THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION: TRUMP AND FIRING OF FBI DIRECTOR COMEY: WHAT DID THEY KNOW AND WHEN DID THEY KNOW IT? (UP-DATED)

By  Harry C. Blaney III

Clips from The New Times editorial May 10th:

“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.

We welcome your comments!!! (See section below for space to give your views.)

THE SHAMBLES OF TRUMPS PRESS CONFERENCE: WHAT DOES IT PORTEND?

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Image taken from Gawker Media

By: Harry C. Blaney III

The Trump press conference today was a shambles for both Trump and honesty and transparency in politics. His main target seemed to be the press and the intelligence community. Part of the conference was spent trying to put aside any criticism of self-dealing. However, with his family still in total control of his assets and the Trump Organization, the President-Elect will continue to face criticism and lingering questions about conflicts of interest. Trump also declared his company would not make any more “significant” foreign deals, but the tone and substance of these decisions would give an informed citizen a deep concern for our nation’s direction if closely examined. 

He took on, as expected, the intelligence community on the leaked reports that alleged Russia had personal dirt on him. Trump made his anger clear and seemed to threaten the intelligence community. He denied that the report was leaked by his staff and painted it as the work of his political opponents. He said his intelligence community appointees would provide a report on foreign hacking but did not address the deeper question of his relationship with these agencies once president.

But from what he did say, and what he implied, that relationship will be strained. This is then likely to be a weak point for our larger security strategy as an ignorant president will be uninformed of vital realities in our complex and conflict filled world by agencies with which he is in open conflict.   

He would not answer the question if any of his staff or family had any contact with the Russian authorities during the campaign or after the election. Regarding Russia and Putin, he acknowledged that they had conducted hacking, but pointed much more to China and non-state actors as a major source of hacking. He deflected any questions on Putin’s support for his candidacy. He said, in effect, he could handle Putin and hope to gain his cooperation, but would defend US and fight to protect American interests. As Trump defined it, a good personal relationship with the Russian President would be an asset rather than a liability. He also tweeted that he had no business interests in Russia.

A good portion of the news conference was taken up by a Trump Organization lawyer outlining the means by which he was going to disassociate himself from conflicts by turning his assets over to his two adult sons!  

He said the US government defenses against cyberwarfare were weak under Obama and with the Democratic Party, and he would make government defenses strong. Just how was not stated except he would bring in the best people.

But as we have seen over the last two years, much of his statements were vague and discombobulated even contradictory. He did not really answer many of the questions asked. He mostly made a pitch of why he was so great and all would be just wonderful and repeated many of his slogans from the campaign and tweeter posts. There were almost no specifics on many key issues except he still held that Mexico would pay for the wall and hinted at taxes against Mexico, but the wall would start without money from Mexico. Trump justified this change by noting he wants to begin construction immediately and not wait “a year and a half” to conclude negotiations with Mexico first.

Nuclear issues and climate change were largely ignored to the detriment of the conference providing insight on these issues as nuclear security is one of the critical issues for our nation and world and the same can be said about climate change.

Hang on to your hats readers this is going to be a difficult four years.

After the press conference I was reminded of the poet’s Alfred Lord Tennyson’s lines: “Words, like nature, half reveal and half conceal the soul within.”

We welcome your comments!

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THE CIA TORTURE REPORT

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By Harry C. Blaney III

The revelations in the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report were horrendous only to those who either did not want to believe Americans could commit these acts of torture or who even to this day condone such acts. The same for people who were asleep during the many times that the media had reported, in less detail, that these acts had taken place during the Bush II administration.

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