[this is similar to a comment I made elsewhere, but it deserves a wider audience.]
Lately, I’ve been reading some depressing things. To start, I’m seeing rumblings that Trump admin is deliberately being provocative.
With the #MuslimBan, Bannon et al chose to do something overtly unConstitutional that they knew would be a flash-point for the left.
They *rushed* this through on purpose, overriding objections and failing to coordinate with intelligence or immigration officials.
From their actions, we can infer the #MuslimBan has a purpose that suits their strategic goals and has nothing to do with national security.
A #MuslimBan is a perfect vehicle for them: it’s a flashpoint for opposition from the left and a dog whistle for support from the right.
The #MuslimBan furthers domestic division: it makes many within the U.S. see protesters as aligned with who they perceive to be “the enemy.” […]
Like other ascendant authoritarian regimes, the Trump Admin WANTS an excuse to put down dissent. And to do so violently.
But why would Trump be interested in flexing the military against the American people? It didn’t make much sense at first, until I remembered the basic arc of any dictator: 1) grab power, then 2) use that power to fill your pockets with as much cash as you dare, then 3) escape. Trump is currently testing what sort of power he has.
the administration is testing the extent to which the DHS (and other executive agencies) can act and ignore orders from the other branches of government. This is as serious as it can possibly get: all of the arguments about whether order X or Y is unconstitutional mean nothing if elements of the government are executing them and the courts are being ignored.
To ensure he keeps his power long enough to successfully smash-and-grab, he needs to remove as many check-and-balances as possible. Narrowing down the number of people he deals with is also a wise move, because it decreases the number of people able to check or balance.
There appears to be a very tight “inner circle,” containing at least Trump, Bannon, Miller, Priebus, Kushner, and possibly Flynn, which is making all of the decisions. Other departments and appointees have been deliberately hobbled, with key orders announced to them only after the fact, staff gutted, and so on. Yesterday’s reorganization of the National Security Council mirrors this: Bannon and Priebus now have permanent seats on the Principals’ Committee; the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have both been demoted to only attending meetings where they are told that their expertise is relevant; the Secretary of Energy and the US representative to the UN were kicked off the committee altogether (in defiance of the authorizing statute, incidentally).
I am reminded of Trump’s continued operation of a private personal security force, and his deep rift with the intelligence community. Last Sunday, Kellyanne Conway (likely another member of the inner circle) said that “It’s really time for [Trump] to put in his own security and intelligence community,” and this seems likely to be the case.
If this really is the arc of a dictator, though, we need to see step 2 in action. Surprisingly, I thought that piece was missing. Oh sure, a major expansion of your hotel chain paired with a rate hike is a nice start, as is filing to run in the 2020 election so you can fundraise and whip your loyal base into a frenzy, or maybe taking advantage of cheap land that’s just been released. Most of those struck me as too small, or too noisy, or too limiting the escape plan. But then Yonatan Zunger, quoted in the last two paragraphs, led me to this story.
More than a month after Russia announced one of its biggest privatizations since the 1990s, selling a 19.5 percent stake in its giant oil company Rosneft, it still isn’t possible to determine from public records the full identities of those who bought it. […]
“It is the largest privatization deal, the largest sale and acquisition in the global oil and gas sector in 2016,” Putin said. It was also one of the biggest transfers of state property into private hands since the early post-Soviet years, when allies of President Boris Yeltsin took control of state firms and became billionaires overnight.
But important facts about the deal either have not been disclosed, cannot be determined solely from public records, or appear to contradict the straightforward official account of the stake being split 50/50 by Glencore and the Qataris. For one: Glencore contributed only 300 million euros of equity to the deal, less than 3 percent of the purchase price, which it said in a statement on Dec. 10 had bought it an “indirect equity interest” limited to just 0.54 percent of Rosneft. In addition, public records show the ownership structure of the stake ultimately includes a Cayman Islands company whose beneficial owners cannot be traced.
And while Italian bank Intesa SanPaolo leant the Singapore vehicle 5.2 billion euros to fund the deal, and Qatar put in 2.5 billion, the sources of funding for nearly a quarter of the purchase price have not been disclosed by any of the parties.
But there might be an answer, and it involves golden showers.
Shortly after CNN published its report, BuzzFeed News published the full 35-page dossier reportedly presented in summary form to the incoming and outgoing presidents. BuzzFeed notes that the dossier “includes specific, unverified and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump aides and Russian operatives, and graphic claims of sexual acts documented by the Russians.” It states that Russian intelligence was “cultivating, supporting and assisting” Trump for years, and that they have information that could be used to blackmail the president-elect, who will take the oath of office in less than two weeks.
Yes yes, like everyone else I read the first two pages and got a chuckle out of what Trump did to the bed the Obamas slept in. But, also like everyone else, I failed to read to page 30.
2. In terms of the substance of their discussion, SECHIN’s associate said that the Rosneft President was so keen to lift personal and corporate western sactions imposed on the company, that he offered PAGE/TRUMP’s associates the brokerage of up to a 19 per cent (privatized) stake in Rosneft in return. PAGE had expressed interest and confirmed that were TRUMP elected US president, then sanctions on Russia would be lifted.
The timeline fits. Trump has been threatening to run for President since the 1980’s. In 2008, Trump’s son says “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.” According to the dossier, the Kremlin has been trying to influence him since 2011. In 2013, Trump explored the idea of becoming President. The US imposed sanctions on Russia begin in March 2014, and are a heavy hit to their economy. In August 2014, Rosneft begins the process of selling a 19.5% stake. In June 2015, Trump rides an escalator, and with the help of some Russian trolls goes on to win the Presidency November 8th, 2016. In the meantime, he’s seen hanging out with Russian mobsters. On December 7th, a buyer for Rosneft is finalized with the deal set to close “mid-December.” On December 19th, Trump wins the Electoral College vote. Transferring that much money takes time, probably months. Trump was sworn in as President on January 20th.
If that 19.5% was worth $11 billion, the typical brokerage fee is 2%, and the dossier is on the money, Trump could earn a $220 million payday. No wonder the CIA and five other agencies are looking into monetary ties between Trump and the Kremlin. This also sets the stage for step 3, the escape.
My money is on impeachment, after a string of increasingly draconian and unpopular measures that eventually turns the Republicans against him, followed by a swift exit from the country. Time will tell, of course.