Paul Manafort – The Other Guy in the Room: Why Donald Jr’s Meeting is an Even Bigger B.F.D.

by xaxnar –

If you haven’t been following the saga of the Donald Trump Jr. meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya too closely, you may not be aware of how much that meeting has mutated over time.

Initially, the meeting never happened — Trump Jr. ‘forgot’ about it. Then, oh yeah — it did happen, but  there were only one or two other people at the meeting and besides it was about nothing important, just adoptions. Wait, there were these emails that say it was about Russia having some dirt to share on Hillary, and there were a few more people in the room. But, there was nothing criminal about this, right? Besides, Trump Jr. was completely transparent about the whole thing all along… (Thanks to Huffington Post for collecting these links.)

And to make it more interesting, Trump regime characterizations of this nothing burger of a meeting about nothing important were scripted by Trump himself. This came after Trump had had a meeting with Vladimir Putin — which also was not revealed immediately. Did Trump get Putin’s input on how to handle the story? No one knows because there is no reliable account of what was discussed.

Digby has a Quote of the Day that’s a very short must-read. From an MSNBC interview with GOP strategist Steve Schmidt:

We worked on two presidential campaigns at high levels and there weren’t any Russians around. I don’t think there were Russians round the Obama campaign or the Kerry campaign either. This campaign had Russians all over the place!

Digby adds that interviewer Nicole Wallace found it “even weirder” that no one in the Trump campaign could remember ever meeting with the Russians. Funny how that works.

Regarding that, ericlewis0 has a couple of posts of interest. Paul Manafort may have been asking the Russians for help getting Trump elected, and another report has Trump advisor Steve Bannon’s media connections apparently coordinating with Russian bots on messaging via social media.

ALL OF THE ABOVE IS CONTEXT TO PUT ANOTHER PIECE OF INFORMATION IN PLACE.

Josh Marshall and his team at Talking Points Memo have been doing yeoman work trying to stay on top of the Russia connections to Trump. Regarding Trump dictating the initial official response about the meeting, Marshall followed up on work from Laura Rozen to come up with a rather interesting timeline of events. Without a transcript of the meeting between Trump and Putin, it’s impossible to know whether or not Trump got his talking points from Putin — but given his increasingly bizarre relationship with the Russian leader and his track record to date, it seems exactly like Trump.

There have been analyses of the meeting in Trump Tower, in which we now know promises of compromising information about Hillary Clinton, were offered to principals of the Trump Campaign. To put it bluntly, it bears all the hallmarks of a Russian influence operation.

Intelligence experts and former spies have said the episode bears all the hallmarks of a top-down influence operation that used cutouts and a cover story to make initial contact with a target — in this case, the Trump campaign — while maintaining plausible deniability.

And ultimately, experts say, the campaign gave Russia a green light to move forward.

emphasis added

Now, no one would expect Donald Trump Jr. or Jared Kushner of having the intelligence or
Metzmeir has been following Manafort’s career for a long time, and reports he has a history of working with authoritarian dictators, leading up to work in the Ukraine for pro-Putin forces. Manafort would have known exactly what was going on at that meeting — it’s been his bread and butter for years. Marshall takes this away from Metzmeir’s article: experience to recognize what this meeting was about — but Josh Marshall has picked up on a report that there was at least one person in the room who would know exactly what was going on: Paul Manafort.  Kurt X. Metzmeier has done some research and put things together about Manafort that strike Marshall as being extremely relevant to the matter at hand.

…Don Jr. is a moron. Kushner may not be a moron but certainly a year ago he was altogether new to this world of spycraft and international intrigue. While even a fool as big as Don Jr. could not have missed the plain words of Goldstone’s letter in which he says he is speaking as an intermediary of a Russian government effort to elect his father, certainly other aspects of the approach could have eluded him. Same with Kushner. But this was literally Manafort’s world. Not just working in and around spies for years but for more than a decade doing so in the lands of the former Soviet Union. It is simply not possible that the nature of what was happening and what was being discussed wasn’t immediately clear to Manafort.

And yet, so far as we know, he made no effort to cut the meeting short or the larger line of communication off. There was no note to file written to protect himself or the campaign later. And we appear to know to close to a certainty that he made no effort to contact US intelligence authorities or the Secret Service or even notify the campaign’s own lawyers of what was happening.

emphasis added

At the time of the meeting, Paul Manafort was Trump’s campaign manager. The implications are mind boggling when all of this information is put together. There seems to be a pretty clear case that Manafort, and possibly others at the heart of the Trump campaign, was ready and willing to collude with Russia to win the election. Whether or not he discussed any of this with Trump is not known. (What did Trump know, when did he know it, and does he know that he knew it?)

Given the pattern of other Trump business dealings emerging from the murk and his behavior regarding Putin, it’s not credible to believe Trump would reject Russian offers of help with the election. The one thing no one disputes about Donald Trump is that he is obsessed with winning. The changes to the GOP platform regarding the Ukrainelooks more and more like a quid pro quo, as does the ramping up of Russian interference in the election after the meeting with strategic leaks of Democratic emails, hacking of election systems, social media campaigns, and who knows what else.

Given all that is coming out about Manafort, there are some questions that suggest themselves right away. Who made the decision to bring Manafort into Trump’s campaign? What people brought up his name in the first place? (Some of Trump’s Russian friends perhaps?) Did no one look into his background? Did anyone in the media ask questions about who this guy was, and why Trump was willing to trust his campaign to him?

Maanfort is currently the subject of multiple investigations. The wikipedia entry on Manafort has a long list, as well as a history of his business dealings with unsavory characters. Interesting company Trump finds himself in. (Metzmeir has a few details on his clients — Trump seems like a natural fit…)

You’d better believe there are a lot of people wondering what Manafort will do and say if he decides his only option is to turn and start giving testimony. There’s no shortage of grand juries who might want to hear what he has to say. The investigations around Trump continue to expand as more and more gets dragged into the light — but what Manafort knows and what he is willing to talk about could be devastating. I wouldn’t want to sell him a life insurance policy right now.

Fingers crossed.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos