Occam, Trump, and Russia

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Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by thoreau » 06 Jul 2017, 12:47

Warren made a fair point about the failure to find more big reveals about Trump and Russia:
In another thread, Warren wrote:
Sandy wrote:I disagree that there is nothing to the Russia connection...
Ever since 9 NO 2016, every investigative journalist in the free world has devoted 23.5 hours of every day to the task of proving that connection. I am also confident that high ranking officials in America's intelligence community have dedicated their office to the task. More man-hours and resources have been brought to bare on exposing the POTUS as the Slavician Candidate than on finding the Lindbergh Baby, the identity of D. B. Cooper, and who shot J.R. combined. Thus far all this effort has produced only smoke.

Six months ago I was perfectly willing to believe it. Now it's just a bone clenched in the teeth of rabid dogs.
Let me take an Occam's Razor approach.

We know the following:
1) Trump had guys like Paul Manafort moving in the outer orbit of his campaign.
2) Russia is almost certainly behind the DNC hack.
3) Trump confidante Roger Stone seemed to have advance knowledge that the DNC emails would be released.
4) At the 2016 Republican Convention, the Trump camp seemed remarkably eager to change the platform language on Ukraine. It was one of their few areas of interest for the foreign policy part of the platform. Rather strange for a group of people whom you'd think would be unsure whether Chicken Kiev was named for a restaurant in the East Village or a city in Russia.
5) Nobody wants to admit to talking to Sergey Kislyak.
6) In January Jared Kushner really, really, REALLY wanted to use Russian diplomatic facilities for secure communications.

Here's what I think it means:
1) First and foremost, I doubt that Donaldik himself knows much (if anything) about Russia's games. If he did, he'd be tweeting about it. Unless they have heavy, heavy blackmail on him. But since we're using Occam's Razor, I won't assume the existence of peepee tapes.

2) Guys like Manafort (totally tied to Russia, but lacking names or accents that would give it away to NYC real estate executives) don't seem to have been personally close to Trump. They may have held important titles in the campaign at times, but the real power in the Trump camp rests with whoever currently has his ear. One day that could be a Cabinet Secretary, the next day it could be an 80's TV star who hangs out at Mar Lago.

So I suspect that guys like Manafort were mostly there to learn how things actually work in the Trump camp, and also to say to anyone who will listen "You know, for someone who served as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton just does not get Eastern Europe at all. The Russians, they aren't dumb, they're playing a game and we need to be savvy about how we play it with them..." Just plant the seed that maybe there's a game that we can play with Russia.

3) A few people were probably told that "someone" will be hacking emails and whatnot, and while these hackers are pro-American patriots, the illicit nature of their activity means that sometimes they operate overseas. At least one of them (Roger Stone) shoots off his big mouth.

4) Sergey Kislyak probably never talks about emails, but uses his position to hobnob with political types who are close to Trump and say "You know, Hillary Clinton would be terrible for both of our countries; we hope Donald wins. We could work together on a lot of things..." Maybe he insinuates a bit more, in language that diplomats and politicos would understand without needing anything made explicit.

5) At some point, enough people have heard enough about Russia to make them receptive to changing platform language. Somebody was probably told a little more than the others, to make them sufficiently motivated to actually do the work of pushing the language. It's one thing for everyone in the campaign to more or less agree that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have mishandled Ukraine, and quite another thing to get someone to actually step up and do the work of pushing against GOP foreign policy insiders, and to get that someone to push on this specific issue rather than some other.

I have no idea whether the people who did the work were simply pumped up to believe that Obama badly mishandled Ukraine, or if they were handled with personal leverage, or if they knew who was really supporting Trump and knew what was necessary. But one way or another, somebody was well-handled.

6) At some point, Jared Kushner learns too much, and (whether out of desperation or cockiness) decides that he should talk to Russia on a communications channel that the US government doesn't control. Kislyak is not impressed.

7) Everyone else eventually puts two and two together and decides that it might be a good idea to forget that they ever met Kislyak. Which is dumb, because it would have been much safer to say "Yes, it was a reception in DC, we shot the breeze for a few minutes, and there may have been a brief mention of [some topic that was being publicly discussed by many people, nothing you could get in trouble for casually mentioning with a diplomat]."

8) Trump himself has heard enough to realize how tarnished his win is. So he goes into denial. Everyone tells him to distance himself from Russia, so he defies them and decides that Russia is the one and only country on the face of the Earth that he WON'T badmouth.
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by Warren » 06 Jul 2017, 13:05

I'd say those are perfectly reasonable reads on the situation t.

At this point, if you still believe there was any sort of deal between the Kremlin and Trump, then you must necessarily believe Donald J Trump is a super genius that has covered his tracks in a blizzard of red herrings and unhinged tweets, a master of covert operations more competent than anyone that has ever lived, more component than any evil genius in all of fiction even.
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by thoreau » 06 Jul 2017, 13:07

The question is not whether there was a deal between the Kremlin and Trump. The question is whether there was a deal between the Kremlin and someone close to Trump.
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by thoreau » 06 Jul 2017, 13:10

And if (big if) Trump did make a deal with the Kremlin, the actual communication could probably be kept fairly low-profile and off the radar. It wouldn't take a genius to keep it secret, it would just require way more self-control than Trump possesses.
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by Taktix® » 06 Jul 2017, 13:17

Warren wrote:I'd say those are perfectly reasonable reads on the situation t.

At this point, if you still believe there was any sort of deal between the Kremlin and Trump, then you must necessarily believe Donald J Trump is a super genius that has covered his tracks in a blizzard of red herrings and unhinged tweets, a master of covert operations more competent than anyone that has ever lived, more component than any evil genius in all of fiction even.
thoreau wrote:The question is not whether there was a deal between the Kremlin and Trump. The question is whether there was a deal between the Kremlin and someone close to Trump.
Yep. I'd even stretch Occam so far as to suggest Trump was purposefully kept out of the loop, in part for plausible deniability and in part because information is his little hands is a liability.

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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by fyodor » 06 Jul 2017, 13:56

thoreau wrote:8) Trump himself has heard enough to realize how tarnished his win is. So he goes into denial. Everyone tells him to distance himself from Russia, so he defies them and decides that Russia is the one and only country on the face of the Earth that he WON'T badmouth.
While not impossible, the arrow does seem to be getting a little bent here.
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by Mo » 06 Jul 2017, 14:23

I think you're missing the real reason why Trump wants the investigation to go away. He did a lot of business with Russia. The high end real estate market for foreigners is shady as hell even with above board real estate companies* that do due diligence. You're going to be dealing with potential AML, OFAC and FCPA violations. My guess is that the Trump and or Kushner companies likely have legal issues related to some or all of those laws (and many others). And that is why Trump doesn't want Mueller or Comey sniffing around the Russians.

* Relatively speaking
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by thoreau » 06 Jul 2017, 14:44

I was trying to work out the most charitable take on Trump and Russia. To set a baseline. Once you add in real estate deals that he doesn't want investigated, we have the possibility that the Russian government is pulling strings on Trump or one of his associates.

But as soon as you float that idea everyone says you're insane and Not Serious and conspiratorial.

So I am leaving that out of my analysis. You can go there if you want.

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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by nicole » 06 Jul 2017, 14:46

thoreau wrote:I was trying to work out the most charitable take on Trump and Russia. To set a baseline. Once you add in real estate deals that he doesn't want investigated, we have the possibility that the Russian government is pulling strings on Trump or one of his associates.

But as soon as you float that idea everyone says you're insane and Not Serious and conspiratorial.

So I am leaving that out of my analysis. You can go there if you want.

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I don't think it is more conspiratorial to assume he has made shady real estate deals. I don't see why the bolded part is really a thing though either.
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by Mo » 06 Jul 2017, 15:14

I wasn't using that as string pulling. I think the simplest situation is he did shady real estate deals with Russians that broke many federal laws. Therefore, he doesn't want the Feds sniffing around his businesses. Fin.
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by Warren » 06 Jul 2017, 15:30

Mo wrote:I wasn't using that as string pulling. I think the simplest situation is he did shady real estate deals with Russians that broke many federal laws. Therefore, he doesn't want the Feds sniffing around his businesses. Fin.
I would have said that is more likely than not. But is it reasonable to believe that with all the people sniffing around his business it hasn't come to light?
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by fyodor » 06 Jul 2017, 15:31

I would think the string pulling thing would depend on the Russkies having access to damning evidence of Trumpian law breaking that would not likely be exposed otherwise.

If they had that, then yes, one might conjecture that Trump might be worried about pissing them off and having said evidence revealed in some manner. This could make him vulnerable to Russian influence.

I'm guessing this is what Thoreau is thinking about, though it assumes more than merely there being shadiness that he doesn't want US investigators to find.

Does it assume much more? I'll leave that to others....
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by Mo » 06 Jul 2017, 15:54

Warren wrote:
Mo wrote:I wasn't using that as string pulling. I think the simplest situation is he did shady real estate deals with Russians that broke many federal laws. Therefore, he doesn't want the Feds sniffing around his businesses. Fin.
I would have said that is more likely than not. But is it reasonable to believe that with all the people sniffing around his business it hasn't come to light?
It has, how do you think I know. There's a difference between getting enough for a news story and enough that's prosecutable. Especially when you consider that most of the stuff is in layers upon layers of LLCs that takes a lot of time, resources and knowledge to unwind. Stuff that a newsroom or local law enforcement lacks, but a focused federal investigator could suss out. Also, it's something sufficiently difficult and expensive that it's not worth spending the time and resources to go after a small time regional real estate guy, but when you're talking about the POTUS, it matters.
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by thoreau » 06 Jul 2017, 16:04

If Trump has a bunch of illegal business deals with Russians and the Kremlin _isn't_ using that as leverage then Putin should have his intelligence officers shot for criminal incompetence.

I'm sure that Trump's business history is less than spotless, but if he has a bunch of baggage specific to Russia then either Russia has leverage over him or Putin's intelligence officers are even less competent than Trump's policy-making team.

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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by Hugh Akston » 06 Jul 2017, 16:30

Putin likes Trump not because he has leverage over him, but because he destabilizes and delegitimizes American institutions. Trump likes Putin not because he's being controlled, but because he respects authoritarian strongmen. Trump's people include a lot of sleazy businessmen who are greedy and stupid and indiscreet about playing footsie with corrupt foreign governments and oligarchs. The Russian government probably engaged in hacking of emails and possibly voting machines which had no effect on the outcome of the election.

You need more than red string to connect these distinct facts, you actual evidence of a conspiracy. The fact that you are 8 months past an election where you have a combination of a news media out for blood, an incompetent backbiting administration that leaks like a rusty colander, and a foreign power whose main goal is to embarrass the US with no smoking gun is a strong indicator that there is no gun.
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by Aresen » 06 Jul 2017, 16:31

One of the in-jokes among KGB officers (before it became the FSB) was that the acronym actually stood for 'Office of Crude Bandits'. The history of Russian intelligence and 'wet' operations has tended more towards thuggishness than polish.

It is not that the Russians would not try to manipulate Trump if they felt they had leverage, it's that Trump would tend to blow up if he felt pressure. So far, the only predictable thing about Trump's explosions has been his tendency to be self-aggrandizing. Beyond that, attempting to guess which way he would go has so far been a mug's game.

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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by Shem » 06 Jul 2017, 16:42

Mo wrote:I think you're missing the real reason why Trump wants the investigation to go away. He did a lot of business with Russia. The high end real estate market for foreigners is shady as hell even with above board real estate companies* that do due diligence. You're going to be dealing with potential AML, OFAC and FCPA violations. My guess is that the Trump and or Kushner companies likely have legal issues related to some or all of those laws (and many others). And that is why Trump doesn't want Mueller or Comey sniffing around the Russians.

* Relatively speaking
Which is why Mueller has been hiring lawyers who have experience going after financial crimes and RICO investigations.

Also, the people talking about how "we've had six months of investigations and still don't have proof!" should probably remember that the Congressional investigation into Watergate took 17 months, and that was with a Congress that was actively trying to investigate rather than burying it under process and obfuscation. This shit takes time.
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by fyodor » 06 Jul 2017, 16:49

Hugh Akston wrote: The Russian government probably engaged in hacking of emails and possibly voting machines which had no effect on the outcome of the election.
I don't know how you can just assert that said hacking had no effect on the outcome. How do you know that?

I would certainly agree that the hacking of the emails in no way delegitimizes the outcome. All sorts of shenanigans go on in a campaign, it's up to folks to sort through it all. But it seems absurd to be sure that the shenanigans in question had no effect. (And if it had any effect, it could have had enough effect to change the outcome.)

If voting machines were hacked, I might say that, or enough of that, might possibly be seen to delegitimize the outcome, at least in a certain sense. Probably not legally, I don't think there's any legal recourse for such hindsight. I certainly don't know how you can assert that no amount of voting machine hacking could have any effect on the outcome. Maybe you're just sure there's not enough of such hacking, which there might not have been any of at all? I guess I don't know how you can open the door to that possibility yet be sure that in such a close election there could not have been enough to effect the outcome.
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by Hugh Akston » 06 Jul 2017, 17:08

fyodor wrote:
Hugh Akston wrote: The Russian government probably engaged in hacking of emails and possibly voting machines which had no effect on the outcome of the election.
I don't know how you can just assert that said hacking had no effect on the outcome. How do you know that?

I would certainly agree that the hacking of the emails in no way delegitimizes the outcome. All sorts of shenanigans go on in a campaign, it's up to folks to sort through it all. But it seems absurd to be sure that the shenanigans in question had no effect. (And if it had any effect, it could have had enough effect to change the outcome.)

If voting machines were hacked, I might say that, or enough of that, might possibly be seen to delegitimize the outcome, at least in a certain sense. Probably not legally, I don't think there's any legal recourse for such hindsight. I certainly don't know how you can assert that no amount of voting machine hacking could have any effect on the outcome. Maybe you're just sure there's not enough of such hacking, which there might not have been any of at all? I guess I don't know how you can open the door to that possibility yet be sure that in such a close election there could not have been enough to effect the outcome.
I was wrong about the hack of voting machines, it was actually a hack of one voting system supplier, and attempted phishing of 100 local election officials. There's no evidence of what effects those hacks might have had, but even those plus the Podesta email hack didn't sway the 4 states that were decided by less than 1%. Even without those states Team Red still had the edge.
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by thoreau » 06 Jul 2017, 17:10

On voting machines, I simultaneously hold that:
1) I have seen no evidence that they were hacked to any consequential effect. Frankly, that would be a trigger that even Russia might be shy to pull. But I'm sure they would at least try to put their finger on the trigger to see if they can reach it.
2) Elections are one place where paper makes way more sense than electronics, and it is stupid to not have the system rest upon a foundation of analog data stored in bulky original forms. The fact that it (apparently) hasn't happened yet doesn't mean that we should tempt fate.

With the email hacking, I'm happy to say that whether or not it had an effect sufficient to change the outcome is irrelevant; the outcome is both legally valid and politically tarnished. The fact that people in Trump's camp apparently had some inside info on the email hacks means that there's good reason to investigate for possible collusion.

But, ultimately, I think that what happened is Russia said to Trump's people "We've done this, we've shown that we can be friendly, make sure he keeps that in mind, and also keep in mind that we know how to meddle." That's not a crime on Trump's part. What is corrupt (and thus an arguable "high crime and misdemeanor") is if he sees the evidence, realizes that he's benefited, and then tries to shut down the investigation after it comes out that some of the people around him were having secret conversations with the people responsible.
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by Aresen » 06 Jul 2017, 17:20

WRT to voting machines, we've discussed the problem before.

I don't think there will be a change until we wake up the day after the election and find out that Jeb Clampett has been elected POTUS.

Oh, wait...
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by fyodor » 06 Jul 2017, 17:22

Hugh Akston wrote:
fyodor wrote:
Hugh Akston wrote: The Russian government probably engaged in hacking of emails and possibly voting machines which had no effect on the outcome of the election.
I don't know how you can just assert that said hacking had no effect on the outcome. How do you know that?

I would certainly agree that the hacking of the emails in no way delegitimizes the outcome. All sorts of shenanigans go on in a campaign, it's up to folks to sort through it all. But it seems absurd to be sure that the shenanigans in question had no effect. (And if it had any effect, it could have had enough effect to change the outcome.)

If voting machines were hacked, I might say that, or enough of that, might possibly be seen to delegitimize the outcome, at least in a certain sense. Probably not legally, I don't think there's any legal recourse for such hindsight. I certainly don't know how you can assert that no amount of voting machine hacking could have any effect on the outcome. Maybe you're just sure there's not enough of such hacking, which there might not have been any of at all? I guess I don't know how you can open the door to that possibility yet be sure that in such a close election there could not have been enough to effect the outcome.
I was wrong about the hack of voting machines, it was actually a hack of one voting system supplier, and attempted phishing of 100 local election officials. There's no evidence of what effects those hacks might have had, but even those plus the Podesta email hack didn't sway the 4 states that were decided by less than 1%. Even without those states Team Red still had the edge.
Okay, you have something specific in mind about the possible hacking that could have affected the machines and thus the vote count. I'll take you word for it that the supplier in question was not involved in enough votes (and/or in the right places) to have changed the outcome.

I still don't know on what you base your assertion that the Podesta hack could not have swayed enough voters to change the outcome. I also don't know what your link in that sentence is supposed to show. Actually there were three states that went Red by less than 1% that turned the other way would have given it to the Donks.
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by Warren » 06 Jul 2017, 17:51

Has it escaped everyone's notice that Trump has reversed his position on Russia?
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by Shem » 06 Jul 2017, 18:01

Warren wrote:Has it escaped everyone's notice that Trump has reversed his position on Russia?
Had it escaped your notice that this is easily the third or fourth time he has done so?
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Re: Occam, Trump, and Russia

Post by Aresen » 06 Jul 2017, 18:08

Shem wrote:
Warren wrote:Has it escaped everyone's notice that Trump has reversed his position on Russia?
Had it escaped your notice that this is easily the third or fourth time he has done so?
Actually, I was going to ask if he was presently heading East or West.

However, if he were truly a Russian 'asset', one would expect his direction to be consistent.
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