Saturday, May 27, 2017

Trump, Russia, and Wisconsin connections

Even before last night's revelation that Donald Trump's son-in-law and trusted advisor Jared Kushner tried to set up a secret back-channel communication with Russian interests to discuss foreign policy matters and that Kushner had numerous pre-election contacts with the Russian foreign ambassador, the dots were pretty easy to connect between TrumpWorld and the Russian government.

Here's Keith Olbermann putting together the facts that had already been revealed, BEFORE the Kushner stories came out in the last 2 days.

Several top-level Wisconsin GOP politicians also have connections to the Russian sketchiness, and knew of this Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Let's start with former WisGOP chair and current White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asking the FBI back in February to deny that Trump's campaign hadn't talked to Russian officials, in an attempt to sniff out information on what the FBI was investigating, and how much they knew.

One Wisconsinite that definitely knew what was going on was U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson. Let's go back to this excellent Bruce Murphy article in Urban Milwaukee from January where Murphy pieced together published reports to show that Johnson (and fellow Wisconsinite Paul Ryan) was aware of potential Russian interference before the November elections, but covered that up to Wisconsin voters.
The details of the mid-September meeting are in a story by the Washington Post, which reported that President Barack Obama had dispatched his counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, FBI Director James B. Comey and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson “to make the pitch for a ‘show of solidarity and bipartisan unity’ against Russian interference in the election,” as a senior administration official told the Post.

As chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Johnson was one the so-called “Gang of 12,” the top 12 congressional leaders, who were invited to the meeting. (House Speaker Paul Ryan also attended the meeting.) Johnson later confirmed to Politico that he participated in the briefing....

Russia’s interference with the American elections fit the pattern of a country engaged in disinformation and destabilization efforts across the globe, as Johnson has described it. And Russia’s leader was someone Johnson already suspected of nefarious acts. Johnson had previously sponsored resolutions calling for a full investigation into the murder of a Russian political opposition leader and for an investigation of Russia’s attacks on the Ukraine....

After the CIA publicly released a report in January concluding that Russia meddled in the presidential election to help Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump win the election, Johnson issued a statement to the Wisconsin State Journal saying he would “would need more definitive information before drawing further conclusions.” Johnson did not reveal that he had been informed back in September this was happening.

Johnson went on to complain to CNBC that the CIA refused to brief him on Russian hacking, saying “I have not seen the evidence that it actually was Russia,” while failing to note the CIA report’s echoed the briefing he’d received from other intelligence leaders in September.

This September meeting is also infamous for a reported moment where the Obama Administration recommended that both Republicans and Democrats go public with what they knew about Russian interference, and GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said that he would not go along, and whined that any attempt to go public on Russian interference would be slanting the election toward Democrats and Hillary Clinton.

The Obama Administration cowardly backed down instead of calling McConnell's bluff and going public, and sure enough, Paul Ryan's superPAC and the National Republican Congressional Committee used information received from the Russian-backed hacker Guccifer 2.0 in ads during the most recent elections, to try to maintain their House majority.
Guccifer 2.0 even posted a cache of confidential documents focusing on Representative Ben Ray Luján, Democrat of New Mexico, the chairman of the D.C.C.C., who faced no serious challenger this year. Mr. Luján said it was a clear effort to send a message to the party leadership — that the hackers wanted to try to hurt Democrats at all levels of the party, from lesser known races in Florida to the leadership.

After the first political advertisement appeared using the hacked material, Mr. Luján wrote a letter to his Republican counterpart at the National Republican Congressional Committee urging him to not use this stolen material in the 2016 campaign.

“The N.R.C.C.’s use of documents stolen by the Russians plays right into the hands of one of the United States’ most dangerous adversaries,” Mr. Luján’s Aug. 29 letter said. “Put simply, if this action continues, the N.R.C.C. will be complicit in aiding the Russian government in its effort to influence American elections.”

[Dem House Leader Nancy] Pelosi sent a similar letter in early September to Mr. Ryan. Neither received a response. By October, the Congressional Leadership Fund, a “super PAC” tied to Mr. Ryan, had used the stolen material in another advertisement, attacking [Dem candidate Joe] Garcia during the general election in Florida.
You want to know why Ryan isn't calling for a full-fledged investigation to get to the bottom of this Russian intereference? That story might explain a lot.

And yes, the Wisconsin connections to Russian interference go all the way down to the state level. Dem operative Scott Dworkin re-tweeted something this week regarding another bit of potential 2016 campaign money-laundering, which was done to back a one-time candidate for the GOP presidential nomination (before he hilariously flamed out in 10 weeks).

It's not like Scotty has a concern about money-laundering, since that's what the entire John Doe investigation was looking into- farming out his 2012 campaign operation to "social welfare organization" Wisconsin Club for Growth to hide the names and sources of big-money donors to his campaign. When you realize Walker was fine with taking $750,000 from the lead paint people, it's not a stretch to think Scotty would be willing to take $1 million to sell out US foreign policy. This same Ukranian money launderer gave $2.5 million to McConnell's "elect GOP Senators" superPAC, by the way.

So far, I haven't seen Wisconsin media follow up on these connections and knowledge of Russian interference to Rep. Ryan, Sen. Johnson and Governor Walker. Given that the details are coming public by the day, and given that it's conceivable Walker would run for an open 2020 presidential seat (even if he loses in Wisconsin in 2018, or bails out before that election), maybe it's time for Wisconsin media to step up and take the #TrumpRussia angle local.

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