Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Tom Maertens: Trump uninterested in Russian hacking crime

By TOM MAERTENS

Tom Maertens served as National Security Council director for nonproliferation and homeland defense under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and as deputy coordinator for counter-terrorism in the State Department during and after 9/11. He is co-editor of Vox Verax.

The U.S. is in the midst of the most serious counterespionage case in its history, a conspiracy to rig an election, possibly aided by the Trump campaign. The U.S. intelligence community concluded unanimously, with high confidence, that the Russians tried to rig our elections, including hacking 21 state voter registration databases. Russia’s interference was the “crime of the century,” wrote the Washington Post.

Jeh Johnson, the last secretary of Department of Homeland Security, recently told a congressional committee that “Vladimir Putin ordered the attack on the U.S. election. Plain and simple.”

U.S. intelligence has documented at least 18 meetings and communications between Trump associates and Russian Intelligence officials prior to the inauguration. At least five Trump campaign officials have lied about those contacts, including Michael Flynn.

Flynn made five calls to the Russian ambassador in one day — the day sanctions were announced against Russia. Those calls were recorded and apparently show that Flynn was negotiating about sanctions, which would be a violation of the Logan Act.

The State Department subsequently revealed that “panicky” Trump reps came to State immediately after the inauguration and practically begged them to recommend lifting sanctions, without any reciprocal actions from Russia.

The Washington Post reported that Jared Kushner tried to set up a secret communications backchannel inside the Russian embassy between the Trump transition team and Moscow. A career officer would be fired and probably indicted for this; Kushner hasn’t even lost his security clearance.

Trump has attempted repeatedly to quash the FBI investigation into his Russia ties. In the nine times Trump met with or called Comey, it was always to discuss how the investigation into Russia’s election interference was affecting him personally, not about the security of the country.

Trump confirmed in his interview with Lester Holt that he fired Comey to stop the Russia investigation. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin thinks the case is open and shut: “Comey’s statement establishes obstruction of justice by Trump,” he writes. “Period.”

Criminal allegations against Trump are nothing new. David Remnick of the New Yorker wrote that “Over the years, Trump has been the focus of investigations on housing discrimination, bribery, corruption, dealings with the mob, misleading earnings reports, fraud, and improper campaign contributions.” He has a record of over 3,500 lawsuits, and most recently paid $25 million over his fraudulent Trump University.

The IRS fined Trump’s Taj Mahal casino $10 million for violating anti-money laundering rules 106 times in its first year and a half of operation.

Human rights lawyer Scott Horton described in the Financial Times how funds from Russian crime lords bailed Trump out after all his bank lines of credit were cancelled following his seventh bankruptcy.

Trump’s record of questionable behavior has some commentators openly using the “S” word about him, expressed directly by a Foreign Policy magazine headline: “Trump is Proving too Stupid to be President.”

Unfortunately, Trump, who has an adversarial relationship with the truth, also has the dangerous delusion that he is “like, a really smart person” and doesn’t need advice from anybody. This is the guy who incriminated himself for obstructing justice and, separately, witness tampering on national TV; who repeats stupidities from Alex Jones and Infowars; has repeatedly claimed that he “loves” Wikileaks; and has suggested the National Enquirer should get a Pulitzer. He even spilled secrets to the Russians in the Oval Office, who then publicized his boasting about undermining Comey.

Many have also used the “L” word — Liar: The Washington Post Fact Checker reported that Donald Trump has made 669 false or misleading claims during his first five months in office. It is no coincidence that he has changed party affiliation five times since 1987; his only real loyalty is to himself.

We have a president who toadies to adversaries but trashes NATO and the EU; who withdrew from global agreements he almost certainly doesn’t understand (TPP and the Paris accord); he fired the FBI director; declared the free press an enemy of the state; and openly flouts the constitutional prohibition on personally profiting from his business while in office.

As Kevin Drum wrote in Mother Jones: “Trump has been suckered by China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. He has pissed off Mexico, Canada, Germany, France, Britain, Australia, and most of our other traditional allies. Nobody knows what his policy toward Israel is. Or his policy in Afghanistan. Or his policy in Syria. Or his trade policy toward anyone.” Or human rights.

What he hasn’t done is express any interest in investigating how the Russians hacked our election.

Also published in the Mankato Free Press here.)

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