“What did he know and when did he know it” is the famous reprise from Watergate. Turned out, not surprisingly, that Nixon knew all.
So now we have Watergate II. The underlying fact, slowly being revealed under mounds of obfuscation, is that Donald Trump successfully conspired with Vladimir Putin to rig the 2016 election. Certain connections do have to be inferred – Trump has not handed us the smoking gun – but the smell of cordite is in the air, truth lies dead upon the floor, and Trump is holding something behind his back.
The current, and most obvious, breach in Trump’s wall are the troubles of his National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn. See Steve Benen’s article, “The White House’s Michael Flynn problem reaches a tipping point,” Natasha Bertrand’s “The timeline of Trump’s ties with Russia lines up with allegations of conspiracy and misconduct,” and John R. Schindler’s “The Spy Revolt Against Trump Begins”. It turns out that, while Obama was still president and imposing sanctions on Russia for hacking emails to throw the election, Flynn was on the phone to the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Russia, thereafter, uncharacteristically, refused to respond to the American sanctions. The United States, for example, deported a number of Russian diplomats as persona non gratis. Russia has always responded in kind. This time Putin decided to ignore the gesture. When Flynn’s phone call was discovered, he initially denied discussing the sanctions. Now, he is not sure. The reasonable inference is that Flynn was reassuring the Russians that the American sanctions would be removed by Trump once he took office. It is difficult to concoct a different story. The phone call was made at such a sensitive time that Flynn would know that he would be suspected of making the call for that purpose if it was discovered. In short, if he had some other purpose, he would have addressed it in a different manner – through official channels – or he would have waited. It is almost certainly the case that American intelligence intercepted the call, and the content, and decided to call Flynn on it.
Here’s Steve Benen’s take on this:
“It seems hard to believe that Flynn, one of Trump’s closest advisors, had multiple communications with Russia, but he did so without any guidance or instructions from his boss, who at the time was the incoming president of the United States. Moreover, if evidence emerges that Flynn was acting on Trump’s orders, this scandal is going to take an even more dramatic turn.
Is there some kind of potentially incriminating tweet that should be part of the mix?
Actually, yes. On Dec. 28, President Obama took actions against Russia in response to Moscow’s role in undermining the American elections. On Dec. 29, Flynn allegedly had multiple conversations with the Russian ambassador, including a chat about the sanctions. On Dec. 30, Vladimir Putin announced he wouldn’t retaliate in kind, prompting Trump to hail the Russian president’s “great move,” adding, “I always knew he was very smart!” (Trump pinned the tweet so it would be the first thing readers saw on his Twitter profile.) What are the chances Trump didn’t speak to Flynn about any of this as the developments unfolded?”
Congress should obviously investigate. But where else does this lead? It also leads, by inference, back to the Russian hacking of emails, Trump’s knowledge and approval of that hacking, and the further conclusion that Trump conspired with Putin, with a foreign power, to tip the election in his favor. I have noted in two prior blogs that evidence of the Russian hacking was considered conclusive by intelligence experts. See”Russian cyberspies and Putin Swing Election to Trump” and “Treason“.
In “Treason”, I also note that at a press conference on July 27, 2016 in Doral, Florida, Trump said the following of the Russians: “They probably have her 33,000 e-mails. I hope they do. They probably have her 33,000 e-mails that she lost and deleted because you’d see some beauties there. So let’s see.” And that on New Years Eve, he commented at Mar-a-Lago with respect to the Russian hacking: “And I also know things that other people don’t know and so they cannot be sure of the situation.” Trump stated that he would release more information “on Tuesday or Wednesday”, a promise he later ignored. As I noted then, these comments don’t make any sense unless Trump was aware of the Russian activities. He didn’t say “The Chinese probably have her emails”, or “The Israelis have her email” or even “Snowden”. No. He said the Russians – the ones who actually were hacking.
I won’t even bother to detail the Trump-Putin bromance, the evidence that Trump may be compromised by sex tapes, the close dealings with Tillerson and Russian oil, and Trump’s acceptance of Russian annexation of Crimea. I shouldn’t need to. Trump has a history of dealing with the Russians, he appeared to know about the hacking of the election, and his top aide was caught with his hand in the Russian cookie jar. How much disbelief are we willing to suspend?
Finally, listen to today’s WAMC Round Table discussion – February 13. About ten minutes in, the panel discusses Robert Mercer and Cambridge Analytics – the big money that underlies Breitbart and the move into the Trump White House of Bannon, and Conway. The Alt-Right has now insinuated itself into the core White House operations. Can you say Fascists?
Finally again. As I prepared to publish, I ran across this article by Michael Winship at Bill Moyer’s site entitled, “For America’s Sake, We Need Answers about Russia. Now.” Some of this duplicates my analysis. Can’t say I care. It is right on point. Don’t believe me? Read this guy.