Russia On My Mind

An interview with Greg Olear, author of Dirty Rubles

Despite the news reports and Twitter hysteria over Trump’s sick assertion that Friday was “a great day” for George Floyd, history will show it was, in fact, a great day for Vladimir Putin.

Because Friday was when Trump suddenly and inexplicably decided to reduce US troops in Germany by 25%, a move which “blindsided German officials and many American military leaders in Europe.”

The move followed Trump’s latest phone call to Putin, which happened immediately before he gassed protesters with a tear-producing chemical that Trump claims wasn’t “tear gas” and Bill Barr now says (falsely) wasn’t even a chemical.

Friday night was also when the Lindsey Graham #LadyGate scandal broke out on Twitter, reminding me of this article by Greg Olear here on Substack six months ago, which makes a convincing case that Trump has some serious kompromat on Graham, serious enough to turn the South Carolina senator from a Trump hater to someone who now “presents as Trump’s hostage.”

With a lot of things Russia-related on my mind, I reached out to Olear, the author of 2018’s Dirty Rubles: An Introduction to Trump/Russia, for an update on what we know now—and what we still might find out in the fewer-than-150 days before election day.

Here’s the interview:

It seems there are two basic theories about the Mueller investigation and the impeachment trial. On one side, Trump has people believing he was “exonerated” and it was all a “hoax.” On the other side, there’s frustration that he got away with everything and the only way to stop him is to vote him out in November. But there’s also a third theory. Can you explain that?

The truth lies somewhere in the middle. It’s true that Mueller did not indict him, nor did he exonerate him. Remember that Mueller’s mission was a narrow one, and he was not able to examine Trump’s finances, which is where the signs of criminality will likely appear. Mueller farmed some investigations, including the counterintelligence one, out to the FBI. Bill Barr has cockblocked as much of this as he can, but he can’t keep his finger in the dyke forever. What we’ve seen with Trump/Russia is the equivalent to the trailer of a very long movie. There’s so much left for us to see, and get to the bottom of.

We know—and we heard from Michael Cohen—that Trump’s tax returns contain evidence of tax fraud and/or bank fraud. But you think there’s much more to it than that. What else might be in those returns?

Evidence of money laundering for the Russian mob—or, perhaps, for other countries that we may be surprised to see involved. Remember, Trump was in dire financial straits, no American bank would lend to him. Why would Deutsche Bank float the guy so much as a kopek unless it had some assurance that the loan would be repaid? And who would offer such an assurance?

How likely are we to see the tax returns before the election?

From what I understand, SCOTUS should rule on this shortly. Assuming they rule against Trump—and if they don’t, that’s a whole other problem—we will. Or, rather, Adam Schiff will.

One of the most surprising things to me about the recent Republican insider trading scandal was how hard Trumpworld—especially the thuggish Matt Gaetz—went after his party’s Senate Intel Chair Richard Burr, while letting seemingly far more guilty parties, such as Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler, off the hook. Then the FBI seized Burr’s phone and no one seemed to complain. When Paul Manafort and Roger Stone were being investigated it was the biggest scandal since Pizzagate. Why did the GOP turn on Burr so hard?

The most likely answer is that, as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Burr didn’t Devin Nunes the Trump/Russia investigations enough. But I can’t pretend to know what any of the GOP are thinking. Every Republican member of Congress has carried Trump’s water for so long, I’m not ready to hail any GOP as some sort of hero for calling a traitor a traitor.

On May 15, Burr’s final act as Senate Intel Chair was to submit, in partnership with the Democratic Vice Chair Mark Warner, his committee’s report on the FBI counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign for declassification. What’s the significance of that?

It’s a report that Trump would prefer to bury forever, basically. There’s no way the president comes out smelling like roses in that report. Although because the new DNI, Ratcliffe, is a Trump loyalist, he will likely redact it to oblivion.

Now that Burr has gone, how likely is it that Ratcliffe will release the report, and what happens if he doesn’t?

He will likely release a heavily redacted version, and if he can wait until after November, he will.

There are less than 5 months until election day, what do you think will happen between now and then?

Literally nothing would surprise me. Certainly much could happen that is horrifying, and we now have three-plus years of evidence that Trump does not prioritize the safety of the American people, or our national security. I do think Biden will win in a rout, assuming he picks Kamala, and I think the margin of victory will be too large for the Russians to fuck with. Apart from that, it’s anyone’s guess. To underscore just how crazy this all is: there is a greater than zero chance that the President of the United States will defect to Russia to avoid prosecution.

For more from Greg Olear, follow him on Twitter. And sign up for his Substack newsletter PREVAIL.

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