being too clever by half -- and it just ends up just a glorified way of trolling his readers. Of course, during the late 1990s heyday of the Clinton Wars when it was all about Monica's Dress and The Cigar, Barbass, I mean, Barbash couldn't get enough of his "high crimes and misdemeanors."

July 16th op-ed columns in the online Washington Post: One topic dominated.

Uncle Fred Hiatt's came out in "The Post's View" a bit later. 

*******

Having said all this, I should note that it was only Fox News correspondent Chris Wallace who confronted Putin in what Putin probably assumed would be a friendly interview that occurred after the Putin's meeting with Trump.

Screenshot of the video of Chris Wallace interviewing Vladimir Putin, July 16, 2018.

*******

During the interview, Wallace handed him a copy of the Justice Department indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officials for their Russian state-sponsored cyber-criminal interference in the 2016 presidential election, specifically, the hacking of tens of thousands of DNC and DCCC emails.

This hacking happened literally hours after Trump publicly asked the Russian government to find the "missing 30,000 emails" (a somewhat different matter). 

The stolen emails were then strategically leaked over the course of month via "DC Leaks" and "Guccifer 2.0" in order to harm Hillary Clinton's campaign and keep the terms "emails" and "Hillary" in the news (both of which succeeded thanks to the American media and 25 years of a rabid Anti-Hillary campaign by the right, plus that disgusting Electoral College.

During the interview, Wallace also asked him why so many Putin critics ended up dead. (This is a common question for most Russian leaders throughout its long, horrible history.) Putin said something about the assassination of JFK and Martin Luther King.

Slate headline from earlier today.

The Post's editorial writer Ruth Marcus said the same thing. I usually can't stand that woman, but today I agree with her. 

*******

As for what actually happened in Helsinki today, it was during a the 45-minute news conference ("presser"), that Donald J. Trump -- the titular "President" of the United States through cyberwarfare, general criminality, and historical accident -- abased himself before Putin while (as the New York Times article noted) "appeared to absolve Moscow of many irritants in the relationship with Russia, including the election hacking, the annexation of Crimea, Russian backing for rebels in Ukraine and for the Assad government in Syria, and Moscow's suspected use of a nerve agent to poison people in Britain."

Split video screenshot of the start of the sick, sordid Helsinki Affair.

*******

This followed a two-hour pas de deux between Putin and Trump in which no third parties were there -- just translators. Of course, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if the room were well-bugged by multiple parties.

Huffington Post headline for the Trump-Putin summit, July 16, 2018

*******

Others have noted that Trump was once again making a moral equivalency argument, in this case, between the U.S. and the Putin regime (and for reasons that remain murky), as he shamefully did in the Charlottesville attack last year, equating white neo-Nazis with peaceful protestors.

TPM headline, July 16, 2018

*******

What I'm going to do is just post part of Dan Balz Washington Post article (link embedded): The moment called for Trump to stand up for America. He chose to bow.

When the history of Donald Trump’s presidency is ultimately written, July 16, 2018, will have a special entry. On a day when the setting called for a show of strength and resolve from an American president, Trump instead offered deference, defensiveness, equivocation and weakness.



If anyone can recall a performance by a U.S. president that rivaled the one seen around the world Monday, let them come forward. In the meantime, Trump’s extraordinary joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin will stand on its own, for sheer shock value and for the reality of an opportunity lost.

Here was a president turning his back on the collective work of U.S. intelligence agencies, looking the other way at indictments returned last week by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III against 12 Russian military intelligence officers who sought to undermine American democracy during the 2016 election, and falling back as he so often has on attacks against Hillary Clinton, criticism of Democrats and boasts about the size of his electoral college victory.


In reality, he did more than turn his back on the evidence of Russian attacks on the U.S. electoral process. He all but rejected it. In an attempt to say both sides have their views of what happened during the last presidential election, he proffered that his own view is that he can't bring himself to accept that the Russians did it. "I don’t see any reason why [Russia would interfere]," he said.

It is a fiction to which he has reverted from the very beginning of his presidency, in the face of repeated and escalating evidence to the contrary. In Helsinki, he said that the Russian leader had offered “an extremely strong and powerful denial” of interference and so he would not forcefully offer evidence to the contrary. What he may have said in the private meeting with Putin is lost to history, given the absence of notetakers or advisers present.

One can only imagine Putin’s satisfaction at the way things have turned out. His country’s attacks on U.S. democracy have sown internal discord and distrust, setting Americans against Americans. He has watched the U.S.- European alliance come under enormous strain, with the president now branding the European Union a foe.


On Monday, he watched Trump bow to what the president must assume are the demands of diplomacy -- offering public praise and compliments to the Russian, instead of blunt talk when called for -- rather than standing up, as Putin did when he was questioned about the interference.

Monday’s news conference was the capstone to an international trip in which, at every opportunity, the president undercut U.S. allies in Europe while playing nice with Putin. He did this through repeated derogatory tweets, backroom hectoring of European leaders (especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel), interviews with the British media (in which he attacked British Prime Minister Theresa May) and the U.S. press, and in public settings with other world heads of government.

Together they added up to a moment that will leave a mark on Trump’s presidency. That's not to say it will fundamentally change the course of his presidency, given the fluidity of events, the reality that attention spans are short and the probability of more shocks from various directions that will put the focus elsewhere. Nothing much changes minds about the president, and this trip and Monday's news conference might not, either.


But as a reportable moment, as a measure of character and leadership, what the world witnessed will help to shape ultimate judgments about Trump. Time and again, in the face of strong and direct questions by two American reporters, Jeff Mason of Reuters and Jonathan Lemire of the Associated Press, the president refused to stand up for the country he was elected to represent and protect.

New York Daily News print edition cover, July 17, 2018.

*******

The piece goes on to wonder what, if any, backbone the present-day GOP will show toward this Great Orange Monster who so easily hijacked their party -- itself having morphed into a weird cult of panicked ethnonationalist whites at the bottom and Dark Money oligarchs on the top and glued together with a bizarre "fusion" ideology of fundamentalism and libertarianism. In the end, no backbone will be forthcoming since Mitch the Bitch (a.k.a., Mr. Elaine Chao) and his ilk made that Faustian bargain with Trump in exchange for what really sexually arouses them: An endless parade of far right federal judge nominees and tax giveaways to the ultra-rich.


That is, the answer of what will the GOP do is: Nothing. Unfortunately, there is only one Sen. John McCain. The rest are useless, amoral tools.

Left: Mitch the Amoral Bitch and his jowls ponder more Supreme Court justices and Dark Money oligarchs to secure the 1,000-year GOP of Error.

And as for that fucking GOP Base -- representing maybe three-quarters of that 35 percent or so of the electorate (and rising to 45 percent when the news is slow and/or low-information voters are included) -- they are unreachable and, yes, deplorable.

Meghan McCain's tweet reaction to Trump's Helsinki abasement before Putin.

*******

They are the Hannity / Talk Radio / InfoWars crowd that decide GOP primaries in severely gerrymandered districts and that Trump himself could lead into a gas chamber -- and they'd still be screaming about Hillary's emails and Nancy Pelosi. That is the beast that the GOP has helped to nurture for the past half century (coupled with downwardly immobile economics).

That aside, here James Fallow's take on it in The Atlantic: This Is the Moment of Truth for Republicans.

From the perspective of the next day -- July 17th -- the GOP as a party completely and totally failed it because they had to for reasons that we all know (tax cuts for oligarchs and libertarian - fundamentalist legal "originalism").

As for David Frum's piece -- also in The Atlantic -- I want to repost it in full:

The Crisis Facing America

The country can no longer afford to wait to ascertain why President Trump has subordinated himself to Putin—it must deal with the fact that he has.

DAVID FRUM
JUL 16, 2018
Source here.

We still do not know what hold Vladimir Putin has upon President Trump, but the whole world has now witnessed the power of its grip.

Russia helped Donald Trump into the presidency, as Robert Mueller’s indictment vividly details. Putin, in his own voice, has confirmed that he wanted Trump elected. Standing alongside his benefactor, Trump denounced the special counsel investigating the Russian intervention in the U.S. election -- and even repudiated his own intelligence appointees.


Learned what happened each weekday in five sentences, find out what our editors are reading, and more.

This is an unprecedented situation, but not an uncontemplated one. At the 1787 convention in Philadelphia, the authors of the Constitution worried a great deal about foreign potentates corrupting the American presidency.


When Gouverneur Morris famously changed his mind in favor of an impeachment clause, he explained his new point of view by invoking a situation very like that now facing the United States:

Our Executive was not like a Magistrate having a life interest, much less like one having an hereditary interest in his office. He may be bribed by a greater interest to betray his trust; and no one would say that we ought to expose ourselves to the danger of seeing the first Magistrate in foreign pay without being able to guard [against] it by displacing him.


The United States was then a comparatively poor and vulnerable country, so the Founders imagined corruption taking the form of some princely emolument that would enable an ex-president to emigrate and—in the words of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney -- “live in greater splendor in another country than his own.” Yet they understood that even the most developed countries were not immune to the suborning of their leaders. As Morris said, "One would think the King of England well secured [against] bribery. ... Yet Charles II was bribed by Louis XIV.”

The reasons for Trump's striking behavior -- whether he was bribed or blackmailed or something else -- remain to be ascertained. That he has publicly refused to defend his country’s independent electoral process -- and did so jointly with the foreign dictator who perverted that process -- is video-recorded fact.


And it’s a fact that has to be seen in the larger context of his actions in office: denouncing the EU as a “foe,” threatening to break up nato, wrecking the U.S.-led world trading system, intervening in both U.K. and German politics in support of extremist and pro-Russian forces, and his continued refusal to act to protect the integrity of U.S. voting systems -- it adds up to a political indictment whether or not it quite qualifies as a criminal one.

America is a very legalistic society, in which public discussion often deteriorates into lawyers arguing whether any statutes have been violated. But confronting the country in the wake of Helsinki is this question: Can it afford to wait to ascertain why Trump has subordinated himself to Putin after the president has so abjectly demonstrated that he has subordinated himself? Robert Mueller is leading a legal process. The United States faces a national-security emergency.

Indeed.

--Regulus

No comments: