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Coming at Putin-Trump from an oblique angle

[ by Charles Cameron — a kleptocratic analysis ]
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There’s a different take on what liberals take to be the narrative Mueller will finally spell out (and Trump dispute) in its full Dostoevskian despair and glory: it’s to be found in Masha Gessen‘s New Yorker piece, The Trump-Russia Investigation and the Mafia State:

What we are observing is not most accurately described as the subversion of American democracy by a hostile power. Instead, it is an attempt at state capture by an international crime syndicate. What unites Yanukovych, Veselnitskaya, Manafort, Stone, WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange, the Russian troll factory, the Trump campaign staffer George Papadopoulos and his partners in crime, the “Professor” (whose academic credentials are in doubt), and the “Female Russian National” (who appears to have fraudulently presented herself as Putin’s niece) is that they are all crooks and frauds. This is not a moral assessment, or an attempt to downplay their importance. It is an attempt to stop talking in terms of states and geopolitics and begin looking at Mafias and profits.

Just to ensure we don’t think she’s arrived at her conclusion via a hint from Mueller, Gessen specifically notes:

I’m not invoking the Mob because Stone encouraged an associate to behave like a character from “The Godfather Part II,” as detailed in his indictment.

To wit:

On multiple occasions, including on or about December 1, 2017, STONE told Person 2 that Person 2 should do a ‘Frank Pentangeli’ before [U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence] in order to avoid contradicting STONE’s testimony. Frank Pentangeli is a character in the film The Godfather: Part II, which both STONE and Person 2 had discussed, who testifies before a congressional committee and in that testimony claims not to know critical information that he does in fact know.

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Nope, she’s on a different tack entirely — has been since the very beginning:

From the first allegations, in July, 2016, of Russian meddling in the U.S. election campaign to the arrest of President Donald Trump’s former adviser Roger Stone last week, many of us who write about Russia professionally, or who are Russian, have struggled to square what we know with the emerging narrative. In this story, Russia waged a sophisticated and audacious operation to subvert American elections and install a President of its choice—it pulled off a coup. Tell that to your average American liberal, and you’ll get a nod of recognition. Tell it to your average Russian liberal (admittedly a much smaller category), and you’ll get uproarious laughter. Russians know that their state lacks the competence to mount a sophisticated sabotage effort, that the Kremlin was even more surprised by Trump’s election than was the candidate himself, and that Russian-American relations are at their most dysfunctional since the height of the Cold War. And yet the indictments keep coming.

If that piques your interest as it piqued mine — by all means read Ms Gessen‘s piece in its entirety. Me, about now I’d be very interested in Ambassador McFaul‘s take.

And Julia Ioffe‘s.

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