Oligarchy, Cronyism and… Treason In The Age of Trump
We’ve been treated to almost daily revelations that some Trump campaign or administration official had contact with Russians that falls outside the normal range of protocol. Michael Flynn and others – Trump’s sons and Mitt Romney’s – traveled to Russia and may have had inappropriate contacts there. Flynn was paid to attend a Russian Television event, for example. We also know he took undeclared money from Turkey as a lobbyist and, once he became National Security Adviser, influenced Syrian policy in a way that favors Turkish interests, reversing policy that was already being put into place.
But on this Friday night, as President Trump returns home from a 9-day trip abroad, we learn that some far more sinister things may have been going on via the auspices of Trump senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The Washington Post reports:
“Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.
The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.
The White House disclosed the meeting only in March, playing down its significance. But people familiar with the matter say the FBI now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of investigative interest.
Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.”
There would have been nothing wrong for either or both Kushner and Flynn to occasionally meet with delegates of nations that fall under their respective purviews, as part of their work for the president. One does wonder, however, why not leave regular high level contacts to the Department of State? What is highly alarming, if the Washington Post’s reporting is correct, is that Kushner was expressly seeking to arrange for regular meetings at a location that is considered Russian soil, with equipment that is designed to keep U.S. intelligence from listening in.
It is very difficult to imagine a set of circumstances under which it would be desirable for ANY U.S. official to have meetings with a rival power in an environment that is impervious to U.S. intelligence signal. What secret talks would Kushner be having with Russia that should be kept from the rest of the U.S. government? The intelligence community? No benign reasons come to mind. What’s more, Kushner is reported to have made these requests in the presence of Michael Flynn. What role did Flynn, a former U.S. general, play in this meeting? Was Kushner’s request something Flynn abided by? Can we infer from the fact that Flynn didn’t contact the FBI to report Jared Kushner, that Flynn was a party to Kushner’s very strange request?
Who, in the White House, knew about Kushner and Flynn’s meeting? Did then president-elect Trump know his son-in-law was trying to arrange secure communications channels with Russia? Did he ask him to make the arrangements?
In some analyses there is the allusion that Kushner may have made his request out of political naivete. Intentionally keeping one’s own side out of the loop isn’t a sign of novicehood, but dishonesty. One doesn’t try and protect one’s communications from one’s own authorities out of naivete or without intent. One does, however, hide misdeeds from one’s government, as a part of the commission of some kind of crime.
We also learned this week that Jared Kushner had meetings with Russian principals who represent a bank that is owned and operated by former KGB cronies of Vladimir Putin. This raises, yet again, the question of what is in President Trump’s tax returns. Has Donald J. Trump ever borrowed money from Russian parties, either directly, through third parties or even his son-in-law? Has Jared Kushner ever borrowed money from Russian banks, not for himself or his businesses, but on behalf of his father-in-law?
By Trump’s own admission, over and over again, though the years, money is what motivates him. Trump says he’s greedy and he wants to “grab, grab, grab” all the money he can for himself, and now for the nation. Given the number of lies he’s told his voters, beginning with his true intent with fixing healthcare, what if the biggest lie of all is Trump’s allegiance to our nation? What if personal profit overrides any sense of – patriotism and loyalty – on the part of Trump and his associates? What if this Trumpian oligarchy isn’t only the first case of large-scale international intrigue involving how a president was elected, but also includes the president as Russian mole, a la “No Way Out?”
More details about the frequency of contacts between Russians and the Trump team in an exclusive report from Reuters:
“Reuters was first to report last week that a proposal for a back channel was discussed between Flynn and Kislyak as Trump prepared to take office. The Washington Post was first to report on Friday that Kushner participated in that conversation.
Separately, there were at least 18 undisclosed calls and emails between Trump associates and Kremlin-linked people in the seven months before the Nov. 8 presidential election, including six calls with Kislyak, sources told Reuters earlier this month. . Two people familiar with those 18 contacts said Flynn and Kushner were among the Trump associates who spoke to the ambassador by telephone. Reuters previously reported only Flynn’s involvement in those discussions.”
It isn’t normal for an American high-level official to need secrecy from his own government. There shouldn’t be anything that Kushner needs to tell the Russians that the FBI, NSA, or CIA shouldn’t know about. If there is, while we are not at war with Russia, we are not allies, either, and we need to begin to envisage that acts of treason are quite possibly being committed from the Trump White House, perhaps because the Trump family is financially-compromised or because they are selling America’s secrets and assets to the highest of bidders. Every new admission from the White House that certain events occurred has come on the heels of explosive revelations in the media, because the revelations were made public and they cannot be denied.
While an investigation by a special counsel is just beginning, there is no reason not to begin treating the Trump administration with an even greater degree of suspicion. If Russia indeed has been cultivating all kinds of public figures in order to ensnare them, then we should do more than wonder out loud who else was compromised.
This is where money in politics and the opacity afforded by McCutcheon v. FEC, and Citizens United before it, get in the way of national security at the highest of levels. The vast majority of Republicans in both houses of Congress continue to defend the Trump presidency to at least some degree, and are carrying out the undoing of 80 years of social progress. Why?
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The WSJ revealed today that a GOP operative named Aaron Nevins requested and received confidential files stolen from the Democrats by hacker Guccifer 2.0 last year.
Nevins, a former aide to Florida State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, confessed to the Journal that not only did he receive files stolen from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the documents, which contained Democratic voter turnout analysis, weren’t just slid under his door by some anonymous benefactor.
Read the rest at Gizmodo
““We have backchannel communications with a number of countries,” Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, told American reporters traveling with Trump at the G7 summit in Sicily. “What that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner, so I’m not concerned.”
Former national security officials who spoke with POLITICO on Saturday were not so dismissive.
Many said that while presidents often set up backchannel communications with various countries, it’s neither wise nor normal for a president-elect to set up such continuing contact before the inauguration, despite likely pressure from foreign countries.
Also, the idea of using the equipment of a foreign country, especially an adversary such as Russia, would be acutely alarming.
“If candidate Trump, a private citizen, had a backchannel that would be very serious,” said Bill Smullen, who served as chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell in the administration of George W. Bush. “He had no business.””