Don't Look So Surprised. It Was Just Routine Family Business
How to “de-tail” an Elephant
(No, not the GOP one)
Introduction to a very disturbing story from the Daily Beast:
Donald Trump’s eldest son held a private meeting with pro-Russian diplomats, businessmen, and politicians in Paris last month, the Wall Street Journal reports,
According to people who took part in the October 11 meetings, the cabal focused on finding a way to cooperate with the Russian government to end the ongoing war in Syria. The event was held at the Ritz Paris, included 30 attendees, and was hosted by a French think tank whose founder’s wife is a Syrian-born leader of a Syrian opposition group endorsed by the Kremlin.
The WSJ raised this critical point and folks, this is serious stuff despite your political view and party loyalties:
“The disclosure of a meeting between the younger Mr. Trump and pro-Russia figures — even if not Russian government officials — poses new questions about contacts between the president-elect, his family and foreign powers. It is also likely to heighten focus on the elder Mr. Trump’s stated desire to cooperate with the Kremlin once in office.”
The whole article is here.
WASHINGTON (The AP via the WSJ): Donald Trump’s eldest son, emerging as a potential envoy for the president-elect, held private discussions with diplomats, businessmen and politicians in Paris last month that focused in part on finding a way to cooperate with Russia to end the war in Syria, according to people who took part in the meetings.
Thirty people, including Donald Trump Jr., attended the Oct. 11 event at the Ritz Paris, which was hosted by a French think tank. The founder of the think tank, Fabien Baussart, and his wife, Randa Kassis, have worked closely with Russia to try to end the conflict. Ms. Kassis, who was born in Syria, is a leader of a Syrian opposition group endorsed by the Kremlin. The group wants a political transition in Syria — but in cooperation with President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow’s close ally.
The disclosure of a meeting between the younger Mr. Trump and pro-Russia figures — even if not Russian government officials — poses new questions about contacts between the president-elect, his family and foreign powers. It is also likely to heighten focus on the elder Mr. Trump’s stated desire to cooperate with the Kremlin once in office.
In an interview, Ms. Kassis said she pressed the younger Mr. Trump during the meeting on the importance of cooperating with the Russians in the Middle East. “We have to be realistic. Who’s on the ground in Syria? Not the U.S., not France,” Ms. Kassis said from Moscow. “Without Russia, we can’t have any solution in Syria.” Of the president-elect’s son, she said: “I think he’s very pragmatic and is flexible.” Ms. Kassis later posted comments on her Facebook page about the meeting:
“[Syria’s] opposition got hope that [the] political process will move forward and Russia and the United States will reach accord on the issue of the Syrian crisis, because of Trump’s victory,” she wrote. “Such hope and belief is the result of my personal meeting with Donald Trump junior in Paris in October.”
She added on Facebook that, through the talks with Donald Trump Jr., she believed she succeeded in conveying to the elder Mr. Trump “the idea of how we can cooperate together.”
NOW THE BULLSHIT FROM HERE:
Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to the president-elect, confirmed the younger Mr. Trump’s attendance at the event in Paris. But she played down his direct contact with Ms. Kassis saying in an email:
“Don was addressing a roundtable in Paris, and she was present for that talk and at a group dinner for 30 people. This event featured a number of opinion leaders from all over the world who were interested in the U.S. elections.”
Trump repeatedly has stressed his desire to work closely with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Syria and to coordinate in fighting the Islamic State terrorist group. His position on Russia emerged as a campaign issue, and Mrs. Clinton called the Republican a “puppet” of Mr. Putin which Trump denied that accusation.
The Obama administration said it believed the Russian government hacked the emails of the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee in a bid to aid Trump, which Moscow denied, and despite a formal U.S. intelligence assessment accusing the Russians, Trump maintained that the U.S. didn’t know who the hackers were. Additionally, Trump spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, denied a Russian official’s claim that there had been contact between the campaign and the Russian government.
The Obama administration terminated talks with Russia over Syria last month due to a Russian-backed bombing campaign in Aleppo, the country’s largest city.
The younger Mr. Trump, the executive vice president of The Trump Organization, was a top official in his father’s campaign. Transition officials say none of the Trump children will have formal positions in the new administration, but haven’t ruled out informal roles for them.
Ivanka Trump has sat in on her father’s meetings and phone calls with several world leaders since his election, including one with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The elder Mr. Trump has criticized the Obama administration for seeking to topple Mr. Assad, arguing that doing so could further strengthen Islamic State and other terrorist groups. The president-elect has argued that allying with Russia, which has deployed its air force to bolster Mr. Assad, was the best option for reducing the terrorist threat emanating from the Middle East country.
Mikhail Bogdanov, deputy head of Russia’s foreign ministry, said last week that Moscow had been reaching out to the elder Mr. Trump’s team to discuss Syria, according to Russian news agency Interfax.
Ms. Kassis, in the interview, said at the October meeting she discussed with the younger Mr. Trump the importance of promoting a secular government in Damascus. She echoed an argument made both by the Assad regime and the Russian government, saying Syria’s armed opposition — even those backed by U.S. forces — are radical Islamists.
Interfax reported that a meeting between Ms. Kassis and Mr. Bogdanov took place on Nov. 8, but the report didn’t mention the younger Mr. Trump. “Randa Kassis has played a key role in Russian efforts to bring together Assad regime elements and opposition members acceptable to Moscow,” said Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which has been critical of Mr. Obama’s Syria policy.
Mr. Tabler has regularly talked to Russian officials about the conflict. “Such efforts have been key to Moscow’s approach to making Assad the basis for a transition in Syria.”
President Assad, in an interview last week with Portuguese television, said the elder Mr. Trump was potentially a “natural ally” in the Damascus regime’s fight against the rebel armies.
As I said, very serious stuff ... I'm sure more will fall out as we go down this line.