The Omnivore was asked "What is your scenario for Trump-Russia." It's a decent question--there is a great deal of speculation, inference, and leaks (or "leaks") to contend with. That's not even counting various conspiracy theories. So let's look.
On One Hand
Of the key pieces of what we know that we know, there are two strong indicators: 1. Trump is certainly acting like he's guilty of something. He he fired Comey for looking into Russia--and he wanted Sessions--a loyalist--to run the operation.
Secondly, we know that Don Jr. would very happily have colluded with Russia given the opportunity (from his emails).
Extending from these two points we also know that:
- Russia interfered to help over other potential nominees and then against Hillary.
- Trump's policy has been extremely and egregiously Russia-friendly (you can say all you like about "Trump being tougher than Obama"--but when you look into that you discover that (a) Obama, by the end, was getting a lot tougher than he was in his reset phase, (b) that Trump took over after the big interference and chose to essentially do nothing--or less than nothing in most cases and (c) when you point to something tough he did do, it turns out it was someone else's idea and he fought it tooth and nail.)
On The Other
The charges that the Trump campaign was too poorly managed to "collude with anyone" have a certain resonance. They were certainly chaotic, undergoing staff churn, and had a voter turn-out plan that was basically "I'm the most racist guy running." How exactly could they collude? We are pretty sure Putin didn't meet with Trump--so how would that conversation go? Would Manafort spin tales in Trump's ear about changing the policy on Ukraine in the GOP platform (and Trump would find ways to pressure the delegates--the same way that Obama pressured the IRS to go after the Tea Party--in a way that mysteriously leaves no fingerprints?).
No--the Trump campaign was a dumpster fire that won on the back of dislike for Hillary and, well, you know (racism). They were not a well-oiled-machine.
So what's the scenario?
Two Words: Money Laundering
The Omnivore suspects that all things being equal the Steele dossier is mostly correct. That is: 1. Putin had goods on Hillary and Trump (Hill from her emails, Trump from his ventures around Russia) 2. Trump had / has long been involved with OC people in Russia through varying shades of gray real estate deals, and while his people--including his kids--may not know what the policy on Ukraine should fucking be and may not have known how what "Hillary dirt" would be worth--or even how to structure a quid-pro-quo deal for it with Russia ("You want me to say what? I don't understand. Putin? I don't understand what you're asking!") there is one thing they could certainly do: make money.
If there is collusion with Russia, The Omnivore suspects that it takes these forms.
The Manafort Connection
Paul Manafort is a rock solid political operator. He knows what Russia wants from Ukraine (without Ukraine, they say in Russian schools, Russia is a country. With Ukraine, Russia is an empire). He knows who to talk to in order to get to Putin's ear. All of that. He would be the person who would counsel Trump on Russian policy.
It wouldn't have to be quid-pro-quo for Trump: All Manafort would need to do is say "no lethal weapons to Ukraine, Trump--Russia will like us for that. Putin will be your pal" and Trump, who does not give a shit about Ukraine but has wanted Putin to be his best friend since Miss Universe Moscow would be like "Great! Let's call the guys writing the platform!" "No, boss," says Manafort. "Don't come on too strong. Let me get someone on the phone for you and you can make your wishes known without laying down the heavy hand."
"Good thinking," says Trump.
Bought And Sold. And Sold.
Almost no one--including Trump--thought he was going to win. This extended to Don Jr. and Eric and everyone else. However, they had a unique position of advantage from which to do deals--and, according the guy spearheading a look into Spain's Russian-backed organized crime, the conversation that Don Jr. had with the Russian Oligarchs / Mafia could be bad. "Trump's son should be concerned," said the investigation leader who knows what was recorded.
Of course we now see Trump trying to bring back ZTE while Ivanka gets trademarks in China--related? Probably didn't hurt, right? Is there any reason to think that (a) Trump wasn't doing shady stuff in NY real estate before and (b) that he would stop dealing with these guys while running for president? No--he just refused to disclose. To be fair, he got away with it.
So if their was collusion it looks like this:
To Trump: Trump believes he is a natural friend of Putin's. Both are "tough guys." Both "know a good deal when they see one!" He admires Putin's strength and doesn't really think to hard about Putin being a murderer. The left probably overblows it anyway, right? So sure--he got some advice to go easy on them. Didn't Obama have a reset button too?
But his business deals? Mueller better damn not look into that--he was doing stuff with the Russians that better stay swept under the carpet.
To Don Jr: Jr. likes to mix it up. He wants to grind Clinton--make her hurt. He'd love to get some juicy dirt on her--and gloat about it on twitter as she burns. Of course he also fancies himself a deal-maker--so when people reach out to him--about deals--he goes and listens. "Hey," he thinks, "All I'm doing is listening, right?" Whether it is to Russian OC, Russian Intel, or whoever--it's just listening. Right? If some Russian "overpays" for a Trump property? That's just bad business! If someone wants to give me a good business deal and my dad just happens to be president? Or maybe president? Why not--who wouldn't??
By the time we have taken a few steps down this road, though, we start having to keep things quiet.
To The Internal Operators: There are at least two--maybe three--players in this who know this isn't innocent. These are Paul Manfort, Erick Prince (blackwater, Betsy DeVos), and maybe Cohen. These people know the score because it's their profession. They know where they can meet without being scrutinized by the feds (hopefully). They understand the big picture: Russia, via currency transactions, wants to get its hooks into Trump so it can realize its expansionist policy. It will do this through organized crime / oligarchs and will play for keeps. Cohen, for his part, may not see all the upper echelon stuff--but he's moving enough money around to have a clue. He decides he wants some for himself and shakes down AT&T among others. We should also count Flynn in here--he, while he was in the campaign, was definitely dipping into the trough.
Other Players - Trying To Keep Control: The Kushners and others would probably be happy with imposing their anti-immigrant agenda and running some mild grift--but by the time Trump has run the White House, Jared knows he has a problem--this whole enterprise is sprawling and has been out of control for a long time. Flynn is doing who-knows-what--with who-knows-who (Turkey). He knows Don Jr. has met a bunch of shady characters: Did anything happen? Roger Stone seems to be playing footsie with Wikileaks--and Kush knows Cambridge Analytica is hard-core dirty (whether or not they are effective). He now has to "Shut the reactor down" before they all go to jail.
His dad went to jail--he--more than anyone--knows it could happen. He decides, with some credibility, that the only way to get a handle on all this is to talk to Russia--but he can't use normal channels because they're monitored--so he goes for a "back channel." His goal here is to (a) keep them happy so they don't release kompromat on Trump or his kids--and (b) try to limit the amount of malfeasance. When the back channel doesn't work, he's worried.
When Trump starts thinking about firing Comey, Kushner jumps at the chance: he realizes Comey doesn't like Trump--and in these people's world, everything is personal. The idea that replacing Comey with another stand-up lawman would intensify the investigation doesn't ever cross his mind.
Did This Happen?
Hell if The Omnivore knows--some of it happened--but we don't yet know why. There are various behaviors (firing Comey), and data points (money movement through Cohen) that certainly look like money laundering. We know there were meetings--we know there were lies--so? The Omnivore, like everyone else, will need to wait and see--but this is your mission, Trumpster: make a case against this.