“Mr. Comey was fired because he was leading an active investigation that could bring down a president. Though compromised by his own poor judgment, Mr. Comey’s agency has been pursuing ties between the Russian government and Mr. Trump and his associates, with potentially ruinous consequences for the administration.
With congressional Republicans continuing to resist any serious investigation, Mr. Comey’s inquiry was the only aggressive effort to get to the bottom of Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign. So far, the scandal has engulfed Paul Manafort, one of Mr. Trump’s campaign managers; Roger Stone, a longtime confidant; Carter Page, one of the campaign’s early foreign-policy advisers; Michael Flynn, who was forced out as national security adviser; and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself in March from the Russia inquiry after failing to disclose during his confirmation hearings that he had met twice during the campaign with the Russian ambassador to the United States.
We have said that Mr. Comey’s atrocious handling of the Clinton email investigation, which arguably tipped the election to Mr. Trump, proved that he could not be trusted to be neutral, and that the only credible course of action would be the appointment of a special prosecutor. Given all that has happened ……. his dismissal of nearly all United States attorneys — the need for such a prosecutor is plainer than ever. Because Mr. Sessions is recused, the decision to name a special prosecutor falls to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whose memo, along with a separate one by Mr. Sessions, provided Mr. Trump with the pretense to fire Mr. Comey.
This is a tense and uncertain time in the nation’s history. The president of the United States, who is no more above the law than any other citizen, has now decisively crippled the F.B.I.’s ability to carry out an investigation of him and his associates…..”
Added to this commentary is the reality that the most serious threat to the security of the United States and indeed the world is Donald Trump. As each day, each week and each month unfolds, this is increasingly apparent. The cumulative impact of his actions directives, lies, and tweets only reinforce this conclusion. What is even more frightening is that so many of our leaders and institutions are unwilling to speak up or act to mitigate and halt this mortal danger to American security and democracy.
What was said in the NY Times editorial is a what both Democrats and some Republicans are now saying or wondering — most in disbelieve, wonder and yes fearfulness.
There are no better questions for our justice system, Congress, media, and citizens than to ask deep and serious questions about the “Russia connection.” Getting honest truthful answers from Trump, Flynn, James Comey, and James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and all those associated with and under Trump who had connections with the Russians and a role in the firing of Comey, to wit: what did they know and when did they know it? An ancillary, and just as important, is to find out how dependent Trump, his family and organization are on Russian money, and contacts?
The firing of the head of the FBI who was leading the FBI effort investigating the contacts between Trump’s staff and associates, and, it is assumed, the Russian hacking of American political parties, has all the hallmarks of the Saturday Night Massacre under Nixon. I witnessed this up front while at the State Department under then Secretary of State Kissinger. I knew well the integrity of Elliot Richardson who stood with courage. Where now are such men of courage in the Republican Party?
At issue is the legal concept of “obstruction of justice” which should apply to all citizens including the president. There is a growing consensus that Trump’s aim is to demolish the FBI investigation and put in place in the Justice Department those who would stop or impede any further effort to fairly determine the truth about Trump and his associates’ role in possible collusion with Russia — especially before he become president, and now after.
Each day there appears to be much more to the Russian influence story and Trump’s role than has so far surfaced. The recent White House Trump Meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the U.S. in closed doors adds to the perplexity. The odd truth is that Trump’s own actions and words tend to confirm that there is more to learn — perhaps not comforting for the security and well being of our nation. Clapper’s statement that he could not comment on the investigation of Trump regarding Russia was not a clearance of him. It was rather the opposite, it is that indeed Trump was an object of interest, given some of the evidence as part of the larger inquiry. And Clapper under those circumstances could not comment.
There is one simple assertion one can make: the appearance is an effort by Donald Trump to again squash and divert possible investigation of the “Russian Connection.“ To fire James Comey is clearly an act to set up a barrier in the Justice Department against any further action to investigate Trump and his team. This includes if Trump was involved in initiating or knowing about, before he was president, the contacts with Russian agents and officials — especially aimed at making “deals” on withdrawal of sanctions and on collusion of hacking of Democratic files. There is also the question of the lies by Flynn about his contacts when he headed of the NSC. To this day Trump defends Flynn.
Another key question is Trump’s strange urging during the campaign of Russia to continue to hack the Democratic Party and Hillary and if that statement was a “signal” to the Russians to continue their efforts.
The revelation that Comey, before being fired asked for additional resources for the Russian inquiry and that Trump was informed about it, and first said it was a decision based on the “recommendations” of AG Sessions (who should not have been involved,) and his deputy Rod J. Rosenstein. This has now been proved false. Recently, the Senate testimony by the now Acting FBI head Andrew McCabe, rejected Trump’s rationale for firing Comey. He defended the agency’s “significant” Russian counterintelligence investigation, and praised his former boss as a respected FBI leader contrary to the criticism of Trump that called him a a “showboater” and “bad” and not respected at the FBI. All lies.
In short, it sounds like Trump is trying to obstruct the process of justice to protect his associates and perhaps even himself from legal action prosecution, or impeachment. There are a number of serious questions about the corruption of the legal process by recent events. Our allies and Russia and others are looking at this with either dismay or rejoicing. For friends hopes its America coming out of this still a cooperative and constructive democracy, for our adversaries its pleasure seeing the dismemberment of Western law based justice, morality, and a further fracturing of Western unity and resolve and America in disarray.
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The larger significance of the final round of the French election is that democracy and decency is NOT yet dead in France and perhaps is regaining ground in Europe also. There may also be now more hope to regain a sense of European and even Western unity and cooperative spirit with the win of former Socialist Economic Minister Emmanuel Macron.
The victory was by any account a win that was, in French election terms, overwhelmingly clear. Macron won by 66% to just 34% for the Fascist Marine Le Pen of the National Front Party which had Nazi antecedents. In his victory speech in Paris he pledged to act to redress the concerns of the French people. He said, wisely, that Le Pen backers had “expressed an anger, a dismay, and I respect that. I will do everything possible in the five years to come so that they have no reason to vote for the extremes.’
It is important that he supported the EU and France’s place in keeping Europe united and “open” when it would have been “cheep grace” to pander to the xenophobia of the moment. He acknowledged the reality of diversity in French’s society and said in the campaign: “There is culture in France, and it is diverse.” Like the American Bernie Sanders of another age and place, he gained support of the engaged youth of France that had move beyond the narrow definitions and prejudices of the extreme right and racist nationalism.
In Macron’s defeat of the French Euro-skeptics, such as Marine Le Pen, he overcame what may viewed with much fear the strong recent surge of authoritarian and racist parties. With the recent defeat, albeit narrow, in Holland and Austria of Alt-Right parties the populist tide was for the moment halted. Yet the win for these forces of reaction and hate of “the other” in Britain in the June 2016 vote, by a very narrow margin, shows still the strength of an appeal to nativism and narrow nationalists. The Brexit action is like a deadly strike against a united and cooperative Europe. It is a vote for Putin’s dismemberment of Western democracy, no matter what line the British right-wing isolationist Tories or UKIP’s Nigel Forage, or for that matter the Brussels EU leaders have all been feeding to their constituents about its impact. Europe without Britain is a Europe still diminished, and so is Britain without the EU.
The National Assembly elections in June will also be key to Macron’s chances of truly moving France beyond a hopeless battle between the forces of reaction and anti-EU feelings, with the support of the growing dynamic diverse engaged citizens, and addressing the still alienated elements in society.
He must find a strong working coalition of existing parties who will support his program of moving beyond the old shibboleths of traditional party warfare and ideology and concentrate on uplifting the left-behind citizens of all types who have been too long ignore by all parties. They constitute a core of unrest and corrosive elements of French society and are at the mercy of the people who hate and exploit them especially from the far right.
The same goes for the EU which is not the indifferent bureaucracy with no caring for citizens often depicted by the Euro-skeptics on the right. Indeed its rules, which are so hated by the massive corporations and their lobbyists, have been overall protective of the environment, health, trade, and well being of Europeans. All this contrary to the right wing papers and media, especially those in Britain controlled by Rupert Murdoch who backed leaving with false promises of prosperity for the poor. The Leave Debate” argued an outdated narrow nationalism, played to racism. Now those dispossessed by these forces are going to be worse off than ever by all accounts.
What Marcron wants to accomplish for France is also what is needed in Europe itself, namely a sense of common purpose and care for all its people. Above all, everywhere the old party fights need to be put aside or indeed the far right authoritarian parties will come roaring back and dissolve fairness, justice, and democracy in Europe. With it their security and hopes will be destroyed.
But there is little room for complacency. The forces of the far right are backed by Russia’s authoritarian and brutal Putin via financial support and false news elements. This provides underhanded support and efforts including hacking which is now attributed to Russian intelligence aimed at undemanding of democratic elections and politics. They are having an impact which should not be dismissed. Nor can the grievances of those that feel neglected and left behind who are angry as they are open to the ententes of the European Fascists as we in the U.S. have seen by a leader like Donald Trump.
For America the results would be catastrophic with the demise of open and democratic states which are our key allies. They support a law based humane and cooperative international system. Russia and other authoritarian regimes would gain by Europe’s disarray. This is a time of crisis since the leadership of our own nation has helped to ravage the unity and long held values of Western democracies.
Trump’s support of harmful far right parties and brutal leaders has been a force of chaos. His bent towards destruction and his blind support of the most brutal regimes around the world have demoralized our best friends and undermined American constructive leadership. Perhaps Europe under Macron and whoever emerges as the leader of Germany this Fall will be able to re-balance the idiocies of Trump and our new myopic nationalism and bent towards dark malignant actions.
Last June and earlier this year I reported from London and Brussels on the issues, problems and trends of the critical issue of the unity of Europe and the fragility of also the Atlantic Community in the face of far right and Fascist forces. These corrosive forces would undermine and indeed destroy unity, democracy, and the key elements that have kept the peace, prosperity and democracy in Europe. The next great test for Europe will be the French final election between the two leaders of the first round election who will vie for the Presidential role on Sunday.
This Sunday election round will comprise first the moderate centrist (center-right) candidate who is without a traditional party Emmanuel Macron, who some polls show winning by about 20 percent. Against him is Marine Le Pen who’s party The National Front, has neo-Nazi origins and expresses deep hatred of immigrants and the EU. These two have left behind all of the candidates for the presidency of the traditional French parties after the result of the first round of voting.
Now in France however, these values are again threatened by the Neo-Fascist and racist National Front Party and by its leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen. She threatened to, in effect, blow up Europe by getting out of the Euro Zone and perhaps even the EU and has attacked Germany who in the past has been the key partner on European unity and accused Chancellor Merkel as “dominating” Europe.
Le Pen has a close association with Russia’s Putin who is trying to undermine the unity of Europe and separate it from American cooperation. A Russian associated bank has loaned her far-right anti-Europe party money to help her campaign of hatred for immigrants, for liberal democracy, and really decency. As a indicator of her intentions and affinity to far right “disruptive” forces she has been praised by Donald Trump who also seems to want a disunited Europe (he supported Brexit and admires the British Alt-Right racist politician Nigel Farage, and clearly has an anti-EU perspective and questioned in the past NATO.
This election is so important to the unity of the West that former President Obama has made his views known via a video in support of Macron. Here is some of the text:
“The French election is very important to the future of France and the values that we care so much about,” … “Because the success of France matters to the entire world. … (Macron) has stood up for liberal values. He put forward a vision for the important role that France plays in Europe and around the world, and he is committed to a better future for the French people. He appeals to people’s hopes and not their fears. … Because of how important this election is, I also want you to know that I am supporting Emmanuel Macron to lead you forward. En Marche! Vive la France!”
There are many possible outcomes from this election given the fractured nature of the French political landscape. There is no assurance, despite the polls, that Macron will win since many do not want to declare their public support for a far-right xenophobic party. And Le Pen has campaigned with venom against Macron.
Sadly the left candidate who came in third did not endorse Macron. If Macron wins he must at some early point reconcile with enough members of parliament and the key parties to govern with some effectiveness and authority. The outcome could either set a direction of cooperation within Europe despite Brexit or the start of the dismantlement of European stable peace, security, and unity and cooperation with the full Western democracies. And also effective dealing with the underground anti-democracy activities of Putin and his gang of hackers and “false media”of the Russian “active intelligence.”
In contrast, center right and left traditional parties and others seeking responsible and decent goals could ensured if an alliance can be worked out with Macron, that there would be a strong voice in Europe for decency and cooperation around the world. Given in the West (and elsewhere) the disruptions of the last year or so and dysfunctional response of some governments to the needs of our citizens, with the rise of racial and national division, as well as moves towards in some cases hate filled political leaders, some united response by forces dedicated to democracy, justice, and true democracy is now required on both sides of the Atlantic.
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TRUMP AND A NUCLEAR NORTH KOREA AND THE LARGER STRATEGIC PICTURE:
Harry C. Blaney IIi
After the statements about what Trump might do to North Korea if it does not stand down on its nuclear weapon programs, there seems to be a great debate about Donald Trump’s foreign policy strategy and even if there is one. As with his missile strakes on Syrian the question is what is next and is there any strategic vision or even reflection?
As best we can discern is it remains just based on “transactional” and “intuitive” feelings. We need to remember this is the man who said he knew more than the generals and who is cutting by about 30% our diplomacy and global assistance budget.
Among the key issues we face we still do not have a clue what ends he want including dealing with China, confronting North Korean nuclear ambitions, fixing the middle East conflicts, keeping our alliances intact, and dealing with Putin’s Russia.
We do know that on climate change he has cut the budget for almost all US programs in to address this existential and disastrous reality. He would take us out of the Paris Accord the only effective instrument we have to gain global cooperation.
An editorial in the New York Times on May 17th entitled “Mr. Trump’s lose talk on Korea” noted that Trump’s approach is more likely to endanger some peaceful solution than solve peaceably the conflict with North Korea. There is real reason to question where are we going with this and to what end?
Both nuclear weapons and the idea of a “preemptive strike” and harsh threats on both sides are dangerous elements.. This is especially true when both side are led by somewhat unhinged leaders who like to demonstrate their powers and egoism. The time has come to bring us back to a more rational approach before we start a game of “chicken.”
Surely at some point the leaders of China, North Korea and America must recognize in this option for an aggressive “game” the only end is destruction of all sides This is the worst case outcome when in reality there is a “win-win” outcome if only we all can recognize the harsh reality of nuclear conflict. There should be a point where all sides can accept gains for all sides with a diplomatic solution where Kim Jong Un, president, Xi Jinping, and Donald Trump control their fears and their egos. Any leader must look closely at the risks of mistakes and stupidity by the other..
The path of a better outcome is North Korea gains a de-nuclearize North and South Korea, food to feed his people. China gains added stability and security on its borders and eliminates the danger of a war that would be a total disaster for it and removal of nuclear weapons North and South. America gets rid of a nuclear threat to allies like Japan and South Korea and not least to America. Trump gets to enlarge his ego.
MORE ON THE TRUMP SYRIAN MISSILE STRIKES AND BEYOND & WEIGHING RISKS.
Harry C. Blaney III
Already there have been many comments on the impact of the missiles strikes and discussions of their implication and what they may mean going forward. The simple truth is that none of us know what risks may lurk ahead not even Trump, nor Putin, nor Assad. Trump has not indicated much in the way of his real aims and less about what hand he will play. Many bet he has no plan and others have surmised strategies from the more likely to the ridiculous. The one thing I think is true is that the old Trump we have seen is NOT a new Trump of a “grand sophisticate strategist.” I doubt he has little but a fuzze and probably ill-informed idea of what he must now do and what the future risks are.
Already after the initial Trump strikes, Syrian government warplanes were back bombing the same site that was hit by the sarin chemicals. And as sited in the Washington Post (4/9/17), reportedly there were more strikes also against civilians at Khan Sheikhoun, where Tuesday 68 people had been killed. Assad planes are still active in brutal killings. Thus nothing much has changed for the people as a result.
Not least of concern is the reaction of Putin to these actions and dangers of mistakes on both sides. Our larger approach with Russia must be an integral element of our strategy.
Trump’s national security team is about the worst I have seen in 50 years. Leaving aside the fractious White House still dominated by Alt-Right ideologists, one glaring weakness is the selection of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State without any previous knowledge or experience in foreign policy and national security areas. He is like a lost soul out of his depth. Worst he won’t talk to or listen to experienced hands at State according to reports. Part of that may be that he knows he may have to fire many of them to meet the demands of his harsh circus ring boss who has a desire to ensure that foreign affairs belongs exclusively in the White House and as a fiefdom of an incompetent family. Thus we see the Trump inspired 30% cut in State’s budget.
Trump said his motivation for the strikes were humanitarian for saving of lives, but his proposed State and USAID budget cuts will result in millions of added deaths including women and children in poor and conflict ridden nations around the world. Is that an act of a real “humanitarian?”
The results on the policy side of this action many end with no serious negotiations and with no strategic game plan behind them. This results in no long-term thinking or seeking peaceful win-win solutions. It seems the major fault is lack of respect of the tools of deep analysis and the concern and understanding of risks as well as end-game benefits for peace by Trump. That is dangerous for America and the world.
He has now made a “big bet” with a rather limited strike in Syria. He warned the Russians ahead which meant that the Assad air force had some kind of advanced warning. The damage done to the airfield and planes were modest in the extreme. He did not destroy all their planes and they can continue the killing of innocent civilians with what seems impunity with the protection of Russian arms. Did Trump foresee that outcome or even desire it?
The questions that many of us are asking is: given the military strategists have likely already developed complex scenarios for potential contingencies, has Trump given any consideration to both their analysis or recommendations or recognized the risks they may present? Another question is he even asking what options or problems they might have over looked. And does he have people around him with deep knowledge that can ask the right questions, note the pitfalls, weaknesses, and provide him with additional realistic options?
I hearken back to the recommendations by DOD, CIA and even State to President John Kennedy in the 1960s Cuba missile crisis to attack with nuclear weapons Cuba, when unknown to US, Russian forces there had permission to use nuclear weapons against the US should Cuba be attack. President Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy together ignored the “nuclear war option” and choose, rightly, the negotiation option which saved mankind from mass obliteration. Is there any sign of this kind of depth and serous thinking among the Trump gang?
Finally, I like senator Chris Murphy’s recent analysis of our Syria actions:
“As a theoretical matter, a targeted military strike in response to a major violation of non-conventional weapons norms is justifiable. Why have rules against chemical weapons use if no one is going to pay a price for violating the rules? International norms should be upheld by the international community–not the United States acting alone–but it’s hard to argue against Trump’s action last night when viewed in isolation as a response to Assad’s barbaric attack.
The problem is military strikes never happen in isolation–the before and after are arguably even more important than the strike itself. The actions Trump took leading up to Assad’s chemical weapons attack, as well as the all-important and totally unanswered question of what comes next, highlight the administration’s immoral and hypocritical approach to violence in the region.”
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THE UNITED STATES MISSILE STRIKES AND IMPLICATIONS
Harry C. Blaney III
DATE LINE: LONDON
The news in London today came as a surprise to most but Britain was given advance notice of this action. As expected Syrian government, Russia and Iran have made statements opposing these strikes. The Russians have suspended the air notification agreement. Donald trump’s own statement was not entirely a surprise and indicated that use of military action given the horrendous use of illegal chemical weapons attack this week that killed more than 80 civilians. The British government supported the action. But the Labour leader opposed the use but some of his MPs were supportive.
We seem to have given some kind of notice to Russia from reports here.
Hillary Clinton has also indicated she supports the attacks and wanted mor to be done under Obama.
There is little doubt that this is a Trump change in strategy and policy from much of his previous statements. The question is this a one time action or is there a longer time strategy behind it. The key especially is defining and shaping the future of Assad and his supporters and how the political landscape needs to be changed. Will we se emore conflict now or a major decline with less killing?.
The problem with this action is it based on a deep and clear understanding of what the next steps might be and any fallouts and responses;. The Russian have already said they would reenforce Syrian air defenses. There is urgent need for the key actor including Russia and Iran and the US and our allies to sit down and start to look at how to sort out the future of Syria and find a peaceful solution which was attempted by the Obama administration with only frustrating results. The time is now for an agreement in the UN Security Council that will put a stop to Syrian attacks and some kind of UN backed efforts to bring an end to civilian killings and the removal in time of Assad. There may be some consensus that his removal is in the best interests of all sides.
The next move is in the hands of Russia and America but both Trump and Putin are difficult leader who think of just looking strong and winning at all costs. My hope is they both think deeply about the end consequences and the need for a peaceful solution with support of the key powers and on the ground peacekeeping forces to ensure there is not another blood bath.
EUROPE’S DISCONTENT AND CHALLENGES IN A HIGH RISK WORLD: AMERICA’S PROBLEM TOO!
Harry C. Blaney III
This post is about the perspective of the remaining 27 members of the EU and especially the nations of the main continent as they await the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, face difficult negotiations on Brexit, and face the reality of the serge of Fascists groups and parties with elections in France and Germany looming this year. At the same time try to deal with the immigration crisis and the danger of further erosion of unity and not least the threat of Putin’s Russia and its active measures to undermine the democracy and unity of members of NATO and the EU.
All this is compounded by the indifference and even threats of the Trump administration towards the key institutions that have comprised the source of the continent’s prosperity, unity and security. Th treat by both Donald Trump and the Secretary of State Tillerson that they have to pony up the 2% of GDP to “pay America” is outrageous given that the threat is accompanied with the further implicit threat of not defending countries that do not make that mark.
From the perspective of the EU nations and the EU public servants and NATO here in Brussels the unity of the West is in considerable disarray. They are threaten by and fearful of the U.S. under an unpredictable even malicious president and a myopic Republican Congress. Both of which ignore or want to cut funding for diplomacy and foreign assistance and international institutions. These acts inevitably lead to a more dangerous world and less security for America and other nations. They see such moves as forces that move the world towards more conflict, global poverty, and disastrous climate change. They also see the pending funding cut of programs that make the world a safer place for all nations as a common threat to global stability and security.
No wonder they are worried that we are driven by and act on the isolationist concept of “America First,” the same concept that Hitler used to gain his power in the phrase “Deutschland über alles.” They are concerned about the likes of the Alt-Right and racist Stephen Bannon and Trump in American politics. Some are worried by their proclaimed ideology of raw unfetter capitalism, with policies aimed at supporting of brutal and undemocratic governments and bullying of other nations for its own personal selfish interests.
Looking to their East Europe they see an aggressive and predatory Russia under Putin. Their concern is great about efforts of Putin to impact on elections in Europe. The most glaring is that of France.
Among the leading French candidates. Le Pen, of the National Front, conservative nominee Francois Fillon and Communist-backed Jean-Luc Melenchon have a positive view of Trump and want to bring Russia into normal relations and want lifting sanctions imposed over its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The three have also expressed some of support for Russia intervention against anti-regime rebels in Syria’s civil war. On the other hand Macron and Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon has a more skeptical view of Putin. Two candidates back continued sanctions on Russia and have insisted that Russian-backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go.
In February, the moderate center Macron aide accused Russian state media of a “smear campaign” against the 39-year-old defender of open borders and immigration, whom polls show ultimately beating Le Pen. Macron’s team also pointed a finger at Russia over a flurry of cyberattacks on his campaign website. The recent sight of a smiling Le Pen clasping hands with the Russian rankled France’s Socialist government. “It’s not up to Russia to decide who will be the next president of France,” Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Friday. The outcome of the election will determine the future of Europe.
The end result is a Europe feeling alone and no longer respecting American leadership that is no longer being what it has been since the end of WW II. It is seen now as a force that not only does not support doing good and seeking peace and democracy in the world but one that is prone to acting in ways that make our world worse. That is dangerous. Some of the issues and problems of the U.S. relationship with Europe need immediate attention and major rethinking and signs of strong support for a strong and united Europe.