Thursday, January 17, 2019

This 2017 video of Trump and Putin in Germany is resurfacing — with significant new context


In 2017, MSNBC aired a video of various heads of state dining at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. It was Trump’s first big summit with other world leaders and it was also his first face-to-face encounter with Russian President Vladimir Putin. I created a GIF of the video because I was so gobsmacked, embarrassed by Donald Trump’s childish, needy hand signals to the Russian president. Trump was desperate to get his attention. It took off on Twitter that day.


When you watch the clip, notice German Chancellor Angela Merkel practically gets whiplash as she turns to see how Putin is responding to Trump’s signals. Take a look, and then jump below to see why this clip has taken on new significance.
As it turns out, perhaps Trump’s eagerness to get Vlad’s attention wasn’t simply because he admired Putin. No, no. You see, the day of this dinner, July 7, 2017, the New York Times contacted the White House for comment on a story they were about to break—that Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort had a secret meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with Russian lawyer Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, a woman with known Kremlin ties who would later be indicted for obstruction of justice related to a Russian money laundering case she was working on, apparently with the blessing and support of the Kremlin. With the Trump Tower story about to be published by the New York Times, let’s take a fresh look at what transpired during these two days in Germany.
That call from the New York Times must’ve set off some panic because Donald Trump’s behavior started to get incredibly suspicious on July 7, 2017:
  • He confiscated the interpreter’s notes and instructed her not to brief anyone on the discussions with Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
  • He desperately sought Putin’s attention at the formal dinner, gesturing “You, me, together”
  • He sought a private conversation with Putin, did not inform any of his own White House staff or national security advisers of the meeting
The following day, July 8, 2017, just before the New York Times published the story, Donald Trump personally dictated a statement as cover for Donald Trump, Jr. That statement said the Trump Tower meeting was largely about the ban on Americans adopting Russian children, a ban Putin put in place after the United States passed a law known as the Magnitsky Act, which included heavy sanctions against Russia, sanctions that were hurting Putin and his oligarchs. Overturning these sanctions was a central issue for Putin and key to his long-term political survival.
Of course, that Russian adoption story would later be proven false as Trump Jr.’s “If this is what you say it is, I love it! Especially later in the summer” emails were published the following week, on July 11, 2017. The emails make it clear the Trump camp was expecting to get dirt, perhaps the stolen DNC emails, at the meeting.
Also aboard Air Force One on July 8, he called a New York Times reporter in an attempt to squash the story, something the NYT only revealed today:
The day after the two meetings, as Mr. Trump was on Air Force One taking off from Germany heading back to Washington, he telephoned a Times reporter and argued that the Russians were falsely accused of election interference. While he insisted most of the conversation be off the record, he later repeated a few things in public in little-noticed asides.
He said that he raised the election hacking three times and that Mr. Putin denied involvement. But he said Mr. Putin also told him that “if we did, we wouldn’t have gotten caught because we’re professionals.” Mr. Trump said: “I thought that was a good point because they are some of the best in the world” at hacking.
Trump tried to sell a cover story that Russia couldn’t be behind it because they never would’ve been caught, directly refuting the conclusion of 17 U.S. Intelligence agencies. Incredible. Dangerous. Derelict.
Based on this new context and Trump’s suspicious behavior in Germany, it seems increasingly likely Donald Trump was seeking that private meeting to make sure he and Putin had their stories straight before the New York Times bombshell went worldwide. Did Putin tell Trump to say the meeting was about adoption? On July 19, 2017, only after news of Trump and Putin’s secretive second meeting leaked, Trump told the New York Times he and Putin largely discussed Russian adoption.
Did he and Putin concoct this cover story? If that is the case, Vladimir Putin would have even more blackmail material on Donald Trump. That could explain the secrecy surrounding additional Trump-Putin meetings, especially the meeting in Helsinki in which Trump insisted the only attendees would be himself, Putin, and an interpreter for each. We all saw the disastrous result of that meeting when Donald Trump held that jaw-dropping press conference, rebuking U.S. Intelligence services as he stood next to Putin.
Trump being compromised and afraid of blackmail would explain that press conference and the many unusual policy decisions he has unleashed from the get-go. They are decisions that have greatly benefited Putin. From easing sanctions, to troop withdrawal in Syria, hell—even Trump’s trade war has benefited Putin, as the Chinese are increasingly turning to Russia for soybeans and other agricultural goods.
These are serious times and this a test of our nation, our laws, and our republic. If Donald Trump is compromised by Vladimir Putin, whether it is because of a video of Trump with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel, shady, related to corrupt real estate overtures to Putin, or because of a web of lies spun by Trump and has family around that 2016 meeting, he is unfit for office. This is should not be a partisan issue. This is a national emergency, and both parties should act accordingly and remove the Russian asset from the White House.
I’ve updated this chart because an astute Twitter user pointed out that Trump’s call to the NYT reporter on July 8 preceded his misleading statement for Don Jr. I also added an entry for July 9, Trump tweeted that he and Putin would be starting a “Cyber Security Unit.”

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