Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Trump Tower Conspiracy

The Trump voter I follow online believes that Trump Jr. was set up by Fusion GPS in the meeting. She is not as conspiratorially minded as the trump supporters I usually see online so it bears mention that she believes this--one of the more boggling conspiracies--when she doesn't, for example, think Hillary killed Seth Rich (at least I hope so--she was a bit overly generous to Hannity about his horrible little foray into Rich-Murder conspiracy land--but anyway)

In any event, let us look at this conspiracy theory:
  1. Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who was to provide the Clinton dirt, has worked with Fusion GPS--in fact, she met with the head of Fusion GPS both the morning of and after the Trump Tower meeting.
  2. She was barred from entry in the US--but got around it with a suspicious visa-issue from . . . The Obama administration (maybe? It turns out this isn't, as always happens, what this sounds like).
Now, to be fair to the conspiracy theorists, if you believe the dossier is entirely invented--instead of researched--and if you believe that Fusion GPS--a firm hired by the Conservative Free Beacon to start the dossier work is irretrievably in the tank for Clinton then perhaps you can believe that Veselnitskaya is a Fusion GPS operative and was therefore a torpedo aimed at Trump's campaign.

Before we get to the end-game, let's look at 1-3.

The Evidence of Foul Play

Veselnitskaya wasn't in NYC to meet with Trump Jr. She was there for a case she was involved with that was (as far as we know) unrelated. In order to get into the country, she needed a visa. She got turned down for one by none other than Preet Bhara (alleged deep-stater!). She tried through the DOJ and then went through the state department and got it.

During the meeting she dangled, not Clinton's emails (at least from what parties have said) but some research done in 2014 from a Russian money-laundering case that potentially implicated two Clinton campaign staff--that research was done by . . . Fusion GPS.

In 2014.

So-- (a) She's not in town on shadowy business but (b) she did meet with the Fusion GPS head (and dissembled about it to the Senate Congressional probe)--but she had a long standing relationship with the Fusion GPS guys because the DC law-firm she uses worked with them on her visas and such. And (c) she used Fusion GPS data to try to lure Trump Jr. into paying for further follow-up research on those guys.

Could that be a set-up? Well . . . maybe.

Let's look at how the set-up plan plays out in reality.

Operation "Avarice Actual"

In a windowless room in Fusion GPS's basement--a room that is swept for listening devices daily--shadowy figures around a table discuss the next phase of their plan to wreck Trump. In this case the Operation is code-named Avarice Actual and it is an attempt to Make It Look Like Trump Was Colluding With Russia.

Why? Well, Team Hillary has already determined that if they lose they will try to pin the blame on Russia and impeach Trump (this is crazy--but it's what we're asked to believe). At this time, ironically, Russia IS waging a cyber-war against us to interfere in the election--but nobody knows the full extent of it yet--and, apparently, can't just say it.

So the plan is to plant a meeting that, eventually (somehow), will provide credulous people with the appearance of collusion by Jr.

So what do they do?


They need to rope Jr. in. He needs to know he's 'colluding,' that he's going to be given material of value from Russia--because they want him to win. Now, that's illegal if he accepts it--but the goal here isn't to actually get Trump doing something illegal (why not? That would be a far more powerful weapon). It's to plant a shadowy hint of doubt that can be exploited later.

So they get his good friend Rob Goldstone to promote the meeting (how?) with incriminating statements in the emails (why? Are the incriminating emails really the sum total of this plan?).

In the actual meeting, Operative Veselnitskaya  (Op-V) will deploy the real and potentially damaging information hoping that Trump will . . . pay her for more oppo-research? This isn't illegal (so far as The Omnivore knows). You can't take bribes from foreign countries but if someone suggests you do opposition research based on stuff an American firm uncovered, that doesn't sound illegal to The Omnivore.

But anyway, Jr. will hopefully fall for it--and then . . .


After they lose the election, Hillary or someone will leak the emails--which will make the public think that TRUMP COLLUDED WITH RUSSIA. This'll be great. Instant Impeachment. Right? (Well, no--no impeachment--but this is fantasy land).

What's Wrong With All This?

What's "right" with it is that it's exactly what happened--except for the most important thing that happened (one sec). This creates a huge bias in people who want to believe something was intended--"see? It all worked out like this." But the problem is the goal: to make the media think Trump colluded with Russia.

The "plan," what we can imagine about it anyway, is built to fail--and if it succeeds produces nothing useful anyway.

Imagine these outcomes:
  1. The emails Jr. gets say he's going to get dirt from Russia and Russia wants them to win. If Trump Jr. talks to a lawyer and doesn't go to the meeting because of the suspicious nature of the emails, the plan fails.
  2. At the meeting itself there is no "payload." Nothing illegal or even all that interesting happens. If Trump Jr. or anyone else who was there just tells the truth about what happened, the plan, successfully executed, goes nowhere.
  3. During the late days of the campaign--when Hillary knows she is a favorite--but also knows she is in trouble (the FBI re-opening the case) they have run this whole operation but, apparently, have nothing to show from it by design. No one brought a recorder. There is no "person on the inside to talk" (except Operator-V--who can't do so effectively).
Of all of these, 3 is the worst--if you had a scenario that looked like collusion, why not use it before the campaign is over? No--the emails get leaked months later--by someone who was on the email chain originally.

Now--we get to the part of this that the conspiracy theory elides: The thing that made this look "like collusion" wasn't Goldstone's emails--it was Trump Jr.'s. The thing that made this look like guilt and cover-up wasn't the presence of a Kremlin-linked lawyer (and she is, it's one reason why she was denied entry into the US)--it was Trump lying his ass off to cover it up.

These two, massive, unforced errors are what makes it clear that:
  • Team Trump would definitely be open to help from the Russians
  • Team Trump took it at face value that Russia wanted Trump to win and would help
  • Trump Sr. knew something was bad there (and, hence, the lie)
None of these could be part of the original plan because they all rely on unexpected self-inflicted wounds. This means The Sting (the putative product of the meeting) is, as described in the conspiracy theory, a bust. 

It's people plotting for something that has no real pay-off (suckering Don Jr. into a meeting to talk about adoption sanctions and see if he wants to buy some oppo-research) and produces no evidence that isn't in Don Jr's email inbox.

If The Plan Is So Bad, Why Do People Believe It Was A Plan?

There are a few dimensions to this answer--none of them good. The first is that Trump-people, almost by definition, have to be somewhat accepting of conspiracy theories. The FBI has to be corrupt--so too the CIA, the NSA, and DHS (they all said Russia interfered in the election). Mueller has to be either out to get Trump illegally (when they are crowing about various judges running their mouths off) or else planning to clear Trump completely (when trying to come to terms with Mueller's solid record).

The second is that the Don Jr. meeting is the single most damning piece of public evidence because it came from Trump Jr.'s mouth (well, emails) and Trump Sr. lied about it. Now, it is The Omnivore's observation that Trump Sr.'s instincts are to lie about everything--and that does work for him more or less--but it doesn't help make them look any more innocent. The GPS conspiracy is necessary to "disqualify" this piece of evidence which basically can't be spun by anything other than Jr. is stupid and Sr. is a liar.

Having an evil actor to blame for this helps . . . somewhat.

But the real reason is that the chain of logic above isn't something that most people do. Most people look at the outcome (Trump looks like he's covering up Russian meddling on their behalf--but there isn't hard proof) and they conclude that must have been the intended outcome of what whatever went down. The idea laying this out as an operational plan is alien to them: THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED--IT MUST BE THE PLAN!!

The idea of looking at the proposed sting operation as a plan shows that it's an absurd plan. It doesn't accomplish anything in its native form--there's no collateral from the meeting. There's (if you take people there at their word) nothing illegal or even all that interesting that happened: it's a setup to CREATE a nothing-burger. In other words, it's the worst conspiracy to entrap Team Trump imaginable--but they stumbled into it by sheer bad luck and foolishness.


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