Friday, September 7, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He did some math.

Trump weighed in several times on the sentencing today of his former "foreign policy advisor" George Papadopoulous. It was Papadopoulous' drunken confession to an Australian diplomat that Russian agents had stolen e-mails from Hillary Clinton's campaign and were looking to damage her campaign that started the United States' original investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election. Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Trump once again denied knowing Papadopoulous

This is a lie. There is photographic evidence of them meeting--specifically, right after Papadopoulous offered "a meeting between us and the Russian leadership to discuss US-Russia ties under President Trump," according to the Trump campaign's own internal e-mails. Trump also publicly praised Papadopoulos when naming him to the campaign team--although many people wondered at the time why the curiously unqualified Papadopoulous was suddenly playing such an important role in a presidential campaign. 

Later, Trump mocked the light 14-day sentence Papadopoulos received for lying to the FBI in an attempt to conceal his work bringing together the Trump campaign with Russian infiltrators, claiming that the 14-day sentence meant that the $28 million cost of Mueller's investigation had yielded $2 million per day of incarceration.

Papadopoulos' sentence is short because prosecutors asked for a short sentence, in exchange for his cooperation into the attack by Russian agents and their American co-conspirators.

While justice isn't normally measured in dollars per day of prison time, Trump's claim would be true if Papadopoulos were the only Trump ally convicted as a result of the Russia investigation--and if the investigation were anywhere near concluded. But many other Trump allies have already pleaded guilty, including Trump campaign deputy chair Rick Gates (facing a recommended sentence of 57-71 months in prison), Trump's national security advisor Michael Flynn (up to six months), Richard Pinedo (whose charges would normally get him 12-18 months), Alex van der Zwaan (who was sentenced to and served 1 month in prison before being deported). 

Trump's campaign chair, Paul Manafort, was convicted last month of charges likely to bring him 7-10 years in prison, and faces another trial where the potential prison term is so long that today Bloomberg News reported that he was seeking a plea deal in the hopes of avoiding what amounts to a life sentence. Last week, Manafort's associate W. Samuel Patten pleaded guilty to helping foreign nationals make illegal (and untraceable) donations to Trump's Inaugural Committee, which appears to have been used as a sort of influence-buying vehicle for Trump.

Twenty-six Russian individuals have also been indicted for their role in the attack on the 2016 election, but are unlikely to be brought to trial, at least while the Putin regime remains in power. 

Trump himself signaled yesterday through his lawyer that he intends to exercise his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refuse to answer questions from Mueller related to obstruction of justice.

$28 million is about nine cents per U.S. citizen, or roughly a third of the cost of Trump's travel to his golf courses to date.

Why should I care about this?

  • No amount of money is too much to spend to defend the integrity of American democracy.
  • It's wrong to break the law in order to accept secret "donations" from foreign powers.
  • It should be a lot harder to find this many criminals in any one presidential campaign or administration.