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Russia Is Finally Getting Its Money’s Worth With Trump’s Latest Kremlin Gift Basket

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Despite the overwhelming influence of a convergence of interests between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, many skeptics about a potential conspiracy or covert alliance between the two have argued that the Kremlin hasn’t gotten much in exchange for its efforts to help Trump get elected.

While Trump has been rhetorically soft on Putin and has waged a public relations campaign against NATO, the some of the overt actions of his administration — launching missiles at Syria, providing arms to the Ukraine, and imposing sanctions on Russian invidiuals and organizations — have gone directly against the Kremlin’s interests, these skeptics say. There has been some truth to these claims, though much of the aggressive action toward Russia has been driven by Congress and fought by the Trump administration.

But on Wednesday, the Trump administration took two major steps in line with Russia’s interests that may help make all the effort Putin went to in supporting his candidacy worth it.

First, and most substantially, Trump announced, out of the blue, that the United States will be pulling out of Syria.

“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” Trump said on Twitter. Officials have confirmed that planning is underway to withdraw troops.

As analyst Nick Patton Walsh explained, this was a big win for Putin’s interests in the region.

“Without the US in the ring, Russia is the main military force in the post-war Syria,” he wrote in a piece for CNN. “However you divine it, Trump seems to have few qualms about doing things that will please Putin.”

The claim that ISIS is “defeated” in Syria, however, is overly optimistic. Martin Chulov, a Middle East reporter for The Guardian, explained:

The long fight against Islamic State looks good on a map, but it is yet to be decisive on the battlefield.

The terror group has lost more than 95% of the territory it claimed in 2014 and the juggernaut that threatened to shred the region’s borders has been battered back to where it all began for the group’s earliest incarnation – a sliver of land along the Euphrates River, bordering Iraq and Syria.

There, Kurdish-led forces, backed by US air support, have been fighting it out with diehard extremists in towns and villages in Syria’s far eastern Deir ez-Zor province.

At least 2,500 Isis fighters remain, all survivors of routs to the east and west of their last redoubt. Colossal ruin lays in their wake on both sides of the river. But the group retains the capacity to do even more damage, especially if let off the hook now.

Meanwhile, Trump’s own Republican allies are extremely skeptical of his new announcement.

“Withdrawal of this small American force in Syria would be a huge Obama-like mistake,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

“The decision to pull out of Syria was made despite overwhelming military advice against it,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). “It is a major blunder.

The GOP has often been far too eager to wield the might of the U.S. military, and there may, in fact, be good reason for the United States to pull out of Syria. But ISIS being “defeated” is not one of them, and it is suspicious that the president primarily chooses to buck his party when it aligns with Putin’s interests.

And despite the major stakes of the decision, CNBC’s Christina Wilkie reports that a senior administration official is refusing to answer any questions about the “deliberative process” behind the Syria pullout. This sugests that there likely was no deliberative process — the president acted on his own.

“I’ve never seen a decision like this,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) after meeting at the White House to discuss the decision. “For all involved, this was a major shock.”

Others who are often critical of the president also found the move bewildering.

“Why would Trump do this now? Who knows?” wrote commentator Max Boot. “Given that he is acting at odds with his advisers, this is clearly not the result of a normal policy-review process. This is the Trump Doctrine in operation: Trump does whatever he wants. It could be based on what he had for breakfast — or there could be something more sinister going on.”

Another move brought by the Trump administration Wednesday will likely mean Putin is going to be even more pleased with the president. The Treasury Department annouced Wednesday that it will be rolling back sanctions — passed by Congress as punishment for Russia’s election interference — on entities tied to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Ostensibly, this move was taken because Deripaska is divesting a significant portion of his financial stakes in these entities. However, there are serious reasons for concern about this action.

For one, Deripaska himself has troubling ties to the Trump campaign. Court filings show that Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort was heavily indebted to Deripaska. And uncovered emails have shown that, during the campaign, Manafort reportedly offered his position within the Trump campaign as having the potential to resolve his debt to Deripaska.

But even leaving aside the shady Deripaska connection, the Treasury’s move is troubling on its own terms.

As law professor Jed Shugerman pointed out, the entities buying up Deripaska’s shares in the sanctioned businesses are themselves deeply suspicious. One of those entities, VTB Bank, has been named as a potential funder for the Trump Tower Moscow project the president was working on during the campaign. The other firm is Glencore.

“Glencore is being investigated for money laundering, and has been doing big business with Deripaska for years,” noted Shugerman.

So after fighting Congress over Russia sanctions all along the way, the Trump administration is now rolling back some of these key penalties under highly dubious circumstances.

In response to the rollback of the sanctions, former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah said: “So, the quid pro quo in plain sight.”

It’s not clear yet if there was an explicit conspiracy between Trump and Russians in the run-up to the 2016 election. But is clear that Putin had a strong desire for Trump to win — in part because he hated Hillary Clinton and in part because he thought Trump would be amenable to his interests. This Christmas season, it’s clear Putin is getting exactly what he wanted.

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‘Probably the Biggest Witness Left’: NYT Reporter Explains What Pat Cipollone Can Tell the Jan. 6 Committee

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Pat Cipollone has agreed to testify before the Jan. 6 Committee, and a New York Times reporter explained what the former White House counsel might be able to tell investigators.

Multiple witnesses have placed Cipollone near the center of Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss, which the White House counsel repeatedly said were unlawful, and Times correspondent Luke Broadwater told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that he would be able to provide valuable testimony even if some topics are protected by executive privilege and the Fifth Amendment.

“Pat Cipollone is an extremely key figure who is there for several of the major moments in this plot to overturn the election, and he may know things we don’t even know about yet that he could reveal to them tomorrow during this interview,” Broadwater said. “I do expect Pat Cipollone’s testimony to be played next week at some of the hearings. There was conversations about whether he should testify live in front of the public, [Rep.] Liz Cheney called for that, but the committee does like to know exactly what a person is going to say before they go up there.”

“They don’t want to turn one of these televised hearings into, you know, a food fight,” he added. “They like to know exactly what a person is going to say before they decide to put them out there, so I think we’ll see Pat Cipollone video clips but not necessarily Pat Cipollone sitting at the witness stand.”

READ MORE: Trump’s ‘full-blown coup’: What was Mike Flynn’s plan? How much did Meadows and Giuliani know? What about Ginni? What happens next?

Congressional investigators understand that Cipollone can’t discuss his private conservations with the former president, due to attorney-client privilege, but he can tell them about discussions with other White House aides and staffers, including Cassidy Hutchinson.

“Everyone concedes that Pat Cipollone does have attorney-client privilege with Donald Trump,” Broadwater said. “He has sort of resisted coming forward and talking about some of those things, so I don’t think we’ll see him necessarily talk about direct conversations with Donald Trump, but that doesn’t mean he can’t talk about lots of other material. We heard Cassidy Hutchinson talk about how Pat Cipollone and Mark Meadows were going back and forth into the Oval Office to try to get Donald Trump to call off the mob.”

“Can he talk about the things he said to Cassidy?” Broadwater added. “Can he talk about the things he said to Mark Meadows? You know, we know he was there for meetings about seizing voting machines, he was there when Bill Barr offered his resignation, he was there when they had draft letters to — false draft letters from the Justice Department, and for when he shot down plans from members of Congress, from John Eastman to put forward false slates of electors.”

“There’s so many things that Pat Cipollone knows,” Broadwater added. “I think his testimony could be absolutely crucial for this committee, and he was probably the biggest witness left that they could get, that they hadn’t yet so, you know, I expect this interview to be very important tomorrow.”

Watch the video below or at this link.

 

Image: Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead via Flickr 

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Pat Cipollone Is ‘A Greatest Hits Package of Crazy Statements’ by Donald Trump: Legal Expert

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Former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone has agreed to speak to the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on Congress on Friday.

Former Assistant Deputy Attorney General Harry Litman told CNN that Cipollone has carefully negotiated the testimony and he will likely “steer around down the middle” of the attorney/client privilege. However, former President Donald Trump is not the client of a White House counsel, the White House is. President Joe Biden has waived executive privilege for anything involving Jan. 6 or the 2020 election.

“He is a greatest hits package of crazy statements by Donald Trump,” Litman said of Cipollone. “He is the one who says to Mark Meadows, ‘You know, if you do this, you’ll have blood on your effing hands.’ He’s the one who says to Mark Meadows about [Mike] Pence, ‘You’ve got to stop it’ and Meadows says, ‘You’ve heard him. He thinks the rioters are right.’ He’s the one who has to go to Cassidy Hutchinson, a 25-year-old, and plead with her because Meadows won’t speak to him. ‘Please try to keep him from going to the Capitol.’ He’s the one who says, ‘if I go to the Capitol, it will be every effing crime imaginable.'”

READ MORE: Longtime friend of GOP’s Eric Greitens calls him a ‘broken man’ and accuses him of lying about his beliefs

“Now, they’ve negotiated it up, and probably what he wants is to say he’s not piercing attorney/client privilege. But all these statements I’ve said to you, Trump’s nowhere around. So, attorney/client has to be with the client for the purpose of getting legal advice, so he’s got tons to say without that.”

As Litman explained, Cipollone is in “everything.”

See the discussion below.

Image: Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks  via Flickr:
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump talk with Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, her husband Jesse Barrett, Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, his wife Virginia Thomas, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, and Deputy White House Counsel Kate Comerford Todd in the Blue Room of the White House Monday, Oct. 26, 2020, after attending Barrett’s swearing-in ceremony as Supreme Court Associate Justice.

 

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‘This Is a Business’: New Footage of Trump Family Emerges From Jan. 6 Investigation

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Newly revealed video footage shows how close British filmmaker Alex Holder got to the Trump family in the lead-up to the January 6th insurrection.

The family allowed Holder to gain exclusive access to them and the former president’s inner circle in the period between the 2020 election and the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and Politico obtained a new trailer for the upcoming documentary “Unprecedented,” which will stream on the Discovery+ network.

“Ivanka frets about a line on her dress, and jokes about covering it with a pet roaming about. ‘Can I borrow your dog?’ she asks her makeup artist,” Politico reported. “Jared nervously repositions his tie and asks, ‘Is that okay?’ Don Jr., seen at a rally, screams, ‘We will make liberals cry again!’ Eric is caught on a phone call, mysteriously saying, ‘For the sake of this country, we’re going to get these guys.'”

Those mundane moments build up to Jan. 6, and the film shows Donald Trump encouraging his supporters to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, and Holder’s photographer joins the throng.

READ MORE: Robert Crimo III’s family noticed nothing amiss, but social media posts painted a darker picture

“We’ve got to get the roaches out, all of them,” a Trump supporter yells to the photographer.

The documentary crew also recorded scenes from the ensuing attack, and Holder has turned over the raw footage to the House select committee investigating the riot.

“Gaining power is easy,” the narrator says in the trailer. “Surrendering it is not.”

Watch the video below or at this link.

 

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