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Putin is an ex-KGB spy.  He’s a thug.  A dictator.  He’s been working against American interests, and that means American troops, for decades.  He continually tries to undermine Democracies around the world, most of them being in eastern Europe. He’s made swipes at bigger countries before but never with too much success.  Until 2016.

America is arguably the largest and most well-known pillar of democracy in the world.  To somebody like Putin, who seeks to undermine democratic values, we are the biggest fish.  For decades, American Presidents of both political parties have been consistent in their confrontation of Russia, from a shared understanding of protection of American values.  Unfortunately, those have already been sold out.

In Helsinki, at an unprecedented “summit” with Putin, Trump declared publicly that he didn’t agree with the US intelligence community’s assertion that Russia hacked our election in favor of his campaign.  He instead responded “why would it be Russia?”

The answer to that is easy.  Because you’re willing to have a summit with him immediately.  Because while you attack Americans on a daily basis, and recently threatened the leader of Iran with “devastation” in an off-the-rails ALL CAPS twitter tirade just before bed time.  Because you attack the free press, a cornerstone of Democracy, on a daily basis.  Anyone who doesn’t kiss your toes is “fake news” and part of some “liberal conspiracy.”

After 48 or so hours of public outcry and multiple high-ranking officials in the Trump administration threatening to resign after his comments throwing the US Intelligence Community under the bus, Trump had a new explanation for what he said.  He “misspoke”.  He now claims he meant to say “why wouldn’t it be Russia?”  Sure.  He’s either lying (yes) or he’s incompetent.  You choose.

Trump has never, not once, criticized Putin.  He’s criticized John McCain, Obama, Mueller, American veterans – and then said it was an “honor” to meet Kim Jung-un.  He actively states that Putin is “not such a bad guy.”

A few days ago, Maria Butina, a Russian spy who has connections to all kinds of GoP leaders, was arrested on charges of attempting to have influence on the election without registering as a foreign agent.  Here she is below with the former president of the NRA Wayne LaPierre. The NRA has recently admitted that some of its funding has come from Russian sources.Untitled

According to documents that have been slowly surfacing through the courts, mostly highly redacted, Maria Butina has been part of an at least decade long operation by Russia to infiltrate the NRA (a leading cog of political influence) and as many politicians as possible.  Over the last few years, some GoP congressional reps, including Dana Rohrabacher, have been accused by other memebers of the GoP, John McCain in particular, of having been “bought by Russia.”  That used to seem like a fringe theory.

The list of ways that Trump has already sold out American Democracy in favor of Putin’s interests is too long to hold our attention spans.  And that’s what he wants.  He’s attacked NATO (an enemy of Russia), he’s attacked our European allies, he ripped up the Iran deal that denuclearized them, while having a summit with the Dictator of North Korea without getting any concessions.  He attacks the media – one of the most essential parts of Democracy – daily.

Then there’s the question of what is Trump actively doing to protect our elections from Russian interference again?  He tweeted just the other day that he fears Putin is going to hack us to “elect Democrats.”  One wonders if he actually thinks people are that stupid or if this is just simply the kind of thing you do when backed into a corner.

Trump, and the GoP Congress, have taken ZERO, I repeat ZERO steps to protect our elections from further Russian interference.  All of our intelligence agencies agree that the Russian operation is ongoing.  The first Russian spy is in jail.  Twelve other Russian nationals have been charged that are not on US soil.  Trump does nothing.  He’s sold us out.  Grab your pitchforks.

My room mate in college was Russian.  I remember him explaining to me how Putin had taken over and the credibility of their own elections was gone.  Politicians who oppose him started to mysteriously die or vanish during election season.  Putin “won” every time despite mass protests and revolts across the country.  If we, as a nation, do not put aside our petty differences soon, we all may be the casualty.  Free Press and Democracy should be more important than any short-term political gains.  If we don’t agree on that, we’ve already lost.

For the last 13 months, the media has centered the big controversy in politics around the word “collusion.”  The accusation from many, including Democrats, Independents, some Republicans and most importantly – from the US Intelligence Community, is that Russia interfered in our election with the intention of hurting Hillary Clinton and helping Donald Trump.  Before anyone asks if it did happen, it’s important to ask if it would make any sense at all that it would.  With every bit of new evidence and every new action from the President, it’s becoming clear that it definitely would make sense.

Let’s set aside, for a moment, the fact that 17 people related to the Trump campaign have been arrested by the FBI in connection with Mueller’s investigation.  Several have pleaded guilty to a wide range of things: from Conspiracy Against the USA (aka treason), to lying to the FBI, to money laundering.  You could make the assumption that Trump knew nothing about any of this activity.  I’m just not sure why you would.

On the campaign trail, Trump referred to Putin as “not such a bad guy” and repeatedly stated that we should have a better relationship with Russia.  I agree, we should.  But only if Russia stops its aggression against our own military interests, and reinstates fair elections in their own country.  It’s not a secret that Putin is essentially a dictator.  They have elections, yes, but if Putin’s capable of interfering in our elections overseas, it’s because he already has a master handle on doing the same in his own country.  To continuously praise a country who continues to back military groups killing American soldiers is as insulting and un-American as it is weak.

In one speech on the campaign trail, Trump openly called for Russia and Wikileaks to hack Hillary’s e-mails.  You may dislike Hillary – you may think she’s the scum of the earth.  But the fact is she was America’s #1 diplomat under Obama, and successfully negotiated the Iran deal (that Trump tore up).  To openly call for a hostile dictator to obtain dirt on an American diplomat is treasonous in of itself.  He’s barely trying to hide it.

Now, at the G7, Trump was calling for Russia to be reinstated.  On what grounds?  Have they stopped aggression against American and European forces?  Trump left the G7 without signing an agreement.  Is this in America’s interests, or in Putin’s?  Why are we sticking up for Russia, after they’ve funded numerous terrorist groups that kill Americans?  Why are we sticking up for Russia, when they don’t even have fair and free elections?

Trump then threatened to stop ALL trade with G7 partners.  Democrats will be begging him to implement that catastrophically moronic economic policy right before the midterms, I assure you.  Again, is stopping all trade  in America’s interests, or Russia’s?  There’s only one country I know who trades with virtually nobody:  North Korea.  Hint – it doesn’t work very well.

Speaking of which, right after refusing to sign any agreement with our European allies at the G7, Trump went on to praise it as an “honor” to meet with North Korea’s brutal dictator, Kim Jong Un.  North Korea is a communist, hostile state that has openly threatened the destruction of the entire USA with their supposed nuclear capabilities.  His people are starving, and thousands are working in labor camps suspected of being on par with Nazi concentration camps.  The fact that the President would even consider taking a meeting with such an inhumane dictator should be alarming by itself.  By meeting with him face to face and signing a propaganda deal that equates to nothing, he’s given North Korea legitimacy on the world stage, and in return, we have received nothing.

In the same news cycle our President bashed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – absolutely slams one of our closest allies – for what he claims are trade disagreements.  We have a huge trade surplus with Canada, a friend who speaks English, enjoys similar culture, and has a VERY strong sense of Democracy.  It just isn’t in American interests to be bashing Canada and praising North Korea.

….unless you’re actually working as an ambassador to Russia.

And that’s exactly what’s going on.

Putin helped get him elected.  Now Trump’s doing Putin’s work.  We have shunned most of our main allies and trading partners and cuddled up to dictators.  Forget the collusion.  This is an active conspiracy.

If you look at the media lineup for the week, it’s a barrage of appearances by James Comey, the former FBI director fired by President Trump. I’m not sure exactly what Comey’s motives are at this point.  Some people will say that he’s just trying to sell his new book, which jumped to #1 immediately upon leaking to the Press.  Some will say it’s vengeance against the President for having fired him.  Perhaps it has something to do with both of those things.  I think Comey, for the most part, has tried to put the nation’s best interest first.  His mistake was attempting to assert what was selectively in its best interest.

I have a problem with the way many now seem to be looking up to Comey as a hero and as a symbol of justice.  He’s been rampant on Twitter quoting MLK and making allusions to integrity.  He’s making media appearances daily getting out his side of the story, even printing some words in his book critiquing the President’s orange spray-tan.  Don’t get me wrong, the spray-tan is awful.  But Comey was the head of the FBI, one of the only remaining pillars between Trump and a type of pseudo-authoritarianism.  These types of jabs and repeated media appearances, couple with a book whose proceeds aren’t going to any type of justice-related cause, damage his credibility.

Comey states, believably, that Trump asked him for loyalty during a 1 on 1 dinner.  Putting aside how inappropriate it is to be dining alone with the guy who is investigating your campaign, when Trump asked for loyalty, Comey did not act shocked or offended.  He claims he was, but he did not stand his ground with his actions and inform the President that it was inappropriate.  He caved.  Told him he’d give him “honest loyalty.” He gave the President the sense that he could do that, even after he had just done it.  Think Meuller would have responded the same way?

I can’t help but think that if there’s one person who single-handedly swung the election to Trump it’s Comey.  Comey felt the need, only a few weeks before the election, to come out and publicly state that he was re-opening the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, even though he had previously closed it, including testimony to congress in defense of his actions.  He made this decision based on political pressure from the right and some dead-end leads given by conservative funded media sources.  He had no proof that the investigation needed to be re-opened, and it was quickly shut back down.  But not before the damage had been done politically.   Clinton’s lead in the polls was cut in HALF after Comey’s brazen and unsubstantiated public announcement – something unprecedented for an FBI director so close to a Presidential election.

To make matters worse, Comey surely knew a whole trove of information about Trump’s campaign that was currently under investigation, and he was not publicly talking about that investigation.  I have to ask, why?  Why would a couple of Hillary’s e-mails that turned out to be nothing be so important to the public that you must break silence to inform us, but incriminating information on Trump campaign targets, many of whom have pled guilty or are now cooperating with the special counsel, that information was never shared with the American public?  Comey may claim he wasn’t trying to influence the election, but he claims he wanted the public to know.  That means he wanted to influence, selectively.  There was never a relevant fact about Trump’s campaign that he felt so compelled to inform the public of.

The evidence to me is clear that Comey hosed us.  Trump claims he was right to fire him and honestly – he was.  The problem is, Trump publicly stated in an interview that the reason he was firing Comey was because of the “Trump Russia thing.”  Trump didn’t fire Comey because he mishandled the Hillary investigation, or because he’s a showboat.  He fired him because he asked for his loyalty and wouldn’t drop the Russia investigation on his campaign or on Michael Flynn.

Comey should have been fired.  It’s just Hillary should have been the one to do it.  (queue conservative outcry that she hypothetically fired him)

 

At first thought to be a fringe conspiracy theory, the evidence is mounting that our current President is being blackmailed by the Dictator of a hostile State.  This is a new kind of 21st century warfare.  It’s definitely cyber warfare.  But it’s also psychological warfare.

“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets, say, in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia” – Donald Trump, 2008.  It’s financial.  You don’t have to dig very deep.  Donald likes to talk.  And tweet.  He does so much his intention is to overwhelm and distract you from the simplest of points.  His assets are all over the world.

Donald has gone through bankruptcy a staggering four times.  Yes, I understand that it’s a smart move in many situations – but healthy companies are not going through bankruptcy.  The list of American businesses that claim Trump has personally stiffed them because he simply claimed he “wasn’t satisfied” with their work is extensive.  For these reasons as well as others, it’s common knowledge in the financial industry that Donald Trump cannot get a loan in the USA through traditional means.  Humiliated, bankrupted 4 times in the USA – Donald turned to his properties in the Middle East and Russia.  Leaders there had some incentive to keep his properties lucrative.  Could they cultivate some influence on The West by letting Trump in?  He has a loud mouth and a huge following.  Maybe not such a bad idea.  They gave him the sense of respect he had lost with his failed business dealings in the USA.

With business assets abroad and money “pouring in from Russia” as he claims himself, it’s obvious he was finding something outside the USA.  Trump was beginning to cheat on America.  Because America, in his eyes, was impossible to make money in if he couldn’t do it himself.  Ah, now I get why he thinks we need to make America Great Again.  It failed him.  His Russian businesses are flourishing.  Even in the robust economy that he supposedly now “leads” Trump can’t pull in the same kind of money that an oligarchy like Russia can provide.  Money talks.

Russia hacked our election.  They will do it again.  Trump has done absolutely nothing to stop it, and won’t even admit that it happened.  Why?  He assumes it will help him get elected again.  He also knows that’s a big no no when you’re being blackmailed by Russia itself.  He’s refused to implement sanctions that congress unanimously passed.

He now claims he’s “never been to Russia” and he “doesn’t know Putin.”  His entire cabinet has some form of Russia ties.  Rex Tillerson, his Secretary of State, received the “Medal of Friendship” in Moscow.  He, too has business dealings in Russia.  It’s election season in Russia, and on national TV right now Putin is having them claim that it was Russia that somehow prevented Mitt Romney (the guy with somewhat similar foreign policy views to (gasp) HILLARY CLINTON) from becoming Secretary of State.  Kinda seems like a good idea if you know how aggressive all previous Republicans AND Democrats have been against Russia.  Putin wanted to install a “friend” not an actual peace maker.

Donald won’t release his taxes that would show his Russian business ties.  He’s attacked our freedom of the Press (killing the free media in Russia has been essential to Putin’s power).  His latest gimmick is to say he wants to start a “Trade war” with other countries.  Who on earth does that make sense for other than Vladamir Putin?  Republicans have threatened to pass legislation to block it, but they won’t speak out collectively and adamantly against it.

Just last week, Rick Gates, former Trump campaign manager/aide, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and conspiracy against the USA and signed a cooperation agreement with the special counsel, went before a Federal Judge.  He informed the judge he would not be going on vacation with his family to Boston because of “credible threats from the Russian mafia” on his life.  Whoa.

Michael Steele’s famous dossier alleges that Putin has sex tapes of him with escorts from his time in Moscow.  It’s not that hard to imagine Trump being stupid enough to do anything like that in Moscow, where everything is most certainly bugged.  Every day, more and more of the intel that British spy Michael Steele gave us is being proven to be true.

Most all of Trump’s campaign and cabinet has now either resigned, pleaded guilty or has been interviewed and are likely cooperating with the special counsel.  Donald’s days are numbered.  I just worry about what he does on the way out, knowing Putin could expose him at any moment, and the humiliation he will face.

 

This has been the craziest political news week of my life.  We’ve had 32 felonies charged to two major Trump campaign operatives.  Rick Gates pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and “Conspiracy Against the United States” (aka, Treason).  That, and other new developments suggest he may have already given up seriously incriminating evidence on Trump.  For instance, it was reported recently that Meuller is allowing Gates to go on Spring Break vacation with his kids coming up in a few weeks.  Does that sound like something a prosecutor who just charged you with 32 felonies would do if you didn’t do something incredible for him like, say, agree to incriminate the President?  We still can’t be 100%.  But this looks bad.  Or perhaps it looks great.

Today Hope Hicks announced she is resigning from her position as White House Communications director.  She’s been an interesting figure in this entire thing – she leapfrogged to an immensely important position in the White House having zero political experience – although she did have PR connections through her father that were pretty extensive.  She earned Trump’s trust in a very short period of time, it seemed.  That seems a bit odd in of itself.  We know Trump is about loyalty.  How did she earn his loyalty?  It was Ivanka who initially hired Hope Hicks in 2014.
Her resignation comes just after she gave testimony to the House Intelligence Committee where she admitted she had occasionally told “white lies” for Donald Trump.  I’m not sure whether to applaud the admission of guilt or to gasp at the naive nature of the claim.  She also refused to answer any questions about after the transition.  Another thought came to my mind – Hope Hicks has been interviewed by Meuller already. Was any of this a directive from Meuller, assuming she’s already flipped and is helping the investigation?

I’ve read articles about how prosecutors want to be careful about their witnesses giving testimony under oath in multiple different places.  If your witness gives one testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, and a slightly different testimony to a Grand Jury, it can open up the case to poke holes in its credibility.  Is it possible that Hope Hicks was refusing to answer most questions, not because Trump told her not to, but because Meuller did?

Here’s my theory:  Hope Hicks, a well connected, assertive young woman somehow gains the trust of Trump early on in his campaign bid (had connections to Ivanka before).  She learns how to work the system with them, occasionally tells a “White Lie” for the President, and hooks up with Rob Porter, central figure to one of many security clearance / abuse scandals.  Life’s not so bad, fitting right in.  Then Meuller comes knocking.  She finds out quickly from her lawyers that he’s not messing around and she’s in serious legal jeopardy.  She takes the stance she had no idea what she was getting herself into.  Meuller agrees with her and agrees not to file any charges as long as she cooperates.  She has, and will be a cooperating witness till the end.

As always I could be wrong, but this looks very, very bad for Trump.  Hope stayed around just long enough to keep giving Meuller information that he needed about what the White House’s motives are.  My guess is by now, with Gates flipped, Manafort under the Bus and most of the administration having already had interviews with the special Counsel, Meuller has most of what he needs to move forward into the unprecedented. And the noose tightens.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have 100% certitude on this.  I’m speaking out of 20% hope and 80% rational conclusion, in my estimation.  Here’s what you need to know.

Rick Gates, former top aide to the Trump campaign and somebody who worked hand in hand with Paul Manafort, had pled guilty to 2 charges, one of Conspiracy Against the United States and another for lying to the FBI.  It was assumed at this point that he would be giving up incriminating information on his partner, Paul Manafort.  The thought was that this would put enough pressure on Manafort to give incriminating information on Trump related to colluding with Russia, money laundering or any other of the serious 32 felonies that Gates and Manafort were charged with.  Well, we have a HUGE development in this story.  After agreeing to cooperate, Meuller has moved to remove much of the remaining charges.

https://www.axios.com/mueller-dismiss-charges-rick-gates-manafort-943f1e3c-9ab7-4064-b7eb-84f6bf3fcb8b.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=twsocialshare&utm_campaign=organic

What does this mean?  Gates must have given Meuller some REALLY good information.

Adding to my suspicion that Gates has given up Trump is the fact that @TrueFactsStated Claude Taylor, a veteran of 3 Presidential campaigns, recently tweeted this:
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I don’t know who this source is, but is there any reason not to believe it?  Ok ok, maybe I’m just getting hopeful.  But we’ve known all along that Trump was the final target of this investigation, in spite of what he said about it.  The path that Meuller has taken to the White House has been, to be honest, relatively predictable for anyone anticipating a Trump demise.  Is this it?  Did Gates really give up Trump?  Will we see a sitting President indicted?  What happens if we do?  What happens if we don’t?

Celebrities and Opinions

If there’s one positive I can see from the tumultuous year and a half of politics we’ve endured, it’s that more people than ever before are feeling comfortable speaking out about their political views.  I believe the more political dialogue we have, the better.  If our politicians cannot stay on message, it’s up to the public to correct the record between votes.

Responses to political opinions will vary greatly depending on who did the speaking up.  An argument I hear thrown around a lot lately is that it doesn’t help when celebrities voice opinions, because they are perceived to be part of the “established elite.”  And especially if you’re trying to win back Trump voters in rural districts, maybe this hurts your message more than it helps.  To this I say simply:  nonsense.

Everyone’s heard the saying “any press is good press.”  Same is true with your political message, just ask the President.  It didn’t seem to bother rural America that Trump is a New York Billionaire who called the White House a “dump” when he first got there.  He sold himself as knowing what he was talking about and being able to help them.  They bought it.

In the past year all kinds of celebrities have come out saying things against the current administration, Jimmy Kimmel, Alyssa Milano, Jim Carrey, Samuel L Jackson, LeBron James, Oprah just to name a few.  These voices help propel the movement more than they hurt it, in my estimation.

Recently Miami Heat soon to be Hall-of-Famer Dwyane Wade teared up when he found out one of the Parkland High students killed was buried in his Jersey.  Dwyane followed it up the next day by posting this:

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“This is why we will not just SHUT up and dribble!” Wade exclaims at the end.  Yes!  More of this.  Nobody should shut up and dribble, nor shut up and give medical care, nor shut up and do any profession in this country.  You’re allowed to have an opinion in this country – in fact it’s encouraged.  We shouldn’t discourage people from voicing their opinions just because they’re celebrities.

I’ve come to notice one thing about people who criticize anyone’s message – it has little to do with the person, though they might bring that into their argument – they just don’t like the message.  They’ll attack Dwayne Wade, they’ll attack Parkland High victims themselves, they’ll attack anyone who has an opinion different than theirs.

I have to ask, which is more courageous, offering an opinion from any rank in society, or critiquing somebody’s place in having one?

I’m not saying it’s not possible for celebrities, or anyone in a position of greater power, inadvertently hurt the goals they’re trying to accomplish by speaking out.  It’s just that if we start making arguments about suppressing anyone’s first amendment, it’s going to be somebody else’s celebrity that wins the election, anyway.  See: 2016

I remember recently there was a lot of controversy at Cal Berkeley for allowing right-wing speaker Milo Yiannopoulos to come speak.  The students protested intensely.  I say, if you want to embarrass Milo, fill up his stadium.  Boo him if you want to.  Exercise your first amendment right.  But don’t impede on his.  The second we start doing that, we all lose.  If Milo’s speaking truly is wrong and abhorrent, surely it can be exposed easily and surely it won’t actually catch on.  And lone-behold, he’s since been largely taken down on his own accord.  We didn’t need protests that threatened the first amendment rights of somebody we disagreed with.

Here’s to defending everyone’s right to speak, and encouraging as many of us to speak out as we possibly can.

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