Saturday, August 11, 2018

The key legal issue in the Russia investigation

I enjoyed my MSNBC appearance last weekend very much and I appreciate all the good reaction to it here and on Facebook.  Yet I had studied the state of the evidence in the case quite carefully and I could have said a lot more if given the chance. (There is an excellent chronology at this web site.)  A day or two after my appearance I sent an email to the MSNBC producers, urging them to circulate it, explaining what I might have said.  They replied appreciatively but no one has gotten back to me. Just this morning the New York Times has finally caught on to what the case is about. Here is a slightly longer version of what I wrote early last week.

          According to the indictment of the Russian intelligence officers, the Russians committed two illegal acts. One was breaking into the DNC's (and other) protected computers.  The second--a separate but clearly defined offense--was publishing what they got form the hack. That is a crime specifically defined in the US Code.

          We don't have any evidence that the Trump campaign was involved in the decision to hack (in late 2015 or very early 2016) But there is plenty of circumstantial and direct evidence that they were deeply involved in the decision to publish the material.

          The Russians activated one of their websites, dcleaks.com, on June 8, 2016, the day before the infamous Trump tower meeting that included Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manfort, and three Russian representatives.  Donald Jr. took the meeting based on a promise that the Russians had compromising material on Hillary Clinton.  The Russians began publishing material in the days after that meeting.

          Some time in June, Alexander Nix of Cambridge Analytica, which was already in talks with the Trump campaign, contacted Wikileaks to ask if he could help i preparing hacked materials for release.  This was after Julian Assange had announced that he had such emails.

          On July 14 the Trump campaign got the Republican Platform committee to drop tough anti-Russian language on Ukraine.

          On June 25 Trump tweeted that the new joke in Washington was that Russia hacked the DNC emails "because Putin likes me."

          On June 27 candidate Trump dared the Russians to secure and release Clinton's missing emails, in public. On the same day the Russians mounted a new attack on a server close to her.

          A credible report says that Gucifer--the Russian hacker, it turns out--was in touch with "a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald Trump."  That person is now assumed to have been Roger Stone

           All through the summer, Giuliani and Roger Stone made statements about forthcoming releases of damaging documents by the Russians.

          Meanwhile, Sessions and Flynn were having discussions with Russian Ambassador Kislyak about better relations, sanctions, etc.

          Shortly after the election, Michael Flynn--who had made a profitable trip to Russia some months earlier--began talking to Kislyak about setting up a secure communications channel so as to bypass the US bureaucracy, which might not want improved relations with Russia.

          I believe Mueller and his team must be fully aware of this angle and that we are going to hear more about it.  The Russians and the Trump campaign collaborated in releasing stolen emails, which is a crime. Even if you simply bless some one else's plans to commit a crime, you are guilty.

          That, to repeat, is a slightly enhanced version of what I wrote MSNBC.  Nothing has come of it.  This morning, the New York Times notes that the Mueller investigation is clearly focusing on Roger Stone and specifically cites his statements about Russian releases of documents and his contacts with Gucifer. 

           I believe that all the information I have cited here has been in the public domain for some time.  It seems that today's journalists, especially on television, simply do not take the time to sit down with readily available sources, list the key facts, and make rather obvious inferences about what they might mean.  Instead, they quickly establish "narratives" and run with them for months at a time.  But that is what I was trained to do and have spent my whole life doing.

4 comments:

Bozon said...

Professor

Great stuff.
Clears up a lot of mysteries along this tangled way.

I had wondered, in the factual dark, whether the Russians may have tried to make Clinton an offer, based on their dirt, which she then couldn't refuse, and still wonder whether such an offer may ever have been at least initially broached, and assume that if so her answer had been no. That alone would have been sufficient reason for releasing her emails.

The Russians seldom do something for nothing, and discussions with Trump people, re publishing seem a little late in the campaign day somehow.

I don't know about merely blessing being a crime....priests, at confessions, may get told about crimes yet to come, but they are not necessarily guilty. Of course the priest does not bless the confessant....

Wonderful stuff
all the best

Bozon said...

Two other related points.

Everyone, including the Russians thought she was likelier to win anyway, published emails or not.

Compromising Trump would have been a very secondary motive, at best, if at all, since he had already shown himself to be suggestible, without pulling him into a campaign espionage scandal needlessly.

So, my guess is that it was a Russian strategic blunder even to pull his people into this Clinton email matter at all, even merely to bless it.

All the best

Unknown said...

It was a treat to see your appearance on television. The networks should call on you more frequently and allow time for greater in-depth analysis. At least the facts and their logical connections would be known, even if in the end Congress would refuse to act on them. I, too, have little faith in a Republican controlled Senate to do what is logical.
My view is that a combination of factors led to Trump's narrow election victory. First there was the tactical blunders of the Clinton campaign, such as using the word "deplorable" and campaigning in the lost state of Texas when Wisconsin and Ohio were too close to call. Republican election tactics were also responsible, as the assault on the character of Clinton began and endured since her husband's presidency until the election (and beyond as Trump frequently tweets "Crooked Hillary"). Stringent voting requirements enacted in Republican governed states reduced the impact of the Democratic vote. The hacking of DNC emails and frequent Russian ads on social media played a role. And, in the conspiracy category, who knows what the vote tally actually was for those precincts with no paper trail for the electronic voting system.
All the above "good reasons" can only partially explain why Trump won the election. The "real reason" why the election results were even close in favor of Trump is the nature of the citizenry itself. Aside from the significant percentage of the electorate that respond to appeals to racism, there are those who fear the societal impact of a declining white majority and those who fear for their economic futures that globalization and technology entail. These are "real" if often visceral fears that will not go away of themselves.
So the next election is a test of our better natures. The key question is will the electorate's disgust at the abhorrent morals and ethics of their national government, and its policies skewed toward illiberalism, override the prejudice and fears that brought Trump and his minions to office. It is evident that Republican congressional majority is willing to swallow its disgust for its own ends. So, it is now up to the people to decide in the upcoming election what the character of the country and the people themselves will be.

Bozon said...

Professor
I ran across this other perspective:

https://amgreatness.com/2018/07/13/julian-assange-crowdstrike-and-the-russian-hack-that-wasnt/


I don't have any real idea how to weigh this account with the one we read in the liberal media and with your post here.

One needs to be a techie spy to really figure all this out, it seems.

All the best