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I honestly believe with all that is going on the country with this new administration that we all need to refocus, hold any speculation, examine all the facts, and stay focused on the issue at hand and not raw rabid partisan politics which easily sidetracks everything and yes, that is the aim of many today. With that in mind, here is another excellent article from the Washington Post – my highlights shifted for emphasis to fit the blog, but the facts have not been altered — enjoy, and keep in mind what got us to this point:
1. Russia hacked the DNC email server and Wikileaks put it out.
2. Russia hacked John Podesta’s personal email (he was Hillary’s campaign manager).
3. Aggressive Russian propaganda (disinformation by its proper name) to discredit Clinton during race is what we now refer to as “Fake News” had a lot of false impact.
4. Paul Manafort’s $12.7 million payday for helping pro-Russian/Putin Ukraine candidates (he was Trump’s campaign manager – had to resign).
5. Michael Flynn, Trump’s National Security Council (NSC) Chief Adviser, had to resign for lying about his contacts with the Russians – less than a month in office.
6. Now we have Jeff Sessions (newly sworn in AG) who met with the Russian Ambassador (Sergey Ivanovich Kislyak) and did not reveal that fact during his Senate confirmation hearing.
7. The New York Times later noted that Kislyak met with Michael T. Flynn and Jared Kushner in December, 2016 to establish a line of communication with the Trump administration. (Note: Kislyak says U.S. Intelligence Agencies is a top recruiter for FSB sources and operatives).
8. Other Trump officials – campaign or otherwise involved in Russian deals dating back years that Trump has denied for a long time now – all proving to be true.
9. Donald Jr. was paid $50,000 for speech in support of Russian effort in Syria by pro-Russian/Syrian group.
(Notes: (1) Trump Jr. spoke at dinner on October 11, 2016 at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, hosted by the Center of Political and Foreign Affairs. Its president, Fabien Baussart, and his Syrian-born wife, Randa Kassis, have cooperated with Russia in its drive to end the Syrian civil war, according to U.S., European and Arab officials, and (2) in December last year, Baussart formally nominated Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Nobel Peace Prize).
(My Insert: How pathetic and ironic is that?).
10. USA Today now is reporting that two other Trump advisers, J. D. Gordon and Carter Page, spoke to Ambassador Kislyak at a diplomatic conference in connection with the RNC (July 2016).
(Note: This newly-revealed USA TODAY report further contradicts months of denials by Trump officials that the Trump campaign had contacts with officials representing the Russian government).
Now with Sessions turmoil, Mr. Trump, for the second time is the position of vouching for another of his top appointees who has been caught not telling the full truth about conversations with Moscow’s top man in Washington.
Key: Who actually has spoken with Russian officials and about what and why? What about Trump’s finances with Russia that he always denies (tax papers could help clear that up, but we won't budge yet).
Within 24 hours of story about Sessions’ undisclosed meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Sessions recused himself in a press conference trying to tamp down calls for him to resign. His problems are far from over.
He will go back before the Senate Judiciary Committee to be grilled under oath about his earlier testimony. They will want to know how Thursday morning he disclaimed the meetings and in the afternoon described Kislyak’s mood as testy when Ukraine was the discussion.
They will want to take him line by line through his testimony, pushing him to explain how he left the impression that he had no contacts with any Russians during the campaign. Even if we take Sessions at his word, which many people don’t, he still had ample opportunity to correct statements. Not only did he not correct his statement, he misled the committee, and it’s hard to conclude that was anything other than intentional. Several parts of Sessions’ story simple do not add up. For example:
1. At his Thursday news conference, he noted he had been at his job for three weeks and did meet with ethics officers saying: “In fact, on Monday of this week, we set a meeting with an eye to a final decision on this question. And on Monday, we set that meeting today. So this was a day that we planned to have a final discussion about handling this. I asked for their candid and honest opinion about what I should do about investigations, certain investigations. And my staff recommended recusal. They said that since I had involvement with the campaign, I should not be involved in any campaign investigation. I have studied the rules and considered their comments and evaluation. I believe those recommendations are right and just.”
2. That opens up even more questions like: When did Sessions first meet with ethics officials. Why did he announce a decision only after this story broke?
3. It should not have taken this long for him to recuse himself; the conflict was obvious as ethics officials observed: “The rules are clear as day and it shouldn’t have taken more than five minutes to conclude he needed to recuse himself.
What he needs to answer now is whether he was briefed on the substance of the underlying investigation, and, if so, did he discuss it at all with the White House?”
(Note: If he took any action on the investigation or conveyed any information to the White House, the investigation is tainted.)
Taking a step back from Sessions, the number of connections between the Trump team and the Russians that we now know about increases daily. The report also seems to cast doubt on the claim that Page wasn’t part of the Trump team.
The connection again raises the question as to “how the RNC platform was changed to delete support for supplying Ukraine with weapons,” something the Trump team falsely denied.
This only underscores how little we know about the Trumps’ personal and financial ties to Russia.
1. We are in the dark because Trump refuses to release his tax returns and/or end ownership of his businesses.
2. His sons continue to run his businesses, including international opportunities. Trump keeps insisting that he has no dealings or financial activity “in” Russia, but we know he sought out deals.
3. In 2008, Trump, Jr. was quoted as saying, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
4. As late as 2015 Trump lawyer Michael D. Cohen was still looking for deals for his client. The potential for corruption, influence-peddling and financial impropriety — even if nothing untoward has already occurred — is real.
Congress should demand three things:
1. Full disclosure of Trump’s tax returns and all financial dealings with Russian players (in or outside Russia);
2. A complete list of all contacts and financial arrangements of Trump family members and campaign associates with Russian officials (before and after the inauguration);
3. The appointment of a special prosecutor with full subpoena powers.
Without these three basic steps, the Trump presidency will operate under a cloud of suspicion, and Republicans will be seen as enabling corruption and foreign interference in our government.
Short simple rational question: “How do we know whether Trump or his advisers are compromised without those three essential items to prove one way or the other?” Short simple answer: “We do not.”
The longer Trump and the Republicans hide the ball, the more Americans will conclude and suppose that the Russians have “something” on the president or on someone (or many) on his team.
We have a compelling right to know the truth – the full and unvarnished truth, and the sooner the better for all of us. We need to put party labels and partisan views aside. At this juncture, politics is not the issue – national security is.
This story still has a long way to go until the finish line – unfortunately.