Mark Sumner
August 4, 2016

If there was any evidence Donald Trump was capable of thinking beyond the next moment, it would be easy to suspect that 90% of what’s bubbled from his lips over the last three days is a diversion. Attacking the Khans. Hints that he won’t accept the results of the election. Complaints that the polls are fishy. Saying that women should run away from sexual harassment. Even kicking a baby out of a rally. All of it.
Because as bad as all this is, if it serves to fend off media attention from the thing Trump’s campaign has suddenly gone quiet about, it could be worth it. Because the thing they’re not talking about is Russia.
While Donald Trump may now claim that his request for Russia to interfere in the election was just an example of sarcasm, it certainly didn't seem that way to those listening on that day. And even if you wave that away—including the calls for a Senate hearing on the topic—other aspects of this story simply can't be passed off as a joke.
In particular this is one place where both Donald Trump and campaign manager Paul Manafort are deliberately, publicly, and obviously lying.. And that should be setting off major alarms.
Donald Trump campaign Chair Paul Manafort denied Sunday a two-week-old report that the campaign pushed for changes in the Republican platform that softened the party's stance on helping Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression. …
When asked once more if anyone on the campaign was involved, Manafort said, "No one, zero.”
The problem with Manafort’s claim is that there are hundreds of witnesses to the contrary.
Inside the meeting, Diana Denman, a platform committee member from Texas who was a Ted Cruz supporter, proposed a platform amendment that would call for maintaining or increasing sanctions against Russia, increasing aid for Ukraine and “providing lethal defensive weapons” to the Ukrainian military. …
Trump staffers in the room, who are not delegates but are there to oversee the process, intervened. By working with pro-Trump delegates, they were able to get the issue tabled while they devised a method to roll back the language.
It wasn’t just Trump delegates who objected. It was members of Trump’s campaign staff. And those Trump staff made it clear they weren't working on their own.
The two Trump staffers claimed to a delegate that they had to call and talk to “Mr. Trump”—perhaps name-dropping as obnoxious staffers, or perhaps Trump really was involved at the highest level with this particular amendment. The Trump staffers told the delegate that they had discussed Ukraine policy directly with Trump.
One of the two staffers has been identified as J. D. Gordon, who is not only a Trump campaign official but a former spokesman for the Pentagon who supervised transfers to Guantanamo Bay for Donald Rumsfeld.
And while Trump is eager to talk about HIllary Clinton’s “missing” personal emails, there are some actual missing documents he isn't anxious to talk about.
Meanwhile, records for the meeting seem to have disappeared. A co-chair for the national security platform subcommittee told The Daily Beast that the minutes for the meeting have been discarded. The Republican National Committee had no comment when asked whether this was standard procedure for all the subcommittees.
Why would Donald Trump care about the platform’s position on the Ukraine? Why would he care enough about it to change it? Why would he care enough about it to lie about it? Why would someone make sure that the notes from the meeting were nowhere to be found?
Well, Trump has expressed his admiration for Vladimir Putin throughout the campaign.
US presidential hopeful Donald Trump has said it is a “great honour” to receive a compliment from Russian President Vladimir Putin. 
The property tycoon hailed Mr Putin as a man “highly respected within his own country and beyond”. 
… he said, as plain as day, that he has “always felt fine about Putin”; he called him “strong” and a “powerful leader”; and he suggested that he should be respected for his “popularity within his country.”
Trump has also been very casual in slinging around the idea that he would weaken the NATO alliance.
America’s NATO allies may be on their own after November if Russia attacks them.
Donald Trump, the GOP  presidential nominee, appeared to make U.S. military support for NATO member states conditional on whether those states have met their financial obligations to the bloc, which has served as the cornerstone of global security after World War II.
And Trump has waffled on the idea of whether the US would intervene to stop and invasion of the Baltic states. 
When Donald J. Trump was asked on Wednesday whether, if elected president, he would defend the Baltic nations against a hypothetical Russian attack, his answer was, essentially: It depends.
But why would Trump—whose frequent bungling of foreign policy questions, including those about the Ukraine, suggests that he’d have a hard time finding anything in Eastern Europe other than supermodels—be so quick to address what is, after all, a relatively minor plank in the Republican platform? Why would he care?
He might not. But Paul Manafort would. Trump’s campaign manager worked long and hard for pro-Russian forces inside the Ukraine that were trying to destroy the pro-western government.
President Viktor F. Yanukovych, who owed his election to, as an American diplomat put it, an “extreme makeover” Mr. Manafort oversaw, bolted the country in the face of violent street protests. He found sanctuary in Russia and never returned, as his patron, President Vladimir V. Putin, proceeded to dismember Ukraine, annexing Crimea and fomenting a war in two other provinces that continues. ...
Within months of his client’s political demise, [Manafort] went to work seeking to bring his disgraced party back to power, much as he had Mr. Yanukovych himself nearly a decade earlier. Mr. Manafort has already had some success, with former Yanukovych loyalists — and some Communists — forming a new bloc opposing Ukraine’s struggling pro-Western government.
In doing this work, Manafort has been working directly against the interests of the United States. And directly for the interests of Vladimir Putin.
And he may still be on the payroll.
Until he joined Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign this year, Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine had been his most significant political campaign in recent years. He began his career in Republican politics in the 1970s and extended it overseas to advising authoritarian leaders, including Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines and Mr. Yanukovych.  …
It is not clear that Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine ended with his work with Mr. Trump’s campaign. A communications aide for Mr. Lyovochkin, who financed Mr. Manafort’s work, declined to say whether he was still on retainer or how much he had been paid.
That’s who Donald Trump hired to run his campaign: A man whose most significant work was helping foreign dictators destroy democratic opposition. 
Following the hiring of Paul Manafort, Trump’s own position on the Ukraine changed.
Donald Trump sounded like a supporter of Ukraine's territorial integrity last September, when he spoke by video feed to a gathering of political and business elites in Kiev. …
In recent days, however, Trump has struck a far milder tone. He now says he might recognize Crimea as Russian territory and lift punitive U.S. sanctions against Russia. The alternative, he warned on Monday, could be World War III.
Let’s review:
  1. Donald Trump has frequently expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin, viewing him as a “strong” leader who Trump “admires.” Trump has also given wildly differing statements on his personal relationship with Putin.
  2. Trump has on multiple occasions suggested a weakening of the NATO alliance
  3. Despite this, Trump previously expressed support for the Ukraine.
  4. After Trump hired Paul Manafort, a man who had worked for—and may still be working for—pro-Russian forces seeking to destroy the democratic government of the Ukraine, Trump’s position on the Ukraine changed to one that is far more friendly to Russia.
  5. Trump campaign staff, including former Rumsfeld assistant J. D. Gordon, halted the implementation of pro-Ukraine language in the GOP platform, and insisted on language that was much more supportive of Russia after saying they had to speak directly to Trump about the policy.
  6. One week after the change was written into the GOP platform, emails hacked from the DNC were released through Wikileaks. Both government and independent investigators have identified the hackers as being associated with the Russian government.
  7. Donald Trump suggested that Russia might also hack Hillary Clinton’s email server and recover 30,000 emails (which are not ‘missing,’ but were personal emails deleted by a team of lawyers who reviewed the server). 
  8. Trump later claimed he was being sarcastic, but within a week of his request, further hacks took place at the DCCC and the Hillary Clinton campaign. These hacks have also been identified as coming from Russian sources.
  9. Both Manafort and Trump issued denials that they had anything to do with the changes to the Republican platform, despite the many witnesses and despite having made no objection to the news as it was reported at the time.
  10. Trump, in interview, seemed not only confused about the two year old invasion of the Ukraine, but gave apparently contradictory indications that, were he elected, he would cede the occupied Crimea to Russia, and that the Russians would withdraw from the Ukraine.
None of that is speculation. Not one word of it is theory. 
Right now, there’s no proof that Trump and Manafort have been involved in a quid-pro-quo arrangement with Vladimir Putin. However, this whole thing stinks to high heaven. This isn’t just a hint of smoke on the horizon, this is a raging forest fire of connections between a United States presidential candidate and a foreign power. 
As much as you may be offended over how Trump has treated the Kahns, as incensed as you may be over Trump’s misogynistic response to questions about sexual harassment, as bad as you may feel for that embarrassed woman holding a crying child … This is the story Donald Trump hopes you forget.
Donald Trump is suddenly pretending that he never met or talked with Vladimir Putin, When he  previously said he did.
Donald Trump is suddenly pretending that he had nothing to do with pro-Russian language in the Republican platform. When we know his campaign put it there.
Manafort is denying any involvement from the campaign. We know that’s not true.
There’s a great big why that needs to be answered by Manafort and Trump. Because it’s very easy to think of an answer.
Vladimir Putin has a plan for destroying the West—and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump. Over the past decade, Russia has boosted right-wing populists across Europe. It loaned money to Marine Le Pen in France, well-documented transfusions of cash to keep her presidential campaign alive. Such largesse also wended its way to the former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, who profited “personally and handsomely” from Russian energy deals, as an American ambassador to Rome once put it. (Berlusconi also shared a 240-year-old bottle of Crimean wine with Putin and apparently makes ample use of a bed gifted to him by the Russian president.)
There’s a clear pattern: Putin runs stealth efforts on behalf of politicians who rail against the European Union and want to push away from NATO. 
Oh, yeah, and Donald Trump still refuses to release his taxes. Which is a very convenient position for someone who may have some … external sources of funds.

NOTE:  I guess it would be too obvious to point out to Trump and his campaign folks that protestors in Russia don't get thrown out of rallies, they get jailed.  Or that anti-Putin press reporters don't get banned, they get shot dead in dark alleys under strange circumstances.  Or the media outlets who criticize Vladimir Putin too much get shut down.

No question Vladimir Putin is a "strong leader."  But not in a good way if you actually believe in Democracy, Free Speech, a Free Press and equal treatment and justice under the law.  Or the rule of law, for that matter.  This whole Putin Admiration Society crap is really strange stuff.

Have A Good Day Folks!


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