Theories about a Conspiracy and “Conspiracy Theories”

  • Yes, there was a conspiracy around Trump and it is still ongoing. I would think, though, that it is rather small, presumably only Trump, his eldest three children and his son-in-law Jared Kushner plus perhaps very few other people like his personal attorney Michael Cohen.
  • I would view other events as the outcome of side-conspiracies also involving the inner core. Those were perhaps more limited in scope and turned around specific questions. You would have different, perhaps overlapping cells here. Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon or Paul Manafort seem like central figures. I can imagine that the other cells may also have gone rogue to some extent with their own agendas because there was little oversight.
  • My hunch is that Trump was not used to much scrutiny and therefore did not realize the danger he got into. That resulted in sloppy management and rather blatant mistakes, eg. like freely admitting he had met Putin and only later walking it back. He was probably also smug that what he did was legitimate, and so he lacked an understanding that it was illegal. That meant a certain self-righteousness which induced further errors. Trump’s underdeveloped management skills and his opportunistic and tactical approach accerbated all this.
  • As new problems arose, Trump had to set up new conspiracies, eg. to thwart the FBI investigation. All in all, the conspiracy expanded because of its inner logic and became too large. My guess is that this will bring Trump eventually down. The organizational complexity went beyond what he could manage.
  • As for the Kremlin side: The organizational degree was certainly higher. Because of a favorable environment with little scrutiny and no legal inhibitions, many more people were involved. There were also different rings with a small core and many sub-conspiracies. My guess is that we are talking about hundreds or more. With peripheral operators like those who run the bot and troll armies, it could be many thousands, maybe tens of thousands. But then Putin has had the same problems with running a conspiracy as you can see in the Steele dossier where critical information apparently leaked out. I would view this as the outcome of a similar management style and opportunistic short-termism. Much may have evolved without a plan, by human action, not by design.
  • The time scale on the Kremlin side was certainly longer, in some regards perhaps over years, a decade and more. However, I would think that many decisions came late and were adhoc. I don’t think there was one grand masterplan that was worked out in, let’s say, 2000 and then meticulously executed over time and step by step. Much of it seems more like it came together by chance and without an overarching plan. That’s where I think many media analyses go wrong. To Putin it must be flattering because he comes across as a genius. But he is not.
  • I would also think that many of the “Russian connections” developed by human action, but not by human design. Once they were there, they could also be used for purposeful action. But on the whole, the design part is overrated in my view.
  • And then I would think of the connection between the two sides as rather loose. Of course, there were many contacts, but I would still view the Trump side as mostly independent. Just one tidbit: Kushner was desperately trying to set up a secure channel to Moscow still after the election. That means they did not have one until then. A spy under direct supervision would have some appliance or tool to send secure messages and receive them.
  • It is hard to disentangle, but my impression is that many regularities were the result of human action, but not necessarily of human design. The outcome may look like Trump received orders from Putin, but that may not have always been the case. Or it may have been the case, I don’t know. It makes sense to be agnostic here and not jump to conclusions as long as there is little evidence either way. I would not be surprised if the relationship was one of spymaster and spy. But it could also be more complicated.
  • Since the core of the Trump affair may remain very hermetic, I can imagine that we will only learn some about its inner workings. Much could stay elusive and speculative. What may trip Trump up in the first place could be rather peripheral actions, eg. obstruction of justice with the Comey firing, a web of lies surrounding the dismissal of Michael Flynn, and so forth. It could be like with Al Capone: You can get him on tax evasion, but not on his other crimes. Actually, financial wrongdoing could also be how Trump blows up, things like participation in money laudering and the like.

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