Friday, May 26, 2017

Secrets From Who?

The Washington Post appears to have broken two stories about the Russian connection late Friday.  A story asserts that the Senate Intelligence Committee is asking for R campaign documents.  Reuters finds an interesting detail:

"The Senate Intelligence Committee, investigating Russian meddling in U.S. 2016 election, has asked President Donald Trump's political organization to hand over all documents going back the campaign's launch in June 2015, the Washington Post reported on Friday, citing two people briefed on the request.

The letter from the Senate panel seeking all documents, emails and telephone records arrived at Trump's campaign committee last week and was addressed to its treasurer, the Post said.

This marked the first time the Trump campaign organization has been drawn into the bipartisan committee's investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election, it said."

I don't know if addressing it to the treasurer is a pro forma thing or whether it's a follow the money thing.

The other story is getting the bigger play: Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin.

This happened during the transition, between election and inauguration.  One question will be whether this channel was intended to continue operating after the inauguration.

Kushner's proposal allegedly involved using Russian "diplomatic facilities," which in reference to the Russians probably means their spy equipment.

I see a couple of immediate outcomes of this story.  First, any possible future narrative that seeks to say that members of this regime were innocents suckered and sucked into the sinister Russian web is just about blown in advance. According to this story this was Kushner's proposal, and the Russians were at first surprised and even freaked out about it.

Second and most importantly, who was not supposed to know about this secret communication, and kept from knowing what was being communicated?  The short answer so far might be everybody--including the Republican Congress.

This is more than yet another apparently amateurish, let's do it like we do in business arrangement, blithely ignoring existing institutions and all the inconvenient rules and laws that pertain.  This is a serious challenge not only to all institutions of the federal government (including intelligence agencies and the military), but to the people currently in office, including elected members of the Republican party.

If this is perceived as a slight to R congressional leadership especially, the regime may find it is out of friends on Capitol Hill.  That alone could make this story a real watershed, if another was needed.  

Update: The New York Times confirms major elements of the Post story and adds details here.  Reuters reported yet more unreported Kushner contacts during and after the campaign, and this nugget:

"FBI investigators are examining whether Russians suggested to Kushner or other Trump aides that relaxing economic sanctions would allow Russian banks to offer financing to people with ties to Trump, said the current U.S. law enforcement official."

Reuters added in summary a context that so many reports forget:

The contacts between Trump campaign associates and Russian officials during the presidential campaign coincided with what U.S. intelligence agencies concluded was a Kremlin effort through computer hacking, fake news and propaganda to boost Trump’s chances of winning the White House and damage his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

David Frum of the Atlantic underscores this political connection, the two halves of the story: the resources that Russia committed to electing our dictator apprentice (including Facebook ads revealed last week) and these Kushner contacts.

Frum also connects (as I did yesterday) the money--the Russian banks-- and the dictator apprentice's refusal to disclose finances to this political result, the takeover of the US government, with this Watergate-punned question: What does he owe and to whom does he owe it?

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