ZipDialog for Friday, July 14: All Trump Jr.: What we know, what we don’t know, and what matters


 The big story continues to be fallout from Donald Trump, Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer.

Amid the firestorm, it is important to remember what matters and why.

Comment and Analysis:

  • What matters is less the meeting itself and more the reasons DJT, Jr., himself says he wanted to have it after being told it involved information from the Russian government, which (he was told) wanted to help his father
  • That help was not given at the meeting.
  • If it had been given, it probably would not have been illegal
  • But it is a terrible idea to accept help from a foreign government.
  • It is even worse when the government is an adversary. And it is still worse when it is part of a multi-pronged attempt by the foreign government to interfere in the US election.
  • It completely obliterates the Trump White House’s denials for months that they had no contacts with Russian government agents during the campaign.
  • It is now consuming Washington, damaging the Trump presidency, and making it more difficult for him to move forward on health care, taxes, immigration, and other policy issues

More information will continue to dribble out, such as yesterday’s story about how Loretta Lynch’s DOJ let the lawyer. Natalia Veselnitskaya, into the country and today’s story that one of the lobbyists the lawyer brought to the meeting was an ex-Russian intel officer.

To me, the main questions now about the Trump side are whether

  1. There were more contacts?
  2. This was just chaos and confusion at the Trump campaign or part of a coherent plan and, if so, did the plan bear any fruit?
  3. The Democrats (Hillary, the DNC, their donors) had any hand in this or other dirty tricks?
  4. Manafort, the experienced guy on the Trump side, knew about the extent of the Russian involvement?
  5. This sought-after cooperation with the Russians involved the nominee himself?

Now that this line of inquiry has opened up, it is also important to know what contacts the Clinton campaign had with foreign-government agents, especially those of unfriendly governments. Those would show that this game is played by all sides and show her campaign’s intent. BUT the Clinton campaign’s activities are much less important now because she lost.

Trump is in the Oval Office so his campaign’s integrity, or lack of it, matters more.

Everyone seems to think the Russians are loving this mess. I’m sure they do–but they probably have more mixed opinions since their fingerprints are all over the room and, because of that, are blocked from all but minor, tactical cooperation with the US.  Who could doubt they are adversaries and malevolent actors?


Question: Was this meeting a criminal offense, as Trump’s sharpest critics have charged.

Answer: Most experienced attorneys have said that the information made public so far is not a prosecutable crime. But that it hardly the end of the matter.

It is still a nasty business politically. It is either a political “crime,” or at least an attempted one, or else extraordinary incompentence. The presence of an experienced operative like Paul Manafort being part of this is inexplicable and disturbing.

It’s not the end for another reason: further information might still come to light and suggest crimes really were commited. You can be certain that the mainstream media, which loathes Trump and now sees blood in the water, will spare no resources to investigate those possibilities. Plus, there’s Mueller’s investigation. Nobody is getting away with anything here.




ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, July 12: All Donald Jr.

Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

 Trump, Jr.’s troubles  The news is important, and we need to know more. The front page of the Washington Post captures the range of issues.


What does the email chain mean?

It means that

  • Trump Jr. knew (or thought he did) that the Russian government was trying to aid his father’s campaign by providing information on Hillary.
  • He wanted to cooperate with them if they had information
  • All his prior statements and those of the campaign that they were not having any meetings with the Russians were false, and they knew they were false
  • He, Kushner, and Manafort, who, as an experienced pol, should have known better, were effectively  drawn into an “information honey trap”
  • They didn’t already have good ties to the Kremlin, which means they had probably not been colluding (but sure looks like they wanted to do so)
  • They apparently still do not  grasp that this is far over the line of appropriate conduct in a US presidential race since it involves collaborating with a foreign adversary; that is true, whether or not the transaction violated any laws

What else do we need to know? 


We need to understand, among other things

  • Who was behind this, both in the US and in Russia?
  • What was their goal? Entrapment or future collaboration? Something else?
  • What links does the Russian lawyer have, in Russia and in the US?
  • What internal communications got Kushner and Manafort into the room for this meeting?
  • What other meetings did any high-level Trump staffers have with Russian operatives?
  • Where were the campaign’s legal team during this fiasco?
  • Did the Clinton campaign team have any similar meetings with foreign powers?

One more thing: it is now obvious (at least to me) that the Russians have succeeded far beyond what they hoped for–and it is damaging to them because it blocks any conceivable glide path to better relations with the US in the near future.

The domestic political implications are serious, even if this doesn’t go much further.

Trump is weakened and his policy agenda is impeded as a result. Independently elected officials will edge away from him unless he squashes these legitimate questions with real answers.

If there is more to the attempted collaboration, then the implications are far more serious.

If it turns out to be a honey trap that somehow involved the Democrats, they will suffer, too.




ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, July 10

Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

 Healthcare repeal-and-replace still on life support as Senate returns after break. They got an earful–very little of it good.

Comment: Obamacare is in lousy shape financially, and there are plenty of folks unhappy with the coverage, deductibles, and choices of insurers and networks. Pres. Obama’s promises that you could keep your doctor and your health plan were false–and he knew they were false when he made them, but he had to do so to sell the program. It passed on a party-line vote and many of the Democrats who voted for it were themselves voted out of office.

So, why can’t the Republicans get rid of it, as they repeatedly promised?

The short answer is that Obamacare:

  • Included several costly provisions that beneficiaries liked, especially “no caps” on medical payouts and coverage for pre-existing conditions
  • Provided lots of free insurance (of low quality) to people who couldn’t pay at all

Republican lawmakers, especially those with lots of low-income constituents, fear that rolling back those provisions means political suicide.

On the other hand, keeping those provisions is costly, requires keeping Obamacare’s taxes, and alienates some conservatives who say (correctly) that it locks in an entitlement forever.

Why does a reform bill still have any chance? Because Republicans recognize two ominous risks: failure will bring disaster to the US health insurance markets and, second, they will be held accountable for that mess.

 Donald Trump, Jr., and other top aides met with Russian lawyer who promised information on Hillary (BBC)

The brief meeting occurred in Trump Tower on June 9, 2016; no information was actually provided. Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner were also in the meeting, which was not initially disclosed on their forms covering all foreign contacts upon entering government.

The FBI and Congress are both looking at whether Trump campaign officials colluded with an alleged Kremlin plot to undermine Mrs Clinton’s campaign. The inquiries have yet to show evidence of collusion. –BBC

Comment: The bad news for Jr. is not only that he failed to disclose the meeting when he should have. It’s also that when he did finally disclose it, he lied about the purpose, saying it was about Russian adoptions. Presumably, he didn’t want to say they were fishing for information about Hillary in Russian waters. Not good at all.

The Daily Beast reported that a Democratic oppo group was the hidden hand behind the group. But that information is sketchy. Donald Jr. now says the contact came from someone he meeting at a Trump-sponsored beauty pageant in Russia several years earlier.

Democratic-affiliated media (which is to say, almost all media) are treating this as very big news: proof positive of collusion with the Russians.

Not exactly. First, it was an attempt to get information. More important, if the Trump campaign was actually talking with a person they didn’t really know (a private citizen) in June 2016, one obvious conclusion is that Trump’s team did not already have access to good Russian information–information they would have had if they were already colluding.

More on this will obviously come out, and you can assume that Robert Mueller will investigate this thoroughly.

 Iraqi PM arrives in Mosul to Declare Victory over ISIS (NBC)

There are still small pockets of fighting in the city, but nearly all has been cleared of ISIS, which has used human shields throughout the fighting.

ISIS seized the city in 2014.

Comment: The problem now is how to govern this destroyed city and fractured country, where Obama’s decision to withdraw left the regime in Baghdad free to act like a purely Shiite sectarian government and to invite Iran in for support. Turning that around will be very difficult.

 Chuck Schumer zeroes in on America’s biggest problem: Snortable Chocolate. Calls for crackdown (New York Post)

There seems to be very little medical evidence so far, and Schumer said so.

Plus, the FDA doesn’t know if it has authority to regulate the stuff.

Comment: Research on its effects: good idea. But what’s the basis to regulate and restrict before any evidence, one way or the other?