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By Stump Connolly

            Good evening, and welcome to Celebrity Victim, the show that tries America’s patience . . . and will decide the fate of the nation.

We’re joined tonight by some names you’ve seen in the news lately, all great, great contestants, and their first task will be to determine whether the Russians hacked our 2016 election.

We’ve divided our contestants into two teams. The first team is The Muellers, razor sharp lawyers drawn from investigative bodies across the country and equipped with a wide range of subpoena powers. They will be playing tonight against The Trumps, a collection of seasoned game players in the White House with their hands on all the levers of power in government.

I’m your host Donald Trump. In a moment, each team will present their case. But first I want you to meet the journalists who will be helping each team make their case. The Muellers have chosen to work with CNN anchorman Jake Tapper, and The Trumps will have the assistance of the lovely host of Fox & Friends, Ainsley Earhardt.

After both teams have presented their case, they will join us in the boardroom where somebody will be fired! But first, here’s a message from our sponsor, me.

Welcome back. Now let’s get down to it. Our first presenter is Bob Mueller, a very close friend of the fired FBI director James Comey who seems to be picking up where Mr. Comey left off.

Mueller: Thank you, Mr. Trump, and let me say at the outset my concern is not why you fired Mr. Comey. It is how the Russians attempted to meddle in our election and whether they received any assistance or assurances from people in your campaign about the easing of sanctions if they were to succeed.

Let’s start with a few facts. As early as November 2015 the cyber crime division at the FBI discovered Russian hackers were attempting to penetrate hundreds, maybe  thousands of American election websites. The attacks bore the indelible signature of Russian hackers, and the first sign they were successful came in July 2016 when internal documents from the Democratic National Committee began appearing in WikiLeaks.

This followed some incidental contacts earlier in the year between Russian Ambassador Sergev Kislyak and members of the Trump campaign team. On April 27, for instance, campaign advisors Jeff Sessions, Gen. Michael Flynn and Carter Page first met Kislyak in a reception line after a Trump foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. And again on July 20, during the Republican convention in Cleveland, Sessions, Page and J.D. Gordon, another foreign policy advisor, mingled socially with Kislyak after giving brief remarks at a “Global Partners in Diplomacy” seminar Republicans staged for foreign diplomats.

Neither of these encounters are out of order, in and of themselves. I presume Kislyak was doing his ambassadorial duty, getting to know the Trump team and reporting back to the Kremlin his impressions. What concerns me more about that convention is the role Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort played during the party platform debate.

Before joining the Trump campaign, Manafort had last worked in politics as an advisor to former Ukrainian President Viktor F. Yanukovych. Prior to that, he also signed a $10 million contract in 2005 with Russian aluminum oligarch Oleg Deripaska to represent Deripaska and Russia’s interests in Washington, according to The Associated Press.

Manafort sold his services to Deripaska in an action plan that said, ““We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” and he promised to provide a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”

During the platform hearings, a delegate from Iowa wanted to add an amendment authorizing the sale of “lethal defensive weapons’ to Ukrainians fighting the Russian insurgents. But Gordon talked her out of it, saying “We don’t want to start World War III over Ukraine.”

Three weeks after the convention ended, The New York Times reported on August 14 that the hand written ledgers of Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party showed Manafort receiving $12.7 million in cash payments. Four days later, Trump fired Manafort just as the Russian hack reports were heating up.

In early August, The Washington Post reported, the CIA delivered an “eyes only” envelope to President Obama with alarming news on the Russian hacking. A CIA source deep high up in the Kremlin had passed along detailed information showing Russian President Vladimir not only directed the cyber attack but told his operatives its goal was to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign and help elect Donald Trump.

How did the Kremlin carry out this scheme? Three ways: First, hundreds of Russia-based websites began flooding the social networks with false stories; second, hackers initiated a new wave of cyber attacks on state and local election databases; and third, the Russians started sorting through more stolen emails to find any that would embarrass the Clinton campaign.

The intelligence contained in the envelope was so sensitive it was kept out of the President’s daily briefing. But CIA Director John Brennan was concerned enough that he called his counterpart in Russia, Alexander Bortnikov, on August 4 to warn him against further attacks on the American election.

The President was mindful of President Bush’s Iraq invasion based on faulty WMD reports, so he ordered the CIA, NSA and FBI to convene a secret task force of cyber experts to get a “high-confidence assessment” of Russia’s efforts. He ordered the intelligence officers to brief Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, and had Homeland Security make a conference call on August 15 to dozens of state election officers offering to assess and shore up voting procedures for the November balloting.

In September, at a meeting of world leaders in China, President Obama also called Putin aside for a few private words. His message was short and sweet: “Cut it out!”

Shortly after Labor Day, according to The Post, Brennan, Comey and Lisa Monoco, Obama’s Homeland Security advisor, trekked to the Capitol to ask Congressional leaders to issue a bi-partisan condemnation of the Russian cyber attack. Among Republicans in attendance were Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr, and House Republican Intelligence Committee chairman Devan Nunes, all of whom were Trump campaign advisors.

“The meeting devolved into a partisan squabble,” The Post reported. “The Dems were, ‘Hey, we have to tell the public,’ recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system.” McConnell went even further, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims.

By October 7, NSA Director James Clapper and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson were so concerned they felt it was necessary to offer their first public comment on the “active measures” Russia was taking to influence the election.

“The U.S. intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions,” the statement said. “We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”

October 7, as it turned out, was a red letter day in American politics. The statement was released at 3:30 PM. Thirty minutes later, The Post posted the Access Hollywood video of Donald Trump boasting how he grabbed pussy. And less than an hour, the Russians chimed in with the release of 20,000 more emails stolen from the mailbox of Clinton campaign manager John Podesta.

            There is a lot of talk these days about “collusion.” But that is not a legal term. The critical question is who was talking to the Russians in the 60 days prior to the election, and what were they talking about.

Even after his campaign advisors got a full briefing from intelligence sources, candidate Trump was quick to dismiss their findings. In his first debate with Clinton on September 26, he said, “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC,” he said. “She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, okay? You don’t know who broke into DNC.”

Perhaps Trump has his own sources of his own who were telling him something different, namely longtime business associates and friends in Russia who are known to be in Putin’s close inner circle. Names that have come to the surface in the ensuing investigation include:

  • Dmitry Rybolovlev, a fertilizer magnate who bought a Palm Beach mansion from Trump in 2008 for $95 million and belongs to a consortium of oligarchs who own 10% of the Bank of Cyprus which has financed Trump international deals;
  • Aras Agalarov, the Russian real estate tycoon who brought Trump’s Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013 and appears in the Michael Steele dossier as someone intimately familiar with Trump’s business and social life in Russia;
  • Sergey Gorkov, CEO of the state owned bank Vnesheconombank, also known as VEB. A graduate of the FSB academy, a training center for Russian intelligence agents, Gorkov first met Trump during the Miss Universe pageant and was most recently identified as the Russian that Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner and Gen. Flynn met with after the election on December 13 to discuss setting up a secure back channel to Putin through the Russian embassy.
  • And Felix Sater, a Russian American with mob ties who partnered with Trump in building the Trump Soho hotel and allegedly solicited funding for it from various secret Russian investors.

One oligarch in particular, Rybolovlev, seemed to show up in the oddest places during the campaign at the same time Trump or his family was there.

From August 11 to 14, for instance, his yacht Anna was spotted in the Croatian harbor of Dubrovnik when Ivanka and Kushner were on vacation there. And on October 30, his private plane was parked on the tarmac of the Las Vegas airport next to Trump’s while the candidate gave a speech at the Venetian Hotel; while again on November 3, Rybolovlev’s private plane appeared at the airport in Charlotte, N.C. at the same time Trump was holding a rally in a nearby suburb.

Rybolovlev also owns (in his daughter’s name) two of the Seychelle Islands where after the election, on January 11, 2017, Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater Security and brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, allegedly met with an unidentified Russian intermediary to discuss better U.S. and Russian cooperation in Syria.

We know Gen. Flynn and Manafort were talking with their Russian friends during the campaign (although neither has testified to what was said), and Trump is no doubt right that there are no “tapes” of any conversations. But there are enough private conversations to warrant further investigation because until we get all the answers to all the questions this investigation has raised, the election of 2016 will forever be a black hole in American history. Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Mueller. Now here to present a case for the Trumps is the Honorable Omarosa Manigault, one of the great contestants on Celebrity Apprentice.

Manigault: First, I want to congratulate Mr. Trump on his historic victory last November, and second I’d like to give you what my good friend Kellyanne Conway calls “alternative facts.”

Whatever Russia may have been up to last year, the people of the United States were not going to be denied the opportunity to elect a true leader. Instead of second-guessing why he won, our task now is to help him get on track to bring more jobs and prosperity back to America.

These so-called investigations are a misguided attempt by disgruntled Democrats to make excuses for Hillary Clinton’s poor showing last November. But 65 percent of the American people don’t care about the Russian investigation. They care about jobs, health care and preserving the American way of life.

For years, the Obama administration was conducting illegal surveillance inside the borders of our country and “unmasking” the names of solid American citizens that were then leaked to the news media. That’s what we should be investigating. This “dark state” in our government that will do anything to preserve the status quo.

Donald Trump was elected president to drain the swamp in Washington and take the dark state with it. He brings to the office the skills of a highly successful businessman, and that riles the Democrats. So they are using these investigations to illegally probe into all his past business deals, as if there is something un-American about making money. Their determination to look into his deals, like their determination to force Mr. Trump to release his tax returns, only serves the prurient interests of people who are jealous of his success.

James Comey wasn’t fired because he was getting too close to the truth. He was let go because he couldn’t control what should have been a routine investigation into vote fraud. His firing wasn’t obstruction of justice, it was good management so we can now turn the vast resources of the Justice Department to keeping our country safe.

The real challenge in our elections is making sure your voice counts, and that means we have to keep millions of people who have no proof of citizenship from voting illegally. That’s why Mr. Trump appointed a blue ribbon commission headed by Vice President Pence: to preserve the electoral integrity of our system.

If we can put this ill-conceived Russian investigation to bed, we can let that commission do its job: Making America Great Again.

Thank you.

Thank you, Bob. Thank you, Omarosa. She’s great, isn’t she? It’s always a pleasure to see your face in the boardroom, Omarosa. Now, let’s turn to our media advisors, Jake Tapper and Ainsley Earhardt, for their impressions.

Jake, how did The Muellers do?

Tapper: Well as you know, Don, the mainstream media likes its facts, especially when we can dig them out of reports government officials want to keep secret. So I thought Bob did a good job of laying them out on the table. There are still a lot of missing connections in the argument, but there’s plenty of smoke, and where there’s smoke, as they say, there’s fire. So I think the Muellers should be encouraged to follow the facts wherever they may lead.

And Ainsley, how about Team Trump?

Earhardt: I thought Omarosa gave a terrific overview of the whole election mess, while Mr. Mueller seemed to get bogged down in a lot of details that are, frankly, old hat. We have to be looking forward in America, and Omarosa presented a compelling argument for going beyond the Russia thing to address the issues that concern the country. I’m with her. Let’s move on.

Trump: Yes, there’s sure been a lot of focus on this Russian thing. Mr. Mueller, I know you have a lot of friends in Washington, and I appreciate that in all your investigations you found no evidence that I personally colluded with the Russians. But I have to agree with Omarosa. The challenges facing America are too great, and the opportunity to make big changes too fleeting to spend the next three years looking back at something the American people could care less about.

So Bob, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you’re fired!

Mueller: And you’re under arrest.

 

 

 


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