Tag Archives: Russian meddling

Sarcasm? Is that why POTUS ‘thanked’ Putin?

It’s becoming a throw-away line, an automatic “out” for every ridiculous statement that flies out of Donald John Trump Sr.’s mouth.

The president received a direct question the other day. A reporter asked the vacationing president what he thought of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to expel 755 U.S. diplomats. Trump’s response was to “thank” Putin for reducing the U.S. diplomatic service’s payroll.

So, with that idiotic response, the president of the United States effectively told those diplomats — and their Russian allies in the U.S. mission — that they don’t matter. He didn’t thank them publicly for their service. He didn’t say a negative word about Putin’s response to our government’s decision to impose sanctions on the Russian government over its meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Oh, no. He didn’t go there.

Did he mean what he said? White House flacks said he was being “sarcastic.” Really?

Well, where is the disclaimer from the president? Why didn’t he reveal his sarcasm in the moment? Why did he in effect send the message to our Russia mission staff that they don’t matter, that their work and their years of service to the nation is of no value?

I do not believe there was a hint of sarcasm in what Donald Trump said. I believe instead that he engaged his mouth without first thinking of the consequences that his words carry.

This is yet another disgraceful demonstration of a president who “tells it like it is.”

‘Hoax’ probe of Trump now is getting quite serious

This is a mere hunch.

When a special counsel orders an unannounced search of a home for evidence of possible crimes involving the president of the United States, then I believe we have a serious investigation under way.

Federal agents barged into the home of former Donald J. Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort. They collected information and evidence allegedly related to the probe being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The president, let us remember, has said all along that Mueller’s probe is a “witch hunt,” that it is a “hoax,” that the whole “Russia thing” matter is a creation of Democrats who are still steamed at losing the 2016 presidential election.

The search conducted two weeks at Manafort’s home suggests something quite different. It represents a potentially stunning turn in the probe into whether Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election were done in collusion with the Trump campaign.

Is there an obstruction of justice charge on its way? Might there be an actual violation of the law to be discovered?

Yes, this investigation is still in its infancy. Mueller is known as a meticulous lawyer. He has hired a crack legal team. He is a former FBI director who served under presidents of both major political parties: George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama.

Is this man capable of conducting a “hoax” investigation?

Hmmm. I, uh, don’t believe so.

Will POTUS serve out his term?

The question came to me today at lunch from a fellow I’ve known for more than two decades and who I consider to be one of the smartest men in Amarillo, Texas.

“Do you think Donald Trump is going to serve his entire term as president?” asked my friend, who’s been involved in local government for four decades.

My quick answer was “I think it’s 70-30 that he does but those odds are shrinking.” By that I mean the gap between survival and non-survival is going to become narrow as the special counsel assigned to investigate matters involving the president continues his probe.

I have not a single thing on which to base that percentage estimate, other than my gut and my proverbial trick knee.

I am watching along with millions of Americans the flailing of the president as he tries to achieve his objectives — whatever the hell they might be. The dysfunction is unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed in a presidential administration.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, meanwhile, is examining the Russia matter and his probe well might delve into other issues not related directly to whether the Russians meddled in our 2016 presidential election or whether the Trump campaign colluded with them.

Donald Trump is at the center of all this. He’s not used to this kind of scrutiny. Nor is he accustomed to being challenged at every turn by political foes or by the media.

I told my friend that every human being has his or her limits. We don’t yet know where those limits exist with Donald Trump. Does the president have a limitless capacity to suffer the indignities that governing in a complicated political system inflict on him? After all, this self-proclaimed business genius is new to this game of politics, government and public service.

My buddy is as aghast as I am, moreover, that this man even got elected in the first place. “What have we done?” he asked, obviously rhetorically.

We exchanged a few more thoughts on this totally unpleasant subject before heading back to our lives.

Bear in mind this, though, about the “prediction” I made. One is that I no longer predict seriously political outcomes. I never thought, for instance, that Hillary Clinton would run for the U.S. Senate in 2000 at the end of her husband’s two terms as president; she did.

Nor did I ever think Donald John Trump Sr. would be nominated by the Republican Party and then be elected president in 2016. He was.

Many Americans were wrong about the outcome of this past year’s election, which makes me quiver at the thought of predicting with any kind of certainty whether this clown will survive the ongoing onslaught that awaits.

Grand jury portends intensifying of probe?

Am I able to make a presumption without sounding presumptuous?

I’ll give it a shot.

Robert Mueller, the special counsel assigned to examine Russian meddling in our 2016 election, reportedly has just impaneled a grand jury to begin hearing evidence and, more than likely, call witnesses to tell the panel what they know about this matter.

Here’s my presumption: I am going to presume that Mueller’s investigation is gaining some speed and that the former FBI director just might be smelling some blood in the water around Donald J. Trump and his presidential campaign team.

Recall for a moment another grand jury that a special counsel impaneled. I refer to the panel called into duty at the behest of Kenneth Starr, who was ostensibly examining a real estate transaction involving Bill and Hillary Clinton. Then he stumbled onto something quite unexpected: a relationship that President Clinton was having with a young White House intern. He summoned the president to testify before the grand jury, which asked him about that relationship. The president didn’t tell the truth.

Bingo! Impeachment followed.

Is the past going to be a prologue for what might await the current president?

As the Wall Street Journal reports: “Grand juries are powerful investigative tools that allow prosecutors to subpoena documents, put witnesses under oath and seek indictments, if there is evidence of a crime. Legal experts said that the decision by Mr. Mueller to impanel a grand jury suggests he believes he will need to subpoena records and take testimony from witnesses.”

I believe it also suggests that Mueller might expand his probe into areas other than precisely the Russian meddling and the allegations of collusion between the Russians and the Trump presidential campaign. There might be a subpoena or two coming that deals with, say, Trump’s tax returns and assorted business connections involving Trump’s business interests and Russian government officials.

Here’s another presumption: This story is still building.

Open wide, Mr. President, and swallow this bill

Congress has just force-fed Donald J. Trump a heaping helping of his least-favorite veggie, chased down with a bitter concoction of political reality.

The president signed a bill that imposes tough new sanctions on Russia. He doesn’t like the bill. He signed it anyway, then took a series of shots at Congress for — as the president implied — undermining executive authority to conduct foreign policy.

Poor guy. What lawmakers have done is hold him more accountable for the way he deals with Russia, the nation that meddled in our 2016 presidential election.

Trump continues to remain virtually silent on the meddling matter. He has said utterly nothing in public about the harsh retaliation that Vladimir Putin recently took in response to the sanctions bill; the Russian president ordered the expulsion of 755 U.S. diplomats and foreign service staffers. Trump’s reaction? Silence, nothing.

So now we have imposed more sanctions on Russia. The president needs congressional authority to lighten them, which gets under Trump’s paper-thin skin.

He lashed out at Congress for its inability to approve a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and said he, alone, is able to negotiate better deals with foreign powers than those nincompoops on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, the probe into Russia’s meddling continues. The president needs to let that investigation proceed full throttle. If it produces nothing, then Donald Trump can crow himself hoarse. If it comes up with something, um, incriminating, then he has to deal with whatever consequences fall into his lap.

If the president isn’t going to speak out on behalf of our electoral system, then it behooves Congress to articulate a nation’s outrage. That is what lawmakers have done with this sanctions bill — and they have forced it down the president’s throat. Good for them!

POTUS and Putin: time for ‘frank’ talk

In short order, the president of the United States is going to shake hands with the president of Russia. They’ll sit down in a room and start talking about, oh, this and/or that.

Here will be the perfect opportunity for Donald J. Trump to look straight into Vladimir Putin’s steely eyes and give him holy hell for what numerous U.S. intelligence agencies have said: that Russian computer hackers sought to meddle in the U.S. presidential election this past year — and that they did so on orders from Putin himself.

Is this going to occur? Will the U.S. president have the moxie, the savvy, the guts to face down this other head of state?

And to think that such a discussion would just be a starting point in these two men’s relationship.

Of course, I am not privy to what the president will say to Putin. I am entitled, though, to offer an opinion or two on what he should say. My gut — along with my proverbial trick knee — tell me he needs to get directly to that point immediately.

History tells us that U.S.-Russian summit meetings are fraught with peril. In 1961, another rookie U.S. president traveled to Vienna to meet with the head of what then was known as the Soviet Union. Nikita Khrushchev thought he had taken the full measure of John F. Kennedy; he pushed the young president around, bullied him, threatened him.

It was reported at the time that President Kennedy made too many rookie mistakes in his first face-to-face meeting with the cantankerous Soviet leader. It turned out that the world’s leading communist made the rookie error.

Khrushchev miscalculated badly Kennedy’s resolve. The Soviets started building those missile bases the following year in Cuba. The president got word of it, huddled with his national security team, made a decision and then told the world of our reaction and what the cost would be to the Soviets if they were to launch an attack against any nation in the Western Hemisphere.

The cost? Annihilation. 

Check out JFK’s speech here:

Donald Trump isn’t prone to study history, so it’s not likely he’ll be interested in understanding that dangerous chapter.

The Russian meddling in our election, though, is on the minds of a lot of smart folks. It’s in all the papers, you know?

My hope would be for the president to talk directly and — in diplomatic parlance — “frankly” to his Russian colleague directly about what has consumed this nation since the election.

My fear is that Donald Trump will choke.

Prove me wrong, Mr. President.

Trump blames Obama for the ‘Russia thing’ … imagine that

Leave it to Kellyanne “Alternative Facts” Conway to set the record (sort of) straight on the Russian interference controversy.

It’s the fault of the Obama administration, said the president’s senior counselor/policy adviser, echoing the sentiments of her boss. Donald John Trump.

President Obama could have stopped any effort by Russian government goons to interfere with the 2016 election, but he choked, she said.

Imagine that, will ya? Blame the predecessor. Who’da thunk that would happen, ever?

That all said, I just slogged through the epic Washington Post story detailing how the terrible options the Obama administration faced when it learned — through credible intelligence — about the efforts by Russian government officials to meddle in our election. The Post called it an “assault on our democracy,” which it was.

Here’s the Post story.

Indeed, the former president and his senior staff look back now and regret not taking more forceful action than it did. Obama eventually kicked out some Russian diplomats and closed two Russian compounds as punishment for the Russians’ meddlesome ways.

He also unloaded verbally on Russian strongman/president Vladimir Putin and the country he governs, calling Russia a “weaker” country than ours and a place with nothing to sell around the world than “oil and gas and arms.” The president said Russia was unable to intimidate the United States because of the two nations’ relative strength.

Conway went on TV this morning to say: “It’s the Obama administration that was responsible for doing absolutely nothing from August to January with the knowledge that Russia was hacking into our election. They did absolutely nothing. They’re responsible for this.”

Absolutely nothing? Is that right, young lady? Not really. The Obama administration sought to weigh its options carefully, given the enormous political consequences at stake. The nation was involved in a heated, and increasingly vitriolic presidential campaign. Trump was ratcheting up the pressure on Hillary Rodham Clinton over e-mails, Benghazi and a host of other issues.

The Obama team believed — as did virtually every political analyst on Planet Earth — that Clinton was going to win the election.

Then she lost.

How should the administration have reacted to circumstances it didn’t see coming? Were they alone in their ignorance? Hardly.

I keep coming back to this point: The president and his administration have yet to issue a full-throated condemnation of what every intelligence expert has said, which is that Russia meddled in our electoral process.

The blame game won’t get to solving the problem … and oh, brother, we have a problem!