The nice Russian is warning mean old Uncle Sam, 'You behave!"

In the midst of all the turmoil surrounding the Trump-Russia scandal, it's reassuring to see the occasional sign of normality, like a whole bunch of Russian spy chiefs dropping by for a visit last week with the head of our CIA. One of whom is supposed to be barred from the country due to sanctions. And just before Trump decided not to execute the sanctions that Congress mandated in law last year. Like we say, good old normal normalcy.

The Washington Post reported that CIA director Mike Pompeo met last week to discuss counter-terrorism measures with Sergey Naryshkin, who runs the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and with Alexander Bortnikov, the top dog at the FSB, which used to be the KGB. Also in Washington was Igor Korobov, head of the GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency, but it's not clear whether he met with Pompeo. He may have just visited tourist sites. The IT department of the NSA is a tourist site, isn't it?

Adding to the fun is the small detail that SVR head Naryshkin and GRU chief Korobov were in the US at all, since they're on the list of Russian officials under sanction for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

They all (except maybe Korobov) had a big meeting to discuss US-Russia cooperation in fighting terrorism, which isn't entirely out of the ordinary for American and Russian intelligence heads, who have met before, although never while the American president was being investigated for possible collusion with Russia to muck about with a US election. That added a little unique flavor to the proceedings, perhaps. The Post notes that last May, Pompeo had visited with Russian intelligence officials during a trip to Moscow. There's also this little nugget from the Post story:

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said they could not recall so many heads of Russia’s espionage and security apparatus coming to Washington at once and meeting with a top American official. They worried the Kremlin could conclude the United States is open to forgiving Russia for its actions and was not resolved to forcefully prevent future meddling.

There's no evidence that the officials talked about anything other than the agreed-upon counter-terrorism agenda, although we won't be surprised if in a few months we also learn that Pompeo offered the Russians dibs on any former Soviet satellite nation in eastern Europe in exchange for the pee tape. It would be irresponsible not to speculate.

So the worry is that we're sending mixed signals to the Russians: Barking at them at least a little to warn them they'd better not mess with the 2018 midterm elections, but also wagging our tails and telling them to please please play catch some terrorists with us, everything's normal now. Senator Chuck Schumer was particularly WTF'd about the visit by Naryshkin, because who approved a visa to let Mr. Sanctions come into the country, and Schumer would like some answers, please:

The Trump administration must immediately come clean and answer questions. Which U.S. official did he meet with?

And also, could we have an explanation please for why, right after a trio of Russian intelligence heads visited Washington, the Trump administration announced it wouldn't be imposing any new sanctions on Russia despite a law Trump signed last year calling for exactly that? A deadline for identifying possible individuals in Russia who might be subject to further sanction, and to submit a report on possible economic effects of such sanctions, came and went Monday with no action from the administration. Or almost no action: The State Department explained Russian businesses were suffering a whole lot already from cancelled contracts, so it'll be OK to tighten the screws on Russian oligarchs later.

But late Monday, State did release an unclassified list of 114 oligarchs who might maybe be subject to possible sanctions at some point, and then everybody pointed at the list and laughed because it was actually a copy-paste of a list of Russia's wealthiest people from Forbes, plus the Kremlin's public list of its own top officials. Now that's some top-notch work at carefully targeting possible sanctions for the greatest effect, huh? Everything this administration does looks like a book report given by a kid who only read the book jacket. Do your fucking homework, idiots.

Thursday, Mike Pompeo sent a grumpy letter to Schumer to push back on the criticism and to insist there was nothing improper about the meeting with the Russian spy bigwigs:

"When those meetings take place, you and the American people should rest assured that we cover very difficult subjects in which American and Russian interests do not align," Pompeo wrote to Schumer.

"Neither side is bashful about raising concerns relating to our intelligence relationships and the interests of our respective nations. We vigorously defend America in these encounters and pull no punches — we never will."

Schumer pointed out, however, that Pompeo completely avoided the question of whether sanctions came up during the meetings. Fine, Pompeo didn't pull any punches, but did he and the Russians talk about sanctions during all that punching?

So far, no answers, but this being the Trump administration, we're sure the leaks will be on the way any time now, at which point Sarah Huckabee Sanders will explain everything's perfectly normal and the real thing to worry about is leakers, and besides, maybe the Russians were just checking on the uranium deposits Hillary sold them. Also, the dog ate her homework and then her brother murdered the dog.

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[WaPo / Politico / Reuters / WaPo]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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