I watched Rachel Maddow interview Ambassador McFaul this evening, and a number of things about this whole unholy mess became clear. Let me see if I can lay it out:
- In 2014, Russia invades the Crimea. In response, Obama and the EU impose sanctions and kick Russia out of the G8 (not G7).
- In July 2016, Russian operatives sit down with the Trump campaign to discuss lifting sanctions.
- In 2016, Russia interferes with the US elections. In response, Obama imposes more sanctions.
- Russia’s economy is not very robust, and the sanctions really bite. In particular, they hurt Putin and some of the people whose support he needs to stay in power.
- During the transition, incoming NSA Flynn talks to the Russians about lifting sanctions.
- After Trump is sworn in, he tries to get the sanctions lifted, but is balked by Congress.
Now, add in what we’ve been learning this week:
- Trump was pressuring the Ukraine government to investigate Crowdstrike, the company which had helped expose Russia’s hacking of the DNC.
- Trump also claimed the DNC server was being hidden somewhere in Ukraine.
- Trump also urges Zelensky to make peace with Russia on Putin’s terms. (He did it again at their meeting, and the look on Zelensky’s face was priceless.)
- Barr travels to England, Italy, and other places trying to get countries to reopen whether Russia really did interfere in 2016.
- Barr also urges Trump to get Australia to look into their diplomat’s breaking the story that the Trump campaign was coordinating with Russia.
Put all that together, and here’s what it’s shaping up to be:
- Putin desperately wants the sanctions lifted. His economy and his political survival depend on it.
- The original sanctions were put in place to punish Putin for taking over Crimea, so if Ukraine makes peace with Russia, Trump can argue there’s no more need for those sanctions.
- The second set of sanctions followed Putin’s interference in our 2016 election. If Trump can show that it wasn’t Russia (but maybe Ukraine or maybe some rogue actors based in Ukraine), he can claim that the sanctions were a mistake all along and they should be lifted.
All that is in addition to the benefits Trump personally gets out of it:
- He can “prove” he won the election without Russia’s help. (That he is trying to do this by showing someone else helped him instead just show you don’t understand Trumplogic™.)
- He gets dirt on his most likely opponent.
- Most important, he satisfies the puppet master, who will now help get him another term (and also not put polonium in his diet coke).
(PS: I don't usually do multiple diaries a day, but things are moving so fast and this seemed to make so much sense that I had to do another one. Time for a cold towel on my forehead and some brain bleach!)