Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Stitching Up The Trump Russia Connection

Clearing Up The Fog
Trump has intentionally confused the voters.
Don't be confused.

We are familiar with the "drip, drip, drip" process of revealing complicated government maneuvers which emerge on a day by day time schedule. The labyrinthine opacity of the hyper active Trump Presidency as it careens through one Constitutional scandal after another produces a chaotic image which -- although apparently necessary to constantly confound the Trump base -- presents an image of drag racing through an exploding fireworks factory to everyone else.

Among all the daily outrages we must remember that Donald Trump is now engulfed in the process of reimbursing the Russians for all the great work they did to get him elected. The bill has become due and payable.

All the rest of this "stuff" amounts to nothing more than a series of high speed distractions to delay the inevitable, final, crushing revelations about his Russia ties long enough for him to make good on his debt. Russian oligarchs such as Vladimir Putin can be, well, quite demanding.

So, maintaining a clear understanding of just what final product all these "threads" are being "woven" into is critically important if we are to somehow resurrect the democracy. In this matter the work of the Democratic Congressman from the 15th District of California can really help clear up the confusion.

Eric Swalwell sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Judiciary Committee. [He has previously been a member of the Committee on Homeland Security and the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. You can visit the original article on his Congressional web site at]

A Recap Of Trump's Russian Connection

Despite Russia’s harmful national interests against the U.S., and its human rights violations around the world, President Trump and his team are directly and indirectly tied to Russia.

Throughout the 2016 presidential election, President Trump not only refused to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin, but was even friendly and accommodating in his remarks. In his own words, President Trump called President Putin “highly respected." More recently, President Trump put the U.S. on equal moral footing with Russia when responding to Bill O’Reilly’s question about Putin being a "killer," saying "We've got a lot of killers... you think our country's so innocent?" This is absolutely false moral equivalence, and unheard of for the President of the United States to insult and demean the country he leads.

President Trump has harshly criticized NATO, and exclaimed that only the NATO allies that paid equally to the alliance deserved protection from the United States. Though these remarks were softened by British Prime Minister Theresa May, who claims that President Trump fully supports the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), it's still unclear how supportive he will be of NATO allies like the Baltic states in light of his relationship with Russia.

President Trump has also surrounded himself with people who do business with and are sympathetic to Russia. The New York Times reported that members of Trump’s 2016 campaign and other Trump associates had frequent contact with senior Russian intelligence officials throughout the campaign. In addition to these questionable communications, here are a few other associates with ties to Moscow:

  • Michael Flynn: President Trump’s former National Security Advisor, was asked to resign just weeks after he was sworn in. His resignation came after it leaked that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with Russian officials, specifically Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak, before President Trump’s inauguration. In these communications, Flynn discussed sanctions imposed by the Obama administration on Russia – while President Obama was still in office. Earlier last year, he stated that the U.S. needs to respect that “Russia has its own national security strategy, and we have to try to figure out: How do we combine the United States’ national security strategy along with Russia’s national security strategy,” raising troubling questions. In 2015, Flynn delivered remarks at a Moscow gala honoring RT, Russia’s propaganda arm, where he was seated next to Putin. Flynn was paid for this speech by RT, and did not correctly reportthe payment, thus concealing payment from a foreign government, and possibly violating the law in the meantime. Flynn continued to appear on RT as a foreign policy analyst. 
  • Jeff Sessions: Sessions, President Trump’s Attorney General, had two conversations with Ambassador Kislyak during the 2016 presidential election. However, during later confirmation hearings, he claimed that he “did not have communications with the Russians” when prompted by Senator Al Franken. Once reports of his meetings with Kislyak surfaced, Sessions recused himself from any investigation into Russia’s interference in our 2016 presidential election. Many officials are continuing to call for his resignation.
  • Rex Tillerson: Tillerson, President Trump’s Secretary of State, worked on energy projects in Russia for two decades during his career at Exxon. He has publicly described his “very close relationship” with President Putin and was awarded Russia’s Order of Friendship in 2013, the highest state honor possible for a foreigner.
  • Jared Kushner: Along with Michael Flynn, Kushner met with Ambassador Kislyak during the Presidential transition. Kushner is President Trump’s son-in-law and current Senior Advisor.
  • Donald Trump, Jr.: Trump, Jr., President Trump’s son, met with Fabien Baussart, a leader of a Syrian opposition group backed by the Russian government, and others about how the U.S. could work with Russia on the Syrian conflict weeks before Donald Trump was elected President. He has also been quoted saying that his father’s businesses “see a lot of money pouring in from Russia”, and that he had visited Russia on business over a half-dozen times.
  • Paul Manafort: Manafort, who has business connections to Russia and Ukraine, was hired as Trump’s campaign manager in March 2016. He then resigned in August of the same year, after reports surfaced that suggested he had received $12.7 million from Victor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s pro-Russia former president. 
  • Carter Page: Page, hired as a foreign policy advisor to Trump’s 2016 campaign, was known to have deep ties to Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned gas company. In a speech delivered in Moscow in July 2016, he criticized American foreign policy as being hypocritical – remarks which ultimately led to his resignation from Trump’s campaign. Before joining the campaign, he was a businessman “of no particular renown” working in the Moscow branch of Merrill Lynch before creating his own consulting agency. Previously, Trump identified Page as one of a small group of advisors helping to craft his foreign policy platform during the campaign. However, President Trump’s staff now claims that “Carter Page is an individual who the [then] president-elect does not know.”
  • Tevfik Arif: Arif, who founded Bayrock, a real estate group known to have many deals with Trump, had a 17-year career in the Soviet Ministry of Commerce and Trade.
  • Roger Stone: Stone, a former advisor to Trump, had back channel conversations with Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, which is the organization that published the DNC leaks and Podesta emails during the 2016 elections.
  • Felix Sater: Sater, formerly a senior advisor to the Trump Organization, is a Russian-born Bayrock associate with extensive involvement in organized crime.
  • Alex Shnaider: Born in Russia, Shnaider co-financed a real estate project with Trump. Shnaider’s father-in-law, Boris J. Birshtein, was a close business associate of Sergei Mikhaylov, the head of one of the largest branches of the Russian mob.
In addition to these ties, it appears that Trump and his team are conscious of their guilt. In late February 2017, CNN reported that “the FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign.” This request may be a violation of procedures that limits communications between the White House and FBI on pending investigations.

Why is America’s leader and his team so close to Russia? This is either due to poor judgement or a deeper personal, financial, or political link between President Trump and Russia. It is not normal for the leader of our country to be so extensively tied to a foreign government that has sought to undermine democracies across the globe, and connections like these should be concerning to American citizens everywhere.

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