Monday, May 15, 2017

Another Russia Connection?

Another day, another bombshell involving our dictator apprentice and Russia.  The Washington Post: "President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State."

“This is code-word information,” said a U.S. official familiar with the matter, using terminology that refers to one of the highest classification levels used by American spy agencies. Trump “revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies.”

The Washington Post broke the story but the New York Times verified it independently in this way: "President Trump boasted about highly classified intelligence in a meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador last week, providing details that could expose the source of the information and the manner in which it was collected, a current and a former American government official said Monday."

Many other media outlets repeated the story, either not believing White House denials (since the regime lies so often) or seeing through more credible non-denial denials that dispute what the story did not assert.

How did these officials know, if they weren't necessarily in the room?  The Times story notes: "It was only after the meeting, when notes on the discussion were circulated among National Security Council officials, that it was flagged as too sensitive to be shared, even among many American officials, the former official said."

As these stories indicate, it's not an actual crime for our dictator apprentice to instantly de-classify something, but it compromises both the allied government that provided the information and their sources within the Islamic State.  And as another story says bluntly, it may get people killed.

And of course, he gave it to Russia--to a couple of Russian officials already implicated in the whole Russia Connection series of investigations.  He gave it in a meeting in which American media was kept out completely but Russian media got in to snap the pictures--of the incumbent grinning and shaking hands with the Russians, after he conspicuously refused to shake hands with the prime minister of Germany, officially a close ally.

If you're looking for a mega-conspiracy, try this one: a near-certain outcome of this violation of intelligence-sharing among nations is that fewer nations will share what they know about, for instance, terrorist plots underway.  Such intelligence led to the US foiling an unknown number of plots on America during the Obama administration, for instance.  So this makes a successful terrorist plot more likely. And what is the one thing that is all but guaranteed to galvanize the country behind the perhaps no longer-apprentice dictator?

Anyway, this story is just beginning to create a firestorm in Washington, though these things do tend to burn themselves out pretty quickly in the news cycle.  Repercussions currently rumbling through the intelligence agencies and military, as well as within allied governments and maybe even (who knows?) the US Congress, can only be imagined.  But they are likely to be longer lived.

Yet once again the actual political impact will depend on public reaction, particularly from Republican voters.  Today I came across another story that may help explain why the spectre of a US leader cozying up to and perhaps colluding with America's most persistent adversary for the past 70 years--the dreaded enemy and pervasive bogeyman of the Cold War--has not yet impressed Rs very much, let alone revolted them.

In what would seem to be a completely unrelated story, several news outlets including People reported:  "Torch-wielding protesters, including a prominent white nationalist, rallied around a statue of Confederacy leader Robert E. Lee slated for removal and chanted racist slogans in Charlottesville, Virginia, Saturday night."

As reported by People, the Washington Post and others, those slogans included the Nazi slogan "Blood and soil" and--strikingly--"Russia is our friend."

The controversy is ostensibly over the planned removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.  The Mayor of Charlottesville condemned this brief but vivid protest, noted the KKK implication of the torches as meant to intimidate black citizens, and said "such intolerance is not welcome here."  To prove his point, an even larger counter-demonstration was held the next night.

But why "Russia is our friend?"  Another story, in the Intercept, suggests this:"The pro-Russia chanting reflects the high regard many American white supremacists have for blond, blue-eyed Slavs."

Multiple intelligence agencies in the US and in other countries agree that the Russian government attempted to interfere and did interfere in the 2016 US elections, against Hillary Clinton and in favor of the electoral victor.  The connections and perhaps cooperation and collusion between Russia and R campaign officials are being investigated, though no one knows how thoroughly or for how long.  But when all is said and done, it seems likely that the connection began with business deals, likely in violation of a number of US laws.

So the origins of the connections on this level are likely to be financial and political opportunism.  But beyond a general identification with the incumbent, could his support, particularly his repeated embracing of Putin and Russia from the campaign forward, be resonating on another level with a substantial number of his voters?

Although there is clearly at least one white supremacist working in this White House, declared white supremacists may be a small part of the Republican party leadership.  Many Republican voters would likely dislike the designation.  Yet it seems that various versions of white supremacy loom large in the Republican shadow--that dark and powerful area in the unconscious.  Denying it to themselves, and of course denying the unconscious itself, simply adds to its power.
At this point, this particular Russian connection is a hypothesis suggested by this one event.  But if it is true, our dictator apprentice's praise for Russia could be yet another dog whistle heard within the twisted and ultimately racist subcultures that together have become the Republican Party, officially running the US government.

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