Will The Media Ever Consider GOP Complicity With The Russians?
With the revelation that the President’s personal attorney has received millions of dollars in a transparent pay-to-play scheme as well as receiving money from a Russian oligarch in return for who knows what, money that may well have ended up the pocket of Trump or the Trump Organization he still nominally controls, it is amazing to see Mike Pence say that Mueller should end his probe, stating, “In the interests of the country, I think it’s time to wrap it up.” In addition, the crickets we hear from other GOP Congressional leaders about these revelations is deafening.
Protecting Trump from any investigation has been the GOP modus operandi since early 2016 when it became apparent he would be their nominee. But the extremes to which party leaders have been willing to go makes one wonder if there is a larger amount of self-interest involved, self-interest that goes beyond simply electoral concerns but rather involves a deeper culpability. Remarkably, however, that possibility never seems to cross the minds of the media mavens we see and hear every day.
Devin Nunes and his Republican co-conspirators on the House Intelligence have continually been asking for classified and/or sensitive documents relating to the Mueller investigation. This approach works on two levels. If the documents get turned over to Nunes, he immediately passes it over to the White House so Trump and Giuliani can either prepare their defense or selectively leak the information to make Mueller look bad. If the DOJ refuses to turn over the information, the Nunes and his cronies can build a case to either fire or impeach Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller investigation.
Nunes latest attempt in this vein has apparently crossed a red line in that it potentially exposes an important US intelligence source. According to the Washington Post, “For the intelligence agencies, Nunes’s request threatened to cross a red line of compromising sources and methods of U.S. intelligence-gathering, according to people familiar with their views. Intelligence officials fear that providing even a redacted version of the information Nunes seeks could expose that person and damage relationships with other countries that serve as U.S. intelligence partners”.
The DOJ has apparently refused to turn these documents over to Nunes and he, in turn, is threatening to hold Attorney General Sessions in contempt. Said Nunes, “They are citing spurious national security concerns to evade congressional oversight while leaking information to The Washington Post ostensibly about classified meetings.”
Now you might think that Nunes’ boss, Paul Ryan, might be a wee bit concerned that Nunes’ request has the potential to expose a US intelligence source and get that person killed. Apparently not. Earlier this week, Ryan supported Nunes, saying, “We expect the administration to comply with our document requests”. Specifically, Nunes claims that he is not asking for anything about the specific individual involved. That turns out to be a bald-faced lie as the subpoena specifically asks for “all documents referring or related to the individual”.
How long and how far can the Republicans go in obstructing and subverting the Mueller investigation before the media begins to accept the very real possibility that these Republicans are covering just as much for themselves as they are for Trump. Besides Comey’s letter “re-opening” the Clinton email investigation, the most significant moment of the 2016 election was when McConnell and Ryan refused to support the Obama administration in a bipartisan statement about the Russian hacking of our election.
GOP leaders were aware that Russians were targeting the Democrats long before Trump was even nominated, as far back as 2015. Down-ballot GOP candidates in some critical swing districts benefited from detailed knowledge about Democratic strategies and weaknesses revealed by documents stolen from the DNC by Guccifer 2.0 and then passed on to a Republican operative in Florida as well as targeted document dumps directly from Guccifer 2.0 himself. We know there is an investigation into whether Trump’s digital media team coordinated with Russian hackers, providing them with the expertise to know which critical swing districts to target. That targeting effort benefited not only Trump but down-ballot Republicans as well.
A Ukrainian born billionaire and now US-UK dual citizen, Len Blavatnik, contributed millions of dollars to various Republican candidates’ PACs during the 2016 campaign. Mitch McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund received $2.5 million from companies controlled by Blavatnik. Marco Rubio’s Marco Rubio’s Conservative Solutions PAC and his Florida First Project received $1.5 million; Lindsey Graham received $800,000; John McCain got $200,000; John Kasich got $250,000; and Scott Walker received $1.1 million. Blavatnik’s long-time business partner is none other than Viktor Vekselberg, the Russian oligarch who apparently funneled $500,000 to Michael Cohen’s Essential Consulting in 2017 for reasons yet to be determined. Blavatnik and Vekselberg are also partners in RUSAL, the world’s second largest aluminum company, with majority shareholder Oleg Deripaska, Paul Manafort’s favorite Russian oligarch.
We know that Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank, is being investigated for funneling money to the NRA’s dark money PAC in order to support Trump. Reports indicate that the NRA spent a record $70 million on the 2016 election. While it is believed that the bulk of that money was used to support Trump, as far as I know there has been no information on how much, if any, of that money was also used to support down-ballot Republican candidates but it defies belief to believe that it was not significant.
Even before Donald Trump was even nominated, Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan actually discussed the fact that the Russians had hacked the DNC and obtained the opposition research on Trump. Presumably that research was passed on to the Trump campaign. In addition, McCarthy said that he thought there were two people that Putin pays, Trump and Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.
Paul Ryan is retiring from Congress and leaving his post as Speaker of the House at the end of this term. More than anyone, he is in a position to stand up to Trump and to crack down on the obstruction and subversion of the Mueller probe by Nunes and his co-conspirators in the House. He has not. Mitch McConnell has refused to bring a bipartisan bill to protect the Mueller investigation to the floor of the Senate for a vote.
Neither Ryan or McConnell has made any serious effort to make sure that our electoral system is protected from the Russian attacks that have apparently been occurring since 2014. We now know that the Russian hackers were in a position to alter the voter rolls in at least a handful of states as well as penetrating the systems of at least one election systems vendor. So far, at least, there appears to be no evidence that the hackers changed or had the ability to change vote count.
Nunes did work on the Trump transition team so he may have some particular exposure that makes him especially aggressive in subverting Mueller. But the silence and worse, support, from the Republican leadership in both Houses of Congress for Nunes and others that are attempting to obstruct the Mueller investigation speaks volumes.
I seem to have to write this post every three months, prompted by another astounding revelation about Trump and Russian collusion that is blithely ignored by GOP leaders or, worse, triggers even greater attacks on Mueller. At some point, you have to look at all the evidence that down-ballot Republicans benefited from Russian support, plus everything Congressional Republicans have done to obstruct and subvert the Mueller investigation, as well as ignoring Trump’s own attempts to do the same, and wonder if these Republicans are more worried about protecting themselves than they are about Trump. The fact that this possibility is rarely if ever entertained in the mainstream media is almost as amazing as the Vice President calling for an end to the Mueller probe just hours after it is revealed that the President himself is at least tangentially involved in a massive pay-to-play scheme.