Sunday, April 2, 2017
It has become April Fools everyday
It seems the April Fools joke of the day was Trump walking out on his own signing party without signing his latest executive order. He was distracted by questions surrounding his former national security adviser, "Iron Mike" Flynn. Vice-President Pence tried to grab His Trumpness by the arm only to be brusquely brushed aside.
The signing party was nothing more than a distraction anyway. An attempt to push the on-going investigation into Trump's Russian connections to the sideline. It failed badly. He had to know these were the first questions that would come from the pool of reporters yet chose to ignore them. He didn't even use the opportunity to fly off into a rant on "fake news" like he did the announcement of his new Labor Secretary pick a few weeks back. Rather, he chose to gather his thoughts in the back room and take to twitter to voice his indignation with the press.
It is hard to assess what Iron Mike's request for immunity means. There is certainly plenty of speculation floating around but you have to figure he isn't going to incriminate his commander-in-chief. More likely he will take down some incidental figures in an effort to bury Kremlingate once and for all. Why else would the White House put its seal of approval on his upcoming testimony?
The only problem is that asking for immunity makes him look guilty. After all, this is what Flynn and Trump both said about Hillary when staffers in her state department were offered immunity to testify in her e-mail investigation. "Have you ever seen a greater embarrassment to our country?" He asked a Florida rally. Not until now.
Our Commander-in-Chief has tried every trick to bury the allegations swirling around, but there seems no way to deflect attention away from Kremlingate. This must be tough for a guy who was successfully able to brush away sexual abuse allegations during his campaign as well as a number of other charges. Even talk of Russian connections during the campaign fell to the wayside in the wake of the flood of Clinton and DNC e-mails. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't have Hillary to kick around anymore, try as he might.
The media focus is squarely on him and the mounting number of advisers and family members who have ties to Russia. Flynn is at the center of this vortex, as he failed to disclose money he took from Russian companies, purportedly for speeches, including from the news service RT TV. While Flynn's money isn't in the millions like Manafort, it is significant enough to suggest deep ties to the Kremlin.
New stories have also emerged regarding the extent the Kremlin used trolls to try to affect the news cycle in Midwest battleground states in the waning days of the campaign. These trolls would funnel fake stories emanating from RT and Sputnik "news," creating what Clinton Watts called a "Potemkin Village" amplifying the appearance of these stories.
Top Internet stories are usually based on hits, and so these trolls made sure their stories had the most hits by spreading them through a web of fake identities, or bots, and watching the stories get picked up by the mainstream media. What makes this particularly insidious is that these trolls specifically targeted key states hoping to influence elections where the polling numbers were close. The million-dollar question is how much collusion took place? Did popular right-wing media outlets like Breitbart and the New York Observer unknowingly pick up these stories or did they purposefully disseminate them, knowing the origin of these stories.
Flynn is looking more and more like a distraction. This could very easily be a ploy by Bannon and Kushner to deflect attention away from their own activities at Breitbart and the New York Observer. Flynn may have acted as a go-between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign and subsequent transition team, but it is highly unlikely he had any affect on the outcome of the election, which is what this Congressional investigation centers on. One hopes the Senate and House committees will eventually focus on Bannon and Kushner, who both have deep ties to the right-wing media industry.
If it is shown that Russian media worked with American conservative media to spread these fake stories regarding Hillary's health, complicity in Benghazi and numerous other tawdry tales, this calls the entire election into question. If Trump is ultimately forced to step down that would mean we would get Pence as President, who wouldn't be where he is if the election hadn't been influenced by the spread of this "fake news." We are still left with a Republican administration that would continue to carry out its insidious policy of promoting a military-industrial state at the expense of domestic programs, just no longer saddled by the national embarrassment the Trump administration has become.
The Republican establishment has essentially become a hall of mirrors. It is impossible to know who is who anymore in this increasingly muddled investigation that seems to be following a number of false leads put out by conservative operatives as we saw with the Devin Nunes incident. The only saving grace is that they are doing such a bad job of it that they are only drawing more attention to themselves.
The White House is trying desperately to steer this investigation in the wrong direction and we should be highly dubious of the depth of Flynn's role in this scandal. His is a superficial role at best.
This insidious operation is far more intricate and buried deep in the news media. It is very difficult to sort out all the trolls and the bots from the real users and trace these trolls and bots back to their original source. Bannon is one of the dark figures here, as it his Breitbart that helped propagate many of these false stories. The only way to really get to the bottom of this is to follow the planted stories back to their original source and then sort out the trolls that helped spread the stories.