Saturday, May 27, 2017

Trump Team Appearance of Treason: Is Money the Motive?

This week's Friday night block-buster was a double-header. The first news to break was that Trump son-in-law and White House power, Jared Kushner, tried in early December to set up a secret "back channel" to Russia — now get this! — with him talking from the Russian embassy. He proposed to the Russian ambassador that he be allowed to use the Russians' equipment so as to be secure from US surveillance. He wanted to talk to the Kremlin and to a bank run by Putin that's under US sanctions. 

(The second part of the double-header, reported 5 minutes later, was that the Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the Trump team for all campaign emails, phone records, and documents from the Trump campaign going back to its beginning in 2015. This is highly significant but let's hold off on it for now.)

The Kushner revelation is stunning. No one of any rank in D.C. or the media can recall such a flagrant disregard of the strictures against sneaking into the arms of a US adversary the way Kushner proposed. In a lame attempt at push-back, today the Trump puppet national security adviser, H.R. McMasters said he "wouldn't be concerned" about back-channel communications but noted he was speaking "in general" and then refused to comment on the Kushner matter. 

In fact, he did some self-protective distancing: "It's not something I have been involved with or have any knowledge  of."

Why in heaven's name would someone in Kushner's position make such a bizarre and traitorous-appearing move? By early December hadn't President Obama just announced that the Russians had tried to interfere with our election? Hadn't he just smacked them with more sanctions on top of the ones he imposed because of their invading Ukraine and the Crimea? Russia is certainly our adversary, to use the polite term for an enemy we are not actaully at war with. Sure, Trump has shown he's too stupid to weigh the appearance or substance of what he does, but is the son-in-law that stupid too?

Probably not. But I suggest that he has a very strong motive that would blind him to the an outcry that his proposal may be traitorous. That powerful motive is money. 

As I've written before, the White House is the Trump family's idea of a big cash register, ringing a constant "ka-ching" for the family fortune. Even as I write Trump is raking in money from a major golf tournament at one of his courses, and one of his sons is boasting what "a great marketing job" it was booking the event there. 

Why talk to a Russian bank on a secure line that is protected from surveillance by your own government?  Gosh, doesn't the word "money" come to mind when your hear "bank"?  And don't you want to be "secure" from anyone knowing you're dealing with forbidden entities?

I suspect that the Trump family and their cohorts have simply sold themselves to Russia. They are not traitors of the usual persuasion, i.e. idealogically driven.  Nor are they like the spies in John LeCarre's books, honey-trapped by women or black-mailed for their tawdry ways.  Naw, they're just your usual prostitutes, people who  
will do anything for money.

What did the Russians get, or hope to get, in return? Pretty big stuff, actually. The lifting of sanctions isn't just so Russia can regain some kind of respect. It's survival. With oil prices way, way down for years, the Russians have hit very hard times. Oil is virtually their only export. With sanctions further strangling Russian trade, their economy is on the verge of collapse.

And for people who have had a burst of prosperity, as the Russians did when oil prices were up, a return to poverty is doubly hard to take. They are going to punish someone.

Most likely it will be Putin. He knows that. Elections are next year in Russia. And so he wants those sanctions gone. That's why Michael Flynn was talking to the Russians about the sanctions when the US "listeners" caught him while eavesdropping on the Russian embassy. 

If Flynn, Kushner, and others of the Trump team have been conspiring to undercut a measure adopted by our federal government to punish and curtail an "adversary", i.e. the sanctions against Russia, that sure looks like traitorous activity.

Maybe we are indeed going to celebrate the centennial of the 1917 Espionage Act by enforcing it against the highest ranks in the White House.

Do you think the Trumps might lend their brand to a "Trump Prison"? 

If the price is right?

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