WASHINGTON – President Trump’s national security advisor has secret talks with Russian officials about lifting sanctions and Trump discusses a top secret matter in public at his Mar-a-Lago resort.
What do these two things say about President Donald Trump?
Many things, actually, but first and foremost: he’s in it for the money.
National Security Advisor Michael Flynn “resigned” Monday after the Washington Post revealed that even before he became president, the CIA and FBI had told Trump that Flynn had been talking to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about the possibility of Trump lifting the economic sanctions against Russia that the Obama Administration had put in place.
These talks were illegal under the Logan Act, which bars U.S. citizens from interfering in diplomatic disputes with other countries.
Why did Trump wait so long to ditch Flynn? Many observers believe that Flynn would never have been forced to leave if the Post had not broken the story.
For weeks, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and others assured the press that there was nothing to the rumors about Flynn’s chats with Kislyak.
According to the Post, Spicer told reporters that Flynn and Kislyak only talked about “logistics of a post-inauguration call between Trump and Putin. That was it, plain and simple.”
But after the Post article that “alternative fact” held no water. Trump could no longer say he didn’t know what Flynn and Kislyak really talked about. So Trump, Vice President Pence and Flynn himself issued statements that Flynn had “inadvertently briefed [Pence, Trump and others] with incomplete information” about the calls.
Then Flynn “quit.”
Trump and Pence never explained why they let Flynn get away with giving them “incomplete information” after the U.S. intelligence agencies had told them the truth.
In fact, according to the Post “current and former [intelligence] officials said that they … couldn’t rule out that Flynn was acting with the knowledge of others in the transition.”
It would be incredible if the other Trumpites didn’t know what Flynn was up to, because several others – including Trump – had been talking to the Russians for a long time.
Flynn, like Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chair and Carter Page, a top foreign policy adviser to the campaign, had a long history of doing business with Russia, including representing oil companies that would rake in big bucks if the Obama sanctions were lifted.
One by one, all three stepped down as their Russian ties became public.
There has been speculation that Russia interfered with the presidential election by working with Manafort, Page and Flynn.
Maybe so. Russia, like every other nation, has its own agenda. But one thing is clear: to Trump, it’s about the money.
According to Mark Sumner writing in the Daily Kos online newsletter, “Trump was saved from bankruptcy by an infusion of Russian funds that propped up his failing business and allowed him to maintain a facade of ‘wealth.’ Afterward, Trump lied about the scope of these connections.”
Observers believe that this is one of the things Trump is trying to hide by not releasing his tax information.
However, Trump has not been able to hide the fact that for years, he has been trying to negotiate deals to build hotels and resorts in Russia.
Moreover, for years – long before running for office – Trump surrounded himself with ultra rich businessmen like Manafort, Page and Flynn who have made millions doing business with the Russian oligarchs. And as CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, Trump’s secretary of state, has made billions from deals with Russian businesses.
All of these magnates, and Trump himself, would make billions more if sanctions were lifted.
Mark Sumner reports in the Daily Kos online newsletter that the only change in the Republican Party platform that Trump demanded was the weakening of its language against Russia.
Evidentially, Trump will cross any line to make a buck, including putting the nation at risk in order to advertise one of his resorts.
Three days before Flynn’s resignation, Trump hosted a reception for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar-a-Lago golf resort.
The place was packed. Then Trump got word that North Korea had launched a ballistic missile test. According to the Washington Post, “Someone opened up a laptop, and at [Trump’s] table . . . a group of Japanese people stood around the prime minister and Donald, and they were all looking at the laptop …”
White House staffers used their own cell phones to provide illumination for reviewing top secret documents. Guests took photos and put Trump and Abe up on their Facebook pages. One Mar-a-Lago guest posted a photograph of the man who holds the president’s case containing the mechanism for launching a nuclear attack.
Why didn’t Trump retreat to a private room, especially since much of his presidential campaign was based on accusing Hillary Clinton of being lax with information security?
The only reason political commentators could think of was that Trump was eager to get on social media to encourage people to come to his resort by showing that important things happen there.
Representative Jason Chaffetz, R.–Utah, head of the House of Representatives oversight committee later sent a letter asking the White House to explain Trump’s lack of discretion in handling classified materials.
However, Chaffetz has ignored repeated requests by Democratic members of his committee to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia and Russia’s possible interference with the presidential election.
Evidentially Chaffetz feels safe questioning Trump when nothing is at stake except the security of America, but he doesn’t want to tangle with Trump when billions of dollars of Russian oil money may be involved.
However, Chaffetz has pledged to re-investigate Hillary Clinton.
Jennifer Steinhauer writes in the New York Times that “The stunning resignation of Michael T. Flynn as White House national security adviser less than a month after his appointment has emboldened congressional Democrats to demand a broader investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia and the Kremlin’s role in the 2016 election.
“But congressional Republicans, with the notable exception of Senator John McCain of Arizona, remained largely silent to the deep turmoil in Mr. Trump’s national security apparatus.”
Steinhauer did not point out that Trump flourishes in turmoil and chaos.
While the nation’s eyes have been fixed on his foreign policy misadventures, Trumpites in the Senate rammed through the confirmation of Trump’s pick for Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, a hedge fund magnate and bank manager who helped cause the Recession of 2008.
Furthermore, aside from causing chaos within the U.S. healthcare industry, weakening ties with long time U.S, allies like the United Kingdom, Australia and Mexico and angering much of the world with his illegal immigration ban, Trump has accomplished absolutely nothing so far.
As Zachary Karabell writes in Politico magazine, “There is a wide gap, a chasm even, between what the administration has said and what it has done. There have been 45 executive orders or presidential memoranda signed, which may seem like a lot but lags behind President Barack Obama’s pace. More crucially, with the notable exception of the travel ban, almost none of these orders have mandated much action or clear change of current regulations.
“So far, Trump has behaved exactly like he has throughout his previous career: he has generated intense attention and sold himself as a man of action while doing little other than promote an image of himself as someone who gets things done.”
Trump’s doing nothing is a good thing.
Without meaning to do so, Trump is helping slow down the right wing, anti-worker agendas of professional politicians like Pence, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Meanwhile, resistance to the entire Trump regime is growing. Among many, many other things, across the U.S. hundreds of thousands of people are taking to the streets to protest. Thousands more are jamming the phones and e-mail servers of elected officials. Every time Republican U.S. Representatives hold town meetings in their home districts, constituents urge them to keep their hands off the Affordable Care Act. And unions are helping to expose the anti-worker records of Trump’s picks for his cabinet.
Most important, unions, environmentalists, civil rights and civil liberty groups are uniting with advocates for women, Native Americans, the LGBTQ community and immigrants. They are all joining communities of faith and community organizations of all types to resist Trump’s attempts to take America back to the bad old days.