Kushner Investigation

I don’t know what is wrong with Jared Kushner talking to Soviet diplomats about opening a secret channel of communications between the US and Russia. You might question the political wisdom of such an arrangement, but I don’t see what is illegal about it.

I see the potential criminality of Gen. Michael Flynn’s taking payments from the Russians, especially his not reporting the payments to the Pentagon. I see a lot of smoke indicating the possibility of criminal activity surrounding Paul Manafort, who has been a paid consultant to a number of unsavory individuals and organizations connected to the Russians and the Ukrainians. However, both of these potentially criminal actions are outside of those individuals’ activities directly connected to the Trump campaign. It is as if Trump had hired a thief to work in his campaign. If that thief did not steal while he was working for Trump, then Trump might be guilty of poor judgment for hiring him, but that’s all. There is no criminal liability attached to the campaign itself.

I think the liberal press is trying to create some kind of guilt by association, by talking about the innuendo involving people in the campaign. It is as if they were talking about someone going to a bar, and thereby trying to create the impression that he is a drunkard, just because he went to a bar after work.

Your business is not criminally liable because one of your employees set his neighbor’s house on fire. Again, you can be criticized for employing an unsavory character, but that does not make you a criminal or your business a criminal activity. As usual in Washington, if there was some criminal act involved in trying to cover up the associate’s criminality in order to avoid bad publicity, then that coverup might be criminal, but not the original act itself. But that coverup would have to be criminal in itself, not just poor judgment.

In fact, I think much of the ado about Russia is an attempt by the liberal press to create some kind of implicit guilt for something that is not a crime. Liking the Russians may be a poor political judgment, but it does not appear to me to be a crime. The Democrats are trying to revive the hatred of the old Soviet Union from the bad old Cold War days. Russia is not the Soviet Union. The Democrats make the Russians look like some huge threat, but from the stories in the New York Times and Washington Post, the Russians look pretty incompetent. We seem to see every cable that the Russian ambassador sends to Moscow. Civilian Russian hackers may be pretty good, but the FSB security people seem like rank amateurs. Their codes can be broken easily. It’s like American breaking the German’s Enigma code in World War II, but in that case the intelligence services managed to keep it a secret. It was not headlined on the front pages of newspapers. America’s intelligence services can break codes, but they can’t keep a secret.

I worry that some elements of the intelligence community have gone rogue and are more loyal to the Democratic Party than to the US Constitution, which they took an oath to uphold.

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NYT and Wash Post Leaks

The New York Times ran a front page article defending its decision to print leaked intelligence about the Manchester bombing from the British, which aided the terrorists by giving details of the British investigation.   The NYT put getting a scoop ahead of protecting the nation from terrorist attacks. The NYT put getting a scoop ahead of protecting the nation from terrorist attacks.  

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/25/world/europe/manchester-bombing-leaks-donald-trump.html

The Washington Post printed leaked intercepted communications between the Russian ambassador in Washington and the Kremlin in Moscow.  I don’t know how the ambassador communicated with Moscow, but the ambassador does, and he will know not to use the same channel again unless he wants to give the information to the US. The article may have revealed that we have broken Russian codes that they did not know we had broken.  

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/russian-ambassador-told-moscow-that-kushner-wanted-secret-communications-channel-with-kremlin/2017/05/26/520a14b4-422d-11e7-9869-bac8b446820a_story.html

Neither newspaper seems concerned about damaging US national security either vis-a-vis the terrorists or Russia.  It appears that whoever is leaking information to the press is less concerned about US national security than about other issues, like getting rid of Trump.  

The inability of the Russian government to keep a secret makes the Russian spy agency, the FSB, look like a joke.  The Russian ambassador, Kislyak, looks like a fool, an incompetent nincompoop. If Putin had some plan to get an inside track with the new administration, his team botched it horribly.  The Russians look like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight.  

Trump Shares Intel with Russians, Jeff Bezos Sides with Terrorists against Trump

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The commentariat has gone crazy screaming about Trump’s disclosing some intelligence information to the Russians at a meeting in the oval office, first reported by the Washington Post.  Trump may have inadvertently disclosed this information, whatever it was about ISIS bombs, but whoever leaked his faux pas to the Washington Post did much more damage than Trump did.  There is no indication that Trump told the Russians his same intel source was reporting on Syria, but the Washington Post did.  The Washington Post headline could have read, “America has a source in ISIS and Syria, kill it.”  Whoever leaked it clearly was more interested in damaging Trump than protecting the source.  It’s sad that this unpatriotic source is so deeply involved in intelligence matters.  It’s time for major firings in the intelligence community, which has gone rogue.  From the Post story, it seems likely that the source is connected to Tom Bossert, who called CIA and NSA after the meeting.

America frequently shares intelligence information with other countries.  It has now come out that the source of the intelligence was Israel.  Since it seems unlikely that there is a Jewish mole inside ISIS, it seems more like that the information is acquired by some technical means.  It may be that CIA or NSA, or whoever was responsible this source in the US, did not give permission to disclose the information to the Russians, but putting it on the front page of the Post did much more damage than Trump’s disclosure.  First, the Russians may not have been aware that this was sensitive information, and may not have paid much attention to it.  They may have thought that the Americans have many sources in ISIS, and thus would not have thought this information pointed to only one source.  Finally, the Russians may have honored the confidentiality of the discussion they had with Trump and may not have ordered Russian agents to destroy this now-marked ISUS source.  But thanks to Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post, everybody, including ISIS knows about it.  However, the real villain is whoever leaked the information to the Post.  It is someone who is willing to sacrifice an intelligence source in order to help bring down Donald Trump.

This Post’s intelligence community source probably thinks he is doing God’s work, but I don’t think rebellion within the government is the way to go.  The effort to bring Trump down should stick to legal methods.  It’s basically up to Congress to bring articles of impeachment, or the administration’s cabinet to declare him mentally or physically unable to perform his job as President.  In addition, this open rebellion and disloyalty by the intelligence community adds to public confusion about what’s going on in Washington.

Watching CNN’s Brooke Baldwin interview Amb. Tom Pickering about this was amusing.  She said to Pickering (who was Ambassador to Russia) something like, “You’ve been a room with Russians before,” as if that were something extremely dangerous.  Pickering laughed and replied something like, “I’ve spent days in rooms with Russians.”  Baldwin’s fear of Russians was palpable, as if you could die by touching one.  This baseless fear seems to have infected much of the media.  I hope the American military is not as afraid of the Russians as much as the media is.  Russians are not mentally and physically indestructible giants, but American cowardice. Like Baldwin’s, will make them look like that.

 

Firing Comey

President Trump lost me when he fired FBI Director James Comey.  Comey may have made some mistakes, but he was put in an impossible position when both parties nominated deeply flawed candidates who had potentially carried out criminal acts.  I don’t know that Clinton’s misuse of a private server for government business was so bad, but she did not cooperate with the FBI investigation, raising questions about whether there was something more serious that she refused to disclose.   It’s possible that some of the emails dealt with personal financial gain from her official position, or that they illegally disclosed highly classified information available on her server to anyone with simple hacking skills.

Trump may have some justification for calling Comey a “showboat” and for not strictly following FBI guidelines when discussing Hillary Clinton’s server case last year, but Comey is a good man who was put in an almost impossible position during the campaign by the accusations about both candidates.  I trust Comey more than I trust Trump.  At the very least, Trump should have personally informed Comey that he was firing him, rather than having Comey learn about it from a TV showing news behind him as he was speaking to FBI agents.  It was cowardly not to tell Comey face to face.

Firing Comey has to intimidate FBI agents working on the case, no matter what the FBI says.  Whether or not it is actually true, the appearance is that Comey was fired because he was too committed to finding the truth about the connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.  FBI agents have to be worried that if they find a “smoking gun” it will be the end of their careers, as it was for Comey.

The New Yorker ran a long article about two ways to remove Trump from the Presidency, impeachment or the 25th Amendment.  For impeachment, he would have had to have committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”  The 25th Amendment allows removal of the President when there is an official finding that he “is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”  Trump’s firing of Comey does not appear to have triggered either of these processes.  He apparently had the right to fire Comey, and while doing so showed poor judgment, it does not by itself show that he is unable to discharge the powers of his office.

No doubt Democrats will continue to accumulate evidence that either of these processes could be triggered against Trump.  The FBI investigation and the Senate and House investigations may turn up evidence that could be used against him.  Of course either method is as much political as it is legal, and the ultimate success or failure would depend on Trump’s popularity and his support in the House and Senate.  If the Democrats pick up enough seats in the next election to give them a majority, the chances of removing him will increase.

In any case, Trump is clearly overloading the political system.  He apparently enjoys chaos, but the political system is not set up to deal with this much chaos at once.  For the sake of the nation, Trump needs to calm down.  There may be crises that require immediate, complex action, but this was not one of them.  Trump should have laid the groundwork for firing Comey, rather than surprising everyone, even his own Vice President, and he should have had a replacement vetted and in line to replace Comey.  Failing to do that was poor leadership.

Rice on Russian Election Hacking

On Morning Joe this morning Condi Rice (at about 14 minutes in) said Putin is probably pleased with all the chaos that his hacking has unleashed, because it has caused people to question the strength of American democracy.  He is happy that his actions are tearing apart our democratic system.  He wants to sow doubt about the legitimacy of US elections.  She thinks we should stress that we have confidence is our electoral system.  She says we should not jump to the conclusion that Putin wanted to elect Trump.  Rather she thinks that he just wanted to discredit our political system.    (Part 2 of Rice interview.)

I think she has a good point.  It is arguable that the Democrats are destroying democracy in order to save it, like the old aphorism that in Vietnam, American troops destroyed a village in order to save it.

Morning Joe also discussed Ted Cruz’ questioning of Sally Yates regarding her refusal to defend Trump’s immigration order.  They thought she destroyed Cruz.  She had a good point that there were conflicting statutes, the one Cruz cited which seemed to support Trumps order, and the statute Yates cited that seemed to discredit it, because it discriminated on racial or religious grounds.  But then she went on to undermine her own statutory argument.  She says that the executive order was unconstitutional.  I don’t think the Constitution grants any right to a non-resident alien physically located outside of the US.  Thus, she may have a statutory argument, but not a Constitutional one, which she said was the basis for her action.  Even on the statutory argument, she relies on statements Trump made while campaigning.  I think using those statements is unprecedented in statutory interpretation.  It is an issue the Supreme Court should (and may) decide.  I would argue that to invalidate the order, opponents should find some basis from religious discrimination in official conduct of the Trump administration while in office.  I don’t think that has been shown so far.

Video of Yates’ statement:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2017/05/09/sally-yates-and-ted-cruz-go-head-to-head-trumps-travel-ban/314018001/