Wednesday means Blogger Candidate Forum. Boss move on the part of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Today, Speaker Pelosi sent the president a letter, telling him that due to the nearly month-long shutdown, it would be best if they re-scheduled the State of The Union after government reopens. Note how the word "after" is boldfaced, the implication being that if Mr. Donald Trump wants to deliver the annual SOTU to a joint session of Congress, he will have to negotiate with her and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Speaker Pelosi did offer the option of delivering the SOTU in writing or from the Oval Office. The message is crystal clear, this is her house. Moving on.
How bad have things gotten with the Trump presidency? Bad enough that the F.B.I. opened an investigation into whether or not the president is a Russian asset. Just raising the specter of an Anerican president working as a foreign asset to undermine his country's interests is a shock to the senses. The president denied it, of course but it has left many lingering questions. Blogger has her own thoughts on the subject but let us take a look at how this all evolved and what it means.
On January 11, The New York Times reported that in days after Mr. Trump fired F.B.I. director James B. Comey, law enforcement officials became so alarmed by the president's behavior that they opened an investigation into whether he was working on behalf of Russian interests (nytimes.com; Jan. 11, 2019; date accessed Jan. 16, 2019). The investigation came with explosive implications. Blogger cannot even think of a time when an American president has ever been investigated by counterintelligence agents over whether his actions constituted a national threat. Agents also had to figure out if the president was knowingly working for Russian or unknowingly fell under the Kremlin's influence (Ibid). This is the stuff of John Le Carre novels
There is also a publicly well-known criminal aspect to the inquiry (Ibid; June 14, 2017): "whether his firing of Mr. Comey constituted obstruction of justice (Ibid; Jan. 11, 2019).
During the 2016 election cycle, agents and senior Bureau officials grew quite suspicious of then-candidate Trump's ties to Russia but held off opening any investigation because they were unsure how to move forward with such sensitive matter and huge magnitude. However, it was the president's actions before and after Director Comey's dismissal in May 2017, specifically two examples (nbcnews.com; May 11, 2017; date accessed Jan. 16, 2019). It was that (in)famous interview the president did with NBC News' Lester Holt that prompted the inquiry. During the sit down, the president to Mr. Holt the he asked Director Comey, straight away, if he (the president) was under investigation and asked Director Comey to tell him if he were under the microscope (Ibid). Highly unusual for a possible Bureau target to ask if he or she were the subject of investigation.
Lester Holt also asked the president if Director Comey's termination was a message to his successor to drop the Russian probe. The president replied, If Russia did anything, I want to know that (Ibid). As usual, he petulantly insisted there was no collusion and Russia did not interfere with the election (Ibid).
Equally shocking was the extraordinary measures Mr. Donald Trump took conceal details of his conversations with Russian Presidenf Vladimir Putin. On January 13, The Washington Post reported that Mr. Trump did, on at least occasion, take possession of the notes of his own interpreter, instructed the translator not to discuss the meeting with any other adminstration official, current or former U.S.official (washintonpost.com; Jan. 13, 2019; date accessed Jan. 16, 2019).
Mr. Trump did this following a meeting with Mr. Putin in 2017 in Hamburg, also attended by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. American officials only learned of this when an anonymous White Hiuse adviser and senior State Department official sought additional information from interpreter beyond the print out shared by Mr. Tillerson.
The constraints imposed by the president can be viewed as part of a broader pattern of behavior to shield his communications with Mr. Putin public examination and preventing high ranking members of the adminstration what was actually said. The result is there no detailed record or classified file of their interactions in 2017 and last year. Greg Miller of The Post wrote, "Such a gap would be unusual in any presidency, let alone one that Russia sought to install through what U.S. Intelligence agencies have described as an unprecedented campaign of election interference" (Ibid).
Again, the president denied this allegation in an interview with Fox News presenter Jeanine Pirro. Interestingly, he did not exactly answer her question, is the President of The United States knowingly or unknowingly working as a Russian asse? Instead, he proceeded to launch a verbal attack on The Post's owner Jeff Bezos, saying he was insulted by the suggestion.
None if this had escaped special counsel Robert Mueller, who is said to be in the final stages of his probe. Johnathan Chait wrote in New York, "The probe is not just about Russian election interference, or about Trump's obstruction of the probe--it is about the secret relationship between Trump and Russia that appears to be causing both things to happen" (nymag.com; Jan 12, 2019; date accessed Jan. 16, 2019). Think about that statement for a long minute. The President of The United States working with Russia against his own country?
Mr. Donald Trump has frequently said that it would be a good thing if America and Russia had a better relationship. There is nothing remotely criminally dubious about. Presidents do have the right to pursue amicable relationships with countries that have been previously hostile to the U.S. Think President Richard Nixon's overtures to China in the seventies and President Barack Obama's opening relations with Cuba. None of this would event rate an FBI raised eyebrow. However, the very wisp of suggestion that Mr. Trump is in concert with Russia suggests something inherently corrupt and secretive about the relationship
It is no secret that the Russians are masters at using flattery and bribery; when the occasion calls for it, blackmail to get what they want. What do they want here? Possibly undermine NATO.
The end of the Cold War ushered in a period of economic and social upheaval in Russia. As former Soviet satellites (Ukraine, for example) declared their independence, they petitioned NATO for membership, the Russian government began to feel isolated. Throughout the Cold War, Eastern European nations, Russian and satellites were members of the Warsaw Pact, their answer to NATO. The collapse of Communism and the dissolution of the Pact further isolated Russia. Sanctions imposed by western governments damaged the economy. When Vladimir Putin was first elected president, he promised a return to security. A crackdown on dissenters was part of this campaign. He next part involved slowly picking off NATO members, one at a time. Shut off the power in the Ukraine, poison former Russian spy in Great Britain, steal a FIFA World Cup tournament, all part of the plan, in preparation for going after the United States. Interfer with an election, sow seeds of discontent. Of course we will never the full extent or intent of the plan but we do know that putting Donald Trump in the White House was part of it. Why and how may never be fully revealed.