Harry C. Blaney III
Harry C. Blaney III
Harry C. Blaney III
Today the first shoe dropped in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments are now public and those involved all have ties to Trump and his campaign. Among the charges are lying, defrauding the government, avoiding taxes, and conspiring against America.
The focus was first on Paul Manafort who was briefly the Chairman of the Trump campaign. The 18 charges focused largely on evasion of taxes and money laundering, but also included the question of Manafort’s years as a political consultant to Viktor F. Yankukovych the pro-Russian former president of the Ukraine.
What may prove equally or more significant the indictment was of George Papadopoulos who it is said to be cooperating with Mueller. He was a volunteer foreign policy advisor to Trump during the campaign. The day after joining the campaign he met the “professor” who had ties to the Kremlin. He to appears to charged with lying to the FBI and has pleaded guilty.
The third person indicted was Rick Gates who is accused lying about transferring $3 million from offshore accounts some in Cyprus. He worked with Manafort.
The media characterized the indictments as “a significant escalation in the special counsel investigation.” But is was more than that as it seemed to be part of a strategy to bring all the threads of possible collusion with Russians together and seems to threaten Trump himself as he attempted today to throw off or deflect the news of the indictments of his associates by saying the government Justice Department should investigate Hillary Clinton, a very tired line from his campaign which given that such action are seen as inappropriate for a president to interfere in any Justice investigation and only showed more his fear of the consequences of the investigation. Trump insisted against all evidence, that no one in his orbit during the campaign colluded with the Russian government. We need to remember that there were indeed undisclosed meetings with Russians by Trump family and staff.
What should we make of these events and news? First, that Mueller appears to be closing in upon the Trump circle and decided to act against the most easily indicted persons with hope in the end of getting at the bottom of Russian efforts to undermine our election and to what degree Trump’s people were involved in illegal activity at high levels.
But in a larger perspective, it shows first that at the moment our laws and democracy works against some great illegal actions to deflect and undercut Mueller and the legal process. What is interesting is that the White House said Trump had no plans to fire Mueller….but my thought is that he may have plans to use another high official to someday carry out that action.
The other question is the future of Trump and of his administration. It gets darker with each day especially as he gets more crazed. What is taking place is a major challenge to the integrity of our justice system, and it is also a test of our political system under stress and especially that of our Congress. This is true for our courts that will have to adjudicate these charges.
All of this will have major international repercussions. First, is it will further undermine foreign confidence in the capability of Trump to act in a rational way with our friends and opponents. Second, it may at last bring light into the public mind the serious nature of what has taken place. And it may move Congress on the full meaning of what Russia has done to undermine our democracy and not least how much the Trump team may have colluded to cooperate in the interference in our political process and elections. Third, it may at last force Congress to rethink their own role in support of Trump’s idiocies and also to act with more authority over our national foreign affairs and national security policies. This is especially true of issues of Western unity, Russia, Iran and North Korea.
Finally, Trump has shown every indication of willingness to act in irresponsible ways when he is put into a cornier or feels threaten. The problem is whether he would think that going to war might be a way out for him. His belligerent words and actions with North Korea and Iran as well as escalation of US forces in the Middle East indicates he has no hesitation, or careful thought or assessment before hand, to enter and initiate conflict that can bring disaster to all sides. This is a challenge for those that serve in the White House, in DOD, the State Department, the courts, and not least in Congress to act, within the law, as a check on catastrophic actions by an unhinged myopic president. We are all in this mess together even if we still do not fully recognize this.
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Harry C. Blaney III
Adding to the commentary of my last post, unbelievably Donald Trump has just doubled down in the last three days or so going yet further towards a very dark zone where our nation’s integrity, constitution and laws are at risk. There seems no ceasing of his aberrant and threatening behavior toward especially the institutions and officials carrying out the necessary requirements of our constitution, the process of justice and laws in America and protecting our security.
Here is a brief list of some of Donald Trump’s actions which reinforce that the man has lost or never had any level of rationality that he might have had before becoming president.
Here is a brief list without any doubt, shows a man with complete disrespect for morals, the rights of others, our laws and most scary tendencies to act as if he were America’s authorized elected dictator: He has continued an even higher level attacks on AG Sessions and now Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III as he did with former FBI Head James Comey. He has now threatened “a red line” if Mueller looks at Trump’s financial dealing which he needs to do to see what connection exists with Russian financing and is within his authority of his Department of Justice mandate. Trump and his family have hired a large team of outside lawyers not to just defend Trump and his people but to attack Mueller and his staff, a sign of a desperate man.
He has, not least, suggested that he has complete unquestioned rights of pardons….hinting that includes himself. He continues to attack “Fake News” about Russian contacts and still refuses to tell us what he said to Putin in his G-20“solo” meeting. His family has repeatedly held back information on their security clearance application forms on meetings with Russian agents. But now he seems to promise pardons for others like those of his campaign staff, including all those who took part in the June 2017 meeting with Russian agents to obtain dirt on Hillary Clinton and meetings with the now-former Russian Ambassador. One must now wonder if this statement is a way of getting silence or inducing lies from these individuals about his own role in all of this which is also being discussed?
Thus it is hard to not interpret these as the acts of a cornered guilty man.
All this, especially the Trump Tower meeting in June, with the background of a promise to tilt the election towards Trump are not going away. That event could raise the specter of possible felonies combined with questions about what secrets or deals he might have again shared with Putin that we know not of.
But also our national security is equally at great risk over Trump’s questionable and poorly thought through dealing with our allies some who he has insulted. The same goes with his approach to North Korea, on climate change, on degrading democracy at home and abroad. This is now old hat but we need to ask how can we repair the damage he has done to our respect and leadership?
In place of reaching out to Russia to restore peace and to reduce the chance of nuclear war, Trump has focused on statements of aggression towards Iran, withdrawing US support for our Syrian allies and ignoring Syrian President Assad and Russian deliberately killing of innocent civilians. He continues supporting the most brutal dictators in the world, and undermining democracy of our allies and our own democratic institutions.
No progress has been made, or it seems even attempted, to negotiate a reduction of nuclear weapons and address the problem of accidental war and use of such nuclear weapons. This should be the main priority of both sides. Some believe our show of “weakness and unilateral gifts’ to Trump will encourage Russia towards further acts of infamy and destruction, and continued efforts aimed at America losing its global influence. But engaging with them in an open way on reducing risks must be tried.
His recent statements, tweets and further revelations of a number of new areas of possible collusion or shady dealings with Russians reinforce these views. Recently, even against his own views, he has had to accept a just slightly watered down version to get his agreement, of a new Congressional bill that takes some of his power to unilaterally lift sanctions on Russia, perhaps for fear that it would be an acknowledgment of Congresses’ lack of trust in him to act in America’s interest.
So much for “making America great.” We need a leader that will move toward a stable and cooperative future for both nations and supporting our democratic allies, not one that is bent on inflecting even more conflict and instability and more authoritarian rule abroad….and even here in the USA.
We welcome your comments
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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