Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Blogger Candidate Forum: Emails, The 2017 Edition

Hello Everyone:

It is time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Once again, current events take precedent over issues.  Over the past 24-hours, revelations that President Donald Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., White House advisor Jared Kushner, and former campaign manager Paul Manafort had contact with Russian agents regarding highly sensitive incriminating information on the then-presumed Democratic nominee Secretary Hillary Clinton.  These revelations fly in the face of repeated denials by the Trump campaign, later the White House that there was no contact, no alleged collusion.  Move along, nothing to see; a nothing burger; just another fake news story.  Right, whatever you say.  Even the Russian state media is treating this story, so dominenating in the American media, as a sideshow, a fable intended to undermine American-Russian relations.  It was only a year ago, the then-presumed Republican nominee was carrying on about her emails; going as far as to suggest that Russian hackers break into Madame Secretary's server to find the missing 30,000 emails.  This year, Mr. Trump fil's emails ( between him and British born former tabloid reporter and publicist Rob Goldstone, regarding setting up a meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya.  How do we begin to make sense of it all and what, if any, will be the consequences for those involved.  Let us start with basic information.

In June 2016, a month or so before the respective parties's nominating conventions, Mr. Trump the younger and Mr. Goldstone exchanged emails regarding setting up a meeting with Ms. Veselnitskaya.  Mr. Goldstone told Mr. Trump the younger that he was writing on behalf of Russian pop star Emin Agalarov.  One of the emails from Mr. Goldstone promised POTUS's namesake a handover of information that demonstrated the Kremlin's support for POTUS.  A gleeful Trump the younger salivated over what he considered opposition research that would be the smoking gun in Madame Secretary's relationship with Russia.  The meeting between Messers. Manafort, Kushner, Trump, Jr. Mr. Goldstone, and Ms. Veselnitskaya took place at Trump Tower.  Both Trump the younger and Ms. Veselnitskaya deny there was an exchange of incriminating information on Madame Secretary.  This brings up a lot of questions.

First and foremost, did POTUS know about the meeting?  This is the big question because if POTUS did know about the meeting, then it would suggest that the Trump campaign was willing to work with Russia to use alleged damaging information on Madame Secretary.  An impeachable offense?  That depends on what Special Counsel Robert Mueller concludes.  The next question is what did Mr.  Kushner know?  POTUS's son-in-law was tasked with running POTUS's digital strategy, thus may have had an acquaintance with the pro-Trump Russian trolls, cruising the social media sites, planting stories intended to damage the Democrats and Madame Secretary.  This would imply coordination with campaign.  Was this simply a matter of oppositional research, as Trump the younger maintains?  Oppositional research is common in political campaigns. Candidates will do research on each other to gain some sort of edge. Oppositional research from foreign agents is not typical and may be illegal.  In 2000, then-Democratic nominee Vice President Al Gore was offered oppositional research on then-Republican nominee Governor George W. Bush but refused and contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

What exactly happened at that meeting in Trump Tower?  We may never what exactly went on in the meeting, however Trump the younger vehemently stated that Ms. Veselinitskaya had nothing of real value to offer.  However, Trump the younger's intent going into the meeting is likely pique the interest of congressional investigators and Director Mueller.  Ms. Veselnitskaya has denied any Kremlin connection but email reveal that she did have some connection.  She told CNN reporter Matthew Chance that it was a private meeting, not related to the fact that he was the son of a candidate.  (http://www.cnn).

With the voluntary release of his emails, Donald Trump, Jr. has laid to waste the months of denials by the White House.  Now the leaks, innuendo, and whispers have become louder.  Physical evidence of what some are calling the "smoking gun": inside information plain as day, was a major shock.  The release of the email chain is too late.  The time to release emails was a year ago when, the story was first being reported.  Trump the younger, supported by POTUS, claims he released the emails now, in the interest of transparency.  A pretty lame attempt at transparency.  In an interview, yesterday, with Fox News's Sean Hannity explained that he was on a proverbial fishing trip.  He wanted to find out what the alleged incriminating information was about.  He sheepishly admitted that if he had to do it all over again, he would have done it differently.  Yes, like call the FBI.

If we take a charitable view, the emails seem to conclude that Trump the younger's decision to take the meeting demonstrates a staggering naïveté, revealing the Trump campaign's political inexperience.  Taking the opposite approach, this is a legal and political nightmare of epic proportions.  Trump the younger's changing story has not helped at all.  First there were the denials, then it was about frozen adoptions, then it was about oppositional research.  For her part, Ms. Veselnitskaya said that Russian individuals were supporting the DNC and Madame Secretary, but her claims seemed ambiguous and nonsensical.  (Ibid)

What comes next?  What comes next will be played out over several months, possibly affecting the 2018 mid-term elections.  Senate Minority Charles Schumer (D-NY) believes that the emails demonstrates intent.  The White House continues to deny collusion.  The Congressional Republicans are hesitant to break with President Trump.  Why should they?  They like the idea of a unified government and the thought of getting a conservative agenda passed.  However, the Russia story is making life very difficult for Republicans up for re-election next year.  One thing is for sure: no one named Trump or Kushner will be escorted by federal marshals, in handcuffs, to jail.  Someone else will take the fall.  Whatever the outcome, this will damage the office of the presidency and take years, if not decades to repair.  

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