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By Robert A. Vella

After two weeks of impeachment inquiry testimony in the House of Representatives undisputedly exposed President Trump’s scheme to pressure the Ukrainian government into interfering in the 2020 election on his behalf, congressional Republicans have been left scrambling to find alternative ways to defend him.  With the facts stacked against Trump (and possibly more to come), and with their failed attempts to discredit the witnesses fallen by the wayside, Republicans (and now even those in the Senate where the impeachment trial will be held) are resorting to push a fake conspiracy theory to shift public attention away from Trump and to justify his corrupt and illegal behavior.

But, they have a very big problem.  Over the last few weeks, U.S. intelligence officials have again informed the Senate that the false narrative Trump and his Republican allies are pushing was deliberately planted by Russian security services to obfuscate its proven meddling in the 2016 U.S. election to help elect Trump and to instead blame Ukraine (a country Vladimir Putin wants to re-conquer) for meddling to help elect Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton.  This U.S. intelligence assessment has been confirmed by bipartisan reports in both houses of Congress, and it poses a grave political risk for Republicans who chose to ignore it.  That risk opens the door to wide public perception of Trump and his allies as traitors to America.

In fact, this Russian-planted conspiracy theory can be traced back to the conclusion of the 2016 election and shortly after Trump assumed office.  Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian businessman with close ties to Russian intelligence, offered the theory to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort who is now in federal prison.  Their relationship is central to former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia in 2016 (see:  Key figure that Mueller report linked to Russia was a State Department intel source).  There is little doubt now that Trump has been and still is aiding Putin’s plan to undermine American democracy and its constitutional system based on the rule of law;  and, the GOP – willingly or not – is apparently complicit.

That’s the focus of today’s post along with some other related news stories;  and, lastly, there is a link to a new two-hour NOVA documentary aired this week on PBS – titled The Violence Paradox – which I highly recommend for those interested in human nature, its tendency towards violence, how the advent of civilization and biological evolution have mitigated violence, how increasing social inequalities in recent decades are exacerbating violent behavior, and what we can effectively do to reduce violence.

Impeachment

From:  Charges of Ukrainian Meddling? A Russian Operation, U.S. Intelligence Says

WASHINGTON — Republicans have sought for weeks amid the impeachment inquiry to shift attention to President Trump’s demands that Ukraine investigate any 2016 election meddling, defending it as a legitimate concern while Democrats accuse Mr. Trump of pursuing fringe theories for his benefit.

The Republican defense of Mr. Trump became central to the impeachment proceedings when Fiona Hill, a respected Russia scholar and former senior White House official, added a harsh critique during testimony on Thursday. She told some of Mr. Trump’s fiercest defenders in Congress that they were repeating “a fictional narrative.” She said that it likely came from a disinformation campaign by Russian security services, which also propagated it.

In a briefing that closely aligned with Dr. Hill’s testimony, American intelligence officials informed senators and their aides in recent weeks that Russia had engaged in a yearslong campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow’s own hacking of the 2016 election, according to three American officials. The briefing came as Republicans stepped up their defenses of Mr. Trump in the Ukraine affair.

The revelations demonstrate Russia’s persistence in trying to sow discord among its adversaries — and show that the Kremlin apparently succeeded, as unfounded claims about Ukrainian interference seeped into Republican talking points. American intelligence agencies believe Moscow is likely to redouble its efforts as the 2020 presidential campaign intensifies. The classified briefing for senators also focused on Russia’s evolving influence tactics, including its growing ability to better disguise operations.

From:  Trump Advances Russian Disinformation Campaign in Fox News Interview

President Donald Trump on Friday advanced a Russian disinformation campaign aimed at the U.S. and its allies, endorsing a conspiracy theory less than 24 hours after his former top aide testified under oath that it was part of “a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services.”

The conspiracy theory, which took root and later spread among far-right Internet websites, conservative media and members of Trump’s inner circle, holds that Ukraine conspired against Trump during the 2016 election and colluded with his rival, Hillary Clinton, by hiding the Democratic National Committee’s email server. The theory claims that CrowdStrike, a security firm hired to investigate the hacking of emails from the DNC, covered up Ukraine’s role and framed Russia instead. In the President’s July 25 call that helped trigger the impeachment inquiry, Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to do him a “favor” and look into Crowdstrike.

The Ukraine theory has been dismissed as false by several of Trump’s current and former top advisors, including his former Homeland Security advisor and others, and by Russia policy experts who say circulating it benefits Moscow. Nevertheless, Trump once again made the false accusation Friday during a nearly hour-long call-in to the “Fox & Friends” morning show in an apparent attempt to defend himself against this week’s House Intelligence Committee impeachment hearings.

From:  Giuliani-Pompeo contacts before Yovanovitch ouster are seen in newly released State Dept. documents

The State Department late Friday released 100 pages of court-ordered documents that show President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke on the phone at least twice in late March within the same time frame of events currently under investigation in a House impeachment inquiry.

The released records seemed to confirm testimony from several key witnesses, including U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who testified this week that senior Trump administration officials were involved in the president’s efforts to convince Ukraine to launch a probe into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings in the country. The 100 pages also included information related to House Democrats’ claims that Giuliani launched a so-called “smear campaign” against then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, leading to her ouster.

The documents were published by American Oversight, a nonprofit ethics watchdog investigating the Trump administration, which filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act for information related to the Trump administration’s dealings in Ukraine. The group seemed to find a loophole in the White House’s objections to cooperating in House impeachment hearings after Congress issued a subpoena for similar information.

From:  Will John Bolton fill in the gaps on Ukraine as an impeachment witness?

WASHINGTON — Former national security adviser John Bolton appears to be dangling the possibility of testifying late in the impeachment process about President Donald Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine, potentially providing an account that could fill in crucial gaps in the current record.

[…]

“Bolton understands that the impeachment process is only in the seventh-inning stretch of a one-run ballgame — there is much more that is going to happen,” said one such person, speaking on condition of anonymity. “He now has a lucrative book deal, and he will do everything in his power to maximize public anticipation and revenues from the book.”

[…]

A longtime Republican lobbyist close to Bolton noted that the former national security adviser has legal and political factors that could cause him to delay testifying.

“He’s got something to say, but he also wants to stick around in the party,” the lobbyist said. “If he’s ordered by a judge, it’s harder for Trump-world to say he did this on his own because of some grudge.”

From:  Giuliani associate Lev Parnas claims to have ‘hard evidence’ of wrongdoing for Trump impeachment inquiry

A lawyer for the associate of Rudy Giuliani is pushing the impeachment committee to call him to testify about what he knows about Trump’s plan to bully Ukraine.

“The evidence of #POTUS knowingly interacting with him is beyond cavil, and he has hard — hard — first-hand evidence. So, #LetLevSpeak,” said Joseph Bondy on Twitter early Friday morning.

Parnas, who was indicted along with partner Igor Fruman for his role in a campaign finance scheme to benefit Trump, was a key player in Giuliani’s effort to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and Democrats in Ukraine.

Once a diehard Trump supporter, Parnas has become disillusioned as Trump sought to distance himself from the pair.

From:  Igor Fruman divorce hearing testimony sheds light on campaign donations

Igor Fruman, the Soviet-born South Florida businessman at the center of a federal campaign finance probe involving the President’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, said he put more than $300,000 in political donations on company credit cards in hopes of jump-starting a new business, according to a court hearing transcript obtained by CNN.

Fruman, testifying with the aid of a Russian interpreter, said he did so because his New York-based firm FD Import & Export, to which he charged the donations, was “going out of business” and he needed to promote a new company “in order for my family not to drown.”

His testimony, given in a July 17, 2018 divorce hearing in Miami, offers fresh detail about the finances behind the political giving of Fruman and his associate Lev Parnas. Two months before the hearing, according to federal prosecutors, the pair began funneling money into the US political process to further their own financial interests and the political interests of at least one Ukrainian government official with whom they were working. In October, both men pleaded not guilty to charges they violated campaign finance laws.

Other news

From:  Mystery grows over Trump administration hold on Lebanon aid

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is withholding more than $100 million in U.S. military assistance to Lebanon that has been approved by Congress and is favored by his national security team, an assertion of executive control of foreign aid that is similar to the delay in support for Ukraine at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

From:  Trump administration seizing border wall land

Three years after chants of “build that wall” became a rallying cry for the candidacy of Donald Trump, his administration is engaged in an increasingly aggressive land grab along the Southwest border to make a new wall a reality, a CNN review of federal court filings shows.

Through November 15, the Trump administration had filed 29 eminent domain suits tied to border-wall construction this year, up from 11 each of the past two years, according to federal court records. All but four of this year’s suits were filed in Texas. Eminent domain is the right of a government to seize private land for public use, while providing compensation.

New NOVA documentary

Watch:  The Violence Paradox – Is violence actually declining? If so, why? And can we build a more peaceful future?

Despite the constant news of violence, from mass shootings to wars, psychologist Steven Pinker believes we may be living in one of the most peaceful periods in human existence. Could it be true that physical violence has been in decline for centuries? And can it be prevented—or is it simply part of human nature? NOVA takes you on a journey through history and the human mind to explore what triggers violence and how it may have decreased over time. Taking clues from a Kenyan archaeology site, modern laboratory experiments, and even literature, researchers trace the social and neurobiological roots of human violence. They look at how forces like income equality and personal contact may curb violence in modern societies. And in places like Baltimore, where violence “interrupters” treat violence like a contagious disease, NOVA examines evidence-based approaches to making the world more peaceful. (Premiered November 20, 2019)

47 thoughts on “Senate Republicans are pushing fake theory intelligence officials had warned them was planted by Russia

    • Pinker’s research focuses strictly on the evidence of violence in human history, and this NOVA documentary does not jump to the conclusion of “this better world” – far from it. If you can, I highly recommend watching it. It’s profoundly informative.

      Some of the conclusions which can be accurately drawn are:

      1) The incidence of person-to-person violence has dropped dramatically with the advent of civilization.

      2) This decline results from several factors including the self-interest desire of rulers and nation-states to instill social order, the spread of philosophies demanding human and civil rights during The Enlightenment, and the evolutionary decrease in testosterone levels in the human population.

      3) Conversely, civilization also brought the advent of organized war which – from the measurement of deaths per capita – peaked in the 14th century.

      4) The rise of social inequalities since the late 20th century is confirmed as a trigger of violence as the world’s social order breaks down.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The Russian strategy to undermine the US from within seems to work. Though it’s only working because US civil society has been in decay from some time. However, the collapse of the US, which seems to be inevitable, will be bad news for everyone as there is no suitable replacement for the US.

    The EU is too divided, Russia lacks the manpower and China is not trusted by anyone.

    Unfortunately, the fire has already been started, and I see no way this could be put down.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Ok I just finished the Nova show. It was excellent and can highly recommend it.

    I found the testosterone lowering levels and skull size changing interesting.

    Also that most violence still is in areas of much inequality and lack of education.

    They did stress the point that it wouldn’t take much to change this downward trend…back up.

    I also got that still racism, which is in part due to religion, especially in the Middle East, is still a driving force of violence.

    I also wondered why I feel violence is on the rise and I suppose it’s due to constant media and social media reporting and in fact, it is declining.

    Overall, the proclivity for violence is still with us, obviously, but we must keep trying to keep it on check.

    I do worry with trump and his apparent hold on the religious right, the white supremacy groups and other militia types, if the tide could turn back. And other countries are also under siege with more conservative authoritarian leaders.

    Time will tell.

    Maybe the overall trend is less violence, but as with the stock market, there will always be highs and lows and we may be about to enter a low.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Good observations which I share. I think the reason why you (and probably most people including myself) perceive an increase in violence is because of time scales. Over the thousands of years of history studied in the NOVA documentary, violence is decreasing based on the evidence. However, our individual perceptions over just a few decades in a lifetime only perceive very short-term changes; and, with social instability currently rising around the world, it does appear that violence is increasing now.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. As of interest to you, Robert and any other of your followers, is an article I posted on another blog earlier about a study I learned about called The Anger Games…The Who and why of trump voters in 2016. It was brought up in a lecture I attended.

    It’s a bit long and you will have to tap load more at some point, but it is very interesting.

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323091484_The_Anger_Games_Who_Voted_for_Donald_Trump_in_the_2016_Election_and_Why

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Well I’ll try…it’s long with a lot of statistical charts etc. if this first one copies and pastes ok, I’ll do a few others…

    The Anger Games: Who Voted
    for Donald Trump in the 2016
    Election, and Why?

    David Norman Smith
    University of Kansas, USA
    Eric Hanley
    University of Kansas, USA

    Abstract
    Recently released data from the 2016 American National Election Study allow us to offer a multifaceted profile of white voters who voted for Donald J. Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
    We find that Trump’s supporters voted for him mainly because they share his prejudices, not because they’re financially stressed. It’s true, as exit polls showed, that voters without four-year college degrees were likelier than average to support Trump.

    But millions of these voters—who are often stereotyped as “the white working class”—opposed Trump because they oppose his prejudices. These prejudices, meanwhile, have a definite structure, which we argue should be called authoritarian: negatively, they target minorities and women; and positively, they favor domineering and intolerant leaders who are uninhibited about their biases.

    Multivariate logistic regression shows that, once we take these biases into account, demographic factors (age, education, etc.) lose their explanatory power. The electorate, in short, is deeply divided. Nearly
    75% of Trump supporters count themselves among his enthusiastic supporters, and even “mild” Trump voters are much closer in their attitudes to Trump’s enthusiasts than they are to non-Trump voters. Polarization is profound, and may growing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Next one…..

    In the general election, moreover, Trump outpolled Clinton by a larger margin among voters with annual incomes from $70,000 to $120,000 than he did among any other income group.

    Our ANES findings add nuance to this account. Trump voters were not only reasonably secure economically; they ‭felt‬ reasonably secure. This was one of the few areas in which the attitudes of Trump and non-Trump voters did not differ significantly. To the extent that voters were financially insecure, they were insecure across party lines.

    Almost every other attitude, however, does distinguish Trump from non-Trump voters.
    The larger story of the 2016 election is that attitudes came to the fore and eclipsed demographics. Of course, this is not to deny that education, gender, age, marital status and income
    matter greatly. Social statuses interact with attitudes in innumerable significant ways. But our ANES research shows that attitudes were the main dividing lines between Trump voters and other voters.

    The decisive reason that white, male, older and less educated voters were disproportionately pro-Trump is that they shared his prejudices and wanted domineering, aggressive leaders more often than other voters did.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting. Note that in the pivotal Midwest states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, many traditional Democratic voters who felt economically insecure refused to vote for Hillary Clinton which allowed Trump to win narrowly in those states and give him an Electoral College victory.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. 3rd one…

    In 2016, we distilled our concern for Domineering Leaders into a scale with these two items:
    (1) “Our country will be great if we honor the ways of our forefathers, do what the authorities tell us to do, and get rid of the ‘rotten apples’ who are ruining everything”
    (2) “What our country really needs is a strong, determined leader who will crush evil and take us back to our true path.”

    Nearly 63 million voters pulled the lever for Donald Trump in 2016, and they agreed with unusual fervor and frequency that evil and “rotten apples” should be smashed. That attitude sharply divided them from
    other voters.
    Authoritarianism, in short, is a dividing line.

    In all, eight attitudes predict Trump support: conservative identification; support for domineering leaders; fundamentalism; prejudice against immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, and women; and pessimism about the economy. These attitudes were revealed by responses to scales new and old. Among them were the well-known “racial resentment” scale, which explores attitudes toward African Americans, and similar scales compiled from newer items concerning immigrants and Muslims.

    Overall, what we see is that a spectrum of attitudes inspired pro-Trump voting, and that many of these attitudes are particularly common among older, less educated, and male voters. Central among these attitudes is the wish for domineering presidential action against line-cutters and rotten apples.

    One apparent paradox in Table 4a deserves mention. Readers might wonder how Trump voters can be so pessimistic about the economy and yet show only average concern about their personal finances. The answer, it seems, lies in the well-known finding that pessimism about the economy reflects partisan biases more than personal concerns.

    When Tesler controlled for party loyalty and ideology, he found that racial resentment alone accounted for a nearly 40% chasm between the economic views of racial liberals and conservatives. Similarly, Rothwell and Diego-Rosell (2016) found that negative views of the economy are common among older and other white voters not because they are suffering disproportionately economically but as a function of their politics.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Last one….sorry so much info

    What Next?
    Trumpism could survive without Trump.
    What, then, is Trumpism? Many liberals have hoped that 2016 was an aberration, that many mid- dle-of-the-road voters cast their ballots for Trump without really sharing his views. Proponents of the “white working class” thesis, in particular, say that many Rust Belt factory workers, left behind by globalization, voted for Trump in the hope that he was sincere about his populist rhetoric. If that were true, then winning these voters back to the liberal fold would be fairly straightforward, since Trump’s fidelity to Wall Street would soon disillusion them. Other liberals have hoped that a good many voters, in the sluggish aftermath of the 2008 recession, were simply fearful about the uncertain future and willing to gamble on a risk-taker. Still others have hoped that hostility to Clinton and the Democratic leadership was the key to Trump’s appeal, and that this hostility can be overcome by well-crafted and appealing initiatives.

    These scenarios strike us as unrealistic. Most Trump voters cast their ballots for him with their eyes open, not despite his prejudices but because of them. Their partisanship, whether positive (toward Trump and the Republicans) or negative (against Clinton and the Democrats), is intense. This partisanship is anchored in anger and resentment among mild as well as strong Trump voters. Anger, not fear, was the emotional key to the Tea Party (Banks, 2014), and that seems to be true for Trumpism as well. If so, the challenge for progressives is greater than many people have imagined. Hostility to minorities and women cannot be wished away; nor can the wish for domi- neering leaders. The anger games are far from over.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that assessment is much too broad, focuses entirely on voters already captivated by conservative ideology, and completely ignores the role of independent and progressive voters. For example, if the assessment was true, then Democrats should have lost those Midwest states again in the 2018 midterms. Instead, they won big.

      Furthermore, I personally know many Democratic voters (myself included) who refused to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016; and, this lack of support was decisive in a close election.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I do know this was finished sometime in 2017/2018 and I wonder what all these statistics would show now? What might change? Especially after the hearings and so many things he said he was going to do, he did not do.

        Google the whole thing and maybe you can find a link without the cookie problem. I took bits from the whole report…
        I certainly think we are in very critical times

        Liked by 1 person

        • Gosh Mary, I’ve analyzed the 2016 election ad nauseam. It’s pretty clear now what happened. The article you linked is a little dated, but it’s main point about the allure of Trump to a particular demographic group (i.e. older white males) is spot on. However, the conclusion it infers that this attraction was the primary reason for Trump’s victory was both premature and overstated.

          Since becoming President, Trump has mostly held his grip on older white males especially in rural areas; but, he is hemorrhaging support among women and suburban voters, plus he is triggering increased voter turnout in urban areas having large minority populations. The electoral math has changed dramatically since 2016 and not in Trump’s favor. Most Americans do not approve of this president, and they are voicing their opinions at the ballot box.

          This does not mean that Trump can’t win again next year. If Dems nominate another divisive candidate, or if they do something really stupid, or if some unforeseen event significantly changes the current political dynamic, then he very well could be reelected.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I hope you are right.
          I live in Fla. and not in one of the larger cities and there are a lot of older people here and it is a conservative state. I feel so surrounded by trump supporters that I’m sure it skews my perception, but then again I see a lot of his support in other areas of the country as well…the Midwest notably.

          Let’s just hope people get out there and vote….blue!

          Liked by 1 person

        • My opinion is irrelevant. The “hope” we feel reveals only our fears, and fear clouds our perception. What really matters is facts, and here are some which should reassure you:

          If the majority of Americans supported Trump, then his Republican Party wouldn’t have lost the 2018 midterms by a huge margin (which was accurately predicted by the polls).

          If Trump’s support in the deep-red southern states was so overwhelming, then his GOP gubernatorial candidates in Kentucky and Louisiana wouldn’t have lost earlier this month and Democrats wouldn’t have completely taken over control of the government in Virginia (also predicted by the polls).

          And, speaking of polls, Trump’s presidential approval rating has never reached 50%, has consistently been in the low 40s, and is currently around 41%. That is definitely not a recipe for reelection success.

          Liked by 1 person

      • I did vote for her and mainly for the prose of the Supreme Court and you can see what has happened with that now…not good. And I fear RBG will not be able to still perform her job for much longer and then what awful person will he nominate?

        Liked by 1 person

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