|Via Erik Wemple, Washington Post, March 28.|
Donald Trump, in the press conference (the only formal press conference he has held during his presidency, that's a rate so far of 0.25 press conferences per month, compared to 1.71 for Barack Obama, 2.18 for George W. Bush, and so on, cutting in half the previous record low set by Ronald Reagan at 0.48, I just had to mention that) of February 16, following up on the Times story of February 14 in which it was asserted that the FBI was examining a history of "repeated contacts" between some unknown number of Trump people and Russian intelligence other than General Flynn, including, according to the Times from other reporting, his old friend and fellow Roy Cohn disciple Roger Stone, and Carter Page, the only person Trump had been able to name as one of his foreign policy advisers—"Carter Page, PhD!"—in an interview of March 2016 with the Washington Post—after dismissing Page as "a very low-level member of I think a committee for a short period of time—I don't think I ever met him":
On the other hand, we learned a few weeks later that Oleg Deripaska, a Russian citizen, member of the Putin inner circle, aluminum magnate, reputed organized-crime figure of the 1990s (he denies that strenuously) which has prevented him from getting a visa to visit the United States for most of the past 25 years or so, though, and probably considerably richer than Donald J. Trump (estimated net worth US$5.3 billion), had apparently paid Paul Manafort $10 million a year between 2006 and 2009 or later for services not specified in the AP story of last March, but we were told that Manafort's pitch letter of 2005 seemed to think he was offering to work with the Russian state:
“We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska. The effort, Manafort wrote, “will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”
Deripaska is suing the AP over the story, but not denying any of the facts: only the "implications" and "false impressions" it conveys, that Deripaska was paying Manafort on the Russian government's behalf or, furthermore, that this work was connected with the Trump campaign (unlikely, since it's not suggested anywhere that he was paying Manafort at the time the campaign got started in 2015), or that he might have some connection with thefts of Ukrainian property around the time the extraordinarily corrupt pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia in 2014 (same thing; it was Yanukovych himself who was Manafort's relevant client and, obviously, the thief—the Ukrainian public prosecutor's current estimate is that Yanukovych and his thugs stole some $40 billion from the Ukrainian government over a two-and-a-half-year period).
Also in March, Deripaska published an ad in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post with an "official statement" (as if he were some kind of government unto himself, see above) in which he repeated his denial and demanded an apology from the AP and also said he was "ready to take part in any hearings conducted in the US Congress on this subject", but it now turns out he wasn't quite ready, as we learned from yesterday's Times:
Mr. Deripaska, an aluminum magnate who is a member of the inner circle of the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, recently offered to cooperate with congressional intelligence committees in exchange for a grant of full immunity, according to three congressional officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly. But the Senate and House panels turned him down because of concerns that immunity agreements create complications for federal criminal investigators, the officials said.That doesn't mean he committed a crime in connection with the Trump campaign, we must hasten to say. But it certainly does mean he and Manafort have been lying to the papers about whether he has any connection to the Trump campaign at all, or he wouldn't have anything worth offering in exchange for that immunity. He definitely has something to testify about.
As to Trump, I think this is one case in which he is not lying, not that what he's saying is true but that he doesn't have any idea whether it is or not. He is becoming increasingly irrelevant to his own administration, as the courts reject the few ideas he's been able to personally put across, as Congressional Republicans try to pass an Obamacare repeal that violates all the conditions he told the public he would insist on, and his own budget director Mick Mulvaney proposes a budget in his name that breaks numerous promises, and in both cases he shows no sign of knowing that (presumably Fox News is careful not to mention it ever, just in case he's watching). I think his especially erratic behavior over the past two weeks, starting with the Comey firing and that Lavrov-Kislyak meeting in the Oval'noy Kabinet, where he looked really very ill, puffy and vacant like a sober Boris Yeltsin, suggests he's too tired and frightened to function at all. There's a danger of dictatorship, as the last Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevarnadze used to say, but now as then it's hard to say who the dictator might turn out to be. It won't be Donald J. Trump.
#Lavrov - @realDonaldTrump meeting has just started | В Овальном кабинете началась встреча С.Лаврова с Д.Трампом#RussiaUSA #РоссияСША pic.twitter.com/7raFrkWhiC— MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@mfa_russia) May 10, 2017
Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.