A preview of an Epic Saga with companion sections in fifteen parts
By Brian E. Frydenborg (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter@bfry1981) November 24, 2019 (Update: December 7, 2019: we now know Giuliani has been meeting in Ukraine with Andrii Artemenko and is still meeting with Lutsenko, Kulyuk, and Shokin!; December 19: added bullet-points)
WESTON — Herein is a preview/excerpt of Brian Frydenborg’s brand new eBook, A Song of Gas and Politics: How Ukraine Is at the Center of Trump-Russia: An Epic Saga with Companion Sections in Fifteen Parts, or, Ukrainegate: A “New” Phase in the Trump-Russia Saga Made from Recycled Materials
Available for Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook
(You don’t have to own a Kindle or Nook, you can use free apps to read!)
- The media has consistently miscovered “Ukrainegate,” portraying it at worst as a separate scandal from Trump-Russia/the Mueller probe, to, generally, at best, a related scandal.
- But a deeper exploration reveals Ukraine has been at the center of Trump-Russia from almost the beginning.
- Not only are the same issues involved going back to even before Ukraine’s Orage Revolution (2004-2005) a decade-and-a-half ago, but many of the characters involved before in Trump-Russia and of note in the Mueller probe have ties to the people involved now in more recent Ukraine developments, or, it is even the same people involved in both.
- The saga involves two main threads:
- Russian mafia and Kremlin-linked people (often the exact same thing) connecting with Trump and/or people who were close or would be close to Trump, starting in the 1980s and through the present. Central to all this is Russian mob boss Semion Mogilevich, close to Putin and who had many operatives in the U.S. making contact with Trumpworld.
- A massive Eurasian gas scheme that seems to have been planned by Mogilevich and other mobsters and the Russian government since at least the mid-1990s, only a few years into Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union. The scheme amounted to billions of dollars and was designed to corrupt Ukraine’s ruling class to bend to Putin’s will and keep Ukraine under de facto Russian control.
- Multiple people involved in both schemes would cross over and join the other or become entwined in both.
- This has culminated with the now infamous Rudy Giuliani forays into Ukraine’s politics, with his and Trump’s efforts to get Ukrainian officials—including multiple presidents—to smear former Vice President and current 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden based on disinformation and propaganda with zero factual basis.
- The smears on Biden are based on circumstantial associations with no evidence, but the only evidence we do have—circumstantial or otherwise—is that, after both Joe Biden and Hunter Biden got involved, there was positive movement on corruption issues, including with Burisma, the gas the company on the board of which sat Hunter during the positive developments.
- Biden’s involvement in Ukraine was actually part of the West’s overall effort to reduce corruption in Ukraine and, therefore, to weaken the tools by which Putin dominated Ukraine and kept it from reducing corruption and orienting itself with the West politically, economically, and militarily, despite the wishes of Ukraine’s people.
- Essentially, Ukraine is the center of the main front line in the New Cold War between the West and Russia.
- In this New Cold War, Trump’s actions are essentially handing victories over to Putin.
- Putin’s efforts amount to an effort to corrupt the U.S. system through Trump to change it into what Ukraine resembled under Putin’s old stooge, Viktor Yanukovych, who was deprived of a cheated victory in the Orange Revolution (2004-2005) and driven out of power in the (Euro)Maidan Revolution (2013-2014).
- Since then, Ukraine has been plunged into occupation, annexation, and civil war, all orchestrated by Putin.
- The efforts by Trump to force Ukraine into helping him attack his political rival, Joe Biden, center on Ukraine’s desperate efforts to secure military and diplomatic support in its struggle against Putin’s Russia.
- Most tellingly, the people against whom Biden and the West worked against to fight corruption in Ukraine have untied with Giuliani and Trump to advance Trump’s and Putin’s interests at the expense of Western influence, democracy, and transparency.
These issues that have now exploded this all into impeachment for Trump show the union of the two main threads in ways that make the corruption and duplicitousness of Trump and the bad actors in Ukraine painfully obvious, erasing any doubt about whether or not the Trump Administration and the Kremlin are working to advance their shared goals at the expense of longstanding U.S. interests in Ukraine and elsewhere.
Trump’s current Ukraine insanity is just an extension of old Trump-Russia and the media still does not know how to cover it.
As the Hunter Biden “story” keeps receiving attention, the myopic mainstream media—just as in 2016—is unable to present a coherent big-picture understanding of what is happening or how things fit together. In a stunning lack of self-awareness, its top news outlets are once again playing into Trump’s and Putin’s hands, sabotaging the Democrats and spreading Kremlin and Republican disinformation. The roots of much of this lie with the media’s overall failure both to understand the bigger picture of the Trump-Russia saga and, in part as a result, to realize that these “recent” Ukraine scandals are not something new so much as a continuation of the old Trump-Russia saga that was the focus of the Mueller probe.
The only way to get anything approaching a full sense of what is going on with Ukraine, Trump, Russia, and the media is to painstakingly trace the threads of corruption and Russian influence operations related to Putin’s Ukraine drama, Putin’s and his top mafia boss’s co-opting of Trumpworld, and the actors involved throughout the many stages of this overall saga. These threads can be traced from their origins in the 80s and 90s directly into today’s White House and the battlefields in Ukraine. Only then will the centrality of Ukraine to the whole Trump-Russia saga be understood, only then can the full scale of the horror be comprehended, but it can and must be. The threads are solid and come together to form a powerful and clear line of remarkable influence of the Russian government in Moscow’s Kremlin and Russian mafia into the major players, policies, and decisions of the Trump White House. As this exploration will make clear, simple logic and the sheer amount of billowing smoke plumes coming from so many points obviously show that Trump has been raised up and co-opted by Russian influence to the point of being an asset—whether willingly or if he is too stupid to realize it, he is a “useful idiot”—for Putin and his allies. Even if the actual flames are obscured, the heat can be felt as we choke on the smoke: those fires still exist and are presented here even if most of the top media news outlets, playing Trump’s and Russia’s game in their inability to sustain focus, have largely missed these conflagrations.
Table of Contents (Main chapters)
I. Introduction: Trump and Putin, Playing the Media Like a Fiddle
II. A Song of Gas and Politics Prologue: How a Meeting in Tel Aviv May Have Set Up Two Decades of Ukrainian History
III. How A Russian Web Enveloped Trumpworld Starting in the 1980s & Kept Expanding
IV. A Song of Gas and Politics Part One: The Chess Pieces Begin to Move
V. The Collapse of Russia’s European Influence
VI. A Song of Gas and Politics Part Two: A Game of Revolution
VII. A Song of Gas and Politics Part Three: Putin’s and Manafort’s Gaslighting of Ukrainian Politics
VIII. Russian and Former Soviet Money Rife with Putin Ties Comes to America and Trumpworld when Trump Is Hurting for Cash
IX. The Curious Case of Michael Cohen: Linking Trump and Ukraine
X. A Song of Gas and Politics Part Four: Putin’s Triumph in Ukraine
XI. A Song of Gas and Politics Part Five: Hubris and Revolution
XII. A Song of Gas and Politics Part Six: The Untold Story of the Bidens and Burisma
XIII. A Song of Gas and Politics Part Seven: Manafort Crosses the Not-So-Narrow Sea & a Shady “Peace” Deal, or, How Our Saga’s Two Main Threads Unite
XIV. A Song of Gas and Politics Epilogue: Trump and Giuliani Bring Everything Together Full Circle (but the Media Misses It)
And, included below in this preview: XV. Conclusion: Collusion Beyond What Was Imagined and the Need for a Media Self-Correct
“Chaos Is a Ladder”
What makes Giuliani’s escapades in Ukraine so useful is that they present amazing illustrations of the overall dynamics of Trump-Russia, with all the key elements. There is some sort of past event or incident involving someone who stands up to Putin and Trump—in this case Joe Biden and his push against Shokin specifically and corruption in Ukraine in general—and then the gaslighting begins. Reality is turned on its head and then barely tangential facts—e.g., Hunter Biden was on the board of Burisma—are blown enormously out of proportion. A mostly demonstrably false narrative is built from a few tiny kernels of truth to try to tear down an opponent of both Putin and Trump in ways that help advance both their interests, in this case helping Trump in the 2020 election and seeing that Putin’s influence is extended in Ukraine. The false reverse narrative is repeated and amplified so much that it becomes reality for a great many and even more so casts doubt where its creators want it to be: whether the e-mails of Hillary Clinton or Biden’s dealings in Ukraine, the fantasy narrative forms the backdrop for all other discussion. People not even in the camps of Putin or Trump will buy into the narrative, then, or at least let it enter their calculus. The very propagation of the narrative puts those slandered by it on the defensive, forcing them to adjust and react on ground not of their choosing. What is constant throughout are lies, repetition, deliberate manipulation of the media, corruption, co-opting of parties that should be more neutral—the media, the State Department, Ukraine’s presidency and prosecutor generals—and an emphasis on factional loyalty best exemplified by following the lead of a cultish leader. Whether Trump’s 2016 campaign or Putin’s second presidency, this is how these two and their camps operate.
If we may quote Game of Thrones again, both Putin and Trump are strong devotees of the Littlefinger School of Politics, which proclaims that “Chaos is a ladder.” Confusion, disinformation, war, they all can be useful to those who know how to manipulate them for personal gain. Ideals like democracy and the rule of law? At Lord Petyr Baelish’s School, they are simply “a story we agreed to tell each other over and over ’till we forget that it’s a lie.” Fools cling to such ideals and when they try to manage the chaos with such “illusions,” they lose. They fail to realize the main truth: “The climb is all there is,” that all that matters is the pursuit of power. This is how Trump and Putin live and how they govern. They actively seek to undermine, then destroy, ideals and institutions so that all that remains is horse-trading. In a world stripped away of ideals, the raw power of Trump, Putin, and their models suddenly become far more attractive.
Trump has helped make this the true battle of American politics now, just as that is what Putin has done in Russia and what he aims to bring back to Ukraine, which he is currently doing with Team Trump’s help. Zelensky is a perfect example: the young idealist is trapped, for either he assists Trump in his quest to damage Biden, thereby undermining the very ideals and personality of Zelensky’s that got him elected—turning himself into the opposite of that on which he campaigned, corrupting himself and Ukraine’s institutions in a way that serves Putin’s long-term goal to reestablish corruption as the fuel of Ukrainian politics—or he stands strong on his principles in a way that earns Trump’s disfavor, causing Ukraine to lose aid and support when his nation is spread thin standing up to Russian war, occupation, and corruption. Zelensky loses no matter what, and Putin gains no matter what. All that is required are lies, their repetition, and a willing partner in power: Kuchma and Yanukovych before, and now the far more powerful American president. Trump truly is the biggest seed of doubt about the West Putin could ever hope to realistically have planted in such a position of power: nations and factions that work with Trump are still repelled by him and, therefore, the United States; they move away from the U.S. in their hearts and see working with America more as a naked power move than being representative of any true affinity or value system. In doing so, they are more open, at least subconsciously, to the Russian model. And since Trump clearly favors Russia, being closer to Trump brings them closer to Russia, too. And if they move away from Trump and the America? Russia is there, too, watching and waiting: you make your devil’s bargain one way or another, and Putin is the devil behind it all.
To be sure, Putin plays Littlefinger’s game (spoilers in that link) far better, but Trump is still dangerously good at enough elements of it to succeed. From the war in Syria to Brett Kavanaugh, from border detentions to journalists’ assassinations, pretty much any issue for either man is approached with this gaslighting model.
As noted, Trump, Republicans, Russians, their agents, and Shokin himself have lied, engaging in a chaotic assault on reality by subscribing to not the obvious reality but its opposite: not that Biden had put his son’s position at risk to push for a prosecutor general in Ukraine that would actually tackle corruption, but the lie that Shokin was actively looking into Burisma and that Biden had him removed to protect his son and Burisma’s corruption. That lie—we already established it was completely unsupported by any substantive evidence, and Shokin can certainly not be thought of as credible—has become the mantra in a Kremlin-style disinformation campaign of the Republican party, Trump, his White House, Giuliani and his associates, and Shokin himself, along with the Kremlin and its media arms joined with right-wing American media, much to their discredit and disgrace. The even bigger disgrace is the impression of false equivalence put out by all too many of the more respectable outlets. The favoritism shown Hunter Biden is far from rare and he is far from the poster-child of nepotism, but there is a place for a conversation about his preferential treatment. Yet that place is not the 2020 election cycle, since the actions of the father—a different person and regarding whom zero evidence exists he did anything other than put aside thoughts of his son’s job with Burisma when engaging in Ukraine policy as a representative of the United States Government advancing the interests of the United States and its ally Ukraine—are not the actions of the son and since the Trump family, whom Biden hopes to oust from the White House in November 2020, are in a league of their own crassness in American national-level politics. The counternarrative pushed by Trump, Giuliani, their associates in the U.S. and Ukraine and by extremist Kremlin and American media fly in the face of clear reality, and that their counternarrative at all even has a major place in the public discussion is already a defeat. And with more and more of an unholy alliance between Kremlin media, American right-wing media, and even media in other countries, this will only get worse.
Furthermore, the manipulations that got to this point are also are blatant and beyond doubt. Between the approval of Javelin missiles for Ukraine near the time when Manafort’s and Mueller’s cases were frozen, the offer made to Poroshenko for a state visit, the May pre-inauguration meeting with Zelensky’s top advisor (if Parnas is to be believed), and the phone call with Zelensky that sparked an impeachment drive in America, that is four possible examples we know of so far of attempts at an improper quid pro quo involving actions prescribed for Ukraine’s government designed to benefit Trump politically in exchange for policy favors from the Trump Administration. At least three of these involved Giuliani.
While there are so many different key players in Trump’s own administration raising grave concerns over his Ukraine actions, they are being extensively laid out and discussed well elsewhere. What is overwhelmingly clear—no matter how much detail is released or not beyond that initial “transcript” that is not a transcript and the whistleblower complaint—is that Trump withheld both U.S. military aid to Ukraine that had been approved and authorized by Congress through law and the offer of other benefits to pressure and bribe the newly-elected Ukrainian president to go after Trump’s most formidable political rival in the upcoming 2020 presidential election as a personal favor (remember that “bribery” is one of the only specific offenses outlined in the U.S. Constitution as impeachable). Between the American and Ukrainian sides, no one misspoke, there was no ambiguity, no confusion, no misunderstanding: by the end, the parties knew what was being asked for, and what was being dangled in response was also quite clear.
The late Christopher Hitchens once wrote that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” In this extraordinary Trump-Russia saga, both ends of his maxim have been easily satisfied as far as proving Ukraine is of a nefarious centrality in collusions between Trumpworld and Putinworld. But nether end is met with the claims made by Trump and his people about the Bidens in Ukraine. The media must internalize this going forward and immediately shutdown even the mention of any “wrongdoing” when it comes to the Bidens in any discussion about Ukraine in the context of 2020.
The only hope of beating Trump and Putin at their game of chaos—especially since the well-documented reality is so blatantly clear on one side and so absent from the other—is for the media to steer clear of the false gods of whataboutism (a classic Soviet-style propaganda technique well utilized by Team Trump) and false equivalence; bowing down to them does not make news “fairer” or “neutral.” It must stop doing Trump’s and Putin’s work for them, stick rigorously to the facts, avoid overdoing speculation, and shutdown and deprive of oxygen the false flames of the Bidens in Ukraine “scandal,” which only exists as it does because of the mainstream media’s myopia.
Ukraine: The Heart of Trump-Russia
Besides not falling for and being used by Russian and Trumpian propaganda, the media also needs to see the bigger picture for what it actually is and to actually start explaining it to people far more robustly than it has tried before. As it is, the larger tapestry is being missed, obscured, or only partially described in everyday mainstream coverage, and this is a huge problem, since if the public is not eve really aware of what is happening, is cannot be properly alarmed about it, let alone make informed choices about how we as a nation should respond. Simply put, analysis must be better and more robust.
The first and most immediate way to start fixing this crisis is for the media to begin presenting the reality of the current Ukraine firestorm as being the latest in a long series of Ukraine issues that form the heart of the Trump-Russia saga, which hardly ended with the release of the Mueller report. Too many of the presentations of what is now hurtling Trump and America into impeachment have characterized it as something separate and distinct from the Trump-Russia scandal and its accompanying Mueller probe.
Yes, this chapter is easier for people to understand on its surface than the massive Trump-Russia scandal since it is a smaller chapter of a much larger, more complicated whole. But that is like saying a piece of lettuce is easier to understand than a salad. A piece of lettuce is not much by itself, but as part of a salad, it is so much more and has far more meaning, the same as a word in a sentence or a scene in a movie: the true meaning cannot be grasped in isolation. Framing this as part of the old Russia scandal rather than some bright shiny new scandal is a necessary first step, then.
The next step is to find an easy way to demonstrate how these new developments tie into the older ones. And Giuliani must be given credit for perhaps presenting the easiest opportunity to be able to do so with the cast of characters he has assembled in Ukraine.
Overall in our exploration, we have here so many threads coming together it can be challenging to keep track of their interweaving parts. But in Ukraine this year, thanks to Giuliani, we have these key figures from earlier in our narrative working on behalf of or in coordination with Team Trump at the expense of the Bidens: Firtash, Kislin, Artemenko, and Shokin. In Kislin and Artemenko, we have people who go back to early stages of Russian organized crime elements—especially tied to Mogilevich—that would be allied with Putin engaging Trumpworld and Ukraine, respectively. Kislin is then later getting a future Party of Regions official an apartment in a Trump property. We then have in Firtash a bridge to the main gas scheme and Manafort, who also hooks up with Artemenko, who, in turn, brings us up to the “peace” plan episode once Trump is president. With Shokin we have the post-Maidan Biden situation, and then they all come together. And they come together with the assistance of newer players in our discussion: Lutsenko, Kulyuk, Parnas, Furman, Fuks, diGenova, Toensing, Rep. Sessions, Solomon, and Sean Hannity, something of a goofy version of the Legion of Doom that took on the Justice League (the Legion of Doofuses?). This second list brings people with connections to Trump, right-wing media, and Ukraine’s corrupt underbelly into the mix. They are all joined by Secretary of State Pompeo, the White House, U.S. right-wing media, Kremlin run-and-linked media, and most Republicans in Congress in pushing the false narratives and standing by while the lies spread and people’s careers and lives—even U.S. policy—are ruined by them. Here, we have Ukrainians, Americans, Republicans, Trump confidantes, media personalities, politicians, prosecutors, and mobsters and all holding hands in broad daylight working to advance a Russian agenda. We see how Putin uses media, politicians, intelligence operatives, “businessman,” and organized crime like a modern general uses combined arms tactics. Coming together, they represent decades of planning and preparation on the part of the Kremlin and its Russian mafia allies to both dominate Ukraine and co-opt Trump and people around him to turn him and his people into their useful idiots.
There are various words that can describe so many nefarious actors acting on behalf of a hostile foreign power and organized crime surrounding one person and his associates for decades and continually reengaging him and his people at different points on related issues with the same and/or connected people, but one of the words for sure is not “coincidence.” Add to that more abstract description that we are dealing with the Presidents of the United States and Russia, and the word coincidence is even more surely not applicable in an exponential sense.
While there is also a good number of other connections between Trumpworld on one side and Putinworld on the other, here we have kept the focus on where those networks meet in Ukraine or are related to Ukraine. No other topics in the Trump-Russia saga bring as many nefarious players together for nefarious purposes. Thus, just this chunk alone—a significant portion of, but by no means all—of the Trump Russia saga, is deeply illuminating.
The Trump-Putin Assault on Biden in Ukraine Just the Latest Battle in Russia’s War with the West
As we consider Joe Biden’s earlier efforts in Ukraine, it is crucial to remember Ukraine’s identity crisis. On one side, there is the old Ukraine, firmly in Russia’s orbit through a system of corruption and oligarchic machination in which gas and other resources are leveraged in ways to maintain Kremlin political control in Kiev. On the other side, we have a younger Ukraine, looking eagerly to the West—the EU and America—that wishes for transparency, freer and fairer democracy, accountability, and independence from both Russian and oligarchic control. Biden’s request concerning the prosecutor was very much a part of helping the second Ukraine rise at the expense of the first, part of longstanding U.S. policy since the end of Cold War, helping to advance American interests by seeing Ukraine transform into a fellow democracy committed to the rule of law, fighting corruption, and avoiding conflict in Europe. In this tug of war over Ukraine, those who foster conflict, thrive on corruption, and disdain the rule of law along with democracy are aligned against Biden and with Putin. With Giuliani’s band of brigands trying to attack Biden, support shady prosecutors in Ukraine, oust a principled head of Naftogaz, restore Firtash to power, and corrupt hard-pressed leaders, it is clear which side Giuliani and Trump have chosen. Putin has his own soldiers to do his dirty work in Ukraine, to be sure, but when Trump sends in Giuliani with his own people to come work on the ground with Putin’s allies and agents, we have an unprecedented amplification of Putin’s reach and capabilities because of his co-opting of the Trump Presidency. And this is hardly limited to Ukraine: from Ukraine to Syrian Kurdistan, we are seeing the real-life effects of this play out and, to be sure, the U.S. is losing while Trump and Putin are winning.
In one way or another, all these folks mentioned here are working to further Trump’s and Putin’s interests in Ukraine are all contributing to undoing the reforms Joe Biden pushed for in Ukraine, reforms to make it less corrupt and less susceptible to Russian machinations. Here, we have the most obviously blatant examples of agents with strong, direct, clear ties to Trump, Putin, and the Russian mafia all colluding together to boost Putin’s interests in Ukraine at the expense of reform long desired by both the West and Ukrainians themselves as well as to help Trump and damage Trump’s strongest electoral opponent, Joe Biden. Here, the gas scam players and Team Trump are one team, with veterans from many a past campaign coming off the benches to work with younger blood. Here, we see how Ukraine and gas really are at the heart of Trump’s candidacy and presidency as well as the heart of Putin’s relationship with Trump.
It could not have been executed more brilliantly by Putin: a sitting American president in 2019 uniting his agents with those of Putin and Mogilevich to advance perhaps Putin’s most important foreign policy goal: Russian dominance of Ukraine through corruption to the detriment of pro-Western forces in the country. Ukraine is, then, ground zero for the New Cold War, the prime focus of competition between Russia and the West, viewed as an essential price for Putin and Russian nationalism at it seeks to expand its influence into Europe. This is not hyperbole: since the federal investigation into Giuliani and his Ukraine mischief includes a broader counterintelligence probe over concerns he may be the target of foreign influence operations, former FBI counterintelligence agent and current lecturer on national security law at Yale University Asha Rangappa notes this “means that the FBI believes …[Giuliani] may pose a national security threat to the United States.”
It is also crucial to note that the approach of the whole Russian operation in Ukraine—using Russia’s natural resources, deals related to them, and the profits from selling them to dominate and corrupt political, media, and business elites of neighboring and other countries, all coupled with disinformation and misinformation operations and eventually joined with hacking and cyberwarfare—is hardly unique to Ukraine; Putin is trying to do and has done much the same thing throughout Europe, has done the same to U.S., and will keep trying to do so.
Putin’s Campaign to Turn America into His Ukraine
Tellingly, throughout this tale, we see here corrupt Russians, Ukrainians, and others from former Soviet Republics who are usually linked to the Kremlin trying to actively engage and collude with Team Trump in corruption by appealing to Trump’s personal interests (as opposed to America’s). They see themselves and the corruption of their old-school post-Soviet systems supported by Putin in Trump and his candidacy, then his Administration. That they even think this blatantly corrupt, bribery-and-extortion-laden approach will work with an American president speaks volumes about how low Trump has brought the United States, its credibility, and its reputation, as well as why Trump and Putin like each other so much.
The irony is that we are seeing something of a repeat in history. Meddling in an election, Putin pushed for an easily pliable crony to take power in a foreign country. Using corrupt methods but in a free and fair election and facing divided opposition, his candidate triumphed, yet in the span of four years, the extreme obsequiousness shown to Russia coupled with blatant corruption rubbed voters the wrong way.
This could describe either Yanukovych or Trump. The people did rise in 2014 to oust Yanukovych, but it remains to be seen whether or not this will happen in America. Many Ukrainians viewed Yanukovych and his Party of Regions not as pro-Russian but as “Russian-controlled,” and Trump and Republicans are facing similar views among many Americans. For voters to make a truly informed decision in 2020, the media must realize that the Ukraine scandal propelling Trump and the nation towards impeachment is not separate at all, but the latest chapter in America’s Greek tragedy. We fail to see how Putin uses the same techniques against America as he does Ukraine, Syria, Georgia, and Europe. And our willful inaction is empowering Putin to just keep doing it more and more to us and more and more around the world.
The number of people with close ties to the Kremlin and pushing for Russia’s interests—especially when it came to Ukraine—working for, or colluding with, Trump’s presidential campaign and presidency is a modern singularity without parallel and makes clear that Trump’s campaign was highly compromised by foreign agents. Foreign interests interfering in American elections and co-opting top officials in their then-new American constitutional order was one of the greatest of all the major fears of the Founding Fathers, and Trump would have been their nightmare. On leaving office, George Washington himself told us in his magisterial Farewell Address that “Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”
In tragic plays, from ancient Greece to Shakespeare, our heroes failed often because they failed to learn to learn from their mistakes and adjust, hence the tragedy format. As Trump tries to make Putin-and-Yanukovych-style corruption the norm in American politics, will Americans, the media, Democrats, progressives, and maybe even some Republicans learn from theirs, or will the third decade in the U.S. become a tragedy as well? Time will tell, but based on how people are behaving now and especially on how the media has miscovered Trump’s efforts to use America’s Ukraine policy to score a political hit job on his most intimidating opponent, it seems not.
What many people forget is that Mueller’s probe consisted of two parts: a criminal probe about which he was required by law to write and submit a report and a counterintelligence probe that would be far broader about which he was required to share nothing. Asha Rangappa, the former FBI counterintelligence agent cited earlier, has written extensively about the Mueller probe and has been careful to make these points repeatedly. More recently, she noted that the counterintelligence probe that was a huge portion of the Special Counsel’s overall probe may still be ongoing and that knowing if this is the case is important. Even if it is not, her broader point is key, because Trump-Russia is not just the Mueller report, nor was Mueller’s full investigation simply what was in the Mueller report. Those larger issues are at the heart of everything dealt with in this piece.
President Trump has acted to benefit Putin on everything from sanctions to Syria, Ukraine being just one hot front in a many-front war which still includes an active home front in America. These operations thrive on chaos, which is only amplified by poor media coverage. It is far past time for respectable media to frame “Ukrainegate” in its proper Trump-Russia context, presenting the full and clear picture to the American people of how Ukraine has been at the center from 2016 through today and is central to understanding Trump-Russia collusion, Trump’s rise to power, and Putin’s war against Western democracy. It must do so by the beginning of the 2020 Democratic primaries and caucuses, and it must do so without juxtaposing demonstrable lies about Biden, Trump’s most threatening opponent. Doing otherwise advances Putin’s interests by gaslighting the American people and committing election interference to the benefit of the Kremlin. Especially after 2016, there is even far less excuse to miss the big-picture, so the idea that the media would not know any better can no longer be an argument: laziness or carelessness would in this case make the media a willing useful idiot for Russia’s anti-American plans. The media still can and must course correct and avoid a repeat of 2016 or worse, as the survival of both our American republic and the West itself may very well depend on it.
November 23, 2019
UPDATE: December 7, 2019: Giuliani is as of now back in Ukraine and has been meeting with Shokin, Lutsenko, Kulyuk (Kulyk), and even Artemenko. The layers of incrimination and collusion keep adding up!
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In the interest of full disclosure, the author interned for then-Senator Joe Biden for the last quarter of 2006.
© 2019 Brian E. Frydenborg all rights reserved, permission required for republication, attributed quotations welcome
Brian E. Frydenborg is an American freelance writer, academic, and consultant from the New York City area. You can follow and contact him on Twitter: @bfry1981
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