[NOTE: My May 1, 2018 interview on “Background Briefing with Ian Masters” discusses the latest Trump-Russia developments. The Trump-Russia Timeline also appears at investigaterussia.org.]
Last week, Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels, and Rudy Giuliani occupied the center ring of Donald Trump’s scandal circus. But important things were happening in the Trump-Russia ring, too. They’re less sensational and, therefore, relegated to the media’s back burner. But they are a useful reminder of the central theme that is easily lost in Trump’s continuing chaos:
Russia helped Trump win the election. He wants desperately to end the resulting investigation into how and why.
A key strand of the story involves Russian sanctions. For years, Putin has wanted them lifted. From the beginning of the presidential campaign, Trump made clear his desire to accommodate him.
After the election, Trump resisted a unified Congress that wanted tougher Russian sanctions for interfering with the 2016 election. Eventually, he signed the bill into law, but not before legislators made clear that they had veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate. Undeterred, Trump then dragged his feet in implementing the sanctions. Now he’s softening them.
The latest example involves Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
Apr. 6, 2018: Great fanfare surrounds the list of newly sanctioned Russian oligarchs, including Deripaska, who is Manafort’s former business associate.
Apr. 20, 2018: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discusses the new sanctions with the Russian Finance Minister.
May 1, 2018: The Trump administration amends its “blacklist” to pave the way for Deripaska’s company to escape the new sanctions.
Likewise, the supposedly tough stance that the Trump administration adopted in permitting the sale of antitank missiles to Ukrainian resistance fighters against Russia may have produced a benefit to Trump after all. In early April 2018, as the Pentagon prepared to finalize the sale, the Ukrainian government ordered its chief anticorruption prosecutor to freeze ongoing investigations into Paul Manafort. The prosecutor’s previous offer to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe became moot. The US completed the shipment of the missiles on Apr. 30, 2018.
Meanwhile, Trump’s obstruction efforts — with the active assistance of complicit congressional Republicans — continue to hide in plain sight. On Apr. 30, 2018, the public learned that “Freedom Caucus” members had drafted articles of impeachment directed at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. At the same time, Giuliani’s botched rollout of the latest pretext for firing FBI Director James Comey — that Comey refused to say Trump wasn’t a “target” of the FBI’s investigation — overshadowed a more ominous development: FBI lawyers James Baker and Lisa Page resigned.
Baker and Page are corroborating witnesses for Comey’s statement that Trump had spoken to him about “letting [Mike Flynn] go.” That made them Trump’s enemies. He subjected them to relentless attacks, and now they have left the bureau.
When it comes to undermining the investigation into Trump-Russia, Trump will do whatever it takes to save himself. Unfortunately, he has no shortage of eager accomplices. And Trump is still tweeting that what the law calls obstruction of justice, he regards as “fighting back.”
Here’s a complete list of entries in the latest Trump-Russia Timeline update:
2006: Trump Begins Decade-Long Cash Spending Spree
OCT. 28, 2016: Cohen Signs Non-Disclosure Agreement With Stephanie Clifford (aka Stormy Daniels)
BETWEEN OCTOBER 2017 and JANUARY 2018: Trump Campaign Pays More Than $200,000 Toward Cohen’s Legal Expenses
FEB. 13 2018: Cohen Issues Statement on Stormy Daniels Scandal
MAR. 5, 2018: Mueller Confirms Trump Is ‘Subject’ of Probe; Raises Possibility of Trump Subpoena; Reports Underway
MAR. 6, 2018: Stephanie Clifford (aka “Stormy Daniels”) Sues Trump and Cohen
MAR. 16, 2018: Cambridge Analytica Backers and Executives Form New Group: Emerdata
APR. 4, 2018: Mueller Quizzing Oligarchs (revision of previous entry)
APR. 5, 2018: Trump Deflects Questions About Stormy Daniels Payoff to Cohen
APR. 6, 2018: Treasury Dept. Sanctions Oligarchs and Putin Cronies (revision of previous entry)
EARLY APRIL 2018: Ukraine Freezes Its Manafort Investigations, Gets US Missiles
APR. 23, 2018: Trump Softens Sanctions on Deripaska’s Company (revision of previous entry)
APR. 25, 2018: Cohen Asserts Fifth Amendment Concerning Payment to Stephanie Clifford (revision of previous entry)
APR. 30, 2018: House Republicans Draft Impeachment Articles Against Rosenstein; Rosenstein Responds
APRIL 30, 2018: Mueller’s 49 Questions For Trump
MAY 1, 2018: Not Really Mueller’s 49 Questions
MAY 2, 2018: Trump Tweets: “No Collusion” – “Hoax” – Threatens To “Get Involved” With Justice Department
MAY 2, 2018: Cambridge Analytica File For Bankruptcy, But Executives Might Continue Business Under New Name: Emerdata
MAY 2, 2018: Cobb Steps Down; Emmet T. Flood Steps In
MAY 2, 2018: DOJ Denies House Request For Mueller Memo
MAY 2, 2018: Trump Tweet Implies No Time For Mueller Interview
MAY 2, 2018: Giuliani Offers New Defense To Comey Firing
MAY 2, 2018: Giuliani Undercuts Cohen’s Payoff Story
MAY 3, 2018: Trump Tweets After Giuliani Speaks About Daniels Payoff
MAY 3, 2018: Giuliani Digs Deeper Hole On $130,000 Payoff
MAY 4, 2018: Trump: Rudy Will “Get His Facts Straight”
MAY 4, 2018: Baker and Page Resign From FBI
MAY 5, 2018: Guiliani Says Trump Could Ignore Subpoena and/or Take the Fifth Amendment
MAY 6, 2018: Trump Tweets About “Witch Hunt” and Mueller’s Team