Trump and the GOP want to hold onto their control of the U.S. Senate more than anything in the world. They want it so bad they were willing to go to Moscow and telegraph their new quarterback, Vladimir Putin, to run the same play he ran in 2016, the one where Russian Internet trolls carpet-bombed Facebook and Twitter, spreading nasty smears about Hillary Clinton and thereby allowing Donald Trump to slither into office. Hell, all Trump had to do for this gesture of friendship was launder a hundred million or so in dirty Russian money and make a few minor foreign policy adjustments. Oh, and find a workaround to those pesky sanctions, too.
You can’t argue with that kind of success. The GOP knows that its base only wants a win, and as Trump demonstrated, it doesn’t matter much to those folks in the heartland how you get there. Besides, their constituents are now practically lining up in red states to learn Russian.
So they needed to send a message that would be heard loud and clear by Vladimir Putin, even though the optics of meeting him directly weren’t really feasible. For that they carefully picked a special day, America’s most solemn holiday, to send that message. A day when most Americans wave flags and celebrate the fact that we, unlike places like Russia, still have free elections. They picked Independence Day because they wanted to send an unmistakeable signal to the Russians just how far they’d be willing to bend over backwards to get what they wanted. That they were ready and willing to sell us all down the river if the price was right--whether it was lucrative oil deals or campaign contributions funneled through organizations like the NRA. They’d betray their country’s founding principles if necessary. Just put up that cash and start with the Troll and ‘Bot Facebook posts already.
So the GOP Senate leadership and Trump’s "circle of friends” (because the big guy doesn’t like to leave fingerprints) got together, made a list of mostly oil-state Senators, checked it twice, and then made some calls. Senators Shelby, Hoeven, Moran, Thune, Daines, Kennedy and Johnson all booked their tickets. They packed their deodorant and mouthwash in their shaving kits. And to make doubly sure the Russian oligarchs who they planned to fellate wouldn’t get mixed signals, they specifically excluded any Democrats from the entourage.
And that’s important. because you don't want the Russians to misread you and back the wrong horse, come November. The whole point of the trip was to assure the Russians that the Republican Party were their best buds, with plenty of money to be made on both sides. And, by the way, that the Russians had nothing really to worry about if they chose to mess with our Democracy again, in say, three months or so, as long as they stay on the right side.
By a remarkable coincidence, none of these GOP Senators were up for re-election this year, so it would be a pretty safe bet that no one would remember this little soiree by 2020. But their colleagues back in the Republican Senate who were facing re-election in a tough year will thank them in November when those social media posts start ricocheting around the ionosphere. If it works out the way they hope, the Republicans will solidly hold the Senate, Trump can go on pushing those right-wing Judges through without fear of being hounded by a hostile Senate investigation, and the Mercers, the Kochs and their ilk can go right on looting the country for their benefit. Everybody wins, right?
Then there was the minor problem of “messaging” this back home to a news media that might wonder what in the flying fuck seven GOP Senators from the Appropriations Committee were doing on July 4th dancing and dining with the corrupt leaders of a country that just attacked our most sacred institutions. But as it happened on a holiday when the country’s attention was riveted with a more compelling story no one really took note of the fact that these meetings with oligarchs and their flunkies were held essentially in secret, with no reporters or prying eyes allowed. As it happened most of the media establishment either ignored the Senators’ visit or didn’t push very hard on the substance of it, but they hired a few stenographers after the fact to sell their story, just in case.
Here’s Senator Thune, clarifying the “purpose” of the trip:
“The best way to demonstrate this as we head into the 2018 election is to show the American people and our congress and our administration that the Russians have no intention of messing or playing with the American election,” Thune told The Associated Press in an interview.
John Kennedy of Louisiana also went on the record:
“We made the point that if Russia persists in trying to influence our elections, it's going to be very difficult, if not impossible, for us to establish a better relationship,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said to NPR.
But Senator Richard Shelby, no stranger to switching sides when it’s convenient, was probably the boldest of all:
“We didn't come here to say, what you've been doing is great, and we're going to look the other way,” Shelby (R-Ala.) told NPR. “We came here to talk candidly and honestly. The Russians can earn a better relationship with the U.S. if they want to.”
What a powerful statement. We won't say what you're doing is "great." And as for the fact that their own committee had just concluded that yes, in fact, the Russians did attack our Democracy in order to steal the election for Donald Trump, Shelby was even more blunt:
“I’m not here today to accuse Russia of this or that or so forth,” Shelby told Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin. “I’m saying that we should all strive for a better relationship.”
Now that they’re back on American soil, they want everybody to know that their little jaunt was a resounding success, even if no one knows exactly what was discussed. Why? Because the Russians told them so, of course:
The lawmakers reportedly discussed Russian influence in U.S. elections during their meetings over the past week, but Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) told the Associated Press that every Russian official they spoke to denied the Kremlin's involvement.
Well that settles it, huh? If there was any doubt that the Russians knew exactly what this meeting was about, well, this should put to rest:
Duma member Vyacheslav Nikonov.. said he had met with many American lawmakers in years past and that this meeting “was one of the easiest ones in my life.” The question of election interference, he said, was resolved quickly because “the question was raised in a general form.“
“One shouldn’t interfere in elections — well, we don’t interfere,” Nikonov said.”
Easy Peasey! Straight from the horse’s mouth.
Now everyone, just go away and pay attention to the next Tweet.