Reporter walks through Russia’s scheme to target Ukraine along with Donald Trump’s help


MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace dedicated her Boxing Day show to the shocking revelations from this year that Russia’s Vladimir Putin was working with Donald Trump’s allies because he thought he could take pieces of eastern Ukraine, specifically Mariupol, without waging his invasion.

Writing before the mid-term election, New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg explained that hundreds of documents he’s sifted through, in addition to former Robert Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann’s details, revealed enough to show what Putin was after when he worked to swing the 2016 election for Trump.

“What Weissman found was all along Paul Manafort and others were avoiding talking about the meeting at the cigar bar I just mentioned or the idea of the Mariupol plan, and it was concealed from them, they felt when Weissman gets new e-mails and information and sees things have been left out what he has learned so far from Mr. Manafort, who was speaking with prosecutors as they talked about a possible cooperation deal, and he said, what are they hide here?” asked Rutenberg. “Well, here’s what they are hiding well, what they are talking about is the east of Ukraine, and once you realize how important the east of Ukraine is to Putin, and that there was a Russian meddling operation to affect social media and disrupt American politics, it all came together for Mr. Weissman.”

It prompted Wallace to wonder if the Manafort pardon was still part of all of that. Trump more recently claimed on his social media site that if he had been president the war with Ukraine wouldn’t have happened. Wallace asked if that is because Trump would have handed Mariupol over to Putin as the Russian leader assumed.

“I don’t know what was in his head. I do know there was an argument that one could make that had this plan gone forward,” said Rutenberg. “And by the way, before it got a chance to, the Russian investigation really kicked in and Manafort was in legal trouble it really got stopped in its tracks. However, had that plan gone forward, arguably Putin would have gotten what he wanted and perhaps there would not have been a war and perhaps the flip side would be no Ukraine as we understand it. What any Ukrainian will tell you right now is that wouldn’t have happened anyway, because what we have seen is the Ukrainian people would never have accepted that plan. But Putin’s planning was never based on what the Ukrainian people would do or wouldn’t do, as we now know. Yes, on paper, this would have given Putin what he wanted and would have rendered Ukraine as a broken democracy.”

With the new information slotted into the Nov. 2022 report, however, it’s clear to the Times‘ Washington investigative correspondent Mark Mazzetti that it ties together the major global events while the story unspools in real-time. Then, things didn’t seem connected, now they do.

“If you take the events of the campaign election interference in 2016, Russia sabotaged the election, and the second event being the first impeachment of Donald Trump which was all about Ukraine, and recall that the person who has just been named Time magazine person of the year, Zelensky, was at the time at the other end of the call that Trump placed that was a shakedown call,” said Mazzetti. “And Zelensky is not the person he is now, and then the third one was the invasion of the south. As Jim puts in his piece, Ukraine is the baseline running through this but it shows this was the prize — or at least a prize that Putin wanted. I think that’s what is so important because it does show that all of this does have a piece.”

Wallace noted that for seven years Trump has been trashing Ukraine. It came off at first as random and he was simply ignorant of foreign policy. “In hindsight, it looks very strategic,” she said. “Russia hated Ukraine and wanted to seize parts of it, and Trump wanted to withhold military aid. What were the yellow flashing pieces of the story for you as you look at The Times‘ Russia coverage during the Trump presidency.”

Mazzetti said that Trump was groomed over the years by Putin or by a Putin asset. If Hillary Clinton had been up against Jeb Bush, he said that Russia would have done about 50/50 interference. Instead, it was 100 percent all-in for Trump and suddenly pro-Putin allies joined the campaign.

See the full discussion below or at this link.

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