RUSSIA’S PUTIN AND AMERICA’S TRUMP: A DISASTER TRAJECTORY FOR OUR NATION?

By

Harry C. Blaney III

We are coming closer and closer to some kind of determining of the trajectory of both the Trump regime at home and the direction and risks of the inherent divide between Putin’s Russia and its goals and Trump’s own goals or perhaps just incoherent daily utterances and thoughtless unknown schemes. For America this landscape is filled with unknowns and ever growing risks. If we continue as we have with Trump, the ending will likely be danger of more conflicts and with more calamities for both sides and the rest of the world.

For Trump, the world is closing in and his walls of defense are increasingly more desperate and self-contradictory. His efforts to change the direction of attention away from the Trump-Russian contacts and towards diversionary issues confirm his sense of vulnerability. This includes the intensity of his incoherent tweets and acts that indicate at least that he senses serious risk for him, his family and administration. He perhaps sees a point of final dangerous conclusion by the Special Counsel investigation and Congressional inquires.

To put the situation simply, the Trump “walls” are starting to crack (and we do not mean the non existent one on the Mexican border). All of this is solely due to Trump’s own nefarious behavior, his conflicting lies and those of his family and staff. Now we have proof of real collusion between Russian agents and the Trump family and staff according recent reported news on the now infamous Trump Tower meeting. This meeting was held clearly to work with the Russian government to influence the 2016 election.

The meeting was with a total of eight persons, some with questionable backgrounds. It was focused much more on helping Trump’s election than Trump Jr. reported to the public or US officials originally. The fundamental question that must be in the minds of those alert to the legal and national security implications is that of collusion. The recent revelation of this meeting and that lies were told about it includes the fact that Trump’s son and people were offered Russian government information as a key inducement. And Trump Jr., in response to the offer said that he would “love it.”  Trump Jr. did not put down initially all the people in the room for his security clearance. That in normal times would bar him from access to high level classified information.

The recent revelation of Trump’s “private” and unannounced meeting at the G-20 dinner for about an hour with Putin with only a Russia interpreter present and no American interpreter, has raised many serious questions, not least about Trump’s primary loyalty and judgement. This is, even more so, as it may have been planned earlier with Putin to assure no Americans would know what was agreed.  And we note that Putin had a briefing paper and pen at hand and Trump had nothing!

We have had no real readout of what was discussed at this lone bilateral. Further we initially had strained obstruction regarding getting information on the heart of this meeting by the White House staff.

I can assure all readers, as a former White House staffer and Member of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, this was not normal if substance and deals were discussed and there was no planning or debate by officials on what Trump proposed. Efforts to make little of it only reinforce doubt. This was likely a very BIG DEAL! That there was no serious readout of the meeting only intensifies the feeling America may be sold out by our incompetent and unstable president. Does anyone who should be brief on this discussion really know what was agreed? Perhaps his family knows, or others in the White House or the Secretaries of State or Defense??? Or just the Russians?

One further question: is there other material, likely in the hands of the intelligence community or FBI, which should be shared with Special Counsel Robert Muller? If there is full sharing, we may see the start of far more serious inquires by the Special Counsel who already has asked to interview at least one member of that Trump Tower meeting and reportedly more.

At this time — with the President at the lowest point in public opinion polls and with a history of vitriol and lies in almost all that he does — the question is being asked if this nation can stand and be secure for the next three years with this individual and his “disruptive” family and staff. Not least in this regard Stephen Bannon with his Alt-Right views, seems increasingly to be behind some of the more cruel and hateful policies of this administration.

Some say impeachment is not possible with this GOP dominated Congress which itself says a lot about how our democracy has declined and the integrity of our elected GOP officials  as well. Think what the GOP would do if all this was done by a Democratic president? So many have been bought (literally in many cases), by dark wealthy forces wanting to undermine our democracy’s efforts towards fairness, equality, and justice for all. How many disasters will the GOP accept before acting?

Thus the issue is likely in the brave hands of the Special Counsel, the FBI and our overall justice system.  As Robert Mueller and staff examine the case for civil and criminal action against some in the highest levels in our land we many be able to discern who may have desecrated and shown they are disloyal to our constitution. We also need to thank some in the media who have exposed with courage much of the nefarious dealings of this administration.

We welcome your comments! (Click on title and comment section will be at end of post.)

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COMEY TESTIMONY AND MULTIPLE INQUIRIES MAY SPELL TRUMP’S SELF DESTRUCTION.

By

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.

We welcome your Comments! (See section below)

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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