Harry C. Blaney III
On Thursday we heard former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony which highlighted a possible effort to obstruct justice or at least efforts by Trump to hide something which he feels threatens his presidency or worse. We can expect over time additional hearings and witnesses of other participants in this sad and tawdry story tell their own story. Further the work of the new Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III seems to be focused on a wide range of issues related to the Trump Camp-Russian connection and they have the authority to find criminal actions and prosecute which Congress can’t.
The Trump twitter may continue but the drum beats are for a reckoning while that may up set Trump’s presidency as vulnerable either for impeachment or self disintegration or severely injured. There are some signs that GOP lawmakers are concerned of what they see at the White House, but there is a great reluctance to jump ship for a host of reasons, most dealing with saving their own careers.
More and more of leaders of both parties are worried, the media of all stripes paying more attention, and the well informed public are increasingly fearful and concerned that our nation is in a dangerous downward cycle within and abroad. For example, according to a recent poll the percentage of Americans who “strongly” approve of the president has continued to go down – from 30 percent this spring to about 20 percent now. Many polls show opposition to Trump’s actions notably rejection of the Paris Accord.
Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee largely corroborated much of what is known about the relationship between Trump and Comey and highlighted a key reason why he was fired, namely he would not bow to Trump’s intimidation for dropping the Flynn-Russian investigation.
There is no doubt that Trump tried several times to demand “loyalty” and sought to close down the investigation which, while aimed publicly at former NSC head Mike Flynn, likely involved other members of the Trump team. There reality also is that during the campaign and after the election but before Trump was president, about seven of Trumps associates were in some contact with Russian agents according to press reports. The question is whether they were acting on Trump orders or that of his family or high level staff.
Comey made clear in his testimony that Russia had hacked into our election process, that they had a long history of such activity and likely will continue, and it was vital that America protect itself against such action that impact our democracy. He accused President Donald Trump of lying when he said in the aftermath of Comey’s firing that the bureau was in disarray and that its agents had lost confidence in its leader. “Those were lies, plain and simple,” Comey said to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Comey in giving an account of his dismissal and said there was “no doubt” that he had been fired “to change the nature of the Russia investigation,” of the FBI’s investigation of Kremlin-backed meddling in the 2016 election.
That probe’s key element includes an examination of whether Trump aides colluded with the Kremlin campaign to hack into American political organizations and leak stolen documents. On Thursday, while Comey refused to say in an open hearing whether he believed Trump colluded with that effort, the weight of reported evidence of broad active efforts by his associates and family to make these contacts and keep them “secret” from our key agencies, and in the case of Jared Kushner suggesting using Russian communication modalities for contacting Putin increasingly moves into dangerous territory and wide implications.
My own feeling given the pressure Trump applied, his own statements, not least the words “fake news” and disparagement of Comey before the Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, where he indicated that the action would take the pressure off of him. Further, his irrational and counterproductive tweets, efforts to pressure intelligence agencies heads to influence Comey, plus his demands that top Justice Department officials provide some pretext for reasons for the firing of Comey, all raise doubts about his motives and actions which in the end he acknowledged were also due to the Russian probe. Important also is that Trump felt investigators would get too close to himself.
Comey made the point that the bureau’s investigation of Flynn was criminal in nature and focused on Mike Flynn’s statements regarding contacts with Russian officials. Trump fired Flynn allegedly because he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the content of his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, but continued to seek a halt of the investigation of him by the FBI.
Based on these factors, it is my view likely that the inquiry could lead in some way to Trump himself. I sense that neither Michael Flynn, nor especially Jared Kushner would have undertaken, or kept to themselves and from Trump, such communications with the Russian agents on highly sensitive matters. They clearly wished to keep this activity from the public and especially other US officials including our intelligence agencies. It reaffirms the high likelihood that Trump either knew about these activities or ordered them. That could be the “smoking Gun.” The other “smoking guns” are a proved effort at obstruction of Justice, or proof of nefarious collusion with the Russians.
The question in open and unclassified session gave some insights on Comey’s thinking and concerns, it also give insights on how the Senate Committee might behave as they proceed to look into the classified data in closed session and demand to see FBI and intelligence agency documents. What is unknown is how far has the FBI probe under now Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller gotten and what is yet to be found out. Certainly, the Trump people have been or will be questioned under oath and there my likely be some revelations from this process.
Finally, what we have seen today probably is just the tip of the iceberg and there may be very much more known to the government agencies involved and more perhaps yet to be found out.
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Harry C. Blaney III
George C. Marshall was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953 for his economic recovery plan for Western Europe. The Marshall Plan’s legacy lives on today in programs of cooperation and dialogue across the Atlantic. The irony is that after seven decades of essential peace in Europe and effective deterrence from Soviet aggression, Donald Trump is trying to dismantle the fabric of Atlantic cooperation which threatens a disaster for America and out allies. Let’s hope the Europeans are smarter than our administration.
When we have a president and many in the powerful Republican far right that rejects a seven decades old set of policies that provide for the entire globe a more secure, more prosperous and lasting framework for international cooperation and comity but now sadly we are threatened by our own administration with a radical dismantling of that durable and beneficial structure by a group of misguided and malicious leaders bent to destruction of all that has held the fabric of our often risky world together.
People forget also that it was not just the Marshall Plant that our post World War II leaders under President Harry Truman created but also many elements we have today that keep the international order to the benefit of all nations. These include importantly the United Nations and many of it associated agencies like UNHCR and World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, NATO, the OECD, the later creation of UNEP to protect our environment, and not least European unity now embodied in the European Union today.
We need to not just remember these acts we need in this generation to support these structures, provide adequate funding, and give them the capacity to help keep our fragile world at peace and with justice and support for humanitarian goald and care for those most vulnerable.
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Harry C. Blaney III
The decision by Donald Trump to withdraw America from the Paris Climate change accord is one of the most disastrous acts by this clearly demonic leader. This is not the only major malignant and atrocious act he has done while in office. It seems that many of his action are done out of spite and ignorance but not ignorance of the hurt they will do. But his judgement is that they will not hurt him and that is all that matters.
The ironic and sad part of his withdrawal from the Paris Accord and so many other anti-environmental actions he has taken, is that it is apace of so many other actions that seem debased, small minded, and frankly just a malicious joy to do evil. Look at pictures when he meets with some of the world’s worst dictatorial and brutal leaders President Rodrigo Duterte of the Phillippines, the Turkey authoritarian president Recep Tayyip Eedogan, or especially the Russian Ambassador and Foreign Minister in the White House at the White House…leaving out the US press….but with Russian state pictures (US press photographers were bared from the meeting), showed they all seemed to be laughing and very joyful! his smiles and facial expression seem to show that he feels joy not just in meeting with these “strong”authoritarian types but his joy also is that he is thumbing his nose at those decent people that are appalled at these acts. On the other hand look at the pictures of him with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister Theresa May, President Macron where he shows his distaste for those that are our best allies.
Trump’s Paris Accord actions Friday indicates a more deliberate effort of systemic “destruction” which frankly can only be seen as a part of his consistent effort to “destruct” structures that try to do any “good” and to put in place those policies and people who’s aim often can only be fairly described as destroying all the elements of the government that serve the security, environment, well-being and prosperity of 90% of our population.
The vast majority of our nation and certainly most of the nations and people in the world support effective action to reduce the impact of climate change on our global environment. Yet Trump seems curiously to want to ignore both the scientific knowledge that backs action (indeed wipe it out) and the reality that a large majority wants to act if only for the sake of future generations.
The arguments for staying in the Accord are overwhelming. First, of all is to prevent catastrophic events that in time will kill millions of people, cause greater droughts and yes also floods and storms, a rise of the oceans which we even see today that will decimate our coastal communities, changes that contribute to mass starvation, spread of diseases, and radically change nature and all its creatures on land and sea in ways that are detrimental.
Second, our action has taken America and its history of responsible leadership into very dark and dangerous places on a host of other issues critical to American and global interests. Already the combination of pulling out of acting with responsibility about our global environment is indicative to others as part of the larger perception of where America is under the Trump regime on about every key issue one can think about. Already it has hurt us on global economics and trade, on science research. It has hurt NATO the heart of European security. It has harmed European Unity and global cooperation beyond. Trump cuts to diplomacy and vital assistance to the poor and vulnerable of the world display a mean spirited and foolish indifference. In all this Trump shows a total indifference to the well-being of other nations and people
This is increasingly seen by many Americans but also by much of the world with fearfulness. I am now not sure just when this trust earned over seven decades will return. It already has had a very large cost. It is now up to American citizens, its states and cities, our non-profit and advocacy groups and remaining responsible politicians to chance our course despite Trump’s twisted insanity.
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TRUMP’S HARMFUL “PILGRIMAGE” TO DISGRACE, DISCREDIT AND DISUNITY
Harry C. Blaney III
Trump is back from his first trip as president but the harm he did on that trip has not ceased. Indeed it has increased with the recent decision to leave the Paris climate change accord. The reverberations from Europe and the Middle East continue. There is no place that he set font on tht did not create for security, unity ans stability of the global commons and our nations position in the world. Now it is far worse by Trump’s ignoring the great danger to the world which almost all nations recognize and followed the leadership of President Obama and many other nations. America has been diminished greatly by Trump’s incredible actions.
Given the reading I have done of European reactions both government and media and my recent visit to Europe we have lost greatly by Trump’s actions. We lost more in those short days than all the efforts of Putin and his Russian minions in the last decade trying to divide the West. One top headline of a writer for the Financial Times (a conservative paper) said ” Erratic Trump is destabilising the world.” Another affirmation of our loss is Germany’s leader Angela Merkel who has recently said, in effect, that Europe can’t trust the U.S. because of Trump. So much for “Making America Great.”
The recent dishonourable global travels of Donald Trump have resulted in more disgrace for America. The subtle and sometimes not so subtle rejection of Trump’s vision of a world enhanced by chaos through Trump’s often embrace of the worst behavior of dictatorships and brutal people of the world is but one example that has striped America of its credibility and respect.
This after revelations of more evidence that there could be evidence of collusion between the Trump associates and Russian agents, reports of efforts by him to sabotage the federal investigation of himself and his gang of incompetents. We see his continued lying and display of madness. We have him cutting American diplomacy and assistance budgets some 30% which belie anyone who thinks he takes our global challenges seriously. No interlocutors on this trip and his action on global warming can take what he says with believability and act on them and expect support.
His first stop in Saudi Arabia was a demonstration of the power of the mutual connivance between two forces of disruption, authoritarian rule and brutality. Not since the infamous Hitler-Stalin Pact before WW II have we rarely seen such discredited leaders see their mutual interest in support of killing others, in ignoring discrimination against woman, and disparaging of democracy. On the part of Trump we saw acceptance of national Saudi leaders who’s funding and actions have help to fuel the spread of the extremist Islamist Wahhabi Salafist ideology that Trump once so vied against. Yes, we can call that hypocrisy.
While accepting the lavish opulence and honors of this dictatorial regime behind the brutal murder of thousands of civilians in Yemen via mostly in-discriminative bombing, which is against the law of war and humanitarian norms, Trump signed a $460 billion, ten year arms deal with Saudi Arabia. This will mean even more bombing, more conflict. It will help lead a mad arms race against Saudi Arabia’s main nemesis Iran. This will do nothing to assist a conciliation of the two main lines of Islam Sunni and Shia. This brutal theocracy oppresses its people and has spent billions of dollars exporting their extreme Wahhabi Islamic ideology around the world—the very same ideology fueling terror groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. His efforts to make worse the Sunni-Shia divide is putting America into a dark caldron of taking sides in Middle East religious conflict. His actions only support the concept that his aim is to create total chaos and keep the world off balance and demoralized.
The visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority was with the stated aim of bring the two together but it was clear that Trump was far more on the side of Israel but he recognized if he could create some agreement between the two sides it would be a “big win” for him but he does not have a clue of the key issues and does not seem to want to learn in any depth on this complex problem. In fact he walked away without a truly any specific breakthroughs.
The NATO Brussels visit was a total disaster and Trump talks and behavior was seen as causing much hurt to the alliance, which clearly frightened or allies and was criticized throughout European media. Not least is Trump’s decision not to mention NATO’s Article 5 of supporting a member country under attack. His nasty hectoring our allies on financial support for “NATO” was likely counter productive in the long run. The result was growing distrust of Trump thus of American commitment. One of the great historic blunders in the face of the Russian active efforts to undermine democracy and divide the Atlantic community.
His visit to see the Pope was almost surreal with Francis asking Trump, the instigator of actions and views antithetical to Christian beliefs let alone those of the Catholic church especially on dealing with the calamitous impact on all humanity of coming climate change. Nor was there any sign that Trump would respond to any peas for humanitarian actions to assist refugees.
The meeting in Sicily of the G-7 of the most powerful nations which include heads of state or Government of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom and the Presidents of the European Council and of the European Commission who on their own without the United State reaffirmed their strong commitment to swiftly implement the Paris Agreement, “as previously stated at the Ise-Shima Summit.” This division was largely a first for the group and a sign of the disunity that will likely ensue. It was here that the disunity of the world community was most glaringly shown due to Trump rejection of action on climate change.
The sum of Trump’s action is that he has made America diminished and in greater danger from the external forces at work and made our adversaries more powerful and certainly Putin acts like he has a ”puppet” that has helped him achieve all he could not do on his own to advance Russian agenda to destroy the unity of the West.
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By Harry C. Blaney III
Clips from The New Times editorial May 10th: