Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Paul Roderick Gregory: "There Remains No Evidence Of Trump-Russia Collusion"

Though the evidence seems strong to me that Trump has engaged in what--to a layperson--seems to be obstruction of justice, I remain agnostic about the collusion accusations.
Anyway, this seems pretty reasonable...therefore worrisome.

30 Comments:

Anonymous Darius Jedburgh said...

I gave up at the subject-term of the second sentence: 'The Wall Street Journal –- no particular fan of Trump -- ...'

The WSJ has published some editorials critical of Trump but many of its op-eds have been jaw-droppingly brazen exercises in denial with respect to Trump's most prominent features -- corruption, mendacity, treachery, stupidity, ignorance etc. Examples: Daniel Henninger 'Let Trump Be Trump', May 17; William McGurn, 'How Trump Can Save Europe', May 15; anything at all by the appalling Kimberley Strassel.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Aa said...

That we know about. Much of the information is still buried in intelligence bureaus/committees or is being looked at. This was the same type of thing they threw at Clinton at the smallest hint that "Whitewater" or whatever it was at the time was illegal/possibly illegal/maybe illegal/okay, not illegal so what else can we investigate? Welcome to the game Trump supporters, welcome to the game.

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing with the whole Trump-Russia fiasco is, if it is revealed to basically be a hyperpatisan hissy-fit, which is where the weight of the evidence honestly seems to be in my mind, it would have been the most destructive example of partisanship in recent American history. Those involved in the Lewinsky scandal didn't exactly cover themselves in glory, but at least it did not compromise international relations with a nuclear power. One who also happens to be a major player in a long running proxy war in Syria, I might add.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Aa said...

First, the Lewinski scandal while it may have sullied the oval office, did not risk national and international security. If Trump and company are, or have been, colluding with Russia it does risk national and potentially international security. It has to be investigated. There is evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, there is evidence that many of Trump's inner circle and his family had business dealings in Russia (and met with them during the election) and still might. It needs investigating, period.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Pete Mack said...

A heck of a lot can be done on a wink and a nod, especially with ever-helpful underlings like Manafort and Flynn. Half real investigation is into the administration, not necessarily Trump himself. The other is in figuring out what the Russians did and when--and taking care that it doesn't happen again.

Trump's definition of friendship seems highly transactional: the Russians did something good for him, so they must be good guys. That alone is a big problem.

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There is evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, there is evidence that many of Trump's inner circle and his family had business dealings in Russia (and met with them during the election) and still might. It needs investigating, period."

Having business dealings in a country (especially when you are a luxury real estate developer with wide international holdings) and talking with officials of that country (especially when you are running a campaign/transitioning to become a head of state) are very bad reasons a priori for collusion. I know there are reasons to dislike Trump but this whole thing just reeks of epistemic BO.

And saying you must investigate collusion because it would compromise national security but having such flimsy cause to do so is exactly why this is profoundly wrongheaded.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Darius Jedburgh said...

'Talking with officials of that country' is indeed a very bad reason a priori for [suspecting] collusion. But how about 'talking with and effectively taking money from officials of the country during the campaign and then lying about it on your application to be national security advisor'? That's what Flynn did. And of course he also lied to his own VP about talking with the Russians during the campaign about sanctions. And to say that the scandal there is that Trump knew about this for 18 days or whatever before firing Flynn massively understates the scandal. Trump's hand was forced by the W Post investigation, and he still angrily insisted Flynn had done nothing wrong. We have no reason to suppose that, if the Post had not published this story, Trump would ever have taken any action against Flynn.

And what about 'talking with officials of that country (the same officials Flynn had lied about talking to) and then lying about it under oath in your confirmation hearings for Attorney General'? That's what Sessions did -- as well as, we now learn, failing to disclose this on his security clearance form. He's not quite as shameless as Trump, because he did himself see this as reason to (pretend to) recuse himself (in spite of Trump's angry opposition) from the Russia investigation. (I say 'pretend to' because Sessions then participated in the Comey firing -- which Trump several times acknowledged was all about the Russia investigation. This also looks like an important piece of evidence -- unless we're restricting ourselves to evidence available from the very start, which looks like a rather artificial restriction.)

I don't think these are flimsy reasons for investigating, given the huge amount of other circumstantial evidence. I find the suggestions that this can only be seen as politically motivated, and the associated comparisons with Lewinsky, rather puzzling.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Darius Jedburgh said...

Another big difference from Lewinsky (and Benghazi): the impetus for this isn't primarily coming from the Dems or their surrogates, is it? I thought it was mostly coming from the CIA, the FBI, possibly the NSA... not exactly Democratic agents. Look at Brennan's testimony the other day: the Republicans were trying over and over again to get him to say that there was nothing to the allegations, and every time he was just, 'No, actually, there was and is real cause for concern.' The Special Counsel was appointed by Deputy AG Rosenstein, fresh from his writing-to-order a hit piece on Comey to give Trump cover to fire him. And it's hard to make out Comey himself as some kind of pro-Dem stooge, since he is widely regarded, with some reason, as largely responsible for Trump's winning the election because of his last-minute intervention about the Weiner-emails development. I am really not seeing the basis for regarding the Russia inquiries as fundamentally political.

3:47 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Not to illicitly try to split the difference, but it seems to me that this Trump stuff is like all previous Trump stuff: there's more than plenty of cause for alarm, but the media is still exaggerating it. I agree with DJ that there's lots of reason to be alarmed, lots of reason to have an investigation, lots of reason to think that there's been a cover-up, lots of reason to think that Flynn lied, etc. etc. But as for collusion with the Russians...I'm inclined to agree with A that there's not much evidence of that.

The Mystic was arguing with me the other day roughly to the effect that all that other stuff seems best explained by collusion. I see that point...I just don't believe it yet. Collusion would explain the other stuff alright...but explanatory inferences are weak.

My $0.02.

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Darius Jedburgh said...

Well, as long as you agree that there's 'lots of reason to have an investigation'. And of course the media's exaggerating things. But there's nothing made up about the important points here.

I suspect that your splitting the difference starts to turn illicit when you say 'there's lots of reason to think Flynn lied'. This, I think, is now firmly in the realm of knowledge. The same goes for Sessions' lies (under oath). Why would they lie about this stuff, thereby risking being fired (as happened to Flynn) or even jail time (as easily could have (and arguably should have) happened to Sessions), if there's nothing to hide? How does this (in conjunction with a mountain of circumstantial evidence) not falsify the claim that there's 'not much evidence' of collusion with the Russians?

And why does the FBI consider a 'senior Trump advisor' in the White House (almost certainly Kushner) a 'person of interest' in their Russia investigation?

5:46 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

For the record, I tend to be suspicious of splitting differences...

I think having an investigation is *obligatory.* As I've said, I'd take to the streets to help force an investigation. There is no alternative. Were it not already in the works, we'd need to protest non-stop until it *was* in the works. It is non-optional.

There's good reason to think that Flynn lied...and we may also have knowledge. I'm trying to ignore such things for awhile and get some work done...so *I* don't have knowledge, but *you* might...and *we* might... I'm not in an epistemic position to say at present.

Why would they lie about this stuff? All sorts of reasons, including reasons we haven't thought of and possibly reasons we'd never be able to dream up. People lie for all kinds of reasons. "Why else would he lie?" arguments get a whole lot of innocent people convicted. I agree that Kushner is probably the person of interest...but not necessarily...and, even if so, *person of interest* isn't the same as *guilty*

These are the sorts of gaps that I think people like us are filling in with their/our Trump hatred.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Darius Jedburgh said...

Ha! Called it
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/jared-kushner-now-a-focus-in-russia-investigation/2017/05/25/f078db74-40c7-11e7-8c25-44d09ff5a4a8_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-banner-main_kushner-645pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.803c13719e58

6:46 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

LOL you are a nerd.

But yeah, you are a nerd who was right.

I think the smart money was on Kushner, and this surprises me exactly not at all...but, again, none of it means he's guilty...and certainly not that he's guilty of collusion.

I guess part of my position is brought about by the fact that I feel relieved of the need to draw many conclusions of my own here and now, given that I trust that--now that we're going to have a proper investigation--the truth will out.

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Darius Jedburgh said...

Yeah, I don't think we really disagree about anything important here, Winst.

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"'Talking with officials of that country' is indeed a very bad reason a priori for [suspecting] collusion. But how about 'talking with and effectively taking money from officials of the country during the campaign and then lying about it on your application to be national security advisor'? That's what Flynn did."

My understanding is Flynn did not report a speech given to RT - in 2015 - and another contract with Turkey (can't remember the date). That is the basis for the FARA violation, which again is quite common. I wouldn't be surprised if virtually every major foreign policy advisor of an incoming administration is technically not in compliance.

I would also gently point out the gaping chasm between being paid 45k for a speech to a state sponsored news organization and orchestrating a shadowy network of Russian mischief-makers to phish Podesta. With the same sort of scam that hits virtually every major corporation on a weekly basis.

Also, read the Kushner thing closer. Kushner is not actually a target of investigation, they just think he has evidence (given past performance, he probably doesn't).

9:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Another big difference from Lewinsky (and Benghazi): the impetus for this isn't primarily coming from the Dems or their surrogates, is it? I thought it was mostly coming from the CIA, the FBI, possibly the NSA... not exactly Democratic agents."

Didn't the whole thing start with Republican oppo research, passed to the Democrats, and finally investigated by the CIA, FBI, etc? That sounds...kind of political.

But regardless, there are two things happening here. There is a "counter-intelligence" investigation, basically an investigation to counter any attempts by Russia to influence Trump's associates. This seems to have been triggered by the oppo research et al. There is a hint that they are also trying to investigate "collusion", but not only is there no evidence given for that, it is not even specified what counts as collusion. Given the lack of serious evidence to back the serious charge, I trust the CIA, FBI, et al are not really bothering with that. Then there is a media, and to a slightly lesser extent Congressional, response to the counter intel investigation which is consistently spun as "OMG Trump colluded with the eeeevil Russians and that is why Hillary lost!!!!"

9:39 PM  
Anonymous Darius Jedburgh said...

By 'political' I meant 'partisan'.

There's a lot I could say in response to particular points. But there's a general point I want to make about the minority in the purported sane-o-sphere who are pushing a 'Trump-Russia story is mass hysteria!' line. Many such people presumably think it's a manifestation of Trump Derangement Syndrome. What's caused TDS? The unprecedented chaos, corruption and lies emanating from the Trump White House. The nepotism. The conflicts of interest. The blatant self-dealing. The infighting. Sequences of statements, hours apart, in which each contradicts its predecessor. (The Comey firing is not at all the only example of this.) The poisoning of the media wells. The incessant, flagrant, disgusting lying.

If the 'mass hysteria' types are denying all this, then we're done. But if they acknowledge it, my point is this: the important relation between TDS and being very suspicious about the Russia stuff is not that the latter is a manifestation of the former. It's that the basis of the former is a justification of the latter. With a remotely normal administration I could see, maybe, a rationale for still taking seriously, in the face of all this evidence, the possibility that the main impetus is partisan skulduggery, media bias, etc. But one way of putting the defining feature of this administration is: all bets are off. It's manifestly rational for one's priors about stuff like the Russia connection to be way higher than they would normally be. There is warrant for givving them the slightest benefit of ny doubt whatever. Never mind Russians, I'm not sure how surprised I'd be to learn they were in cahoots with Martians.

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What's caused TDS? The unprecedented chaos, corruption and lies emanating from the Trump White House. The nepotism. The conflicts of interest. The blatant self-dealing. The infighting. Sequences of statements, hours apart, in which each contradicts its predecessor. (The Comey firing is not at all the only example of this.) The poisoning of the media wells. The incessant, flagrant, disgusting lying. "

This is plainly false. TDS preceded Trump winning the election, unless you think the Chicago and San Jose mobs were fantasies. At least the Russia is caused by TDS explanation gets the temporal order of causation right.

1:58 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

LOL Martians

This is an interesting question. I mean...seems to me that Trump is so awful that it's hard not to fly off the handle when writing about him... But the important part is that people *do* fly off the handle...

Hard to say which came first...but liberals and lefties have a history of exaggerating the badness of every GOP candidate, don't they? (Just think of one tiny example--how they lost it over Romney's "binders full of women" comment.)

JQ is the one that first, during the late primaries, point out to me how badly Trump was being treated. Remember how he was The Worst Racist Evar because he said "*the* blacks"? Many on the left *still* claim that he said that all Mexicans are rapists...

I think that the guy is awful...but I also think that the left comes with XDS for any Republican value of 'x'.
(Just like the right comes loaded with the opposite.)

This is one reason I've backed off of this and am waiting for results of the investigation. I have good evidence that my reactions can't be trusted in such matters.

7:01 AM  
Anonymous Darius Jedburgh said...

1.58: Yeah, just read what I wrote as applying to warranted TDS. I don't think my main point falls to the ground because people criticized Trump prematurely.

And can you believe they kept going on about Nixon's five o'clock shadow? It's not like that was his fault! Why couldn't they give the guy a break?

(I know the 'the blacks' comment doesn't prove anything, but it was a pretty funny piece of tone-deaf (and delusional) gaucherie. Seth Myers: 'Trump says he has a good relationship with "the Blacks"; but unless "the Blacks" are a family of white people, I think he's mistaken.')

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"JQ is the one that first, during the late primaries, point out to me how badly Trump was being treated. Remember how he was The Worst Racist Evar because he said "*the* blacks"? Many on the left *still* claim that he said that all Mexicans are rapists..."

Yeah that was laughable, but it has gotten worse. Remember David Frum having a conniption fit over the story that Trump receives two scoops of ice cream in the White House? Or really, remember when CNN decided the fact that Trump receiving two scoops of ice cream is newsworthy?

TDS is way worse than Romney Derangement Syndrome, Bush Derangement Syndrome, etc. This is largely because Trump has a way of peeing on every cultural third rail we have. I don't think it is a bad thing actually; in some way, it is better we realize these divides exist rather than keep sublimating them.

The immigration discussion needed to happen, for instance, because a massive swath of the country was effectively being disenfranchised with respect to it by PC chicanery, and in a way that was pushing the country to a wildly wrongheaded policy. Trump's apathy to social mores was probably the only thing that could have breached the stalemate.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I really hope you guys keep going with this for awhile, because these are the two minds that I'm of...

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Darius Jedburgh said...

I totally concede that the 'outrage' over 'the Blacks', 'Mexican rapists', ice cream, whatever, is absurd. The only tiny crumb of gratification I would get from this administration, if it weren't drowned out by everything else, would be Trump's pissing off the kind of people who get pissed off about this kind of thing. But it's also (i) totally predictable, given that a sizable proportion of the WaPo left is the way it is, and (ii) an entirely trivial penumbra relative to the real outrages Trump is committing continuously. To quote myself: 'The unprecedented chaos, corruption and lies emanating from the Trump White House. The nepotism. The conflicts of interest. The blatant self-dealing. The infighting. Sequences of statements, hours apart, in which each contradicts its predecessor. (The Comey firing is not at all the only example of this.) The poisoning of the media wells. The incessant, flagrant, disgusting lying.' And let me add: the cozying-up to openly murderous and repressive regimes, and the disdain shown to legitimate allies with demonstrable if imperfect commitments to human rights and the rule of law.

We shouldn't allow ourselves to be distracted by the bedwetting left into second-guessing sound instincts about the unprecedented horribleness of all this, and the serious dangers it represents. George Will, George W Bush, Elliot Abrams and Jack Goldsmith are not bedwetting leftists.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Trump administration clearly has a management issue on its hands, and Trump very likely is to blame. The leaks and mis-messaging is evidence. But again, you are moving into hyperventilation when discussing "corruption" and "self-dealing". For one, Trump will be one of the few presidents likely to exit office poorer than when he entered, because his brand will have been slaughtered from the political controversy, and many of his properties, like Trump Tower have been locked down by the Secret Service. He could still be "self-dealing", but I suspect he knows the financial reality of this. If Michael Flynn is an example of "corruption", then every presidency is corrupt. Possible, but meaningless.

"Cozying up to murderous repressive regimes" is really an expression of foreign policy preference. I personally prefer a more transactional approach than the moralistic human rights based approach which has mostly been a failure and invitation to war in the middle east for the past two decades. And the reception we have seen among the major ME nations suggests it is working. I simply find the arguments for that FP outlook bankrupt in light of historical evidence (and a good reason why the Elliot Abrams types are flapping their arms; they know they have lost the FP argument).

But here is why the TDS argument is significant: I really think we are seeing the media gaslight the Trump-opposed part of the nation in a particularly vicious way. It is obvious news media is in contraction and desperately competitive. The Times and WaPo are basically at each others' throats for readership. This happened before, in the early 19th Century media environment in NY. The result was yellow journalism and a consistent drumbeat towards war against Spain (for mostly retarded reasons). Now I'm just pulling this from the Yellow Journalism page on wikipedia:

Frank Luther Mott identifies yellow journalism based on five characteristics:

*scare headlines in huge print, often of minor news
*lavish use of pictures, or imaginary drawings
*use of faked interviews, misleading headlines, pseudoscience, and a parade of false learning from so-called experts
*emphasis on full-color Sunday supplements, usually with comic strips
*dramatic sympathy with the "underdog" against the system.


Literally every thing except the Sunday supplements, which are meaningless now, are exactly the hallmarks of Russia coverage. Especially the abuse of headlines to inflate minor news or mislead. Faked interviews are now interviews with "anonymous sources" that are regularly contradicted by official record. The "underdog" is now #TheResistance. We know the patterns of media manipulation, we have a century of experience with this BS. And it is definitely coming back.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I honestly am reading these thinking "Oh, DJ is totally right. How could I have been on the fence about this?" then "uhhh...no, wait, Anon is right...

As I understand it, the respective positions are:

DJ:
Trump is terrible, and the ways in which he is terrible are significant, and the media is exaggerating, but the ways in which they are exaggerating is typically fairly minor, at least when compared to how awful Trump is.

Anon:
Trump is awful, and the media is exaggerating his awfulness, and it is doing so that is non-trivial--a significant matter of concern in and of itself.

Would you-all say I'm summarizing those positions with fair accuracy?

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would add that I simply don't think Trump's awfulness is as dangerous as the media's awfulness, because there is good evidence the media's awfulness is compromising our diplomacy with a nuclear power and ruining our counter-terror relationships with other nations (like the issue post Manchester we had recently, and NYT leaking Israel as the source for the Trump "leak").

Overall Trump just strikes me as a really uncouth R with upside potential on immigration (that is being realized, as illegal entry to the US is down by like 50+%), and a weird set of beliefs that need to be better fleshed out on trade, which also have upside potential. His biggest policy gaffe is his tax policy, which he doesn't really control anyway.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

*And add the fact that making tens of millions of Americans rabidly crazy is far more dangerous to a democracy than a politically challenged President who likes to puff himself up on twitter, at least in my mind.

6:42 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Duly noted

6:51 PM  
Anonymous Darius Jedburgh said...

Trump is 'compromising our diplomacy' in general by gutting the State Dept and contracting out foreign policy to Kushner and other satraps, and attracting Saudi investment by selling them $100 bn of weapons: my opposition to this is not a whimsical foreign policy preference; nor is it 'moralistic'; nor is it indifferent to what will invite war in the middle east.

What is 'realistic' or 'transactional' about explicitly approving the mass murder program of someone like Duterte? Is this really anything more than Trump's instinctive, atavistic attraction to thuggishness? 'Moralistic' is a term sometimes used to stigmatise people who are simply objecting to immorality. Regimes like Duterte's were to some extent inhibited by official US opposition to massacring one's own citizens, however hypocritically and selectively the disapproval was in its application. It does become easier for tyrants to speak openly of 'taking out the families' of their enemies when the President of the US speaks in the same way. Over time this translates into many, many violent killings. The awfulness of the US domsestic media is more dangerous than this?

If it doesn't matter whether the President openly approves of others' mass murder, does it matter if he engages in it himself? Why would it? If it doesn't matter which mass murderer is in charge, it's not clear to me what basis there could be for any 'foreign policy preference' one way or the other.

10:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If it doesn't matter whether the President openly approves of others' mass murder, does it matter if he engages in it himself? Why would it? If it doesn't matter which mass murderer is in charge, it's not clear to me what basis there could be for any 'foreign policy preference' one way or the other."

What are you going to do about Duterte? Issue stern lectures about how it is bad to support vigilante justice? That is moralism. And I would note it is provably ineffective and also provably a slippery slope into disastrous FP blunders.

(Also I'd note that to say Trump actually approves, much less openly approves, of mass murder is textbook TDS. Obvious falsehood anyone engaging critically with the topic would not fall for.)

I'd prefer us to pursue whatever ends are mutually agreeable, where possible, and let the legal issues of the Philippines be a matter for the Filipinos. They are a sovereign country.

But this is off topic.

11:34 PM  

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