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Analysis by Reporting San. Diego
Feb 14, 2017 (San Diego) General Michael Flynn has resigned as National Security Advisor for Donald J Trump. This scandal is breaking all kinds of records and precedent. The last scandal to start early in an administration was “Travelgate,” in May of 1993. That was the first of many scandals of the Bill Clinton White House, that ended up with his impeachment by the House of Representatives. However, he was not convicted in the Senate, and served his full two terms.
This scandal is building faster, and it is raising questions parallel to those of the Watergate days. In other words, when did the president know, and what did he know? Part of it is that he was asked directly by the traveling press on Friday, and he said that he knew nothing of the reports that were emerging on the calls made by his National Security Advisor to the Russian ambassador, the same day that sanctions were announced. This was on December 29.
The sanctions announced by the Barack Obama administration were in retaliation for the interference of Russian government in the elections, favoring now President Trump. Flynn might be in violation of the rarely enforced Logan Act, which prevents private citizens from engaging in diplomacy on behalf of the United States. We know, from intelligence, that he made at least 5 calls, We also know that fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates, informed the White House that Flynn was possibly compromised by the Russians. So was that piece of data transmitted to the top? Or was that piece of data kept away from the president?
This is not an idle question. In fact, it is a critical one. If the president did not know that his aide was possibly compromised, why not? This is the kind of information that is on a need to know, before you even choose the person to fill that position. This, apparently from suggested timelines, is the case. If the president was told, then he too was lying when he said he did not know. This is precisely what brought down the Richard Nixon White House and led to his impeachment.
The Guardian is now reporting that the president knew for weeks that Flynn was not trustworthy
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters how the resignation happened: “The evolving and eroding level of trust as a result of this situation and a series of other questionable incidents is what led the president to ask General Flynn for his resignation.”
He added: “There’s nothing that the general did that was a violation of any sort. What this came down to was a matter of trust.”
Flynn stepped down after just 24 days when it emerged that he had discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador to Washington, then misled Vice-President Mike Pence and others about the conversations.
This should complicate things for the president and his men. Like Watergate, this information is critical, since it has been reported that the CIA did not consider the situation room a safe place and thought it was compromised. Was that because of Flynn? Or is there anybody else who the CIA does not trust? This brings us into the sub-rosa war that has heated up between the intelligence community and the administration.
Was this the limit of it, and Trump will start to behave in ways they approve off? Or will this continue to heat up? It is well known that none wins these battles with the deep state. So will this scalp be enough?
The Russians have confirmed the conversations did happen, never mind until now they denied them.
The Russians and Flynn
Over the last year or so, we have heard more about Russia and Russia interference in this election than we care. Yes, it happened. The Russians did not do anything we have not done in the past. However, the appointments at the White House raise some very uncomfortable questions. What if this was an attack on the United States, a new Pearl Harbor, trying to capture the highest levels of the executive? Here is where we enter into some speculation, because the ties to Russia are hardly well known by most Americans.
General Flynn is the first to go, but he is well know to like Russia. He has travelled on business in the past, and received an award from Russia Today, which is a Russian news outlet. He was at a dinner for the outlet in Moscow and sat besides Vladimir Putin. It was, according to the retired general, “a paid speaking opportunity,”
However, he is not the only one to have any contacts with the high levels of the Russian government. There is more, as a retired Army Officer, still subject to recall (He will remain in the inactive reserve for ten years,) he might be subject to the Emoluments clause of the constitution, Mother Jones dug up this from a White House white paper regarding this, dated in 2013:
“Significantly, retired regular military officers are also subject to the Emoluments Clause because they are subject to recall, and, therefore, hold an ‘Office of Profit or Trust’ under the Emoluments Clause,” a 2013 Department of Defense white paper reads.”
So Flynn might have been violating multiple standards, not just the Logan Act when he communicated with the Russian Ambassador. He was likely doing such when he went to Russia for that paid engagement as well. There is more, did Flynn tell the Russians that Trump could be controlled and managed?
The newly appointed Secretary of State had many red flags when he went though the confirmation. His contacts with Russia are even deeper than those of General Flynn. The latter could argue that he was just there for a speaking gig. However, Tillerson has been decorated by the Russian government. He also negotiated multiple contracts on behalf of Exxon for both oil and gas exploration in both Russia and all over the Stans, which are not fully dependent on Russia, but have close ties. They used to be internal territories.
One of the selling points that the administration used was that Tillerson had experience negotiating on behalf of a transnational, and knew the right people. He does indeed know the right people and they include Russian Federation President Putin. His interests and those of the Russian Federation might be closer than we think. Exxon wants those sanctions gone. Putin needs those sanctions gone. It looks like plenty of motive.
So the question must be asked. Who is Tillerson working for? What are his ulterior motives to accept this post as Secretary of State? Is there a Russian connection?
Like Flynn this is not an easy question to answer. Moreover, unlike Flynn, he has not been caught making calls that clearly violate the Logan Act before he was even confirmed. If he made those calls now, he could argue he was engaging in policies that the administration wants. In other worlds, he can argue he is negotiating in behalf of the United States. There was a time when what was good for Ford, was good for the US. Perhaps, what is good for Exxon is good for the US is the new diplomatic mantra.
Most people know Bannon as the former editor of Breitbart News and quite frankly at least friendly to white supremacy. What few know is that he wants to destroy the current order, and replace it with something new. In fact, his model for this is that of Vladimir Ilich Lenin. He told the Daily Beast in 2015 that his model was:
“Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Bannon was employing Lenin’s strategy for Tea Party populist goals. He included in that group the Republican and Democratic Parties, as well as the traditional conservative press.
We are using the original quote, since it should be sending shivers down many people’s backs. This man is a revolutionary who believes we are at a crisis point in the United States and his goal is nothing short of revolution, perhaps destruction of the western democratic model. He is also a fan of two books. The first is the Fourth Turning by William Strauss and Neil Howe. The book relies on the concept that the United States has cycles. The first was the American revolution, the second the Civil War, the third the Great Depression and now we are due for the fourth one.
The concept of cycles in history is not new. Nor is the book political in the sense that it pushes a single ideological point of view. It is a theory of history, one that Bannon has embraced and he sees himself as the prophet in this revolution. He will remake the country as the conservative, libertarian, white paradise he desires. The method to this madness is war, perhaps a world war. Bannon has made no secret that he wants a war in the South China Sea and a major confrontation, perhaps nuclear, with China. This would mean an alliance with Russia, which might prefer to stay out of it, but it does match their eastern Asian desires.
Incidentally, China is not taking this as an idle threat either. They have signaled that they are indeed preparing for war. It does not help that Bannon is a nihilist, and does not care that much for the short term consequences of blowing up the world.
Then there are two other aspects that we have to discuss. The first is Paul Manafort, who had clear interests with the Ukraine, and Russian contacts. This is one reason he had to step down in August from his campaign. Manafort entered Ukrainian politics in favor of pro Russian politicians. Politifact reported as follows:
The relationship lasted for years leading up to Yanukovych’s 2010 presidential campaign. Manafort made Yanukovych look more respectable, working with stylists and consultants to redesign his image.
The political consultant had another important mission — to move Yanukovych closer to Washington. Yanukovych’s team wanted a photo of President Barack Obama with Yanukovych to show that Ukraine’s president was respected in the West.
This is back in May, before Manafort finally was forced out. This was on August 19, 2016. Which led to the team bringing in Bannon, who also had some views of Russia that were likely consistent with this rapprochement of relations between the two governments. However, the Manafort incident, and the fact that we suspect Flynn hardly operated on his own when he called the Russian ambassador leads to the obvious question. How about the Trumps?
Enter Donald Trump Junior
As much as his father denies this, the Trumps have attracted a lot of Russian money. In spite of all the denials, the Trumps have interests in Russia. This is from the USA Today, one of many papers reporting on this over the course of the campaign.
Trump first traveled to Moscow in the 1980s, to discuss renovating hotels there. After several bankruptcies made it hard to raise money in the United States for his high-end hotel and condominium projects since the 1990s, Trump, and later his children, traveled to Moscow to talk deals and attract buyers, according to interviews with people who have worked with Trump over the years and news accounts. They show far greater commercial ties between Trump and Russia than generally known.
Real estate brokers in New York, Florida and Dubai told USA TODAY in December that Trump properties still attract high-end buyers from Russia, as well as from other countries.
Back in 2008, Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. told investors in Moscow that the Trump Organization had trademarked the Donald Trump name in Russia and planned to build housing and hotels in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sochi, and to sell licenses to other developers, according to the Russian daily Kommersant.
To say that the family has no interests in Russia, or contacts, is dishonest at the very least. They do. And it gets even more specific. Trump Junior is quoted by Bloomberg as follows:
“The emerging world in general attributes such brand premium to real estate that we are looking all over the place, primarily Russia,” Trump Jr. told a Manhattan audience in September 2008. He said that while Russia was on the Trump Organization’s “A-list” of emerging markets for investment, doing business there carried risks due to corruption and “because it is a question of who knows who, whose brother is paying off who, etc.”
So there is at the very least quite a bit of smoke. As the saying goes, where there is smoke, there is fire.
When one is evaluating the mere possibility that the government of the United States was compromised at the highest levels one must ask why? What is in this for Russia?
As we wrote earlier in the year, Russia has a clear interest to remake the empire. This is transparent to any body who is familiar with Russian policy and the theory of Greater Russia. They see themselves as a land empire, with a manifest destiny to control Eastern Europe, as well as east Asia. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been invading their rightful lands, whether it is Poland or the Baltic States.
They knew that a Hillary Clinton administration would have continued to tell them no, and likely would have continued to remain hostile to their goals. The early attempt of a reset with Russia early in the Obama administration failed at the Maidan uprising in the Ukraine. For that, Moscow never quite forgave Clinton. They also never quite forgave Obama, and the sanctions that now threaten their economy started to take form there.
Putin wants to remake the world, and took a chance on Trump. Nor was the United States the first, nor will be the last, attempt to remake the world away from democracy, or liberal values. There is a deep sense that for Russia this is existential, or at least to the current form that the Russian government has taken. They agree with Bannon though. They want a more stable, chiefly conservative and Judeo-Christian society that rejects the liberal values of the last three centuries,
With the events of the last 24 hours, perhaps this goal of submerging the United States at the highest of levels has failed. We would not bet on it. There is a war of sorts happening in the shadows. None will give up that easily.
What Russia wants is clear.
- The end of crippling economic sanctions
- The recognition of their historic area of influence.
- The weakening of NATO and the liberal order that emerged out of World War Two
- A new world order, that is stable and favors the Russian Federation.
What is also clear is that at this point, if indeed they invested heavily into trying to get a friendly group to DC, that this operation has blown in their faces. With Flynn we might be seeing the first of a series of confrontations that will not end in their favor. Trump might even turn away from Russia to weaken the criticism that he is working for Putin. Yes, he wanted better relations with the Russians, but at this point all the president’s men do point towards Moscow’s interests being ahead of American interests, and that might be a problem.
There is more, the three week presidency of Donald Trump might be already still born. This is not something that the Kremlin wants, especially if fingers start to point in their general direction. The only saving grace they have is that so far, the United States Congress, controlled by Republicans, has almost no appetite to investigate this. We must ask why? And whether some in the leadership in Congress are also compromised.
If so, we might have been the target of a very sophisticated intelligence operation, that will end up weakening the United States. The irony that this is happening under Republican control, when they were the ultimate cold warriors, is one that is both scary and delicious. So ultimately, will Republicans who control the congress put their country ahead of their party?