[NOTE: On Jan. 29, 2019, this post appeared at Dan Rather’s News & Guts.]

Roger Stone’s indictment— followed by his non-stop media appearances — smothered every other Trump-Russia news story last week. Lying to federal investigators is bad; it reveals what prosecutors call “consciousness of guilt.” Stone’s alleged obstruction of proceedings and false statements carry potential sentences of five years for each offense.

But trying to get others to lie for you is worse — and even more telling. The most serious charge against Stone is witness tampering. Conviction could result in his incarceration for 20 years.

According to the indictment, Stone texted Randy Credico (identified as “Person 2”): “And if you turned over anything to the FBI you’re a fool.”

Later that day, Credico texted Stone: “You need to amend your testimony before I testify on the 15th.”

Stone responded: “If you testify you’re a fool. Because of tromp [sic] I could never get away with a certain [sic] my Fifth Amendment rights but you can. I guarantee you you [sic] are the one who gets indicted for perjury if you’re stupid enough to testify.”

In an Apr. 9, 2018 email, Stone called Credico “a rat” and “a stoolie.” He even threatened to take away his dog.

His dog!

Culture of Witness Tampering

Stone’s indictment and arrest obscured what otherwise would have been the week’s blockbuster Trump-Russia story: Michael Cohen backed away from a voluntary appearance before the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 7. His attorney offered reasons that suggested witness tampering — by Trump. 

On JAN. 23, 2019Cohen’s lawyer issued a statement saying: “Due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. Giuliani, as recently as this weekend, as well as Mr. Cohen’s continued cooperation with ongoing investigations, by advice of counsel, Mr. Cohen’s appearance will be postponed to a later date… This is a time where Mr. Cohen had to put his family and their safety first.”

For Cohen, it was the culmination of a journey that began after the FBI executed search warrants against him on APR. 9, 2018. Go to the Timeline, click on Cohen’s name, and consider the context that subsequent entries provide, including these:

APR. 13, 2018: One of Trump’s former attorneys warns him that Cohen will flip. The same day, Trump calls Cohen to “check in” and pardons “Scooter” Libby, even though Libby didn’t have a pardon application pending. In 2007, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald had prosecuted Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff for lying to the FBI.

APR. 21, 2018: Trump tweets that he “doesn’t see” Michael flipping on him.

But on JULY 20, 2018,The New York Times reports that Cohen secretly recorded conversations with Trump, and federal investigators have the tapes.

JUL. 25, 2018: Trump tweets: “What kind of lawyer would tape a client?”

Then on AUG. 21, 2018, Cohen pleads guilty to campaign finance violations and implicates Trump in his crimes. Throughout SEPTEMBER, Cohen has multiple interview sessions lasting several hours with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators.

OCT. 23, 2018: Trump tells The Wall Street Journal that Cohen “has tremendous legal liability” for taping him.

NOV. 29, 2018: Trump says Cohen is “lying to get a reduced sentence.”

DEC. 3, 2018: Trump adds Cohen’s wife and father-in-law to his twitter attacks.

DEC. 16, 2018: Trump calls Cohen a “rat.”

JAN. 18, 2019: Trump tweets about Cohen, adding, “Watch father-in-law!” 

Other Trump Targets

Using the Trump-Russia Timeline name filter reveals other examples of Trump’s carrot-and-stick behavior toward potential witnesses in the Russia investigation.

Mike Flynn

APR. 25, 2017: As investigators circle Flynn, Trump reportedly sends a message to him: “Stay strong.” Flynn doesn’t.

Paul Manafort

AUG. 17, 2018: Deflecting a question about whether he’ll pardon Manafort, Trump defends him as “a very good person.” Four days later, Trump calls him a “good man.”

AUG. 22, 2018: Trump says he would consider pardoning Manafort.

NOV. 26, 2018:Mueller alleges that, after Manafort signed his Sept. 14, 2018 plea agreement, he lied to federal investigators.

NOV. 28, 2018: Trump says that a Manafort pardon is “on the table.”

Roger Stone

MAY 31, 2018: Stone says that Trump’s pardons “send a message” to Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort. Stone receives it too, telling ABC News, “I will never betray this president.”

AUG. 13, 2018: Stone reiterates that there is “no circumstance under which I would testify against the president.”

DEC. 2-3, 2018: Stone again says there is “no circumstance” under which he would testify against Trump. The next day, Trump quotes Stone in a tweet praising his “guts.” Later that day, Stone invokes the Fifth Amendment in refusing to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

JAN. 25, 2019: Immediately after his bond hearing, Stone appears before reporters and protesters, saying, “There is no circumstance whatsoever under which I will bear false witness against the president, nor will I make up lies to ease the pressure on myself.”

Trump can’t solve every potential witness problem by dangling presidential pardons — carrots. For someone who doesn’t face the threat of federal prosecution, they’re worthless. The Timeline name filter reveals that Trump not only dangles such carrots, but also uses sticks — relentless personal attacks. As with Cohen, those attacks are happening in plain sight too. Just ask James Comey.

Here’s a complete list of the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline:

JUNE 16, 2015: Trump Announces His Candidacy; Secret Trump Tower-Moscow Discussions Continue (revision of previous entry)

AUG. 6, 2015: Stone Formally Leaves Campaign, Maintains Contact Through Election (revision of previous entry)

JUNE 12-14, 2016: WikiLeaks Has Clinton Emails; DNC Tries to Get Ahead of Hacking Story (revision of previous entry)

JUNE – JULY 2016: Stone Speaks to Senior Campaign Officials About WikiLeaks

ON OR SHORTLY AFTER JULY 22, 2016: Someone Directs ‘Senior Trump Campaign Official’ to Contact Stone About Additional WikiLeaks Releases

JUL. 25, 2016: Stone Tells Corsi to Get WikiLeaks’ Hacked Emails (revision of previous entry)

JUL. 31, 2016: Stone to Corsi: ‘Malloch Should See Assange’ (revision of previous entry)

AUG. 2-11, 2016: Corsi Informs Stone of WikiLeaks’ Plans, Suggests Attacking Clinton’s Health; Stone Talks to Trump; Hannity Helps (revision of previous entry)

AUG. 8, 2016: Stone Says He’s Communicated With WikiLeaks Founder (revision of previous entry)

AUG. 19-21, 2016: Credico to Stone: Assange to Appear on Credico’s Radio Show

AUG. 23, 2016: Stone Appears on Credico’s Radio Show

AUG. 25-26, 2016: Assange Appears on Credico’s Show, Talks About Stone

AUG. 27, 2016: Credico to Stone: Assange Has ‘Kryptonite on Hillary’

SEPT. 18-30, 2016: Stone Asks Credico to Pass Along Request to Assange; Credico Sends Photo (revision of previous entry)

SEPT. 21, 2016: Stone Says He’s Spoken With Trump

OCT. 1-2, 2016: Stone to Credico: ‘Hillary’s Campaign Will Die This Week’

OCT. 3-4, 2016: Stone Assures Trump Supporters: ‘The Payload is Coming’; Discusses WikiLeaks and Raising $$$ With Bannon (revision of previous entry)

OCT. 6-7, 2016: Intelligence Community Publishes Statement on Russian Interference; Stone to Corsi: ‘Tell Assange to Start Dumping’; Access Hollywood Tapes Released (revision of previous entry)

NOV. 2, 2016: Stone Says He Speaks With Trump Weekly

NOV. 10, 2016: Stone Speaks With Trump

MAY 8, 2017:Trump Posts Angry Tweets on the Day of Yates’ Testimony (revision of previous entry)

SEPT. 25-26, 2017: Stone Decries Congressional Hearings (revision of previous entry)

OCT. 19, 2017: Stone Tells Credico to Confirm Stone’s Lie

NOV. 19 – DEC 12, 2017: Stone Tells Credico to Resist Investigation: ‘Stonewall it’, ‘If You Testify, You’re a Fool’

DEC. 24, 2017: Credico and Stone Discuss Russian Investigation

APR. 9, 2018: Stone Threatens Credico

MAY 21, 2018: Credico To Stone: ‘You’ve Opened Yourself up to Perjury Charges’

AUG. 8, 2018 to JAN. 24, 2019: Trump Drags Feet on New Russian Sanctions, Again (revision of previous entry)

AUG. 13, 2018: Stone: ‘Will Not Testify Against the President’

AUG. 22, 2018: Trump ‘Would Consider’ Pardoning Manafort (revision of previous entry)

DEC. 2, 2018: Stone: ‘No Circumstance’ Under Which He Would Testify Against Trump

JAN. 15-22, 2019: ‘Sex Training Expert’ Claiming Deripaska Connection is Deported to Russia, Arrested, Apologizes (revision of previous entry)

JAN. 18, 2019: Trump Tweets About Cohen: ‘Watch Father-in-Law!’

JAN. 21, 2019: Emin Agalarov Cancels US/Canada Tour

JAN. 22, 2019: Trump Tweets About Steele Dossier, ‘Illegal’ Russia Investigation, ‘Unconstitutional Hoax’

JAN. 23, 2019: Cohen Cites Threats in Postponing House Testimony; Cummings and Schiff Want to Move Forward

JAN. 24, 2019: Trump Tweets About Cohen, Clinton; Senate Subpoenas Cohen

JAN. 24-25, 2019: Roger Stone Indicted, Arrested; Trump Tweets; Stone Remains Defiant

JAN. 25, 2019: Sanders/Sekulow Respond to Stone Indictment

JAN. 26, 2019: Trump Tweets About Stone, Comey, Brennan, Clapper, Strzok, Lisa Page, Hillary…‘WITCH HUNT!’

JAN. 27, 2019: Treasury Confirms Lifting Sanctions on Deripaska’s Companies






[NOTE: On Jan. 21, 2019, this post appeared at Dan Rather’s News & Guts.]

As last week ended, all eyes focused on BuzzFeed’s report that Trump told Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. Then special counsel Robert Mueller’s unprecedented press release stated that various aspects of the story were “not accurate.” Time will tell where the facts lead, but for now, the BuzzFeed story has become a counterproductive distraction from key developments relating to two issues: Oleg Deripaska’s unambiguous successes and Vladimir Putin’s unimpeded escalation toward war with Ukraine.

A Dark Deripaska Chapter

This week’s revision to the Trump-Russia Timeline entry for MAR. 5, 2018 —    “Model/Prostitute Claims to Have Audio Recordings” — adds a prescient remark from Anastasia Vashukevich (a/k/a Nastya Rybka), a jailed “sex training expert” claiming to have audio recordings of Deripaska and others that prove Russia’s involvement in 2016 US election interference: “If America gives me protection, I will tell everything I know,” she says from a prison in Thailand. “I am afraid to go back to Russia. Some strange things can happen.”

The new JAN. 15-19, 2019 entry — “‘Sex Training Expert’ Claiming Deripaska Connection is Deported to Russia and Arrested” — describes the strange things now happening to Vashukevich in Moscow. After nine months in a Thai prison, she and seven others pleaded guilty to prostitution charges. The court sentenced them to time served and ordered immediate deportation to their home countries. Vashukevich’s destination was Belarus, but she didn’t get there.

As she walked through a transit zone while changing planes in Moscow on Jan. 17, a group of men dragged her into Russian territory. Vashukevich’s lawyer posted a video on Instagram that, he says, shows her arrest. She now faces prostitution charges that could land her in prison for years. On Jan. 19, she appeared in a Moscow court, apologized publicly to Deripaska, and promised continued silence about whatever she knows about him.

Deripaska Winning on Sanctions

Back in April 2018, the US Treasury Department announced sanctions against Deripaska’s aluminum production companies for their role in the Kremlin’s worldwide pattern of “malign activity,” including “attempting to subvert Western democracies.” But those sanctions have never been implemented. On Dec. 19, 2018, Trump put the companies on track to avoid them forever. Last week, the Senate failed to muster the 60 votes required to stop him. Even with many Republicans in Congress breaking ranks (11 in the Senate, 136 in the House), Putin, Deripaska, and Trump prevailed.

Putin Winning in Ukraine

Meanwhile, a Russian court is detaining eight of the Ukrainian seamen captured during Russia’s illegal confiscation of three vessels in the Black Sea on Nov. 25, 2018. And international satellite images now show that Putin has deployed batteries of short-range nuclear-capable ballistic missiles near the Russian-Ukrainian border.

For context, couple those two new Timeline entries with a few others from last month, starting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s unsubstantiated claim that looks increasingly like an ominous pretext:

DEC. 17, 2018: “Lavrov Says Ukraine Planning More Provocations”

DEC. 22, 2018: “Russia Moves Fighter Jets to Crimea”

DEC. 24, 2018: “Russia Repeats Unsubstantiated Claim of Ukrainian ‘Provocation’”

Trump seems content to let Putin and his favorite oligarch have their way — on anything and everything they seek. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and most of his Republican colleagues seem unperturbed.

Here’s a complete list of the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline:

JUNE 16, 2015: Trump Announces His Candidacy; Secret Trump Tower-Moscow Discussions Continue (revision of previous entry)

NOV. 10, 2016: Russian Officials Admit Trump Campaign Had Contact With Kremlin Intermediaries (revision of previous entry)

JULY 8, 2017: White House Scrambles to Deal with Forthcoming NYT Story; Trump Defends Russia to NYT, Supervises Media Response (revision of previous entry)

JAN. 30, 2018: Trump Says Manafort Won’t ‘Flip’ and Sell Him Out; Talks About Prosecuting Mueller (revision of previous entry)

MAR. 5, 2018: Model/Escort Claims to Have Audio Recordings (revision of previous entry)

JAN 14, 2019: Trump: ‘I Never Worked For Russia,’ FBI Officials ‘Known Scoundrels,’ Comey Was a ‘Bad Cop… a Dirty Cop’, McCabe is a ‘Proven Liar’; Says He Doesn’t Know What Happened to Interpreters’ Notes

JAN. 14, 2019: NYT: Trump Said He Wanted to Withdraw from NATO

JAN. 14-15, 2019: Barr at Confirmation Hearing: Mueller Not Engaged in ‘Witch Hunt’

JAN. 15, 2019: Parties Seek More Time Before Gates Sentencing

JAN. 15, 2019: Russia Holds Ukrainian Seamen

JAN. 15-17, 2019: Senate Fails to Halt Trump’s Deripaska Sanctions Relief; 136 House Republicans Rebuke Trump

JAN. 15-19, 2019: ‘Sex Training Expert’ Claiming Deripaska Connection is Deported to Russia, Arrested, Apologizes

JAN. 17, 2019: Trump Tweets About Mueller ‘Witch Hunt,’ ‘Fake’ Steele Dossier

JAN. 18, 2019: Russia Has Deployed Nuclear-Capable Ballistic Missiles Near Ukraine Border



[NOTE: On Jan. 14, 2019, this post appeared at Dan Rather’s News & Guts.]

Last week’s two biggest Trump-Russia stories are related to each other. They’re also related to two other stories that attracted far less media attention. 

The Big Ones

On January 11, The New York Times reported that in May 2017, the FBI launched a counterintelligence inquiry into whether Trump was working on behalf of Russia. Two days later, The Washington Post revealed that Trump has concealed — even from his own senior officials — his private conversations with Vladimir Putin.

That’s shocking stuff. But it’s consistent with Trump’s open, notorious, and intensifying hostility toward America’s law enforcement institutions, his affinity for Putin, and the emerging facts that explain his solicitous behavior toward Russia’s dictator. Likewise, his secrecy in dealing with Putin is consistent with Trump’s foreign policy, which has enhanced Russia’s global position at the expense of US interests. All of that raises suspicions, to say the least.

Two developments in the saga of how Putin wound up with such a valuable asset in the White House received less media attention. They relate to Natalie Veselnitskaya and Paul Manafort. 

Veselnitskaya’s Friends In The Kremlin

On Jan. 8, 2019, the court unsealed an indictment against Natalia Veselnitskaya for obstructing justice in a federal case involving her client, Prevezon. The case involved alleged Russian money laundering through “pricey New York real estate.” On the Trump-Russia Timeline name filter, clicking on “Natalia Veselnitskaya” and “Prevezon” reveals that she’s an insider at the highest levels of Putin’s government.

Why does it matter? Context:

JUNE 3, 2016: Don Jr. receives an offer purportedly originating from the “Crown prosecutor of Russia” to provide “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.” Don Jr. responds, “I love it especially later in the summer.” He invites Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner to attend a meeting where they expect to receive the helpful material from a Russian emissary. 

JUNE 9, 2016: When Veselnitskaya arrives at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, Manafort, Kushner, and Don Jr. assume that they will be meeting with an agent of the Russian government. Based on the government’s subsequent criminal charges against Veselnitskaya, that assumption is correct.

The implications of Veselnitskaya’s status will become clearer as the overall Trump-Russia story unfolds in the weeks ahead.

Manafort’s Revelation

Also on Jan. 8, 2019, Paul Manafort’s attorneys revealed that, according to special counsel Robert Mueller, during the 2016 campaign, Manafort supplied internal polling information to his long-time Russian-Ukrainian business associate, Konstantin Kilimnik. Federal investigators assert that Kilimnik — a former Soviet military officer — had and continues to have ties to Russian intelligence. Kilimnik also served as an intermediary between Manafort and Oleg Deripaska (referred to as “Putin’s oligarch” — which speaks for itself).

What would Kilimnik want with internal Trump campaign polling data? The Trump-Russia Timeline provides context that might offer clues. Clicking on the name filters for “Paul Manafort,” “Konstantin Kilimnik,” “Facebook/Twitter,” “Julian Assange,” and “George Papadopoulos” results in dozens of entries worth reviewing. Here’s just a small sample from the highlights reel: 

APRIL 2014: Russia begins its “Translator project” — using social media to exploit divisions among US voters.

MARCH 29, 2016: Manafort is broke, but agrees to work for the Trump campaign for nothing.

APRIL 11, 2016: Deeply in debt to Deripaska, Manafort asks Kilimnik how he can use his new position of influence in the Trump campaign “to get whole.”

APRIL 26, 2016: George Papadopoulos, a Trump national security adviser, learns that the Russian government has “dirt” on Clinton — “thousands of emails” — and that it wants to help disseminate those stolen emails.

Then comes the Manafort revelation:

MAY 3-4, 2016: As Trump vanquishes his GOP rivals for the nomination, Manafort has been sending Trump’s private polling data to Kilimnik.

JUNE 2016: Kushner assumes control of Trump’s digital campaign. According to later reporting from McClatchy, by July 2017, “Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states — areas where Trump’s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton.” 

JUNE 3, 2016: Don Jr. receives a message communicating Russia’s offer to provide “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

JUNE 7, 2016: With the Trump Tower meeting now set for June 9, Trump addresses a New Jersey primary election crowd. During his victory speech, he promises to reveal “things that have taken place with the Clintons.”

JUNE 9, 2016:  On the day of the infamous Trump Tower meeting that includes Veselnitskaya as Russia’s point person, Trump starts tweeting about Clinton’s deleted emails. Those emails become a recurring Trump campaign theme.

JUNE TO NOVEMBER 2016: By now, Russia’s “Translator project” is in full swing, targeting “hot-button” issues in battleground states.

JULY 7, 2016: Manafort offers “private briefings” about the campaign to Deripaska.

LATE JULY/EARLY AUGUST 2016: High-level counterintelligence officials warn Trump and Clinton that foreign adversaries, including Russia, would likely try to spy on and infiltrate their campaigns. The officials tell the candidates to alert the FBI about any suspicious foreign overtures to their campaigns. Trump doesn’t. Two weeks later, Manafort resigns from the Trump campaign; however, well past the election, he boasts that insiders keep him “aware of what’s going on.” 

End Game

Throughout the summer until Election Day, WikiLeaks disseminates the emails that Russian hackers had stolen from Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Russia’s social media campaign — “Translator project—continues in earnest, targeting voters in battleground states.

The rest, as they say, is history. Fewer than 80,000 voters in three states swing the Electoral College result to Trump, who loses the popular contest by almost 3 million votes.

In the end, Trump was Putin’s candidate. His campaign embraced Russia’s help, and he won. And since the election, his behavior toward Putin and Russia has been startling — and not in a good way. In its totality, the Trump-Russia Timeline — along with likely additional evidence that Mueller has and the public doesn’t — makes one thing clear: The notion that the FBI opened a counterintelligence inquiry into Trump is surprising, but the failure to open one would have been frightening.

Here’s a complete list of the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline:

SEPT. 10, 2013: US Attorney Bharara Files Case Against Veselnitskaya’s Client (revision of previous entry)

MAY 3-4, 2016: Gates and Manafort Have Been Sending Polling Data to Kilimnik; Trump Stands Atop the Republican Field (revision of previous entry)

JUNE TO NOVEMBER 2016: ‘Translator Project’ in Full Swing, Targets ‘Hot-Button’ Issues in Battleground States (revision of previous entry)

JULY 29-31, 2016: Kilimnik to Manafort: ‘Black Caviar’ Guy Has Messages

AUG. 2, 2016: Kilimnik Meets with Manafort, Discusses Ukraine Plan (revision of previous entry)

MAY 17, 2017: Former FBI Director Robert Mueller Named Special Counsel, Assumes Control of Counterintelligence Investigation Into Trump (revision of previous entry)

JULY 7, 2017: Trump Meets Putin, Confiscates Interpreter’s Notes Afterwards (revision of previous entry)

NOV. 26, 2018: Mueller Says Manafort Lied After Plea Agreement; Shared 2016 Campaign Polling Data With Kilimnik (revision of previous entry)

DEC. 20, 2018: Feds Charge Veselnitskaya With Obstruction

JAN. 8, 2019: Manafort’s Attorneys Reveal Too Much: Manafort Shared Polling Data With Kilimnik; Then What?

JAN. 10, 2019: Trump: ‘No Collusion’; Denies Knowing Manafort Shared Polling Data With Kilimnik

JAN. 10, 2019: Cohen Agrees to Testify Before House; Trump Says He’s ‘Not Worried at All”

JAN. 11-12, 2019: NYT Reveals FBI Counterintelligence Investigation into Trump; Trump Blasts ‘Sleaze’ and ‘Crooked Cop’ Comey, FBI, McCabe, Strzok, Lisa Page, ‘Rigged and Botched Crooked Hillary Investigation,’ ‘Mueller & the 13 Angry Democrats’, ‘Witch Hunt’, Says He’s Been ‘Far Tougher on Russia’ but ‘Getting Along With Russia is a Good Thing’ 


REMINDER: The Trump-Russia Timeline is now available at Dan Rather’s News & Guts and at Just Security

Vladimir Putin spent the holiday season collecting gifts from the 45th president of the United States. The latest developments in a scandal that the Trump-Russia Timeline chronicles now look like a game of “RISK” — with Putin moving effortlessly as the dominant player on the board. And to cap it off, on Jan. 2, Trump echoed Russian propaganda seeking to rewrite the history of the Soviet Union’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.

 America’s President Panders to a Thug With Nuclear Weapons

Give Putin credit. Without nuclear weapons, Russia would be a bit-player on the world stage. Its economy ranks 11th in the world — about one-tenth of that of the United States. If California and Texas were separate nations, both would surpass Russia in GDP. Yet in contrast to Trump’s willingness to antagonize other leaders of nuclear nations, including China and America’s staunchest allies, he panders to Putin as if Russia’s dictator had a gun to his head.

Even worse, the most recent turn of international events could be the beginning of a new and darker phase of the Trump era. The latest additions to the Trump-Russia Timeline depict a war in which Trump is leading a US retreat from every battlefield and Putin is emerging victorious.

Putin’s Green Light to Continue Election Interference

DEC. 17, 2018: The Senate Intelligence Committee releases two new bipartisan reports that Russia interfered with the 2016 election through social media, not only to help Trump win, but also to aid him thereafter — including attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump’s Response: Silence.

Bottom Line: Russia’s war on truth and the vote — two foundations of American democracy — continues.

Putin Reconstructs the Soviet Empire

DEC. 17, 2018: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pushes an unsubstantiated claim that Ukraine is “planning more provocations” at the Russian border. In the wake of Russia’s unlawful actions on Nov. 25 in the Kerch strait, the statement looks like a pretext for Russia’s next aggressive move against the former Soviet state.

DEC. 22: Russia moves more than a dozen fighter jets to the illegally annexed Crimean region in Ukraine.

DEC. 24: A spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry repeats Lavrov’s unsubstantiated claims about Ukraine’s “provocations.” The Ministry even suggests that, in addition to ground operations, Ukraine may be plotting chemical warfare.

Trump’s Response: Silence.

Bottom Line: In 2005, Putin called the disintegration of the Soviet empire the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century. Now Trump is aiding and abetting Putin’s reconstruction of that empire.

Putin On His Way to Winning More Relief From US Sanctions

DEC. 19, 2018: The Treasury Department announces that, absent congressional action that won’t happen from Trump’s GOP, sanctions announced against Oleg Deripaska’s company in April — but then postponed for months — will disappear altogether in 30 days.

Deripaska is so close to Putin that he has been called “Putin’s oligarch.” For years, he was also Paul Manafort’s business associate. While serving without pay as Trump’s campaign manager in July 2016, Manafort offered Deripaska “private briefings” on the campaign. (For context and more details, go to the Trump-Russia Timeline and click on Deripaska’s name. Remarkably, a Jan. 4, 2019 article in The New York Times refers to Deripaska as a “bit player” in the Mueller investigation. Read the Timeline entries for him and decide for yourself.)

Bottom Line: Removing all economic sanctions against Russia is one of Putin’s highest priorities. Trump is helping him achieve that goal.

Putin Winning in the Mideast

DEC. 19, 2018: Trump makes a surprise announcement that the US is withdrawing all of its troops from Syria. The next day, Defense Secretary James Mattis resigns in protest over the decision. A boon to Russia, Syria, Iran, and Turkey, Trump’s action deals a crushing blow to the Kurds — America’s principal ally against ISIS in the region. Controlling the oil-rich northeastern area of Syria, the Kurds are also resisting Syria’s president, Putin-backed Bashar al-Assad, as well as Turkey’s autocratic president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Putin’s Response“Donald is right. I agree with him.”

Turkey’s Response: Turkey masses troops near a town that US-backed Kurdish rebels hold.

Trump’s Follow-up: Trump tweets lies about Russia, Syria, Iran, “and many others” being unhappy about his action. They’re not. Trump also asserts falsely that Mattis “retired,” but Mattis’ two-page resignation letter proves otherwise and, in the process, also repudiates Trump’s foreign policy:

“My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues … Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.”

Bottom Line: James Mattis, one of America’s most respected public servants, resigns in protest because he believes Trump is undermining US and global security; Putin, the leader of America’s principal foreign adversary, praises Trump’s actions that produced Mattis’ resignation.

In Plain Sight

JAN. 2, 2019: During a public Cabinet meeting, Trump turns spontaneously to the subject of Afghanistan, where he has previously announced a US troop reduction from 14,000 to 7,000. Trump says that the Soviet Union was “right to be there” in 1979, when it invaded the country with 30,000 troops in an attempt to prop up a pro-communist puppet regime. Trump is echoing a recent Putin talking point based on a false, revisionist history of that internationally condemned invasion.

Some of Trump’s most egregious behavior happens where everyone can see it. But he enthralls the media with an endless stream of shiny objects that obscure a simple question:

Whose side is Trump on? His actions heading into 2019 continue to reveal that the answer hasn’t changed since the 2016 campaign.

Here’s a complete list of the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline (now at Dan Rather’s News & Guts and Just Security):

APRIL 2014: The “Translator Project” Begins; Supports Trump; Exploits Divisions Among US Voters (revision of previous entry)

MAR. 10-11, 2016: Butina Works With Erickson; Thanks O’Neill for Helping US-Russia Relations (revision of previous entry)

APRIL 11, 2016: Manafort to Russian Business Associate: ‘How Do We Use to Get Whole?’ (revision of previous entry)

JUNE 8, 2016: Parscale Meets With Trump

NOV. 29, 2018: Cohen Pleads Guilty in Mueller Probe; Coordinated False Congressional Statements with Trump Legal Team; Trump Expresses Displeasure to Whitaker (revision of previous entry)

DEC. 1, 2018: Russia Moves Military Forces to Ukrainian Border

REVISED: DEC. 7, 2018: Mueller and SDNY File Briefs on Cohen; SDNY Implicates Trump; Trump Angry at Whitaker (revision of previous entry)

DEC. 12, 2018: Flynn’s Business Partner Indicted

DEC. 14, 2018: Trump Talks to Erdoğan About Syria: ‘It’s Yours; I’m Leaving’

DEC. 17, 2018: Comey Testifies, Then Blasts GOP, Fox News, Trump

DEC. 17, 2018: Lavrov Says Ukraine Planning More Provocations

DEC. 17, 2018: Senate Intelligence Committee: Russia Targeted African-Americans in 2016 Campaign, Still Using Social Media to Help Trump and Hurt Mueller

DEC. 18, 2018: Trump Tweets: Strzok and Lisa Page Texts ‘Would Have Explained Whole Hoax’, Defends Flynn, Attacks Steele Dossier

DEC. 18, 2018: Judge Tells Flynn: ‘Arguably, You Sold Your Country Out’; Sentencing Postponed at Flynn’s Request

DEC. 19, 2018: Treasury Department Moves to Lift Sanctions on Deripaska’s Company

DEC. 19-20, 2018: Trump Announces Withdrawal from Syria; Putin Says ‘Donald is Right’

DEC. 20, 2018: Mattis Resigns

DEC. 20, 2018: House Intelligence Committee Votes to Send Stone’s Transcript to Mueller

DEC. 20, 2018: Whitaker Refuses to Recuse Himself From Trump-Russia Probe

DEC. 22, 2018: Russia Moves Fighter Jets to Crimea

DEC. 23, 2018: Turkey Massing Troops Near Syrian Border

DEC. 24, 2018: Russia Repeats Unsubstantiated Claim of Ukrainian ‘Provocation’

DEC. 25, 2018: Trump Attacks Comey, ‘No Collusion’ (Except by the Democrats)

DEC. 28, 2018: GOP Leaders Quietly End House Investigations, Call for Second Special Counsel

DEC. 29, 2018: Trump Tweets Lies About Mueller and Strzok/Lisa Page Text Messages; ‘Hoax’; FBI/DOJ ‘Rigged’ Investigations

JAN. 2, 2019: Trump Parrots Putin Revisionism on Afghanistan

JAN. 4, 2019: Trump Tweets About Impeachment, ‘No Collusion’

JAN. 4, 2019: Schiff Will Provide Transcripts to Mueller

JAN. 4, 2019: Mueller Grand Jury Extended

JAN. 5, 2019: Trump Tweets About His Campaign Finance Law Violations