Saturday, May 25, 2019

Unleashed Kraken

Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman in George Cukor's Gaslight, 1944, via Vox.

If you were startled to hear Big Donald tossing out dark hints of an unusually vast international conspiracy against him—
“So what I’ve done is I’ve declassified everything,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday before leaving on a trip to Japan.
“[Attorney General Barr] can look and I hope he looks at the UK and I hope he looks at Australia and I hope he looks at Ukraine.
“I hope he looks at everything, because there was a hoax that was perpetrated on our country.”
—I may be able to help. We're actually contemplating two different and equally idiotic conspiracy theories, one for UK and Australia and one for Ukraine.

The latter is Rudolph Giuliani's developing hypothesis that Ukrainian authorities after the Euromaidan revolution didn't have any reason to investigate how Paul Manafort got himself a $66-million cut of the pillaging of Ukraine by the pro-Russia Yanukovych regime—why on earth would they want to know anything about that?—but only did it because the sneaky Democratic National Committee tricked them into it, to harm the Trump campaign (as we briefly noted a couple of weeks ago).

The former is about a theory I thought was too stupid for Fox News, let alone William Barr, but it looks like I'm wrong, being hustled by young George Papadopoulos, the "foreign policy expert" on the Trump campaign whose London bar boasting began the chain of events that led to the FBI's investigation of the campaign, when he told the Australian high commissioner Alexander Downer that Trump was going to win the election because Russia had obtained thousands of emails that would incriminate Hillary Clinton of some crime or other. Downer seems to have thought little of it at the time, but three months later, when WikiLeaks issued the emails apparently stolen by Russian intelligence from the Democratic National Committee, in an edition crafted to give the impression that the DNC had been intriguing to prevent Bernie Sanders from getting the party's nomination, the penny dropped, and he realized he had known something about it, and the Australian government communicated with the US government and the FBI opened its first file on Trump-Russia interactions.

Papadopoulos, since his conviction for lying to the FBI and two weeks of jail in December, has been telling people that this story is wrong. It's true, as he told the FBI, that the mysterious Maltese Professor Mifsud told him about those thousands of emails in Russian possession, but he didn't tell Downer, or at least doesn't remember telling Downer, though he remembers all the other details of their meeting clearly and wasn't at all drunk contrary to what some people seem to think. The implication being that British and Australian intelligence knew what Professor Mifsud had told him about the emails from some occult source? And Downer was one of the spies, all sorts of people who are named in Papadopoulos's book, who created this story as a strategy for providing the evil anti-Trump FBI with grounds for investigating him, or something like that. (I'm not reading the book, so I don't know for sure if it's this incoherent, but I follow his Twitter and that's enough evidence for me, and here's a rightwing newspaper report with his testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, for which I trust he will be going back to jail one day.)

The usual wingnut suspects are falling into backing this tale, I think, because the other origin myth of the FBI investigation has been falling to pieces—the idea, I mean, that McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr, Simpson, and Steele conspired to spy on Carter Page because this would be the best way to "bring Trump down"—if only because that couldn't have started the investigation since the investigation started, in fact, with Papadopoulos. A conspiratorial origin myth for the Papadopoulos investigation would resolve this quandary in the simplest possible way (same story with a new timeline), and that's why the brethren are jumping on it.

And Trump, via Fox or OANN, is eating it up, though he can't possibly understand it beyond "they were spying on me" (I don't know if he understands he's getting a state visit in June with the leaders of the supposed conspiracy), and the vampires are creaming themselves:

to sometimes hilarious effect. "The kraken has been unleashed!" Not allowed unless in an enclosed kraken run, and carry a plastic bag to dispose of the poop.

It's all gaslighting, clearly, and as so often happens, they are gaslighting themselves to a considerable degree; I think people like Hannity and Meadows and Gorka really don't realize that there's going to be no incrimination in whatever documents the attorney general finds. They haven't learned a thing from the collapse of similar expectations from the testimony of Glenn Simpson and Peter Strzok and so on. I can't believe Barr himself doesn't have at least an inkling, and must be feeling pretty fretful as the crescendo rises, but is likely hoping to put the thing to rest and distract the emperor with other thoughts.

It's a horrible precedent to make Barr the Minister Plenipotentiary of Declassification, but I think it's unlikely to lead to any serious harm in the near term. Then again, who can say?

Other much more serious opportunities for harm, especially the possible outing of a very high-placed CIA source in Moscow, are discussed in The Times. There's a hilarious profile of Mr. and Mrs. Papadopoulos by Vanity Fair's T.A. Frank and in the grand Vanity Fair grand manner,  but run in WaPo's weekend magazine—Frank recognizes that Papa is a compulsive liar, but takes him seriously at the oddest moments to back a "there-is-no-collusion" stance, and the piece could have used a go-over after the Mueller Report appeared, which I might try to give it later on.

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