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Monday, July 10, 2017

Freedom of the press means taking stenography at the White House


Since we're press-bashing today, let us continue.

NPR is now reporting (as I type) on the meeting between Trump Jr. and a "Russian."  No names, please, it's so indiscrete!  Besides, Russian novels, amirite?  I mean, you just skip over the names, don't you?  So the story is just that Don took a meeting that amounted to nothing because it's okay to conduct oppo research with furriners, right?

Yeah, yeah, those people who say it isn't are just cranks.

So why did this "Russian lawyer" tease Jr. with Hillary smears, and turn the conversation to "adoption"?  Charlie Pierce, as ever, is an invaluable resource:

Let us pause for a moment and consider the Magnitsky Act. Sergei Magnitsky was an auditor from a Russian law firm who uncovered the biggest case of tax fraud in the history of Russian kleptocratic corruption, which is something. In response, Magnitsky was arrested and put on trial for tax evasion in front of a bunch of crooks in lovely kangaroo suits. He died in prison of untreated medical problems and (probably) from being beaten to death by the good people from the Interior Ministry. In 2012, the Congress passed a law that froze the assets and effectively rendered non-persons 18 Russian officials who were tied in some way to the persecution and murder of Sergei Magnitsky. This got up the nose of Vladimir Putin, who responded by suspending the adoption of Russian children by American families. He also launched a PR blitz headed by a well-connected hack lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya. Which is where Junior comes in.

You will struggle in any news coverage today to find references to the Magnitsky Act.  No one in the White House mentioned it today, so fuggedaboutit!  Down the rabbit hole with it!  Details make MEGO!  We want to MAGA!  Or something.  But the NYT had it for context, and it's the reason the "well-connected hack lawyer" who headed Putin's PR blitz against it, met with Jr. last June.

June 9 is also the day Donald Trump published his first tweet about Hillary Clinton's missing e-mails:


Which I'm sure is merely a coincidence.  Except there's still the nagging problem of Jr. taking this meeting in the first place:

“Legality aside, this is Russian intelligence tactics at their best,”  [former CIA spy Lindsay Moran] said. “Let’s promise Trump Jr. something that he wants, lure him in, bait and switch. It doesn’t matter whether they talked about nefarious activities with him at the meeting — the whole thing is nefarious.”

Moran went on to say that it was particularly disturbing that Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who now has security clearances as part of his work at the Trump White House, was present at the meeting.

“I have conducted background investigations,” Moran explained. “If you do not disclose meetings with foreign nationals, especially one promising dirt in exchange for something, that’s a big deal. That’s not leaving out an address you had for two months in college. It’s raising a number of eyebrows and can result in a counter-intelligence investigation. It can get you locked up.”
So, is it that bad?

Nick Akerman, who assisted the special prosecutor during Watergate, said the president’s son may have betrayed the U.S. by agreeing to meet with Kremlin-linked attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, along with his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

“There’s lots of legal implications,” Akerman said. “First of all, we have a potential for actual treason. We have Donald Trump Jr., the ‘mini-me’ to the president, who is meeting with a Russian operative, thinking that he’s going to get information on the Hillary Clinton campaign.”
....
“Paul Manafort was brought to the dance by none other than Roger Stone, who in August of 2016 admitted that prior he had direct conversations with the Russian hacker and that he was aware of what WikiLeaks was doing,” Akerman explained. “Then on top of all that, you’ve got Jared Kushner, who in June of 2016 — when this very meeting was going on — was put in charge of this whole data program for the Trump campaign.”
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!  Mara Liasson got her information straight from the White House briefing, and there's nothing to see here!  Well, aside from the fact, she admitted, that  Jr. didn't disclose these meetings.  But this is a bit beyond disclosure.  Of course, as Jake Tapper explained on CNN (complete with videos!):

“To the best of our knowledge, at least five former or current members of President Trump’s team have not only had some contact with the Russians, the have lied, changed their stories or not been forthcoming with information about those contacts with the Russians,” Tapper explained, naming former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, former Trump advisor Carter Page, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, top White House advisor Jared Kushner and now, Trump Jr.

“If these contacts and conversations with Russians were so innocent—as is being claimed—the obvious question: Why so many lies about them?” Tapper asked.
Why, indeed.  And while we're asking questions, maybe we can ask NPR to report the lawyer's name, and connections to Putin, and reasons for asking about "adoptions."  Because even that story has a context that raises questions.

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