Lazy Saturday Reads: A Spy Ring in the White House?Posted: May 27, 2017
I’m illustrating this post with paintings of women and cats–not relevant, but perhaps more soothing than the news.
It’s beginning to look like we have an actual spy ring in the White House. Here are the late-breaking stories from last night. I’m assuming everyone has read or heard about them.
The New York Times: Kushner Is Said to Have Discussed a Secret Channel to Talk to Russia.
The Washington Post: Senate Intelligence Committee requests Trump campaign documents.
The New York Times: Russian Once Tied to Trump Aide Seeks Immunity to Cooperate With Congress.
While all this news has been breaking, Trump has been in Europe undermining NATO and our country’s relationship with long-time allies. He has done everything Vladimir Putin could have wished for. Trump ignored his advisers and refused to reaffirm U.S. support for Article 5
Foreign Policy: Trump’s Article 5 Omission Was an Attack Against All of NATO.
When President Trump spoke to NATO members for the first time on Thursday he failed to say the one thing Europeans were waiting to hear. He never mentioned America’s unwavering commitment to Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, which states that an attack on one is an attack on all. Twitter erupted in a storm of outrage and, for at least a few hours, #NATO was trending. Sean Spicer, responding to the criticism, stressed that even though the president didn’t say it outright, he is “fully committed” to NATO and Article 5.
Spicer’s logic? Trump’s mere presence at the dedication ceremony at the new NATO HQ was evidence enough. For folks that don’t track NATO issues on a day-to-day basis (and that’s most people), the president’s omission may not seem like a big deal. But Trump’s refusal to repeat what so many members of his own Cabinet have already stated — including his vice president — was a significant blow to the transatlantic relationship and could have lasting consequences.
Why were Europeans so eager to hear Trump utter the words “Article 5”? It was just last summer when Trump, in an interview with the New York Times, alluded to the fact that the United States could make its commitment to Article 5 conditional on whether the country in question was spending enough on defense. That sent a shiver down the spines of many NATO allies as they imagined calling Washington in a crisis — only to be asked first asked whether they had met the 2 percent target. (For many, the answer would be no.) Throughout the campaign, Trump also called the alliance “obsolete” (before he said it was “no longer” obsolete) and has repeatedly claimed — falsely — that NATO allies owe the United States vast sums of money.
Read the rest at the link. Foreign Policy is providing free access to their articles this weekend.
TAORMINA, Italy — Under pressure from allies, President Donald Trump backed a pledge to fight protectionism on Saturday, but refused to endorse a global climate change accord, saying he needed more time to decide.
The summit of Group of Seven wealthy nations pitted Trump against the leaders of Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Japan on several issues, with European diplomats frustrated at having to revisit questions they hoped were long settled.
Trump, who has previously called global warming a hoax, tweeted that he would make a decision next week on whether to back the 2015 Paris Agreement on curbing carbon emissions following lengthy discussions with G7 partners.
He probably needs to check with Putin first.
“The entire discussion about climate was very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters. “There are no indications whether the United States will stay in the Paris Agreement or not.”
However, there was relief that Trump agreed to language in the final G7 communique that pledged to fight protectionism and commits to a rules-based international trade system.
Read more at the link.
NBC News is reporting this morning that Trump and his entourage are refusing to give on-camera briefings to the press or answer questions about Kushner. All other NATO countries are holding public press conferences at the closing of the summit. They did send out designated patsy H.R. McMaster to answer some questions.
Philip Rucker at The Washington Post: Trump adviser: ‘I would not be concerned’ about a Russia back-channel, irrespective of Kushner.
TAORMINA, Italy — President Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Saturday he “would not be concerned” about having a back-channel communications system with Russia, though he and other top White House officials refused to comment specifically on the growing controversy surrounding Jared Kushner.
A news conference here at the conclusion of Trump’s maiden foreign trip was overtaken at times by questions about Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and Friday’s Washington Post report that Kushner had discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin.
The Post reported earlier in the week that Kushner — who helped plan the Middle East portion of Trump’s trip and traveled with the president to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican — is now a focus of the FBI investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
McMaster sand National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, who together briefed reporters Saturday, were unwilling to discuss the Kushner matter, as was White House press secretary Sean Spicer. White House officials insisted the briefing be conducted off-camera, preventing photographers or television cameras from documenting it.
“We’re not going to comment on Jared,” Cohn said. “We’re just not going to comment.”
McMaster either misunderstood what Kushner was trying to do or is simply trying to obfuscate and sow confusion about what happened with her holographic nails. Kushner wasn’t just seeking a secure channel to communicate with the Kremlin. He wanted to use the Russian embassy and Russian security channels for communications that would be hidden from the U.S. government and the American people. How can that not be treason?
Some reactions to the Kushner revelations
Business Insider interviewed Bob Dietz, who formerly worked for NSA and the CIA:
“GOOD GRIEF. This is serious,” said Bob Deitz, a veteran of the NSA and the CIA who worked under the Clinton and Bush administrations.
“This raises a bunch of problematic issues. First, of course, is the Logan Act, which prohibits private individuals conducting negotiations on behalf of the US government with foreign governments,” Deitz said. “Second, it tends to reinforce the notion that Trump’s various actions about [fired FBI Director James] Comey do constitute obstruction.”
“In other words, there is now motive added to conduct,” Deitz noted. “This is a big problem for the President.”
They also talked to Glen Carle, formerly of the CIA.
“If you are in a position of public trust, and you talk to, meet, or collude with a foreign power” while trying to subvert normal state channels, “you are, in the eyes of the FBI and CIA, a traitor,” said Glenn Carle, a former top counterterrorism official at the CIA. “That is what I spent my life getting foreigners to do with me, for the US government.”
Carle noted that, if the Kushner-Kislyak meeting and reported discussion were an isolated incident, then it could be spun as “normal back-channel communication arrangements among states.” ….
“We know about the multiple meetings of Trump entourage members with Russian intel-related individuals,” Carle said. “There will be many others that we do not know about.” He noted that while this reported back channel is “explosive,” it is worth questioning who planted the story — The Post reportedly received an anonymous letter in December tipping them off to the Kushner-Kislyak meeting.
Additionally, as a longtime diplomat, Kislyak would have known that his communications were being monitored. So the possibility remains, Carle said, that the Russians used the meeting with Kushner to distract the intelligence community and the public from potentially more incriminating relationships between the campaign and Moscow.
Read much more at the Business Insider link.
I have to agree with Joseph Cannon on this: Lock him up? No. SEEK THE DEATH PENALTY!
I confess that this post’s title is a provocation, though it expresses my sincere belief. If this Reuters report and this WP report are true — and as of this writing, they have not been denied — Jared Kushner is a traitor. He should not simply lose his job; he must be tried. Tried for treason.
Kushner lied on his security clearance forms — forms which clearly state that a deliberate falsification will result in jail. Any “Oops! Forgot!” claim is a bad joke. Jared Kushner cannot possibly have forgotten a meeting with the Russian ambassador in Trump Tower. No-one can forget an attempt to set up a back channel communication system using Russian facilities….
You wanna know who really is without sin in all this? Hillary Clinton.
Yet the Republicans chanted “Lock her up!” because Hillary set up a private email server. Contrary to the incessant lies emitted by right-wing propagandists, that server handled NON-classified communications, with a couple of accidental exceptions (which Hillary did not send). The most often-cited of these exceptions was a piece of piffle about Malawi which never should have received a classification stamp.
That’s why the Republican establishment demanded that Hillary Clinton lose her security clearance: Freakin’ Malawi. The same establishment is now trying to come up with a way to save Kushner’s ass.
The hypocrisy on display here is beyond flabbergasting, beyond infuriating. I cannot think of a parallel in the entire history of partisan double standards. Anyone who can damn Hillary while excusing Kushner and Trump must be mentally sick.
At this time (last December), Trump and his team were bad-mouthing the U.S. intelligence community. Kushner’s back-channel was designed to keep Trump’s communications with Putin hidden from our people, not from the FSB.
Please go read the rest at Cannonfire.
More links to check out
The New Yorker: Jared Kushner’s Russia Problems.
The New Yorker: How Worried Should Jared Kushner Be?
Politico: Meet the Real Jared Kushner.
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I couldn’t sleep last night after reading these articles and watching MSNBC’s reports. I’m probably going to have to take a nap soon, but I’ll be checking in to see your reactions and click on your links. Take care everyone. This is really really scary.