ON 13 MARCH 2017, two months into my Trump/Russia research, I posted a piece called “Meet the Collaborators: A Rogue’s Gallery of Trumpromat.” (I’m still bummed that #Trumpromat did not take off as a hashtag). In the interest of self-evaluation—what did I get right, and what did I get wrong?—I’ve decided to present the piece here, warts and all, along with a “verdict” written in February 2020. (And I’ll readily admit something I was very wrong about: three years ago, I did not think Trump would still be president on this date; I’ve always rushed the forecast timelines, although in my defense, I was, back then, operating under the assumption that the entire GOP was not complicit).
The piece begins thus:
WE KNOW the Russians meddled in our election.
We know they meddled in order to tilt the scales for Donald Trump.
We know an unusually high percentage of Trump Administration insiders have deep ties to Russia.
We know that these insiders deny and obfuscate and throw out conflicting stories whenever the subject is brought up—they’d soon perjure themselves than admit they met with the Russian ambassador—and seem determined to torpedo any serious investigation (this includes the President himself, whose attacks on “fake news” have generally escalated after the media reports a new development in the Russia Story).
Again: three years ago, I confidently pronounced that there was Russian meddling on behalf of Trump because, like, that’s what the US Intelligence community said. Here is a statement issued in October 2016 by the Department of Homeland Security, which is linked to in my piece:
The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process. Such activity is not new to Moscow—the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.
You may recall Hillary Clinton making hay of this during the debates, and Donald John Trump pooh-poohing the notion, and, as usual, HRC was right and DJT was full of shit, but her emails, and also drain the swamp, and if you’re a celebrity, they just let you do it.
My introduction continues:
As I wrote prior to the election, this is not, or at any rate should not be, a partisan issue. An inveterate adversary engaged in cyber warfare against the United States in order to get its preferred candidate elected…and succeeded! This is something every patriotic American should be appalled by.
This was 100% correct. This should not have been partisan. Every patriotic American should have been appalled. And maybe, deep down, they are. You can see this on the gin-bossomed face of Lindsey Graham, who damned well knows this is wrong but fights for Trump anyway…for some mysterious reason. You can see it every time Susan Collins is concerned. You can see it when Mitt Romney heroically voted to impeach Trump, the only Republican in the Senate to do so.
The link in that paragraph goes to an earlier piece posted on 1 November 2016, called “From Russian With Trump,” in which I argue that the Trump/Putin circle jerk is maybe not such a great idea:
What’s troubling to me, more than any other entry in the veritable Montgomery Ward catalogue of awfulness that is Donald J. Trump, is his coziness with Russian president Vladimir Putin. This has been played as a joke on late-night TV for so long now that we tend to laugh it off as yet another nonsensical personality quirk, but the relationship between Trump and Russia is deeply disturbing.
This is not just a bromance; this is a national security issue.
First, there are the many public expressions of admiration for Putin. Then the strange he’s-my-friend-I-met-him-in-Moscow/Putin-I-don’t-know-Putin flip-flops on their relationship. The anarchist and rapist Julian Assange has used his Wikileaks as a weapon against Hillary Clinton, and even the embattled director of the FBI knows damned well the Russians hacked the emails and fed them to Assange. Trump at one point (how quickly we forget) solicited Russia’s help in locating the 30,000 “missing” Hillary emails. Thanks to the leaked tax form, we know Donald Trump declared almost a billion dollars in losses in 1995, but it’s entirely possible that that’s missing the bigger story—recent returns may well show him considerably in hoc to Russian banks, as we know that US banks wouldn’t lend the guy a dime. Maybe this explains why his company allegedly had a dedicated server to communicate with a big Russian bank. We know about his shady business associates in Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic with strong ties to Russia; is he also pals with Russian crime figures?
Ha ha, silly me. Back then, I suggested Trump was “in hoc to Russian banks,” not to Russian mobsters. I didn’t know enough yet to confidently state that he was involved with organized crime, that he was a mob money launderer. I had to phrase it as a question. The pre-Election Day 2016 piece continues:
The point is, Trump is in bed with Putin, figuratively if not literally (although if the alleged sex tape of the orgy he allegedly participated in while in Moscow does in fact exist, perhaps this will also turn out to be literal). With so much to hold over The Donald, Putin can call the shots. This means that a major American presidential candidate is, as Hillary smartly averred at the last debate, a potential Russian puppet.
Think about what that means if Trump takes the White House. An American president, compromised by Russia! Forget about all the character issues, odious as they are. Trump is a potential Russian mole! He rants and raves about ISIS, but Russia is a far graver threat to the United States than the motley hodgepodge of derangement that is Islamic State.
The math here is very simple:
Russia is bad.
Putin prefers Trump to Hillary Clinton…
…so much so that he’s going to great lengths to swing the election.
We waste a lot of ink on endorsements. Paul Ryan’s endorsement, John McCain’s endorsement, Ted Cruz’s endorsement…well, what about Vladimir Putin’s endorsement?
I’m getting too far afield here, but you get the idea. If we knew about all of this stuff before the election, why the fuck are we still arguing about it? Why hasn’t the media determined, after the Mueller Report and Ukraine and the impeachment inquiry and all the other stuff that’s happened, that Trump is a criminal, and adjusted its coverage accordingly?
And now, without further ado, here are the Trump/Russia collaborators, presented in the groupings I devised three years ago. Again, the 2016 analysis is in blockquotes; the “verdict” is new:
Richard Burr (R-NC)
Senator. Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Participated in the famed three-hour meeting with FBI Director James Comey on February 17, at which the Trump/Russia ties were laid out, and seemed in favor of a full investigation. Has since demurred, and was one of the politicians solicited by White House press secretary Sean Spicer to disavow the Russia Story to the New York Times and other news outlets.
Verdict: As the chair of Senate Intelligence, Burr has known, better than almost anyone, the extent of Trump’s complicity. I didn’t see him voting to impeach, or even to allow witnesses. Like his ancestor Aaron Burr, he’s a traitor.
Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Head of the House investigation into Russia. Member of Trump transition team. Has doubled down on Trump. Could not throw more water on the Russian investigation if he were the Wonder Twin who could only form of water. Very likely to be removed from office in ’18.
Verdict: I was wrong about his removal from office, alas, but spot-on otherwise. Nunes is a traitor, and he knows much, much more than has been previously reported. So many questions remain unanswered: Why did he hop out of that Uber? Why was he so concerned with unmasking on the recordings? Why was Lev Parnas calling him? What’s the deal with his fascination with nude photos of Trump? No one has acted more like a guilty man than this guy.
Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)
Speaker of the House. Alleged intellectual. Alleged policy wonk. Ayn Rand enthusiast. Has the power to file articles of impeachment. Has not exercised it. Looks the other way so much he’s like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. Collaborated with Trump to enact his glorious healthcare plan, which mostly involves depriving millions of people of healthcare to save some coin for his wealthy benefactors. Worse, he seems to genuinely believe his healthcare plan is good, which, to paraphrase A Fish Called Wanda, makes him either hopelessly naive or irretrievably stupid.
Verdict: I covered Ryan in detail here. He’s on the board of the Trump propaganda network now. It’s never been made clear why he “retired” when he did. Like Nunes and Burr, knows much more than reports indicate.
Jason “iPhone” Chaffetz (R-Utah)
Congressman. Chairman of House Oversight Committee. A veritable Javert in his pursuit of Hillary Clinton’s role in the Benghazi tragedy, but now that an inveterate enemy of the United States has meddled in our election, an operation that may well constitute an act of war, in order to elect Donald Trump? Crikketz. WaPo‘s Dana Milbank sums it up nicely. Chaffetz took the stage in one of the first town halls at which angry constituents turned up in droves to demand answers, chanting DO YOUR JOB, and he wrote off the evening as the work of paid protesters not in his district, which he certainly knows is a lie. Some have suggested that Chaffetz is being straight-up blackmailed to scuttle any investigation; he certainly acts like a guilty man on whom the FSB have damning kompromat.
Verdict: Like Ryan, Chaffetz chose to bail rather than stick around, for reasons that never made much sense.
Campaign Surrogates & Apparatchiks
Former mayor of New York. Trump surrogate. Bile spewer. Nosferatu lookalike. Bragged about an “October surprise” that turned out to be the Comey letter. Later boasted that his contacts at the FBI’s New York field office told him the letter was coming. (The FBI’s New York field office is alleged to be honeycombed with Russian moles.) Was in the running to be Secretary of State, despite no qualifications, and suddenly withdrew from consideration and has been quiet since. I wonder why?
Verdict: I no longer wonder why. Rudy was off in Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, operating as Trump’s shadow Secretary of State, with the ultimate goal of dominion over cyberspace. Only, Giuliani went Full Mob, and he’s going to be indicted.
Youngest member of Richard Nixon’s “ratfuckers.” Inveterate provocateur. Communicated with Guccifer 2.0 during campaign concerning the latter’s hack of the DNC servers; Guccifer 2.0 is believed to be a fake account maintained by Russian intelligence. Is presumably a focus of (one of) the FBI investigation(s). In a tweet attack on Caroline O., @RVAWonk, a behavioral scientist with an extensive Twitter following, spewed misogyny I’d prefer not to quote here. Proponent of the debunked “Deep State” conspiracy.
Verdict: Guilty, awaiting sentencing.
Donald Trump’s personal attorney and longtime associate. Key figure in the Steele dossier, and presumably a focus of (one of) the FBI investigation(s). Steele has him in Prague this past August, which Cohen has denied in a variety of ways, including claiming he has never been to Prague, although this is not true. Held a meeting with Trump lackey and (alleged) Russian organized crime figure Felix Sater and pro-Putin Ukrainian politician Andrei Artemenko in late January 2017 concerning the lifting of sanctions on Russia. Delivered written proposal to Mike Flynn, then the national security adviser. His wife is from Ukraine.
Verdict: Guilty, currently incarcerated.
Convicted felon. Real estate dealmaker. Senior adviser to Donald Trump. Son of Russian mob figure. Has deep and undeniable ties to Russia. Held a meeting with pro-Putin Ukrainian politician Andrei Artemenko and Trump attorney Michael Cohen in late January 2017 concerning the lifting of sanctions on Russia.
Verdict: The proverbial jury is still out.
Former campaign chairman for both Donald Trump and the pro-Putin former president of Ukraine, although not concurrently. Beneficiary of millions of under-the-table dollars for his work with the latter. Allegedly involved with the mass murder of various anti-Putin figures in Ukraine. His daughters are ashamed of him.
Verdict: Guilty, currently incarcerated.
Failing clothing line owner. Daughter of the president and object of his desire. Prime mover behind buttplug-shaped hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan, that was allegedly financed in part by an Azeri money lauderer with ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. BFF with a socialite who may or may not have been Putin’s paramour. Betrayer of women everywhere.
Verdict: Likely to be indicted by the State of New York after the Mazars/Deustche Bank documents are released.
The Inner Circle
Disgraced former national security adviser. Conspiracy theorist. Former Kremlin employee. Former Turkish agent. First domino to fall. Sat in on natsec meetings while in the employ of a foreign government (Turkey), and had questionable if not illegal contact with another (Russia). Certainly the subject of numerous investigations. Most likely Trumpkin to go to prison.
Verdict: Guilty, awaiting sentencing.
Son of rich guy who went to jail. Husband to Ivanka Trump. The Forrest Gump of the Trump campaign, Kushner too met with the Russian ambassador (in secret; Kislyak was whisked through the back door of Trump Tower to avoid the press). Has huge investments in a medical tech company that depends on the ACA not being repealed. Was allegedly in hock to Russian creditors. Is known as both Trump’s brain and his conscience, both of which are troubling, as he’s both heartless and dumb. He’s the evidence Trump likes to cite to rebut his, Trump’s, often-blatant anti-Semitism.
Verdict: Has already broken a number of laws. Likely the target of a CI investigation (or investigations).
Former foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump. Pro-Russian businessman. Less international man of mystery than bullshit artist. Key figure in the Steele dossier, and presumably a focus of (one of) the FBI investigation(s). Steele has him as the intermediary between Trump team and Rosneft, the Russian oil company that recently divested 19% of the company to private investors whose identity remains murky. Page’s habit of changing his tune makes him a veritable karaoke machine of prevarication. Most likely fall guy in Trumpromat.
Verdict: The jury’s still out. Really did meet with high-profile Russians, but his actual connections to Trump remain murky. Mueller chose not to indict him. Why did they not make him a fall guy?
Former RNC chair. White House Chief of Staff. Whipping boy. Guy behind Kellyanne Conway in the infamous couch photograph who looks like he’s desperately trying not to run his grubby fingers through her split ends. The Russians hacked the DNC and the RNC, but only released the emails of the former. Why do you think that is? Could it be that they want something to hold over the Republicans that could be used at a later date? Do you think Preibus might have an embarrassing thing or three in those emails?
Verdict: He’s back at the White House, so even though he tried to get out, they kept pulling him back in. Which sounds like a line from a movie. Was it a mob movie maybe?
Billionaire. Secretary of Commerce. Part owner of Bank of Cyprus. Cyprus is where Russian organized crime figures send their money to be laundered; it’s what Switzerland was to the Nazis in the 1940s. Ross surely is aware of this, as it’s pretty much common knowledge. Subject of hard-hitting expose by Rachel Maddow. If there really are lizard people, is one.
Verdict: I don’t understand why the detestable Ross has gotten so little coverage.
Attorney General. Former Senator from Alabama. Inveterate racist. Perjurer. Asked twice during the confirmation about his ties with Russia; denied having any contact during campaign; actually had contact with the Russian ambassador thrice, which is unusual for a Senator. Timing of these meetings coincides with policy shifts on Russia. Recruited Carter Page and Stephen Miller, the Norman Bates-like communications guy, for the team. Most likely cabinet member to resign in disgrace.
Verdict: Did not resign in disgrace…and his leaving was actually worse for the country somehow, which no one saw coming. Mueller chose not to indict him but did mention his Russian meetings. He’s now running for his old Senate seat. We’ll see what becomes of him.
Former CEO of ExxonMobil. Secretary of State. Recipient of Russian Order of Freedom medal. Putin pal. Current whereabouts unknown. ExxonMobil stands to gain billions of dollars’ worth of crude if the Russian sanctions are lifted. Has been MIA as the State Department has been gutted, which should be of enormous concern. Unlike Trump, divested his assets before serving, but that probably doesn’t matter. Name sounds like supervillain’s secret identity in old-time comic book.
Verdict: Like most retiring CEOs of earthraping corporations, Sexy Rexy seems to have escaped without any real consequences.
Vice President and likely our 46th President. Former governor of Indiana, where he is now loathed. Hater of the LGBTQ community. User of personal emails for government business, despite not liking it when Hillary did that. User of AOL. Used campaign funds to pay his mortgage. Might have been insulated from the Russians to give him plausible deniability, although this gets increasingly unlikely as the facts come out.
Verdict: The strangest thing about the Trump/GOP relationship, such as it is, is that the Republicans did not simply vote to remove Trump, thus installing one of their own, Pence, in the White House. Why did they choose to ride with Trump? Is it only because Pence knew? Or is there more that has yet to be reported?
Donald John Trump
Former reality TV star. Failed businessman. Proud sexual predator. Racist. Bigot. Non-payer of debts and taxes. President of the United States. Could not be more of a Russian puppet if Putin’s fist were up his ass.
Verdict: Impeached for life…and might even be impeached again. And even the Republicans did not defend his actions or claim he didn’t do what he was alleged to do, even as they voted to acquit him. He will spend the rest of his life in court, in prison, or in fear of both.
Photo credit: Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner, and his wife, Assistant to the President Ivanka Trump, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus are seen as they arrive with President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump to the Murabba Palace as honored guests of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, Saturday evening, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)