On Dec. 18, 2016, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) spoke about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
“We need to get to the bottom of this,” he said, bucking GOP leadership by joining a bipartisan request for a select committee. “We need to find out exactly what was done and what the implications of the attacks were, especially if they had an effect on our election. There’s no doubt they were interfering and no doubt that it was cyberattacks. The question now is how much and what damage and what should the United States of America do? And so far, we have been totally paralyzed.”
Two weeks later, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) joined McCain on national television with a promise. Graham said, “We should get to the bottom of all things Russian when it came to the 2016 election. Period… Wherever it leads.”
McCain never faltered; Graham became weak-kneed. Rebuffed in his request for a select committee, McCain wanted special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation to proceed unimpeded to its conclusion. It remains to be seen whether Trump will let that happen, and whether Trump’s congressional defenders — the same ones who blocked McCain’s pursuit of a select committee — will do anything to stop him if he doesn’t.
In the spirit of honoring McCain’s commitment to protect American democracy, here is a readers’ guide to the latest Trump-Russia Timeline update (two weeks’ worth).
Roy Cohn: Trump Channels a Mentor
On Aug. 20, Trump compared special counsel Robert Mueller to the notorious 1950s “Red Scare” demagogue, Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI). One of Trump’s early mentors was Roy Cohn, McCarthy’s hatchet man. Cohn appears in the first entry of the Trump-Russia Timeline — 1979.
Psychologists have a name for Trump’s McCarthy tweet: projection. For more than a year, he has attacked systematically in Cohn-like fashion every witness likely to testify against him in Mueller’s investigation. Look at the casualty list of individuals who can corroborate James Comey‘s testimony that Trump asked him to go easy on former national security adviser Mike Flynn (“letting Flynn go”):
FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe (fired)
FBI chief of staff Jim Rybicki (reassigned, quit under fire)
FBI general counsel James Baker (reassigned, quit under fire)
FBI deputy director chief counsel Lisa Page (reassigned, quit under fire)
FBI executive director national security Carl Ghattas (leaving FBI)
Last man standing: Associate FBI director David Bowdich
Trump’s “Distract and Divert” Strategy Claims More Victims
Trump has tried to spin his involvement in the Mueller investigation as limited to Comey’s firing and potential obstruction of justice. In fact, Trump knows that his exposure goes far beyond that. His broader diversionary attacks on Mueller’s Trump-Russia investigation prove it.
In that mission, Trump continues to enjoy the unwavering assistance of complicit Republicans in Congress, especially Reps. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Jim Jordan (R-OH), and Mark Meadows (R-NC). But there are so many more. In fact, at some point — whether by sins of omission or commission — most GOP members of Congress have aided and abetted Trump. Their attacks on the Justice Department and the FBI have been relentless and the collateral damage is mounting:
Career FBI agent Peter Strok (fired after internal director of personnel matters recommended demotion and 60-day suspension)
Career federal attorney and Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr (demoted and whom Trump now threatens with the loss of his national security clearance)
And, of course, the supposedly “Angry Democrats” on Mueller’s team have become a central theme of Trump’s tweets and public comments. Soon, Trump will probably start naming them. The toughest fact against him is also the most enduring: Mueller is a lifelong Republican, as is his immediate supervisor, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
How low will the complicit GOP go with Trump? Regrettably far. Immediately, after Trump’s latest attack on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) gave him the green light to fire Sessions. That would allow Trump to replace him with someone who could and would end Mueller’s investigation.
Jury Tampering in Plain Sight
Meanwhile, Trump opened another front in his scorched earth battle against the rule of law. As the jury in Paul Manafort‘s first criminal case deliberated, Trump praised Manafort as a “good man” and attacked special counsel Mueller.
“Very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort,” Trump said about his former campaign manager.
The Manafort jury was not sequestered. Such remarks from the President of the United States were a breathtaking effort to influence the verdict. And to some extent, they may have worked. But for a single holdout, the jurors would have convicted Manafort on all 18 counts facing him, rather than the eight that will still land him in prison for a long, long time.
Now Trump is dangling before Manafort the possibility of a pardon, provided he doesn’t “flip” and become a “rat” — as Trump asserted John Dean did to President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal.
Within minutes of the Manafort verdict, Michael Cohen appeared in a different federal court to confess that, at Trump’s direction, he violated federal election laws. According to Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, he has more to say that could interest Mueller, and Trump won’t like it.
Here’s a complete list of the most recent updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline:
MARCH 14, 2016: Kushner Meets Kissinger
SOMETIME BETWEEN JUN. 3 AND JUN. 8, 2016: Don Jr. Reportedly Tells Trump About Russian Offer to Help; Trump Approves (entry deleted)
FEB. 11, 2017: Mifsud Leaves US
JULY 23, 2018: Trump Considers Revoking Security Clearances of Critics; WH Memo Dated Three Days Later Revokes Brennan’s (revision of previous entry)
JUL. 26, 2018; CNN and NBC Report That Trump Knew in Advance About Trump Tower Meeting, But CNN’s Source Later Clarifies Record (revision of previous entry)
AUG. 10, 2018: FBI Agent Strzok Fired
AUG. 12, 2018: Deripaska Agrees to Reduce Rusal Holdings
AUG. 13, 2018: Trump Tweets That Strzok’s Firing Means Mueller’s Investigation Should ‘Be Dropped’: ‘Witch Hunt,’ ‘Hoax’, ‘No Collusion’
AUG. 13, 2018: Another Judge Rejects Challenges to Mueller’s Authority
AUG. 14, 2018: Trump Tweets Attack Strzok, Sessions, Mueller, FBI, Clinton, Ohr, Steele Dossier, ‘No Collusion or Obstruction’, ‘Illegal Rigged Witch Hunt’
AUG. 15, 2018: Trump Tweets About ‘Rigged Russian With Hunt,’ ‘Hoax,’ ‘No Collusion,’ Strzok Firing and FBI
AUG. 15, 2018: White House Announces That Trump Has Revoked Brennan’s Security Clearance
AUG. 15, 2018: Trump to WSJ: Brennan Led ‘Rigged Witch Hunt’
AUG. 15, 2018: Trump Tweets About Brennan
AUG. 15, 2018: Giuliani Says Trump Attorneys Are Prepared to Fight Mueller Subpoena
AUG. 15, 2018: Trump Signs Defense Bill; Objects to Certain Russia Provisions
AUG. 15, 16 and 17, 2018: Trump’s Twelve Tweets: ‘Rigged With Hunt’, Strzok, Ohr, Brennan, Blumenthal
AUG. 16, 2018: Paul Says He Wants Sanctions Lifted for Russian Legislators
AUG. 17, 2018: Trump Lashes Out at Brennan, Mueller, Ohr, FBI
AUG. 17, 2018: Trump Defends Manafort; Judge Discloses Threats
AUG. 18, 2018: NYT: McGahn Cooperating ‘Extensively in Mueller Inquiry’
AUG. 18-19, 2018: Trump Tweets After Reports of McGahn’s Cooperation; Compares Mueller to Sen. Joseph McCarthy
AUG. 19, 2018: Giuliani Says Trump Tower Meeting Originally About Getting Info on Clinton
AUG. 20, 2018: Trump Tweets Attack Mueller
AUG. 20, 2018: Trump Attacks Ohr; Sessions’ ‘Justice’ Department
AUG. 20, 2018: Trump Says He Could Run Mueller Investigation
AUG. 21, 2018: Manafort Convicted; Cohen Pleads Guilty, Implicates Trump, Has More to Say on Russia
AUG. 21, 2018: Trump Calls Manafort a “Good Man”
AUG. 22, 2018: Trump Tweets About Cohen, Manafort, ‘Justice’ Department
AUG. 22, 2018: Cohen’s Attorney: Cohen Has Info on Trump’s Knowledge of Russian Hacking
AUG. 22, 2018: Trump Would Consider Pardoning Manafort
AUG. 22, 2018: Sanders: ‘President Has Done Nothing Wrong; There Are No Charges Against Him’; No Consideration to Pardoning Manafort
AUG. 23, 2018: Trump Considered Pardon for Manafort, But When?
AUG 23, 2018: Trump Tweets ‘NO COLLUSION – RIGGED WITCH HUNT’
AUG. 23, 2018: Trump Blasts Sessions, Again; Sessions Responds
AUG. 24, 2018: Trump Continues to Needle Sessions
AUG. 25, 2018: Trump Tweets About Cohen, Sessions, Clinton Emails
AUG. 26, 2018: Trump Retweets Attacks on Sessions, Threat to ‘Get Involved’