Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Putin Speaks Code. Does Trump Understand?

 

Back when word first leaked that Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Donald Trump, Jr., had met with a Russian lawyer and others offering dirt on Hillary Clinton, President Trump seemed to think he was supplying an exculpatory cover story. Flying home from Germany on Air Force One, Trump reportedly instructed Don Jr. to claim that he and the Kremlin-linked lawyer had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.” There is apparently some debate about whether that misleading statement places the president in any legal jeopardy, but there is another aspect to the story that has received less attention. It came up again during the Helsinki debacle – Putin, the world’s richest man and most successful thief, is obsessed with the Magnitsky Act.

In fact, the very mention of Russian adoptions was a tipoff that Ms. Veselnitskaya was probably representing Vladimir Putin. Whether Trump knew this at the time is unclear. After all, he could not say what the nuclear triad was and endorsed “Article XII” of the U.S. Constitution. Maybe he thought mentioning that they discussed Russian adoptions was the most anodyne-sounding explanation for the meeting.

Except it wasn’t. If they spoke of adoptions, it means they spoke of the Magnitsky Act, the sanctions bill the U.S. enacted at the urging of William Browder, a hedge fund manager and, at one time, the largest foreign investor in Russia. Funny, Browder’s name came up again in Helsinki, when Putin accused him of tax evasion and theft and contributing to the Hillary Clinton campaign (all totally false) and suggested that the U.S. should hand him over for questioning in exchange for permitting Robert Mueller to question the 12 GRU agents just indicted for meddling in our election. Putin later added former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul to the list of those his goons would interrogate. Our stable genius president leaped at this as an “incredible offer.” A few days later, he scaled back.

Those who follow relations with Russia know that Vladimir Putin used the fate of Russian orphans as a way to retaliate against the United States for the Magnitsky Act. If they were talking adoptions at Trump Tower it’s because they were talking about sanctions relief, a matter dear to Putin’s heart. In exchange for what?

Sergei Magnitsky was the accountant who worked for William Browder. When Browder’s firm, Hermitage Capital, was the victim of a fraud and embezzlement scheme, Magnitsky patiently pieced together the truth. Those responsible, it turned out, were Russian government agents, living large and enjoying BMWs and seaside apartments. Magnitsky’s reward was to be arrested and tortured to death. Oh, and to add a nice Soviet-style touch, Putin’s government pinned the embezzlement on Magnitsky. Putin’s retaliation, halting adoptions of Russian babies by Americans, was another human rights abuse.

Browder was shaken to his core by Magnitsky’s fate and has since devoted his life to passing Magnitsky laws in every country he can convince. Ours passed in 2012. The law forbids Americans to do any business, including banking, with those who had a part in Magnitsky’s torture and death, thus making it more difficult for Russian criminals (i.e. state actors including Putin) to stash stolen money in the U.S. or other countries that have adopted such laws. It would not be strange for a president of the United States to award someone like Bill Browder a medal. It is pathetic for a president of the United States to be so obtuse or ignorant or both as to agree before all the world that such a man might be questioned by Putin’s trained attack dogs.

If you watched the Helsinki press conference, you saw Trump bowing and scraping to ingratiate himself with Putin. He kept thanking the Russian for attending the meeting, stressed that using the word “competitor” was intended as a compliment (in contrast to his treatment of NATO allies), and whined that the Mueller investigation had “kept us separated.” The man who swore to put America first blamed America first for poor relations with Russia.

What you saw in Putin was the cat who’d swallowed the canary. He was calm. He smiled. We later learned that on his way to Helsinki, his plane had violated NATO air space by flying over Estonia without permission. He is rubbing our noses in it.

“There was no collusion,” President Trump keeps saying. It may be true or it may not. But his behavior in Helsinki, like so much of what he says and does, reveals a shallow, unworthy, power-worshipping man who does not understand what he is sworn to uphold.

There are 99 comments.

  1. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Too bad the Magnitsky laws passed here in the USA did not occur until 2012. It would have been nice if Hillary’s deal with Canadian Frank Giustra to assist Russian businessmen with new sources of uranium would have been stopped dead in its tracks.

     

     

    • #1
    • July 19, 2018, at 3:25 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  2. Lash LaRoche Inactive

    We’re not going to war with Russia. Get over it.

    • #2
    • July 19, 2018, at 4:03 PM PST
    • 13 likes
  3. Basil Fawlty Member

    Trump speaks code. Does Charen understand?

    • #3
    • July 19, 2018, at 4:08 PM PST
    • 14 likes
  4. Hoyacon Member

    a shallow, unworthy, power-worshipping man who does not understand what he is sworn to uphold

    It’s a noble effort, but I’m going to have to give the nod to George Will for “Most Vitriolic Trump Characterization of the Week.”

    • #4
    • July 19, 2018, at 4:10 PM PST
    • 22 likes
  5. Matt Y. Member

    Putin later added former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul to the list of those his goons would interrogate.

    Maybe he thought Putin meant wouldn’t interrogate. 

    :) :) :)

    Anyway, I agree with Popehat:

    Or, to put it another way, Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which can adequately explained by stupidity.”

    • #5
    • July 19, 2018, at 4:18 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  6. Matt Y. Member

    Mike LaRoche (View Comment):

    We’re not going to war with Russia. Get over it.

    Because not going to war with Russia requires cuddling up to him. 

    Weakness and appeasement makes war more likely.

     

    • #6
    • July 19, 2018, at 4:20 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  7. Basil Fawlty Member

    Matt Y. (View Comment):

    Mike LaRoche (View Comment):

    We’re not going to war with Russia. Get over it.

    Because not going to war with Russia requires cuddling up to him.

    Weakness and appeasement makes war more likely.

     

    Crimea river.

    • #7
    • July 19, 2018, at 4:27 PM PST
    • 21 likes
  8. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    Will the dynamic duo of Bat Trump and mustached boy-wonder Bolton solve the riddle in time? Or will girl-wonder Nikki Haley have to change out of her cover as mild-mannered UN Ambassador to save the day?

     

    • #8
    • July 19, 2018, at 4:41 PM PST
    • 12 likes
  9. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member

    I recommend everyone read this.

    Specifically this part. It might help you understand the art of diplomacy

    Putin is a bad guy. A really bad guy. He is better than Lenin. Better than Stalin, Khrushchev, Kosygin, Brezhnev, Pol Pot, Mao. But he is a really bad guy.

    Here’s the thing: Putin is a dictator. He answers to no one. He does whatever he wants. If there arises an opponent, that guy dies. Maybe the opponent gets poked with a poisoned umbrella. Maybe he gets shot on the street. Maybe the opponent is forced to watch Susan Rice interviews telling the world that Benghazi happened because of a YouTube video seen by nine derelicts in Berkeley and that Bowe Berghdal served with honor and distinction. But, one way or another, the opponent dies.

    Trump knows this about Putin. And here is what that means:

    If you insult Putin in public, like by telling the newsmedia just before or after meeting with him that he is the Butcher of Crimea, and he messed with our elections, and is an overall jerk — then you will get nothing behind closed doors from Putin. Putin will decide “To heck with you, and to heck with the relationship we just forged.” Putin will get even, will take intense personal revenge, even if it is bad for Russia — even if it is bad for Putin. Because there are no institutional reins on him.

    But if you go in public and tell everyone that Putin is a nice guy (y’know, just like Kim Jong Un) and that Putin intensely maintains that he did not mess with elections — not sweet little Putey Wutey (even though he obviously did) — then you next can maintain the momentum established beforehand in the private room. You can proceed to remind Putin what you told him privately: that this garbage has to stop — or else. That if he messes in Syria, we will do “X.” If he messes with our Iran boycott, we will do “Y.” We will generate so much oil from hydraulic fracturing and from ANWR and from all our sources that we will glut the market — if not tomorrow, then a year from now. We will send even more lethal offensive military weapons to Ukraine. We can restore the promised shield to Eastern Europe that Obama withdrew. And even if we cannot mess with Russian elections (because they have no elections), they do have computers — and, so help us, we will mess with their technology in a way they cannot imagine.

    • #9
    • July 19, 2018, at 4:45 PM PST
    • 23 likes
  10. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member

    Cont. from above.

    Trump knows from his advisers what we can do. If he sweet-talks Putin in public — just Putin on the Ritz — then everything that Trump has told Putin privately can be reinforced with action, and he even can wedge concessions because, against that background, Putin knows that no one will believe that he made any concessions. Everyone is set to believe that Putin is getting whatever he wants, that Trump understands nothing. So, in that setting, Putin can make concessions and still save face.

    That is why Trump talks about him that way. And that is the only possible way to do it when negotiating with a tyrant who has no checks and balances on him. If you embarrass the tyrant publicly, then the tyrant never will make concessions because he will fear that people will say he was intimidated and backed down. And that he never will do. Meanwhile, Trump has expelled 60 Russians from America, reversed Obama policy and sent lethal weapons to Ukraine, and is pressing Germany severely on its pipeline project with Russia.

    Comments on the above are welcome. What, exactly, did you want President Trump to do? Go in there guns a-blazin’ and screw up any possible progress that could be made in Russia/US relations? Do you understand the first thing about diplomacy?

    • #10
    • July 19, 2018, at 4:46 PM PST
    • 18 likes
  11. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member

    This liberal pundit gets it:

    • #11
    • July 19, 2018, at 4:50 PM PST
    • 22 likes
  12. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member

    And . . .

    • #12
    • July 19, 2018, at 4:52 PM PST
    • 14 likes
  13. Henry Racette Contributor

    The good news is that, whatever Putin speaks, Trump speaks, well, gibberish. He shoots from the hip, backtracks, is incoherent, exaggerates, makes mistakes — and blithely rolls on.

    So, as much as I found the things Trump said in Helsinki lamentable, and as much as I detest any U.S. President ever speaking ill of America — especially on foreign soil — I do take comfort from my suspicion that he’ll continue to govern both pretty competently and without regard to any particular things he said, in Helsinki or anywhere.

    The Trump Disconnect is real: what he says, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) isn’t a predictor of what he’ll do — nor even of what he’ll say next.

    He needs to be scolded and criticized for letting America down this week. He needs to be encouraged to get back to doing conservative things domestically.

    He babbles. I think it’s unlikely that his recent words will have consequences.

    • #13
    • July 19, 2018, at 4:52 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  14. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    He needs to be scolded and criticized for letting America down this week.

    He didn’t let America down, Hank.

    • #14
    • July 19, 2018, at 4:55 PM PST
    • 12 likes
  15. Painter Jean Member

    Moderator Note:

    This is unhelpful and in bad faith

    Well, Mona, I give you loads of credit for criticizing Trump on this site, as there are some true believers here who can’t stomach anything less than unadulterated praise and worship.

    I’m with Matt – I don’t think this is cunning or collusion, I think this is amateur hour. That no one seemed to think that there might be a problem with meeting with a foreigner to get dirt on Hillary is stupid, but the combination of stupidity and inexperience can do amazing things…

    • #15
    • July 19, 2018, at 4:58 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  16. DrewInWisconsin, Type Monkey Member

    Painter Jean (View Comment):

    Well, Mona, I give you loads of credit for criticizing Trump on this site, as there are some true believers here who can’t stomach anything less than unadulterated praise and worship.

    Please stop with the “praise and worship” stuff. It’s insulting.

    • #16
    • July 19, 2018, at 5:01 PM PST
    • 16 likes
  17. Jim McConnell Member

    I’m just amazed that all of the “Experts” in the media and politics are so much smarter than the President. It makes me wonder why at least one of them doesn’t step up and get elected and thus end all of this misery President Trump has visited upon our country.

    He’s been president for 18 months now, and none of the dire predictions, correct that — statements of certainty — of disaster have come to pass. Except in the minds of his opponents and critics. In his brief time in office, he has done vastly more actual good for the country and the economy than his predecessor did in eight years.

    Yes, he’s an obnoxious boor and he doesn’t listen to the media-approved experts, but his policies are a great improvement over what has recently gone before.

     

    • #17
    • July 19, 2018, at 5:04 PM PST
    • 12 likes
  18. Hoyacon Member

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    Painter Jean (View Comment):

    Well, Mona, I give you loads of credit for criticizing Trump on this site, as there are some true believers here who can’t stomach anything less than unadulterated praise and worship.

    Please stop with the “praise and worship” stuff. It’s insulting.

    It also fails to characterize those of us who will call out Trump from time to time but have grown tired of this columnist’s disregard for nuance.

    • #18
    • July 19, 2018, at 5:04 PM PST
    • 15 likes
  19. Lash LaRoche Inactive

    I, for one, welcome our God-Emperor Trump and Goddess-Empress Melania. 😎

    • #19
    • July 19, 2018, at 5:06 PM PST
    • 19 likes
  20. Painter Jean Member

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    Cont. from above.

    Trump knows from his advisers what we can do. If he sweet-talks Putin in public — just Putin on the Ritz — then everything that Trump has told Putin privately can be reinforced with action, and he even can wedge concessions because, against that background, Putin knows that no one will believe that he made any concessions. Everyone is set to believe that Putin is getting whatever he wants, that Trump understands nothing. So, in that setting, Putin can make concessions and still save face.

    That is why Trump talks about him that way. And that is the only possible way to do it when negotiating with a tyrant who has no checks and balances on him. If you embarrass the tyrant publicly, then the tyrant never will make concessions because he will fear that people will say he was intimidated and backed down. And that he never will do. Meanwhile, Trump has expelled 60 Russians from America, reversed Obama policy and sent lethal weapons to Ukraine, and is pressing Germany severely on its pipeline project with Russia.

    Comments on the above are welcome. What, exactly, did you want President Trump to do? Go in there guns a-blazin’ and screw up any possible progress that could be made in Russia/US relations? Do you understand the first thing about diplomacy?

    False choice. That isn’t the only alternative. How about not drawing moral equivalency between the US and Russia? 

    I’m not buying this view of events. I don’t think Trump knows or at least doesn’t care about Putin’s misdeeds. He seems to admire tyrants and dictators, and, like he said, we kill people too. 

    • #20
    • July 19, 2018, at 5:07 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  21. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    I’m just amazed that all of the “Experts” in the media and politics are so much smarter than the President. It makes me wonder why at least one of them doesn’t step up and get elected and thus end all of this misery President Trump has visited upon our country.

    He’s been president for 18 months now, and none of the dire predictions, correct that — statements of certainty — of disaster have come to pass. Except in the minds of his opponents and critics. In his brief time in office, he has done vastly more actual good for the country and the economy than his predecessor did in eight years.

    Yes, he’s an obnoxious boor and he doesn’t listen to the media-approved experts, but his policies are a great improvement over what has recently gone before.

    It is also true that the Gallup polling people recently revealed that the percentage of people in the USA concerned about some Russian crisis are such a small percentage they can’t be considered:

    https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-07-19/gallup-shows-how-much-americans-really-care-about-situation-russia

    From the above article:
    While ever-hope-filled expectations among the left are for a ‘blue wave’ in the Mid-term elections, we suspect things may not turn out quite as planned given the last week’s “crisis”. Even before President Trump had set foot in Helsinki, the left and the media were banging the drums of war against “the thug” Putin and how he
    would trump Trump, and once the press conference furore was over, all hell broke loose as the left-leaning world attempted to out-signal one another’s virtue as to the “treasonous”, “surrender” that had occurred.

    Full article at link in bold

     

    • #21
    • July 19, 2018, at 5:08 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  22. Painter Jean Member

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    Painter Jean (View Comment):

    Well, Mona, I give you loads of credit for criticizing Trump on this site, as there are some true believers here who can’t stomach anything less than unadulterated praise and worship.

    Please stop with the “praise and worship” stuff. It’s insulting.

    So is being told I’m a Never Trumper by some here, despite saying over and over and over that I like a lot of what Trump does. The inability to tolerate any criticism of the man strikes me as a kind of worship. If the shoe fits….

    • #22
    • July 19, 2018, at 5:09 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  23. Painter Jean Member

    Mike LaRoche (View Comment):

    I, for one, welcome our God-Emperor Trump and Goddess-Empress Melania. 😎

    I doubt we have ever had a more stunningly beautiful First Lady! And I appreciate the fact that she’s low-key and not out there pushing programs on us.

    • #23
    • July 19, 2018, at 5:14 PM PST
    • 12 likes
  24. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Matt Y. (View Comment):

    Mike LaRoche (View Comment):

    We’re not going to war with Russia. Get over it.

    Because not going to war with Russia requires cuddling up to him.

    Weakness and appeasement makes war more likely.

    So in your view, is there some compelling reason why we should go to war with Russia?

    If so, what is it?

    And please don’t forget that between the two nations, there are enough nukes to bury everyone on the planet several times over. So before I kiss my grand kids good bye for good, I’d like to know exactly why I need to do that.

    • #24
    • July 19, 2018, at 5:20 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  25. Franco Member

    “But his behavior in Helsinki, like so much of what he says and does, reveals a shallow, unworthy, power-worshipping man who does not understand what he is sworn to uphold.”

    As a true believer, I’m detecting code for insufficient worship here.

    Painter Jean (View Comment):

    Well, Mona, I give you loads of credit for criticizing Trump on this site, as there are some true believers here who can’t stomach anything less than unadulterated praise and worship.

    I don’t think Mona knows what Trump is sworn to uphold at this point. What? Globalism, elitism and perpetual war with Russia?

    What is Mona’s idea of the primary role of the US President? World Scold?

     

     

    • #25
    • July 19, 2018, at 5:23 PM PST
    • 14 likes
  26. Painter Jean Member

    Franco (View Comment):

    “But his behavior in Helsinki, like so much of what he says and does, reveals a shallow, unworthy, power-worshipping man who does not understand what he is sworn to uphold.”

    As a true believer, I’m detecting code for insufficient worship here.

    Painter Jean (View Comment):

    Well, Mona, I give you loads of credit for criticizing Trump on this site, as there are some true believers here who can’t stomach anything less than unadulterated praise and worship.

    I don’t think Mona knows what Trump is sworn to uphold at this point. What? Globalism, elitism and perpetual war with Russia?

    What is Mona’s idea of the primary role of the US President? World Scold?

    How about not sounding like Obama and Noam Chomsky? I’d be happy with that. Honestly, though, I think this becomes old news very quickly. 

     

     

    • #26
    • July 19, 2018, at 5:27 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  27. Painter Jean Member

    CarolJoy (View Comment):

    Matt Y. (View Comment):

    Mike LaRoche (View Comment):

    We’re not going to war with Russia. Get over it.

    Because not going to war with Russia requires cuddling up to him.

    Weakness and appeasement makes war more likely.

    So in your view, is there some compelling reason why we should go to war with Russia?

    If so, what is it?

    And please don’t forget that between the two nations, there are enough nukes to bury everyone on the planet several times over. So before I kiss my grand kids good bye for good, I’d like to know exactly why I need to do that.

    Who said anything about wanting war with Russia?? This is what you see as the only choice? How about simply not rolling over like a lap dog for Putin? How about not suggesting that the US is the moral equivalent of Russia? For the second time, I might add?

    • #27
    • July 19, 2018, at 5:32 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  28. Doug Watt Member

    Nations do not have friends, they have national interests. I’m not sure what President Trump means when he says he would like to have a warmer relationship with Vlad the Shirtless. Ukraine has a warmer relationship with Russia, and it’s been very expensive. To his credit he is allowing Ukraine to purchase Javelin anti-tank missiles, which are far more effective than the Meals Ready To Eat that President Obama sent to Ukraine.

    You won’t find me weeping for the 200 to 300 Russian mercenaries US forces killed in Syria. Putin didn’t weep for them either, his government didn’t even notify the families of those mercenaries in Russia of their loss.

    Now if a warmer relationship means the Ukrainian’s can kill as many Russian soldiers as they can in Crimea, and eastern Ukraine, then I’m all in. I’m also good with allowing Russian soldiers to pack up and leave Ukraine.

    • #28
    • July 19, 2018, at 5:42 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  29. Front Seat Cat Member

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    I recommend everyone read this.

    Specifically this part. It might help you understand the art of diplomacy

    Putin is a bad guy. A really bad guy. He is better than Lenin. Better than Stalin, Khrushchev, Kosygin, Brezhnev, Pol Pot, Mao. But he is a really bad guy.

    Here’s the thing: Putin is a dictator. He answers to no one. He does whatever he wants. If there arises an opponent, that guy dies. Maybe the opponent gets poked with a poisoned umbrella. Maybe he gets shot on the street. Maybe the opponent is forced to watch Susan Rice interviews telling the world that Benghazi happened because of a YouTube video seen by nine derelicts in Berkeley and that Bowe Berghdal served with honor and distinction. But, one way or another, the opponent dies.

    Trump knows this about Putin. And here is what that means:

    If you insult Putin in public, like by telling the newsmedia just before or after meeting with him that he is the Butcher of Crimea, and he messed with our elections, and is an overall jerk — then you will get nothing behind closed doors from Putin. Putin will decide “To heck with you, and to heck with the relationship we just forged.” Putin will get even, will take intense personal revenge, even if it is bad for Russia — even if it is bad for Putin. Because there are no institutional reins on him.

    But if you go in public and tell everyone that Putin is a nice guy (y’know, just like Kim Jong Un) and that Putin intensely maintains that he did not mess with elections — not sweet little Putey Wutey (even though he obviously did) — then you next can maintain the momentum established beforehand in the private room. You can proceed to remind Putin what you told him privately: that this garbage has to stop — or else. That if he messes in Syria, we will do “X.” If he messes with our Iran boycott, we will do “Y.” We will generate so much oil from hydraulic fracturing and from ANWR and from all our sources that we will glut the market — if not tomorrow, then a year from now. We will send even more lethal offensive military weapons to Ukraine. We can restore the promised shield to Eastern Europe that Obama withdrew. And even if we cannot mess with Russian elections (because they have no elections), they do have computers — and, so help us, we will mess with their technology in a way they cannot imagine.

    Mona ignores this and so do the rest of the liberal camp who have yet to do anything to make things better in the US and on the world stage. Where is Obama? Giving a snarky speech in Kenya while the crime, drug addictions and poverty in Chicago and throughout never changed under his administration – let’s keep talking about Putin and a press conference in Helsinki – the Russians love it – 

    • #29
    • July 19, 2018, at 5:44 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  30. RightAngles Member

    If you watched the Helsinki press conference, you saw Trump bowing and scraping to ingratiate himself with Putin.

    No we didn’t.

    • #30
    • July 19, 2018, at 5:51 PM PST
    • 16 likes