Big news this morning about the continuing pressure to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. Ken Dilanian was the first with the story, and Washington Post is catching up. Like a lot of stories about the Trump administration’s dicey connections with foreign governments, it adds some new information to a story that I’ve been following for a long time.
The current emphasis is that Saudi Arabia (which I’ll refer to as KSA) wants a nuclear program that might eventually be used to produce weapons. That misses a lot. Michael Flynn was trying to sell nuclear technology to the Saudis for quite some time. That attempt has continued. I have a copy of the report from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, but what I want to do here is discuss the context of the actions described there. This post will be a quick outline, without most of the links it should have. Read More
Over the weekend, Will Bunch did a great tweet stream linking Jeff Bezos, National Enquirer, the Saudis, Jamal Khashoggi, and Donald Trump, along with others. He promised he would put it into a column, and here it is. It’s more cautious than the tweet stream, but fairly interesting. He introduces a number of possibilities by asking questions, a relatively safe way to introduce thoughts that you don’t have journalistic confirmation for. They are good questions, worth keeping in mind as things proceed. Read More
This morning’s Presidential tweet storm confirmed a trend I’ve discerned recently.
I’ve had a running (good-natured) argument with other nuke nerds on Twitter about the President’s delusions with regard to North Korea. His tweets and much of the administration action and speech, particularly Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s, seem to revolve around an assumption that Kim Jong Un is ready to give up his nuclear weapons.
However, every official statement from North Korea says otherwise. Kim sees those nuclear weapons as the foundation of his country’s security from meddling by outside powers. North Korea has long used the word “denuclearization” to indicate a state in which they no longer fear attack and thus can give up their nuclear arsenal.
This disjunction is dangerous. It appears that Kim is playing Donald Trump, and Trump is responding. It may mean that Trump will give up alliances with South Korea and Japan for meaningless actions from North Korea. It may mean that at some point he will recognize the disjunction and feel that he has been betrayed by Kim and will allow John Bolton his desire for a war. Read More
Nancy Pelosi released a remarkable statement last night. Since she is a strategist, we can analyze it in terms of a strategy, a refreshing change from the last two years.
We have become accustomed to the idea that Donald Trump and his people have connections to Russia. The news has trickled out, first to surprise, now to boredom. But the number and type of connections are remarkable for a President of the United States, and they may well have been unlawful.
The general outlines of the story have been visible since the 2016 Republican primary, and there is a circumstantial case that Trump has been working with Russians and Russian money for a long time and had Russian help in the 2016 election. We have become enured to this and no longer hear it. Read More
I think that one reason people have taken up the Steele dossier as a key to Donald Trump’s election wrongdoing is that it is a relatively compact telling of events, from which a narrative may be extracted.
Most of the news coverage is of one small piece of the story at a time. The format of the articles tends to be a general statement of that small piece, perhaps with a bit of background, then a more detailed explanation of the small piece, and then more background. Space is limited, and the story is big. The cast appears to include thousands.
I find those articles largely unreadable and uninformative. Journalists seem to be having trouble too. Sally Buzbee, the executive editor of AP, said the Trump-Russia probes have “gone on so long that it’s difficult to be able to assess what in this investigation is truly very serious and what is not as serious. So that is one thing that journalists struggle with a little bit…” (video here; quote begins at 4:30) That certainly could be one reason that their articles are unreadable.
We need an overall story into which we can fit the breaking news. That will help us figure out what is truly very serious. Elliott Broidy, as far as we know now, is not as important to the story as Erik Prince, who is not as important as Donald Trump Jr. A master narrative can show where characters and subplots fit. Then the subplots can be written separately, noting the connections.
So I’m going to stick my neck out and provide a narrative. It is a bare-bones framework on which we can hang the many subplots and add in facts as they emerge. I’ve also added questions that need to be answered. I suspect that Robert Mueller has answers to some of those questions.
I invite you to suggest subplots. I’ll add them to my list and perhaps write another post in which I try to incorporate them into the narrative.
Aside from three oddball claims that I couldn’t really classify (6, 7, and 19 if you’re counting), it looks to me like the dossier includes 15 claims that are now fully or partially supported and 27 claims for which we have no evidence so far. These 27 claims include a fair amount of insider Kremlin gossip.
What I found most interesting is this: although there’s no public evidence one way or the other for these 27 claims,² there doesn’t appear to be a single claim that we know with certainty is false. There are claims that have been denied by the American participants, but none that we have documentary proof of being mistaken. Partly this is because it’s hard to prove a negative, but it’s still surprising that not a single claim in the report has been conclusively debunked. It’s especially surprising since the dossier is a patchwork of raw intelligence, and even if it was well done by competent professionals you’d still expect it to include at least a few claims that, two years later, we could say were categorically wrong.
It’s time to reconsider the Steele dossier. Not necessarily to show how much Christopher Steele got right or wrong, but because it is a relatively compact collection of information about how the Donald Trump campaign may have worked with the Russians. Looking at it can help to organize the torrent of information coming at us. Read More
This is a small point in the larger Russia investigation. But in my science, I have found that small points that don’t seem to make sense can be important. I am not putting forth a theory here. I want to raise questions that I think reporters should be looking at. The overarching question is Who is Sam Clovis and how did he develop his contacts?
When Donald Trump announced his foreign policy advisors in March 2016, a great many of us said “Who?” The five people announced were Joseph E. Schmitz, Gen. Keith Kellogg, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos and Walid Phares. Three had policy experience. Two didn’t. None were obvious choices.
Page was off to Russia that June. He had meetings with at least one high-level official, although his answers to congressional committees on that subject are evasive. A few years earlier, two Russian agents attempted to recruit Page as an informant.
Papadopoulos was convicted of lying to the FBI earlier this year. His wife worked for Joseph Mifsud, who had Russian connections and a job that looks like a cover. Mifsud has disappeared.
Who recommended Page and Papadopoulos? Eventually it came out that Sam Clovis, the national co-chair of the Trump campaign, had brought them into the campaign. Read More
In this post, I’m going to take a 40,000-foot view of the Khashoggi affair, to clarify some things as the Trump propaganda machine swings into action.
Jamal Khashoggi was a citizen of Saudi Arabia and resident of the United States. He was a critic of the Saudi regime and a columnist for the Washington Post. On October 2, he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and has not been seen since. A 15-man Saudi group, including a forensic pathologist with a bone saw, entered Turkey just before Khashoggi disappeared and left just afterwards. The Saudi consul has left Turkey and has not been available to the press. Evidence is available that suggests that Khashoggi was tortured, killed, and dismembered.
Official statements from the Saudi government have denied that they had anything to do with Khashoggi’s probable murder. Government statements have also threatened economic and political retaliation. Read More