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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.Published in Foreign Policy, Politics
Also as far as abuses of Social Security, right now for any citizen to report on someone receiving Social Security disability benefits who is not really disabled as they are working full time under the table, you or I need to know their Social Security number. Why? Why isn’t knowing their full name and address enough?
Also, you might want to consider how Social Security and MediCare work. They are legislated items. Trump cannot wave a magic wand or issue an Executive Order to expand or dismiss those programs. It needs to occur through work on the issues inside Congress.
Here is a decent discussion of what recently happened:
Note the fact that there is currently a 2.9 trillion dollar surplus as far as Social Security funding. (The link discusses a great deal more than just that fact.)
I am always curious when people are so interested in cutting out entitlements that are actually not entitlements. people pay into Social Security. In a way that no other program is paid for.
Working individuals have over 7.5% of their income diverted to Social Security. Their employer matches that amount. The self employed pay both ends of it. It is not an insignificant amount. Year after year.
Adjustments have already been made. The Baby Boomers have happily agreed to die off in unprecedented numbers. Both of my closest friends were dead before the age of 60. They won’t get a penny of monies they paid into the system. By 2012, 13% of all Baby Boomers were pushing up daisies.
On top of that, to receive full benefits, few people are able to get Social Sec at the age of 65. For those who hold the qualifying birth year of 1951, you needed to wait until you turned 66. After that, you need to wait 66 plus some months.
You probably merrily supported Bush I and Bush II. Did you pay an additional 7.8% of your income each year for that wonderful little war in Iraq, a 5 trillion dollar war that brought about no benefits other than the demise of Saddam Hussein. (Who let’s face it, could probably have been taken out by Special Forces in the manner that Bin Laden was taken out.)
One more point: The Wall Street, Big Financial people and their Congress critter puppets, desire not to end Soc Security but to privatize it. Now imagine where those of us who are receiving Soc Security would be if that fund had been wiped out in 2006 to ’08, when the economy tanked.
Also if we’d not had that catastrophic disaster of Crony, Vulture Capitalism, that allowed for Obama/Geithner/Bernanke to divert over 20 trillions of dollars over to Wall Street, especially AIG and Goldman Sachs, many people would care a bit less about the demise of Soc Security. Since the 2000 Banking reform & Modernization Act set us up for that economic disaster, huge numbers of people about to retire saw their pension plans tank. So are you willing to roll up your sleeves and fight against the AIG, Goldman Wall Strreet interests? Or do you hold to the thought that these Huge Financial Cabals are part of a sacred “free market??
In Chicago, ir’s well known that some immigrants collect welfare while working at jobs that pay in cash such as cleaning ladies etc. They are using services but not broadening the tax base.
I’ve been catching up on all the podcasts that I missed while on vacation, so I’m getting lots of hot takes on Trump’s Helsinki performance. Here’s the common denominator of most of the criticism: Trump is a rube who gets starry-eyed around dictators. The assumption seems to be that everything Trump says in their company is 100% true and that he doesn’t understand that these other leaders are untrustworthy and trying to manipulate him.
I don’t give Trump a lot of credit in many areas, but I think he is much more shrewd about dealing with people like this. My assumption is that Trump is just as oily as Putin as far negotiating goes, and that we shouldn’t react to what he says in Putin’s company as anything other than psych-out tactics in a behind-the-scenes ego arm wrestling match. It’s actually to Trump’s advantage, perhaps, to be seen by Putin as an easily satisfied fool.
I’m not falling into the 8D chess narrative; I think this kind of oleaginous dealing is instinctual for Trump and has been refined over decades.
Trump knows exactly what he’s doing. I don’t know why so many still can’t see that. He wasn’t my guy either; in fact, I thought his candidacy was a joke or a P.R. stunt. But now that he’s the president, I want him to succeed. We all should. But there are people, even on our side of the aisle, who can’t admit he’s done some good things without adding, “But of course I am much better brought up than HE is, and than YOU are if you don’t hate hm as much as I do” as a disclaimer in case you hadn’t noticed that their family came over on the damn Mayflower.
The fact that I dislike hearing them tear him down does not equal “mindless hero worshiper who can’t hear a word of criticism.” It means that I can plainly see, even if they can’t, that we are witnessing a coup d’état. And even if they hate him so much that they think it would be good to oust him, they should think about who or what might replace him. I don’t think they’ll like some of the possibilities. So stop with the starry-eyed plans. Stop with the articles of impeachment, you (useful but to the wrong side) idiots.
I dislike hearing our own people constantly adding to the vitriol because we should be circling the wagons right now. All your little humblebrags about what a fine family you come from and how discerning your taste is can wait for the time being. The stakes are higher than your pretensions.
Guess I’ve been rude and unhelpful, but I agree with you. It is entirely possible that Trump, with an army of advisers and decades of experience making international deals is helpless in the face of Russian duplicity, while Mona Charen has the penetrating knowledge to see through…whatever it was that was agreed upon.
But I seriously doubt it.
I’m all for pointing out Trump’s folly, but if you don’t actually know it’s folly, and write a column anyway – well, it says more about the writer than it does about Trump.
I miss the Mona of three years ago.
Emphasis added. Indeed, we could generalize the statement:
I miss the [pundit, pol] of three years ago.
I used to feel the same, but as time has worn on and her…behavior gets worse, I’m starting to think the Mona of 3 years ago was the pretense, and the deep state Mona we see today is (and always was) the real Mona.
I assume the same of most of the NeverTrump Pundit Class.