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Seth Abramson @SethAbramson
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(THREAD) If you or someone you know suffers from Trump-Russia exhaustion, please read and RT this. Trump's strategy is to get us to cease caring about his coordination with Russia because investigating it takes too long. A long thread may seem an unusual antidote, but try it out.
1/ The Trump-Russia probe is the largest federal criminal probe of the last half-century. POLITICO estimates it features 285 major players, but the number is likely well over 400—readers of this feed added 65 key names to the POLITICO list within five hours of it being published.
2/ The Trump-Russia probe involves witnesses, documents and events in North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East, Russia, and southeast Asia. Even with a team of 41 attorneys and investigators, we would expect Bob Mueller to need a decade to complete his investigation.
3/ At the same, Mueller is investigating the possibility that Donald Trump committed the biggest political crime in the history of the United States and is currently governing America as the puppet of a hostile foreign power—in other words, he doesn't have anything like a decade.
4/ His work is slowed by the perpetual threat he will be fired (as Trump already tried once, last summer, but Don McGahn refused to execute the order); sometimes conflicting Congressional probes; and the fact that the key suspect creates new inculpatory evidence every single day.
5/ Americans' patience with Mueller is further limited by the fact that the White House has successfully established a fraudulent narrative of how federal investigations work, and US media has enabled that narrative by—variously—implicitly endorsing it or failing to challenge it.
6/ For reasons that were foreseeable—many that Trump helped engineer—there's now a risk that, as we're presently in a slight "lull" in the Trump-Russia investigation, Americans will soon fully succumb to the very "Trump-Russia exhaustion" that is Trump's only way out of all this.
7/ For this reason, we now need to take a step back and look at the "shape" of the Trump-Russia investigation. Doing so reveals to us that the only way Trump evades responsibility for his actions is us being too exhausted to actively, vocally support Mueller's pursuit of justice.
8/ I mean this literally.

From a legal and political standpoint, Trump's goose is cooked by mid- to late 2019 (defining the "shape" of that reality is the subject of another thread). He has no viable legal or political strategy left other than provoking investigative exhaustion.
9/ So this thread aims to lay out how Trump is using "investigative exhaustion" as a strategy for weathering what is without a doubt the gravest political scandal in American history—even taking into account only what we know so far.

I'll start by looking at how the probe began.
10/ It's easy to forget that for the first 7 months of the Trump-Russia investigation, there was virtually no reporting on it. It was in the hands of the FBI and—unlike the Clinton probe, which was rife with pro-Trump leakers—there were no pro-Clinton FBI leakers pre-election.
11/ So Americans weren't exhausted by the first 7 months of the probe (early summer 2016 to late January 2017), as they didn't know anything about it and what little reporting hinted at it—notably, an October 2016 NYT article—implied it had found nothing. nytimes.com/2016/11/01/us/…
12/ Virtually everything in the NYT article I just linked to (Tweet #11) was false—and was leaked to the NYT by pro-Trump elements in the FBI that knew what they were leaking was false or else didn't know what they were talking about but were sharing the story they wanted to see.
13/ The NYT article—and a lack of reports on Trump-Russia ties pre-election or in the transition—set a baseline expectation for Americans, much like how media calling the 2000 election for Bush left an indelible impression during the Florida fight that Bush was the "real" winner.
14/ So when Buzzfeed published the Steele dossier on January 11th, 2017, media was timid about reporting on it fully because it didn't want to get out over its skis on the Trump-Russia issue—and Americans had been primed to disbelieve there was much there. buzzfeed.com/kenbensinger/t…
15/ Into that breach—limited media reporting; substantial media skepticism and timidity; skepticism among the electorate; a sense it was "too late" because Trump was about to be inaugurated—came four Congressional probes run by Trump's allies, two of which were significant ones.
16/ (I meant to add that this thread comes from a lecture I'll be giving on the Trump-Russia probe at a university in New York in the next few weeks. Essentially, I've collated my notes into a simplified Twitter thread that offers an overview of some of the lecture's key points.)
17/ On January 13, 2017—just 2 days after Buzzfeed published Steele's dossier—the Senate Intel Committee opened a Trump-Russia probe. On January 25, 2017, just 120 hours after Trump's inauguration, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence opened a Trump-Russia probe.
18/ Additional—considerably narrower, but still partisan—inquiries were opened by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. In the 70s, Republican-led committees could pose a danger to a Republican POTUS—that was no longer so in 2017.
19/ The idea of convening a special Congressional committee or independent commission was shot down by Trump's allies in Congress. They knew these options would have been less partisan and more centralized—therefore far less exhausting to US news-watchers. washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/w…
20/ Still, the opening of Congressional probes into Trump-Russia coordination was the beginning of the nation's understandable—and warranted—fascination with the Trump-Russia story. That it coincided with Trump becoming president—after months as president-elect—added intensity.
21/ It was clear early on the HPSCI probe was a sham, and Senate Intel a constant risk to become so. Obvious subpoenas weren't sent; obvious witnesses not interviewed; witnesses were allowed to not produce necessary docs and were allowed to wriggle out from any tough questions.
22/ It's tempting to laud the Senate Intel Committee probe—in comparison to the House Intel Committee probe—because it's still ongoing, and there has been less public infighting between Republicans and Democrats. In fact, the Senate probe is simply a slightly less appalling sham.
23/ Congress knows how to vigorously investigate. Many members are lawyers, and all members have access to talented lawyers and investigators. Yet it's clear only a fraction of necessary interviews and subpoenas have been pursued; key avenues of investigation have been ignored.
24/ The reason Trump nevertheless railed against Congress' probes, but not the Mueller investigation, wasn't just that he didn't know what was happening in the Mueller investigation—it's that it was Congress, not Mueller, whose investigations were stealing his valuable airtime.
25/ But the Congressional probes were a win-win for Trump—they were run by his allies, and thus has no chance of hurting him, and they were clearly partisan (admittedly, entirely in his favor) which allowed him to protest the very partisanship from which he was richly benefiting.
26/ So for all 2017, Trump helped exhaust America on the Trump-Russia issue by railing near-daily against highly partisan probes he was absolutely certain wouldn't damage him. We were exhausted by Trump; we were exhausted by the partisanship; we were exhausted by the sham probes.
27/ Meanwhile, because Congressional probes are (a) partly public, and (b) leak in a way real investigations (like the ones conducted by professional law enforcement officers) usually do not, we were inundated—from January 2017 through early March 2018—with a parade of witnesses.
28/ Like the partisanship of the probes and Trump's fake protestations against them—he knew they were harmless shams—the amount of (generally feckless) witness interviewing and subpoena activity was likewise exhausting to Americans. There was just—everywhere—so much Trump-Russia.
29/ Trump didn't plan any of this—he's a moron. But he saw—we all did—that tarring Congressional probes as partisan was something he and his allies could do to great effect even if his allies (and in the case of Devin Nunes, his direct agent) were running them. So he sowed chaos.
30/ The benefit of the chaos that dominated the Trump-Russia landscape from January 2017 to March 2018 was that it was a lot of activity with no real hope of immediate payoff—Congress was simply investigating Trump-Russia ties with about 20% the efficacy and range of Bob Mueller.
31/ If Congress was investigating Trump with 20% the efficacy and range of Mueller, major media—aided by occasional investigative reports or Mueller-adjacent leaks—was at 25% and independent media (heavy on independent investigation, but without its own sources) was at about 30%.
32/ That's why independent media has—all along—dominated the Trump-Russia story: it's not conducting sham probes, like Congress; it's not just waiting on leaks from sham probes or occasionally doing actual investigation and research, like major media; it's actually investigating.
33/ But even as independent media has outstripped Congress and major media—by producing its own research while also providing the best analyses of occasionally useful byproducts from Congress and major media—it's open to an obvious and rather stupid claim of overstating its case.
34/ That is, Trump allies can say that for all independent media has discovered on Trump-Russia (at best, taken in totality, 30% of what Mueller has) nothing has come of it—which is of course a silly, self-fulfilling prophecy, because only *Mueller* can make something come of it.
35/ That said, when Mueller brings charges against Trump, his family, and other aides, the core of his evidence will include evidence independent media also discovered—which is why independent media sometimes reviews its evidence to extrapolate the charges that may arise from it.
36/ But it's that very review of evidence to imagine how it will likely support future charges—or fit together with other unknown evidence to support charges—that adds to our exhaustion by again seeming to be "promises" that are never fulfilled. Which of course they can't be—yet.
37/ Even so, such extrapolations—conducted, where possible, by those with either relevant professional experience or who have gone down investigate holes few others have—are necessary because without them we'd only have leaks from sham probes or relative silence from Bob Mueller.
38/ All of American politics confirms that when an issue leaves the public's consciousness, it disappears—until it benefits some corporate lobbyist to raise it. (Think gun violence.) So the very conversations that exhaust us because they cannot yet lead to anything are necessary.
39/ Besides (1) the chaos of dramatic but harmless Congressional probes, (2) his own wild but disingenuous protestations, and (3) independent media's critical but necessarily exhausting and preliminary work, Trump benefits from Americans not understanding criminal investigations.
40/ Everything that the White House puts out about criminal investigations—you can predict when they'll end; prosecutors sometimes exonerate witnesses in midstream; you can obstruct a prosecution you disagree with—aren't just false, they're deliberately misleading and exhausting.
41/ The biggest White House lie, studiously reported again and again by media—besides the deliberate sowing of confusion over whether "collusion" is a legal term (it's not) and what it could possibly mean—is that Mueller's somehow taking a long time to finish his work (he's not).
42/ In fact, Mueller has been given the biggest American criminal investigation of the last century—a ten-year case—and is trying to finish it in three years because its resolution could determine the future of the nation and our national security. He's moving at a blinding pace.
43/ To many Americans, spending three years investigating an issue as time-sensitive as whether Trump stole an election and is governing America as the puppet of a hostile foreign power is insane—their assumption is that Mueller would've been done already "if he had something."
44/ What's remarkable is not that America is wrong on this—though it is; again, Mueller seems to be condensing a 10-year probe into 3 years, which is historically ambitious—it's that he is doing this (a) *far* better than we are appreciating, and (b) against far bigger obstacles.
45/ In fact, George Papadopoulos was a MAJOR GET for Mueller. Michael Flynn was a MAJOR GET. Rick Gates was a MAJOR GET. Building a federal case against Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort that Manafort can't wriggle out from—as seems to be the situation—is another MAJOR GET.
46/ These witnesses have a level of knowledge about what Trump—and his family and aides—were doing during the campaign that media reports on them only touch the surface of and White House sources have been adept at downplaying dramatically. I've tried to remedy that on this feed.
47/ By the same token, even those Mueller hasn't charged—but who we know are cooperating willingly and extensively with Mueller's investigation—should be seen as MAJOR GETS. This includes Carter Page's level of cooperation, Sam Clovis' (apparently) and *certainly* George Nader's.
48/ And all this doesn't even touch upon the fact that Mueller has almost certainly already made out an (impeachable-offense) federal felony case against Trump for Obstruction of Justice, which it doesn't benefit him to send over to the DOJ before he's gotten Trump on even more.
49/ Trump, though moronic, is smart enough to know that his power to dangle the threat of termination over Mueller means Mueller will wait as long as he can to issue his report to the DOJ (to accumulate as much evidence as he can). And that report is the *only* thing Trump fears.
50/ As America waits for Mueller to finish a probe that started in 2016 and will likely last until 2019, Trump is not only exhausting us by sowing chaos but is also moving the goalposts further and further away—so the effect of any final Mueller report will be greatly diminished.
51/ Remember when it was universally understood that Obstruction was impeachable—as Republicans told us so just three presidents ago? Well, in one year Trump has managed to convince many that an Obstruction charge wouldn't count because it was just him fighting off fake charges.
52/ Notice how Trump got the media to put a term at the center of the Russia probe—collusion—that has no legal meaning whatsoever in this context, and thus can mean whatever Trump wants. The result is America has no idea what criminal coordination would look like in this context.
53/ The longer we wait for Mueller, the more Obstruction seems ho-hum and "collusion" something that's in the eye of the beholder—and may, unbelievably, continue being seen by Republicans as in the eye of the beholder when the time comes for Mueller to give it its legal name(s).
54/ So America is exhausted, confused, misled, and impatient. The result: Republicans will have political and even pseudo-legal cover to take no action at all in the near-certain event of a Mueller report filled with impeachable offenses. It creates a real risk Trump could skate.
55/ But consider, for a moment, a thought experiment: that Trump, who we already know moved the goalposts on what lying about Russia would constitute—remember "my campaign had nothing to do with Russia"?—is still lying on Russia, as he's always lied about everything in his life.
56/ Imagine—that is—that Trump knew in sufficient detail what Flynn was doing, and Sessions, and Papadopoulos, and Gates, and Manafort, and Page, and Jared, and Don, that he was quite aware Russia was helping him win the election and was offering inducements for them to continue.
57/ Mind you, all the evidence points to this being exactly the situation—Trump knew what he was doing when he went to Moscow in 2013 while flirting with a presidential run; he knew what he was doing when, at the Mayflower Hotel in 2016, he read a speech penned by Kremlin allies.
58/ He knew what we was doing when, on March 31, 2016, George Papadopoulos told him Putin wanted to set up a meeting, Trump said "interesting," and he then turned to J.D. Gordon and told him to change the Republication platform to benefit Putin—a process Rick Gates then oversaw.
59/ If this, the most plausible theory of the case an investigator could have, is accurate, Trump has lied to his friends, to media, to voters, to his attorneys, to his aides—in essence, it's the biggest fraudulent scheme in U.S. political history. Trump would be Benedict Arnold.
60/ Moreover, it'd mean he was and is a clear and present danger to the nation—as he is compromised by a hostile foreign power. In view of this, we cannot afford to be exhausted—not now, not in six months, not in a year, not in more than a year. But the risk is greater than ever.
CONCLUSION/ The HPSCI probe is over; the Senate Intel probe is dying; the other Congressional probes turned their attention elsewhere. Mueller's few leaks are narrow ones. So in this "lull" we mainly get pro-Trump leaks from the IG report and clamor for a second special counsel.
CONCLUSION2/ We're getting occasional news stories that flesh out incredibly complex elements of the probe—stuff like the flight pattern and movements of Deripaska and his henchman, which is well outside what casual Trump-Russia observers can follow or find compelling and urgent.
CONCLUSION3/ One can't be an "expert" on the Trump-Russia case. It covers so many subject areas—from Russian politics to data analytics; from cyberwarfare to money laundering; from campaign finance laws to spycraft—that it's not just hard to follow but hard to discuss coherently.
CONCLUSION4/ I try to discuss the case as coherently as I can, with the specific aim—ironic, I know, given the length of my threads—of making it less exhausting by way of making it less confusing. I do that because I think collective exhaustion is the only way justice loses here.
CONCLUSION5/ Everyone awaits the next big indictment—for instance, Kushner—or new plea deals. They will come. In the meantime, we must understand how much Mueller has already done, how long the process must take, and how deviously Trump seeks to exhaust us. REFUSE to relent. /end
CREDIT/ The graphic in Tweet #1 was made by @Khanoisseur and @SkeddyRuxypin, neither of whom I know—but having reviewed it, I can say it accurately depicts a small but critical part of the Trump-Russia investigation. Though to be honest, the case is now too big for any one chart.
PS/ @MoreLes101 found this Trump tweet from 5 days before the 2013 Miss USA pageant—where Trump struck a deal with Putin's developer, Aras Agalarov, to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow. It confirms Trump knows, understands, and seems to *admire* a strategy of exhaustion.
PS2/ (I'm not at all saying that President Obama had any such strategy—I'm saying that Trump perceived in the political events of the time a strategy he wanted to call out for its genius. It tells you a great deal that Trump thinks in terms of how to "get away with" a "scandal".)
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