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Saturday, May 27, 2017


Let's play White House

by Tom Sullivan

This is why you don't hire people with no experience in government to run it:

Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.
The Washington Post report adds that Michael Flynn was also there.

The New York Times' Nick Confessore told MSNBC's Steve Kornacki, from the Trump team's perspective perhaps their business ties led them to believe the Russians were "deal partners and friends." Confessore concluded, "Totally boneheaded."

"If an American intelligence officer had done anything like this, we'd consider it espionage," former Acting Director of Central Intelligence John McLaughlin told Lawrence O'Donnell last night on MSNBC. "I think to some degree, the Trump administration at these senior levels is being consumed by its own hubris. They must think of themselves as masters of the universe." Their seeming contempt for the institutions of government that carry out the functions of democracy reflects, McLaughlin said, "that sophomoric idea we used to hear about, about deconstructing the administrative state." He asked, as if Trump's people should use those they trust more? The Russians? [timestamp 3:30]

The Post first received the information via an anonymous letter in mid-December. This week, officials who reviewed the letter and spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the secret channel portion of the letter was consistent with their understanding of events. This suggests there may be more to come from the letter once the information is confirmed.

Marcy Wheeler wants to know who sent it:
Outside of Flynn, though, it’s not clear many people knew this meeting ever happened, much less what happened in it. The meeting was first disclosed by the New Yorker, following which the White House quickly added (in a story to the NYT) Flynn to the story — suggesting he, and not the President’s son-in-law suggested the communication channel.


That said, one person who knew about the meeting ahead of time was Marshall Billingslea, who tried to warn Flynn about Kislyak. And his request for the Kislyak profile would have alerted the CIA to his concerns about the meeting.
As Steve Kornacki's guests observed, there may be completely innocent reasons behind the attempt. At every turn, they make decisions that suggests they suffer from, as officials told the Post, "staggering naivete." And yet they went to extraordinary if not paranoid lengths to avoid exposure to U.S. intelligence gathering. The Post concludes:
In addition to their discussion about setting up the communications channel, Kushner, Flynn and Kislyak also talked about arranging a meeting between a representative of Trump and a “Russian contact” in a third country whose name was not identified, according to the anonymous letter.

The Post reported in April that Erik Prince, the founder of the private security firm Blackwater, now called Academi, and an informal adviser to the Trump transition team, met on Jan. 11 — nine days before Trump’s inauguration — in the Seychelles islands in the Indian Ocean with a representative of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Besides the lack of experience and the hubris, another thread runs through the Misadventures of Donald Trump and the people who elected him. It is the notion that we need businessmen running the government.

That evangelicals spend so much time defending the notion of biblical inerrancy from science — to the point of erecting creation museums across the country and building full-scale Noah's ark replicas to somehow "prove" science wrong — reflects how well science has successfully co-opted the thinking of even its fiercest critics from another cognitive domain. The same is true for business. It is so successful and so dominant in our way of life that average citizens and business moguls themselves believe that everything could be and must be operated according to a business model. Even when that is totally inappropriate.

But it's the only thing Trump and his kinsmen know. He's a one-trick pony. When the only tool in your toolbox is real estate, etc. After Trump's first international trip and interactions with key U.S. allies, if that truth wasn't painfully obvious before, it should be now. And that goes for "Tel Aviv" Tillerson too.

People who have devoted their entire lives to making money should leave public service to people with not just the brains for it, but hearts for it as well.