Christian Humanism

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Subversion and Treason

My evening routine usually includes watching Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, one of the more interesting,  insightful  and provocative political commentators on television.  Last week Rachel reported that she and other observers in the West had been looking for some signs in Russia that might hint at confirmation of the U.S. intelligence report last December that unequivocally stated not only was Russia behind the hacks but the hacks were ordered by Putin and the distribution of the resulting  information that was detrimental to Hillary Clinton and helpful to Donald Trump was specifically directed by Putin. 

They found the smoking gun.  News sources inside Russia reported that Russian police entered a routine meeting of the security service’s cyber security unit, arrested and dragged out one of its top agents from the meeting and subsequently charged him with treason.  Later an official of the counter intelligence unit disappeared from his position.  Rachel concluded with good reason that the Russian actions confirmed that the Russians had been behind the hack and that Putin was now eliminating the agent who leaked Putin’s involvement to the former British intelligence agent who had assembled the dossier about the hacking and provided it to U.S. officials.

I think the conclusion should go beyond the obvious, that we now have pretty clear circumstantial evidence that Putin ordered and directed interference in the U.S. electoral process to help a candidate favorable to his strategic objectives.  We also have pretty good evidence that not only did Donald Trump and his campaign officials have substantial business and personal ties with Russia and with Putin, but that Trump and his senior advisors were aware of Russian interference but had regular contacts with Russian officials prior to and subsequent to the election. 

There are implications that go beyond the election.  Trump and his cronies have indicated their support for Russian interference in the Ukraine and for removal of sanctions imposed on Russia by the international community.  They have also contended (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) that the Russians did not do the hacking and the release of political information damaging to Hillary Clinton.

Isn’t it reasonable to conclude that Trump and some of his immediate devotees and supporters are knowingly supporting a foreign power’s interference in our internal affairs and subverting our foreign policy to assist an enemy of the United States?  Isn’t that subversive activity? Isn’t that precisely the definition of treason?

Here is a recapitulation of facts that have been reported widely in the press and assembled from multiple sources and do not appear to be in contention.

Mr. Trump, and several persons close to him who serve as official or unofficial advisors, personal friends and nominees for Cabinet positions are also friends, advisors to, business associates of, or lobbyists for Russia, Russian business entities, Vladimir Putin or his business associates, or others with power and interests in Russia.

A few examples:  

Donald Trump has business relationships with Russian billionaires including Aras Agalarov and other Russian oligarchs including some members of Russian crime families and Russian banks.  Trump has bragged about Russians being the biggest investors in his properties.  He is a partner of the Bayrock Group, an entity owned by wealthy Russian emigres to the U.S. 

Trump has frequently praised Putin for running a strong government and has urged stronger ties to Russia (all the while ignoring the fact that Russia is a long standing enemy of the US who wants to weaken NATO’s resistance to Putin’s seizure of the Crimea from its neighbor Ukraine, for which the US and its European allies have imposed sanctions on Russia).

Donald Trump, Jr., participated in a conference in Paris in October 2016 at which the topic was building closer ties to Russia and Bashar al-Assad of Syria, and has publicly stated his support of the position of the Russians and the Syrian dictator, contrary to the U.S. position to support the rebels against al-Assad and his brutal oppressive regime. 

Long-time Trump associate Paul Manafort, his campaign manager until his substantial business ties to Russia became a public embarrassment, was a key advisor to Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine's former president, an ally of Putin in the takeover of the Crimea, now residing in Moscow.  

Carter Page, a senior advisor to the Trump campaign, spent years in Moscow where he ran the Merrill Lynch office.

General Michael Flynn, an advisor to the campaign and now National Security Advisor, has been a paid spokesman for Russian propaganda network RT, is an outspoken supporter of Russia and closer US-Russia ties, and has socialized with Vladimir Putin.  

Rex Tillerson, formerly President of Exxon Mobil and a personal friend of Vladimir Putin, is now Trump’s Secretary of State.  Exxon has billions of dollars of business deals in Russia that have been halted as a result of the sanctions on Russia, and Mr. Tillerson has lobbied against the sanctions on Russia.  Does anyone seriously think that Tillerson is not going to do what he can to have the sanctions removed to benefit his friends and associates at Exxon Mobil?

Trump has also nominated Wilbur Ross, a reported business associate of Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian billionaire oligarch and Putin ally, to be Commerce Secretary.

However the person we should be most concerned about with respect to subversion of the national interests of the U.S. is “the man behind the throne”—Steve Bannon, former editor of Breitbart News, a flame-throwing ultra right wing periodical that traffics in white nationalism, racism, and conspiracy theories.  Bannon has been described by some who know him as “America’s Rasputin.”  He is a disciple of Lenin and of the modern Russian advisor to Putin, Aleksander Dugin, a political theorist and fascist.  Bannon is an advocate of the destruction of the political class of Western society who has made no secret of his objective in destroying the Republican and Democratic parties.  He seems to have made a good start.

The subversion of the United States is underway.  Its destruction as a major power is being engineered from the top.   Half the nation seems to be in shock and unable to function.  The other half seems to be giddy with the delusion of power and too drunk to realize what is going on is different than the bill of goods it was sold during the election.

Update February 5, 2017: 

[1] Trump has removed sanctions on Russian intelligence agencies imposed on Russia by Obama in response to the hack of the Democrat Party.  It has been widely reported that a notice on the Treasury Department website references elimination of the sanctions initially ordered in 2015 and extended in 2016: “All transactions and activities otherwise prohibited pursuant to Executive Order 13694…as amended by EO 13757, are authorized.”

[2] The Economist reports that on January 29, one day after Trump talked with Putin, Russian troops renewed their attacks in Ukraine.  After the attack, the American ambassador to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said that the attack was by both Russian troops and separatist forces.  Under the Obama administration there were immediate condemnations of the Russian incursions.  The Trump administration only said it was deeply concerned about fighting in the Ukraine but did not blame Russia.  There is widespread fear in Europe that this is a worrisome sign that Trump is too cozy with Russia and intends to further eliminate sanctions so that U.S. businesses can once again do business with Russia. 

The Economist quotes a Russian spokesman on Trump’s lack of condemnation: “Washington does put the blame on the [separatist] republics, does not express support for Kiev and does not say a word about Russia’s role,” Rossiiskaia Gazeta, the official government newspaper, wrote jubilantly.
In an interview with Bill O’Reilly of Fox News scheduled to be aired prior to the Super Bowl later today, Trump declined to be critical of Putin, saying he admires him.  When pushed by O’Reilly that Putin was a murderer, Trump responded that the U.S. is not innocent of the same behavior. 
Is there any doubt that Trump is undermining the U.S. and European policy of containing Russian aggression in his treasonous pursuit of financial and political gain for himself and his friends?

Update  February 10, 2017:

Michael Flynn, Trump’s National Security Advisor, has lied several times in interviews for the press when he said that his only talks with the Russian Ambassador were to arrange a meeting with the President for after the Inauguration.  Aware that the FBI was investigating him for possible violation of U.S. law, he is now conceding that he “might” have talked about the sanctions being lifted once Trump was in office. That is more than a violation of U.S. law, it is treason to give comfort and aid to an enemy of the U.S. See the full story in the New York Times.

Update  February 11, 2017:

Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York has introduced a Resolution of Inquiry to force a vote of Congress on Trump’s conflicts of interest, ethics violations and ties with Russia.  There are serious violations of law by Trump that need to be investigated by Congress in the interest of our nation.

Not only are Michael Flynn’s ties with Russia under investigation and his actions as national security advisor under question, but one of his top deputies has been denied a security clearance by the CIA that is necessary in order for that deputy to serve on the National Security Council.

Final Update  February 13, 2017:

Michael Flynn was forced to resign this evening.  This is the final update.  Nothing more to be said

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