Tag Archives: Russia

No ‘fishing expeditions’? Sure thing, Sen. Cruz

Ted Cruz doesn’t want special counsel Robert Mueller to go on a “fishing expedition” in his search for answers relating to Donald J. Trump’s relationship with Russian government officials.

I now shall remind the junior U.S. Republican senator from Texas about another fishing expedition that once suited GOP members of Congress just fine. It involved Kenneth Starr’s probe into an Arkansas real estate matter; they called it Whitewater.

Starr, the special counsel appointed to look into that deal, then went on a fishing expedition of his own. He wandered far afield and then discovered that President Bill Clinton was involved in a tawdry relationship with a young White House intern.

A federal grand jury summoned the president to talk about that relationship. The president didn’t tell the panel the truth.

Boom! Congressional Republicans then had their grounds for impeaching the president. The House did it. The Senate then acquitted him.

So, you see? Fishing expeditions can turn into something consequential.

Mueller is a pro and deserves latitude in his search for the truth.

I just find it laughable that Cruz would issue a warning against Mueller, a former FBI director and a man fairly universally respected as a thorough and meticulous investigator. Indeed, Cruz called Mueller a “good and honorable man.”

One can imagine if a Democratic president faced the kind of scrutiny that is being leveled against Donald Trump. What do you suppose the Cruz Missile would say then?

I get how political consideration — and leanings — are driving the analyses of the Mueller investigation.

My own take on Robert Mueller’s probe is that if he uncovers something that is, um, illegal, he is bound by his oath to pursue it to the very end.

Hoping ISIS leader is a goner … finally!

The Russian government usually isn’t to be trusted to tell the truth about anything.

The country’s foreign ministry, though, has put out a tantalizing morsel: Russian air strikes might this past month have killed the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Before we get all a-flutter over this possibility, it’s good to ponder some elements that ought to keep us grounded.

Is the terrorist really dead?

Al-Baghdadi’s death would not mean the end of ISIS. It opens the door for another madman to step forward to take his place.

You might recall that when U.S. special forces killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011, there was dancing in front of the White House and chants of “USA! USA! USA!” Sure, we got the 9/11 mastermind, but the fight against al-Qaeda goes on.

There also have been earlier claims of al-Baghdadi’s death. The Russians have been hitting ISIS targets in Syria with air strikes and ground-based artillery. Are the Russians to be believed now? Do we hold out hope that they actually got this monstrous madman? Furthermore, are the Russians to be believed?

I guess I could remind all of us that terrorism doesn’t exist within the ranks of international organizations. “Lone wolf” terrorists lurk among us. They skulk out from under rocks. Latest example? The guy who shot the Republican lawmakers practicing for a charity baseball game, wounding several people, including the House GOP whip, Steve Scalise.

I am going to hope the Russian claim that they might have killed al-Baghdadi. I am going to retain the realism of the fight in which we are engaged against terror. The fight likely never will end.

This guy knows self-inflicted wounds

APPALACHIAN TRAIL, Va. — I sometimes amaze myself at how certain references relate immediately to other — seemingly unrelated — matters.

Our friends were driving us along a winding, rural road and one of them mentioned that we were tooling next to the Appalachian Trail.

“Oh, you mean the trail that Mark Sanford told his staff to lie about when questions arose about his whereabouts?” I said in response. “Yeah, that’s the one,” our friend answered.

We chuckled in the car as we recalled how the former South Carolina governor, and current member of Congress from that state, told his staff to put out the lie that he was “hiking the Appalachian Trail” while in fact he was in Argentina cavorting with a woman who wasn’t his wife.

That scandal didn’t harm Sanford too badly. He ended up in another public office, Congress, which contains its share of fellow rascals.

Then I mentioned that Sanford actually has spoken the truth about Donald J. Trump and the assorted difficulties in which he has become entangled. I noted that Sanford has spoken truthfully about how the president’s troubles are self-inflicted and that Trump should stop resorting to the “fake news” dodge to divert attention away from the kerfuffle that is threatening his presidency.

“Yeah,” our friend responded, “Sanford knows plenty about which he speaks.”

So he does. With that I’ll give Rep. Sanford plenty of props for saying out loud what all of his fellow Republicans ought to be declaring to the president.

Tapes, Mr. President? If you have ’em, produce ’em

Donald John Trump has turned the political tease into something of an art form.

He fired FBI Director James Comey and then blasted out a tweet that said Comey had better hope there aren’t any tape recordings of his conversations with the president.

The tweet, quite naturally, produced a crap storm of its own with pols and pundits wondering out loud if Trump was bluffing. Such “tapes,” of course, would have recorded conversations the president had with Comey regarding the FBI’s investigation into the “Russia thing” that Trump acknowledges was his reason for dismissing Comey.

The former FBI boss returned to Capitol Hill this week to testify about Russia, Trump, the 2016 election and the state of affairs at the FBI when Trump dropped the hammer on Comey, who painted quite an unflattering portrait of the president.

So, here’s the question of the day: Do you, Mr. President, have recordings of your conversations with Comey. If you do, produce them. If you don’t, then admit it was all a bluff, a hoax, a sham, a game. Tell us the truth … for once!

Mitt Romney: ahead of his time in 2012?

Mitt Romney issued a warning in 2012 that many Americans — yours truly included — derided as hopelessly out of touch.

Perhaps you’ll remember when he declared Russia to be the world’s “No. 1 geopolitical threat.” President Obama all but laughed him out of the proverbial room.

The president spoke instead of the threat presented by international terrorism. Many of us agreed with the president and not the then-Republican Party nominee who was running against him.

It well might be that Mitt was ahead of his time five years ago. Republicans in Congress are starting to echo their party’s one-time presidential standard bearer.

Sen. John McCain is one of them. Speaking to an Australian radio station, McCain said: “I think ISIS can do terrible things. But it’s the Russians who tried to destroy the fundamental of democracy and that is to change the outcome of an American election.”

It’s still to be determined just how much impact the Russians had on the 2016 electoral outcome, but they surely have succeeded in throwing the U.S. political debate into a tizzy.

Indeed, the Russians still possess a lot of nuclear weapons. They have a formidable conventional military force, which they have used in places like Ukraine and Syria.

Are the Russians the most fearsome political foe we face?

Yes, it looks that way to a lot of us — and, yes, that includes yours truly.

I regret that I doubted you, Mitt.

Trump needs to deal with hard truth about leaks

Donald Trump says the leaks that have sprung throughout the White House are the product of “fake news” and conspiracy mongers intent on destroying his presidency.

I’ll offer another take on it. The leaks just might be the product of individuals within the White House who are concerned about the direction the country is heading under the 45th president’s leadership.

Someone or several individuals are blabbing to the “enemy of the American people” media representatives who are reporting this leaked information to the public. Instead of dealing openly and publicly about the crux of the issues being reported, the president is lashing out. He is attacking the media. He is alienating himself and his inner circle even more from the media representatives assigned to report on their activities.

How can this possibly be constructive? How can it possibly end well for the president?

http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/28/trump-russia-advice-238911

Trump tweeted upon his return from Europe and the Middle East that “fake news is the enemy.” His outright dismissal of mainstream news outlets, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, suggests that these organizations are fabricating these reports. He accuses them of violating every known principle of sound journalism. By doing so, the president demonstrates time and again that he doesn’t understand the role the media play (a) in informing the public and (b) holding public officials accountable for their words and deeds.

The president returned from his overseas trip and did not conduct a press briefing. He stiffed the media seeking to ask him questions about his meetings with international leaders and, yes, about the ongoing “Russia thing” controversy with which he must deal.

No, this kind of spiteful relationship with the media cannot end well for the president.

If he keeps it up, I am prepared to predict that it will not end well. Not at all.

Jared Kushner is no RFK

I keep hearing chatter that compares Jared Kushner’s lack of experience to Robert F. Kennedy.

I must now take up the cudgel for my first political hero … and it’s not Jared Kushner.

Kushner is under investigation by the FBI and Congress for something related to his father-in-law’s 2016 presidential campaign. He allegedly had some contact with Russian government officials that might be improper, it not illegal.

One of the arguments being offered is that Kushner doesn’t have any experience with government or public policy. They note that his father-in-law, the president, got around federal anti-nepotism laws when he appointed Kushner to be a senior policy adviser in the West Wing of the White House.

It’s the RFK thing all over again, some of them insist.

Hold the phone!

President-elect John F. Kennedy picked his brother to be attorney general shortly after winning the 1960 election. JFK joked at the time that a government job would give his brother some valuable experience when he decided to go into law.

I want to make a couple of points about Robert Kennedy.

One is that he had government experience. He had served as legal counsel to a Senate committee chaired by the infamous Sen. Joe McCarthy. He also served as a legal staffer working with his brother, Sen. JFK, on  a Senate committee that looked deeply into organized crime within the labor movement.

After that, Bobby Kennedy then managed his brother’s presidential campaign. Sen. Kennedy won the presidency by a narrow popular vote and Electoral College margin over Vice President Richard Nixon.

Compared to the absence of any government exposure as it regards Kushner, RFK brought much more experience to his job as U.S. attorney general.

And, indeed, he used his Justice Department office as a bully pulpit against organized crime and in the fight to enact civil rights legislation. Oh, and he also played a significant role in heading off nuclear war with the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

With that, I shall now cease listening to any further comparison between Jared Kushner and Robert F. Kennedy.

There is no comparison to be made, except to point out how utterly unfit Kushner is to perform the duties to which he’s been assigned.

Welcome home, Mr. President; about those changes

Donald Trump and his presidential entourage have returned home from a nine-day journey abroad. It won’t be the warmest welcome he’s ever had.

The president reportedly is pondering some big White House staff changes.

I believe I’ll take the liberty — as a taxpaying, red-blooded American patriot — to offer one suggestion for the president to ponder.

Tell your son-in-law to clear out his West Wing office and stay away while he’s under investigation by the FBI.

Jared Kushner has emerged as a principal subject as the FBI and the special counsel, Robert Mueller, pursue the “Russia thing.” The young man hasn’t been accused officially of doing anything wrong. I get that. I also get that as a “person of interest,” he is being examined likely for what he knows about alleged Russian involvement in U.S. governmental matters. He’s also entitled to the presumption of innocence.

But the young man has zero government experience. He has zero public service experience. He married well, though. His wife’s father is a zillionaire real estate mogul who now happens to be the president of the United States.

Until we get to the bottom of what Kushner knows, when he knew it, what he allegedly did and whether the reporting from the Washington Post, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, NBC and CNN is bogus or if it’s for real, then he ought to step away from his myriad responsibilities.

The media have reported some extremely troublesome matters regarding Kushner. The most troubling appears to be reports that he sought to set up back-channel communications between the Russian embassy in the United States and the Kremlin, using Russian communications equipment to boot!

Holy mackerel, man!

Kushner has this strange portfolio of duties: Middle East negotiator, troubleshooter, political adviser to the president. He has no experience at any of it. I truly question what value he actually brings to the White House inner circle.

So, Mr. President, start there. Jared Kushner can find something to do that has nothing to do with running the country. That’s a job better left to those who know what they’re doing.

If Hillary needed to be ‘locked up’ over e-mails …

Let’s assume for a moment the very worst about Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to Donald J. Trump.

The Washington Post is reporting that Kushner suggested to Russian government officials that the Trump transition team set up a secret line of communication between the Russian embassy to the United States and the Kremlin.

OK, to be completely fair — the story might not be true. My sense, though, is that it’s there is something significant happening to the Trump administration.

So, if the Post is correct and Kushner was able to secure a back-channel line between the Trump team and the Kremlin — using Russian communications equipment — how does that compare with what the Trump campaign alleged about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s use of her personal e-mail server?

Do you remember the chants of “Lock her up!” coming from those Trump campaign rallies? Do you recall that disgraced former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn helped lead those chants himself?

What Kushner is reported to have sought makes Hillary’s use of personal e-mail accounts look so, so quaint.

Think of this. The Post is reporting that Kushner wanted to use Russian intelligence equipment to transmit communications between the Trump team and the highest level of government in Moscow. Did this young man have a clue that Russians monitor carefully all communications between their embassies and the Kremlin?

I guess we now can understand a good bit more clearly why the FBI had declared Kushner to be a “person of interest” in its investigation of what the president called “the Russia thing.”

The Russia thing is growing a lot of legs.

What? A back-channel phone line with Kremlin?

I know Donald Trump’s son-in-law is entitled to an innocence presumption.

Jared Kushner has now been shoved to the front row of a growing investigation into what the Trump presidential campaign may have done in connection with the Russian government.

The latest live grenade to explode deals with a report that Kushner and the Russians sought to set up a secret line through which the Trump team could communicate with the Kremlin, the seat of the Russian government in the heart of Moscow.

If it’s true — and I’ll presume that special counsel Robert Mueller will make that determination in due course — then it’s fair to ask: What would Kushner seek to keep secret from normal communications channels?

Some analysts are suggesting that this latest report might be a “game change” in the growing controversy. (I am going to refrain from calling it a “scandal” until we know a whole lot more.)

The Mueller investigation is going to determine whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election. Trump says “no.” His buddy, Russian President Vladimir Putin, says “nyet.”

If this latest revelation is a game-changer, then I’m believing that Donald J. Trump’s tenure as president is about to enter some seriously tenuous territory.