Andriy Artemenko may be charged with treason over his ‘peace plan.’ (More)

“This is another absurd, misleading attempt to distract from the real reform taking place under President Trump”

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has the report:

Ukraine’s top prosecutor says his office is investigating a previously obscure lawmaker on suspicion of treason after he presented associates of President Donald Trump with a controversial peace plan for Ukraine and Russia.

Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko told reporters on February 21 that Andriy Artemenko may have committed a treasonous offense in designing a plan to lease Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula to Russia in exchange for Kyiv regaining control of land held by Russia-backed separatists in the east.
A document announcing the inquiry shared on Facebook by Lutsenko accuses Artemenko of carrying out subversive activities against Ukraine.

Such actions are punishable in Ukraine by 10 to 15 years in prison.

Artemenko, who was ousted on February 20 from the Radical Party, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Yep, his party kicked him out almost as fast as CPAC and then Simon & Schuster and now Breitbart ousted Milo Yiannopoulos. But I digress.

Before you ask, no one in the God-King’s circle of sewage committed Article III treason by inviting or discussing this back-channel offer. The U.S. is not at war with Russia and, even if we were, back-channel negotiations are common. But the law of treason is apparently different in Ukraine, and Artemenko faces charges under their law.

Of course the Out House is in full denial mode:

Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was at the center of a New York Times report published Sunday that said he had hand-delivered a plan to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn before Flynn was asked to resign. The plan reported in the paper involved lifting sanctions on Russia in return for Moscow withdrawing its support for pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine.

“No one in the White House – including the President, Vice President and senior members of the NSC [National Security Council] – has spoken to Mr. Cohen about any Russia-Ukraine peace proposal, and no one has spoken to Andrii Artemenko at all about any matter,” a White House spokesperson told Business Insider on Tuesday, referring to the Ukrainian lawmaker who had reportedly helped draft the peace plan.

“In addition, the NSC keeps comprehensive records of documents received, and we have no record of receiving any proposal from Mr. Cohen,” the spokesperson said. “This is another absurd, misleading attempt to distract from the real reform taking place under President Trump.”

Except Cohen has admitted it, in at least one of his versions of the story:

Hours after the Times story was published, however, Cohen told the Washington Post that he hadn’t delivered the peace plan to Flynn or discussed it with anyone in the White House.

Cohen then appeared to alter his story again, telling NBC News that even if he had taken an envelope with a peace plan to the White House, “So what? What’s wrong with that?”

Finally, on Monday afternoon, Cohen told Business Insider in a series of text messages that he denies “even knowing what the plan is.”

In a later message, however, Cohen acknowledged that he had met with Artemenko in New York for “under 10 minutes” to discuss a proposal that Artemenko said “was acknowledged by Russian authorities that would create world peace.”

“My response was, ‘Who doesn’t want world peace?'” Cohen said.

I guess that’s the kind of response we should expect from an administration that used to run beauty pageants.

“Trump cannot govern under these circumstances”

Tiaras and swimsuit competitions aside, Heather Digby Parton thinks the God-King’s dinghy will eventually crack up on the Russian Iceberg:

I always had tended to believe that Trump probably didn’t really have any personal relationship with Vladimir Putin. Trump is such a serial exaggerator that his allusions to one struck me as hype. His great pleasure in being stroked with Putin’s compliments indicated that Trump didn’t actually know him. It’s also obvious that he truly admires Putin’s strongman leadership style and that’s disturbing enough.

Still, there has been the nagging sense for some time that there’s something off about the way Trump speaks about Putin. It’s obsequious and submissive, which is very uncharacteristic of his normal style and one cannot help but wonder why that is. Trump is not servile toward anyone in this world — except Vladimir Putin.  It would be one thing if we could chalk it up as another one of Trump’s weird psychological tics and hope that he isn’t so subject to flattery that he decides to help the Russian leader carve up Europe just to keep his approval. But it seems there’s more to it than that.

The Russian story has been bubbling under the surface for months, of course. The hiring of Paul Manafort, best known in recent years for his career as a lobbyist for pro-Russian Ukraine politicians — and a stranger to American politics since the 1980s — has seemed odd. Still, there has been no reason for serious suspicion since Manafort had once been partners with Trump’s good friend Roger Stone and had lived in Trump Tower at one time. Anyway, the world of political consultants is very small. So no big deal.

But the ‘coincidences’ kept piling up:

Since Flynn was prompted to resign due to an inappropriate conversation with the Russian ambassador related to sanctions, one can no longer avoid asking whether Trump was personally involved. After all, those sanctions that Flynn apparently assured the ambassador would be revisited after Trump took office were imposed precisely because Russia had apparently interfered in the election on Trump’s behalf.

And then the Artemenko-Cohen-Manafort-Sater story hit:

Both Manafort and Cohen were among those said to be under investigation by the government. The Trump business associate, Felix Sater, is the Russian-born “mobster” (and convicted felon) who has apparently also been a CIA and FBI informant for years. As Josh Marshall laid out in a Talking Points Memo piece, Sater’s story is bizarre and incredible – but no more so than the fact that the president of the United States has been financially connected with him for years.

We don’t have enough information to come to any conclusions about any of this yet. As Vox’s Matt Yglesias pointed out, however, there is a long list of questions that must be addressed. This growing scandal makes more clear than ever how unacceptable it is that we have a president who won’t properly divest himself of his business dealings around the world and refuses to even reveal what they are. It’s untenable. Trump cannot govern under these circumstances.

Or can he? It’s not as if Senate and House Republicans are scurrying to investigate the God-King’s contacts with Russia, or his conflicts of interest. And so far, impeachment seems a pipe dream. But there’s more to governing than simply staying in the Out House.

“What are the signs of impending authoritarianism?”

There’s also whether you can get anything done and, on that score, New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait says The Resistance is winning:

The prospect that President Trump will degrade or destroy American democracy is the most important question of the new political era. It has received important scholarly attention from two basic sources, which have approached it in importantly different fashions. Scholars of authoritarian regimes (principally Russia) have used their knowledge of authoritarian history to paint a road map by which Trump could Putinize this country. Timothy Snyder, Masha Gessen, and other students of Putin’s methods have essentially treated Putinization as the likely future, and worked backward to the present. A second category of knowledge has come from scholars of democracy and authoritarianism, who have compared the strengths and weaknesses of the American system of government both to countries elsewhere that have succumbed to authoritarianism and those that have not. Their approach has, more appropriately, treated Trump’s authoritarian designs as an open question. Trump might launch an assault on the foundations of the republic. On the other hand, he might not.

What are the signs of impending authoritarianism?

Chait runs through a list of warning signs, and sees all of them in the God-King’s talk. But the key word there is “talk.”

At this point, just a month into Trump’s presidency, this pattern of authoritarian discourse is only that — discourse. A threat as dire as the potential disintegration of American democracy hardly requires certainty before justifying a response. The question is, what response is necessary?

It is worth noting that, so far, normal political countermobilization seems to be working quite well. “The Resistance,” as anti-Trump activists have come to be known, has already rattled the once-complacent Republican majorities in Congress, which Trump needs to quash investigations of his corruption and opaque ties to Russia. Whatever pressure Trump has tried to apply to the news media has backfired spectacularly. His sneering contempt has inspired a wave of subscriptions that have driven new revenue to national media, which have blanketed the administration with independent coverage. Popular culture outlets, rather than responding to Trump’s election by tempering their mockery, have instead stepped it up, enraging the president.

Even business leaders are wary because, Chait argues, “Trump’s supporters may have disproportionate power in the Electoral College, but his opponents have disproportionate power in the marketplace.”

He concludes:

If Trump has a plan to crush his adversaries, he has not yet revealed it. His authoritarian rage thus far is mostly impotent, the president as angry Fox-News-watching grandfather screaming threats at his television that he never carries out. The danger to the republic may come later, or never. In the first month of Trump’s presidency, the resistance has the upper hand.

He might not get impeached and, frankly, I worry more about a not-certifiably-crazy Pence administration’s chances in 2020 than I do about the God-King’s. The better outcome may be him continuing to flail around, pissing on and thus pissing off an ever-wider puddle of business leaders, government employees, and voters, until Senate and House Republicans decide they must disavow him to retain their own seats. Of course he’ll lash out at those who do, leaving Trumpublicans fighting other Republicans … and perhaps even intraparty gridlock.

It’s Wednesday morning, so I feel hopeful. Until lunchtime.


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Good day and good nuts