The Trump Narrative

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.

The narrative is below the fold. Read More

Who Is Sam Clovis?

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

Links – October 27, 2018

The Khashoggi Affair – A summary of Trump interactions with the Saudis and some good questions. Background on Turkey’s role by Graham Fuller and Aaron Stein. It’s time for the US to take a stand against the destructive bond that Donald Trump has with Saudi Arabia. Some of the things that might be done.  What Congress might do.

Why withdrawing from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty is a bad idea, and a possible alternativeJohn Bolton’s role in the decision. EU statement. Interview with Richard Burt, who negotiated arms control treaties under Ronald Reagan.

Interview with Sig Hecker on recent developments with North Korea.

Mapped: The Absent Ambassadors.

Russia is coming back to Afghanistan.

How much does Russia spend on nuclear weapons?

The Bullying Swagger – from me in Pakistan Politico.

Jeffrey Lewis highlights a problem that I continue to deal with in Trump’s America: There is policy analysis, and then there is how Trump makes decisions.

This is exactly how a nuclear war would kill you. How a nuclear war might start and what it would be like.

The misunderstood roots of international order – and why they matter again.

Joachim Roenneberg has died. He led the mission to blow up Norway’s heavy water plant in 1943, when Germany occupied Norway. That heavy water could have helped the Nazis develop an atomic bomb. BBC. New York Times.

The Khashoggi Affair: A View From 40,000 Feet

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

Did The Saudis Kill Jamal Khashoggi?

On Tuesday, October 2, Saudi journalist and activist Jamal Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to pick up paperwork for his upcoming wedding. He never came out alive.

Turkey says that they have recordings of his interrogation, torture, and murder by Saudis inside the consulate. Additionally, there is photographic evidence of a 15-man Saudi team arriving in Istanbul just before Khashoggi disappeared, including special forces officers, intelligence officials, and a forensics specialist. Turkey is now upping the pressure on Saudi Arabia.

A story has been floated that Khashoggi’s Apple watch picked up the audio and sent it to the cloud, which is where Turkey got it. But this is probably a cover story to allow Turkey to deny it has listening devices inside the Saudi consulate. Of course, every country bugs every other country’s consulates and embassies. Hard to see why the Turks are being so coy.

David Ignatius has written a long backgrounder on Khashoggi. Khashoggi was devoted to his country, Saudi Arabia. He took some big chances, including joining the Muslim Brotherhood when he was in his 20s, where he met Osama bin Laden. He grew to feel that bin Laden was moving in too radical a direction. He managed to maintain backing by prominent Saudis, which allowed him to continue his truth-telling journalism. Read More

Nobody Expected Such A Great Negotiation

There’s been a certain je ne sais quoi quality to the White House’s discussion of the summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. Today we learned what it is.

President Donald Trump told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their Singapore summit in June that he’d sign a declaration to end the Korean War soon after their meeting, according to multiple sources familiar with the negotiations.

This was number one on Kim’s wish list. And Trump gave it to him, free for nothing. Read More

Links – August 4, 2018

Two Trumps in Helsinki: Russia’s Approach to the U.S. President. By the director of the analytical department of the Center of Political Technologies in Moscow. Did the US really exploit Russia’s weakness in the 1990s?

Analysis of the Trump administration’s demands on Iran.

It is beyond absurd that administration officials, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in particular, keep claiming that North Korea agreed to unilaterally disarm.

Our summer of fear: A conversation with Chicago philosopher Martha Nussbaum. Fear is an important part of what Donald Trump is inflicting on the nation and world. It gives him power.

It’s hard to keep up with events these days – as I save links to share, they become outdated. So the photo at top is of desert four o’clocks that are now blooming a second time after our monsoon rains.

 

We Still Don’t Know

It is almost a week, and we have no reliable information about the meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Trump and Putin spent two and a half hours together in Helsinki with no note-takers, no expert advice, only their interpreters. We have no record of what happened during those two and a half hours, no record of what either man said or may have promised.

The standard practice to have note-takers in such a meeting is because the president is not representing himself, but rather the country. It’s important to have notes because memories of a meeting may be inaccurate or the other party may dispute them.

Engagement in serious discussion precludes note-taking or even forming a coherent memory of all the things said and done. A competent interlocutor pays attention to what the other party is saying and thinks about what s/he will say, informed by recall of materials studied before the meeting. Read More