Is Trump's Ukraine Treason Sh*t About Russian Sanctions? Yeah, Sure, Why Wouldn't It Be
LATE BREAKING UPDATE: No sooner had we published this than we saw this come across the Twitter:
Disaster for Ukraine. President Zelenskyy has agreed to the 'Steinmeier Formula' which which will see Ukrainian def… https://t.co/W8IS8MCvpi— Michael MacKay (@Michael MacKay) 1569946625.0
Marcy Wheeler comments:
Huh. This is what Manafort was pitched when he told Kilimnik how the campaign planned to win Michigan. What a coi… https://t.co/rTvT21v1c4— emptywheel (@emptywheel) 1569955207.0
Keep that in your brain while you read your regularly scheduled post, which starts ... NOW. (We will fill in with more update a few paragraphs down.)
We spent some time this morning looking at Attorney General Bill Barr's excellent global adventure, trying to gin up a fake Anti-Mueller Report to replace the real Mueller Report, one predicated on the conspiracy theory that ACTUALLY there was no Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and definitely NO COLLUSION, but that the real story is that HILLARY CLINTON did the collusion WITH UKRAINE in order to steal the election from HERSELF, because ... yeah, it doesn't make any fucking sense, but then again, it's not supposed to. It's just supposed to confuse you, and it probably worked!
Here's the thing about all this stuff. It's all made-up bullshit. WE know this. Bill Barr plays a really good version of your right-wing uncle whom you hate on TV, but it's also entirely possible and likely that HE knows this. Amanda Marcotte makes a good case that even Donald Trump, who will literally believe ANY conspiracy theory that soothes his wounded ego, knows on some level that all of this is bullshit, and that he plays off everybody's belief that he's the stupidest person in America and pretends he really believes this stuff in order to get what he wants, which is "to do crimes and get away with it."
So if Barr and Trump are doing what they're doing while on some level knowing that these "theories" are batshit, then they're not actually asking countries to do investigations, but rather simply asking countries to make up shit out of whole cloth to benefit Trump. Why? Why, aside from Trump's ego, would they be interested in having other countries make up and co-sign drunk histories of 2016?
Could It Beeee ...
No silly, not "Satan," sanctions!
Rachel Maddow connected some dots on Monday night that may go to the why of all this, and surprise, the magic word of the day is SANCTIONS! Ever since the Trump campaign, there has been a consistent and constant thread of Trump people backdooring with Russians about lifting sanctions and then lying about it EVERY TIME they get caught.
Michael Flynn lied to the FBI about a conversation he had with the Russian ambassador about sanctions. Paul Manafort, along with giving his Russian spy friend secret Trump campaign Rust Belt internal polling data to be passed on to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, was chit-chatting with that spy friend about a "peace plan" for Ukraine, which means sanctions. The Trump Tower treason meeting where the Russian Kremlin-connected lawyer talked to Donald Trump Jr. about America allowing international adoptions of BOUNCY RUSSIAN BABIES was about sanctions, as Putin banned American adoptions after being slammed with Magnitsky Act sanctions. Trump goon/Betsy DeVos's Aryan little brother Erik Prince talked to Kirill Dmitriev, the head of the Russian sovereign wealth fund, in Seychelles in January 2017 about sanctions.
We could provide more examples. The point is that if there's something hinky going on with Trump and pretty much any entity within spitting distance of Vladimir Putin's heart-shaped love bed, sanctions are probably involved. Remember the whole thing late last year when the Senate and Treasury Department figured out a very cool way to un-sanction Oleg Deripaska, whose aluminum company very coincidentally started investing millions in building an aluminum plant in Mitch McConnell's Kentucky 'round about that time? That was neat!
So What Do Russian Sanctions Have to Do With Trump's Ukraine Treason?
As Maddow reminded us Monday night, there are two really big sets of sanctions on Russia, besides the Magnitsky Act sanctions, which work a bit differently. The first set is the sanctions Obama and the international community levied because Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, stole the Crimean peninsula, and still occupies it to this day. When Trump started trying to extort Ukraine into helping him in the 2020 election by "investigating" (making up shit about) the Bidens while also asking Ukraine to help rewrite the history of the 2016 election to validate his "win," he was simultaneously holding hostage the military aid the US has been giving Ukraine ever since the Crimean invasion, in order to help in the fight against Russia.
Maddow noted that the reference to "Javelins" in the Trump/Zelenskiy phone call transcript was to a very specific anti-tank missile the US has been selling Ukraine -- and that Ukraine really needs -- in its fight against Russia. And guess what? Looks like this isn't the first time Ukraine has done Trump a "favor" in exchange for the Trump administration selling the nation Javelins. Remember when Ukraine suddenly quit cooperating with the Mueller investigation and killed its own investigations relating to Paul Manafort? You probably don't, because it didn't really make a blip in last year's fucked up news cycle, but they quit those investigations, according to Ukrainian lawmakers, because they were trying to finalize a deal for Javelins and really didn't want to piss off the Trump administration. We won't be surprised if more secrets about that whole time period start coming to the surface very soon.
Trump has also been mob-bossing Ukraine in public lately, making statements about how he just really thinks new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is going to "make a deal" with Putin so they can stop their silly fighting over how Russia invaded Ukraine and stole a big piece of it. Trump also pressured Zelenskiy on that front on that phone call. Hint hint, Volodymyr! MAKE A DEAL!
And that's where we get back to sanctions.
What might happen if Zelenskiy and Putin "make a deal"? Well, maybe Putin could rejoin the cool kids and make the G7 the G8 again, which is something Trump has been pushing obsessively. And if they made a "deal," then maybe that particular set of sanctions could go away! All forgiven for Crimea now, obviously! MAKE A DEAL, VOLODYMYR!
By the by, before we leave discussion of the Crimean sanctions and move to the second set, another thing that's happened this year with our aid to Ukraine -- something that's also largely flown under the radar -- is that when Trump decided he wanted to take $3.5 billion from the US military to pay for his damn WALL, a lot of the proposed cuts -- a whole billion of them, which is, math, like A THIRD -- were specifically money the Obama administration set aside and Congress has approved every year to protect Ukraine and other American allies unlucky enough to share borders with Russia, to protect them from Russian aggression. (It's called the European Reassurance Initiative. Read about it when you have a bunch of extra minutes.)
So, we can see how this first set of Russian sanctions fits into Trump's extortion of Ukraine.
MAKE A DEAL, VOLODYMYR!
UPDATE: OK, you see what we mean? We'll have to wait for more news to come out about just exactly what is happening in Ukraine today, but if Zelenskiy is in the process of "making a deal," then Trump and Putin might be close to their "mission accomplished" moment on Ukraine, which would be a huge step toward un-sanctioning Putin for the Crimea invasion. Watch this space and the Maddow space and all the other spaces too.
But What About the Second Set of Sanctions?
As Maddow explained Monday night, the second major set of sanctions in question got slapped on Russia by the Obama administration at the end of 2016, specifically as punishment for meddling in the 2016 election and tilting it to Trump. If Trump could create a "valid" counter-narrative, something co-signed by other countries, a Kremlin-sponsored rewrite of actual human history -- where Russia didn't do the meddling, Ukraine did the meddling, NO COLLUSION, Hillary is the collusion! -- then Trump might be able to lift the sanctions Obama levied, because hey look, Obama punished Russia in error! Vladimir Putin isn't the piece of shit villain, the Deep State is the piece of shit villain! And also somehow Ukraine maybe, BAD UKRAINE!
You know, a counter-narrative like Bill Barr is obviously trying to gin up right now. Look! Bill Barr's secret Carmen Sandiego spy mission report says it right here! NO COLLUSION! NO COLLUSION! NO COLLUSION! UN-PUNISH RUSSIA RIGHT NOW!
Think about it. On top of the 2020 Biden stuff, Trump also wants Ukraine to investigate Crowdstrike, a security firm that fingered Russia for the DNC hacks in 2016. (The same conclusion the US intelligence community came to unanimously.) Besides how the conspiracy theory about CrowdStrike -- that somehow it worked with Democrats to frame Russia for election meddling crimes -- has been completely debunked, it should be noted that Trump thinks CrowdStrike was founded by a "very rich Ukrainian" (it wasn't), and that the DNC's secret server -- and maybe Hillary's emails! -- are buried in that rich guy's backyard in Ukraine.
And hey, maybe Trump really is that stupid, maybe he isn't. But it kinda doesn't matter. If he's extorting Ukraine to assist him in the 2020 election, and extorting it to help him create a fully formed counter-narrative to what happened in the 2016 election, it's a win-win for him, especially if he can bullshit up an announcement with Bill Barr that the real killers have been found and Russia has been innocent this whole time.
And then who would REALLY win? Putin, when the election meddling sanctions are lifted.
Anyway, the point is fucking SANCTIONS, because it's always goddamned sanctions.
Watch your Rachel.
Trump Fixation On Exonerating Russia Entangles William Barr, Pompeo | Rachel Maddow | MSNBCwww.youtube.com
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