February 19, 2017


Trump's strange relationship: What last week revealed about the President, Putin and Russia (GARRY KASPAROV, 2/19/17, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Considering the wealthy stature of most of Trump's cabinet appointees, it's not a surprise that several of them would have conflicts of interest. It does seem like quite a coincidence, however, that so many of these conflicts have to do with Putin's Russia. It would almost be reassuring to hear about a scandal involving one of Trump's nominees and, say, Saudi Arabia or Venezuela.

Instead, it's Russian hacking, Russian phone calls and Russian banking.

During the campaign, it was worrying when several of Donald Trump's top advisers turned out to have extensive Russian political and business connections. Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign director for a time, for years worked for Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, Putin's puppet ruler there until he was literally chased out of town in 2014 and into exile in Russia.

Before joining Trump's team, Flynn appeared on Putin's propaganda network Russia Today and was even seated next to Putin at a Moscow party celebrating the channel.

Even more troubling, the candidate's own rhetoric about Putin was inexplicably flattering. Why on Earth would an American presidential candidate, a Republican one no less, repeatedly express his admiration for a KGB dictator whose track record includes destroying Russian democracy, killing journalists and dissidents, and carpet-bombing civilians in Chechnya and Aleppo? Trump admires strength, and could not care less about democracy in Russia or anywhere else, but this was well beyond that.

When the election got underway, I expected Hillary Clinton to be a Russia hawk in order to blunt criticism of the failed "Russian reset" policy she helped orchestrate when she was President Obama's secretary of state. Any normal Republican candidate would be expected to also condemn Putin's invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, as well as the genocide he was perpetrating with his friend Bashar Assad in Syria.

Instead, we got Trump, and Trump never backed down from his shocking praise of Putin. This admiration was apparently mutual, at least judging by the contents of the Russian media, which is always a reflection of Putin. The Kremlin-controlled media has been as enthusiastic about Trump as it was hateful toward Hillary Clinton.

But that has started to change over the past few days. The new narrative is that Trump might be losing control and allowing "traitorous elements" inside the intelligence services to undermine him.

Unsurprisingly, this is quite similar to the line of attack selected by Trump himself.

...is that none of them can survive Occam's Razor.  The most obvious explanation for every evil and incompetence of his campaign, transition and presidency is that such are their nature.

A Back-Channel Plan for Ukraine and Russia, Courtesy of Trump Associates (MEGAN TWOHEY and SCOTT SHANE, FEBRUARY 19, 2017, NY Times)

Mr. Flynn is gone, having been caught lying about his own discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. But the proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: Michael D. Cohen, the president's personal lawyer, who delivered the document; Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Mr. Trump's former campaign manager Paul D. Manafort.

At a time when Mr. Trump's ties to Russia, and the people connected to him, are under heightened scrutiny -- with investigations by American intelligence agencies, the F.B.I. and Congress -- some of his associates remain willing and eager to wade into Russia-related efforts behind the scenes.

Mr. Trump has confounded Democrats and Republicans alike with his repeated praise for the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, and his desire to forge an American-Russian alliance. While there is nothing illegal about such unofficial efforts, a proposal that seems to tip toward Russian interests may set off alarms.

At some point you just have to accept that he's pro-Putin and anti-democracy.

Posted by at February 19, 2017 11:21 AM