Every passing day brings breaking news, providing the public more bits and pieces relating to the possibility of collusion between foreign agents, and the campaign of the man who is now the 45th President of the United States. Based on the information already made public, a wide net has been cast that appears to be identifying an ever growing list of suspects. Every day we learn more about the parts of the deal agreed to as payback for the Russian intervention into our 2016 elections. There are three clearly identifiable parts of a deal that have surfaced.
The first part of the deal was to help propel the new President of the United States into the White House, through the use of robotic fake news coming from Russia, Albania, Macedonia, and the Ukraine, that was directed to the United States and to our European allies. Reports of a paid troll factory in St Petersburg, Russia go back to April, 2, 2015.
Through the targeting of specific social media consumers, with sensationalist fake news intended to cast the Democratic candidate in the worst light possible, the plan was to make it difficult, if not impossible, for those targeted to vote for Secretary Clinton. This fake news on social media phenomenon was recognized long before the 2016 election. Some Facebook groups supporting Bernie Sanders believed in October, 2016, that roughly 40% of the membership were foreigners with fake profiles coming from Albania and Macedonia. This correlates with reports that the majority of the new Republican President’s Facebook followers, 58%, are foreigners.
FBI Director James Comey has confirmed the ongoing investigation into the possibility of collusion by members of the new administration’s campaign with Russia. Paul Manafort, the second campaign manager; General Michael Flynn, a campaign adviser and now dismissed National Security Adviser; Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to the campaign; and Roger Stone, another campaign advisor, are all believed to be under FBI investigation for coordination with Russia, concerning the release of the hacked documents from the DNC and Clinton confidant, John Podesta.
Social media during this past election cycle was inundated by foreign-sourced fake news, appearing on many homegrown and less than objective right wing outlets, as well. The FBI probe into Russia’s intervention into the 2016 election has widened to include the possibility, that Russian actors appeared to have used computer commands to place onto Facebook and Twitter,
“Links to stories on conservative internet sites such as Breitbart News and InfoWars, as well as on the Kremlin-backed RT News and Sputnik News.”
Stephen Bannon became the Executive Chairman of Breitbart News following the sudden death of Andrew Breitbart on March 1, 2012. Mr. Bannon became the campaign’s chief executive on August 17, 2016, and then the President’s chief strategist, shortly after the election.
The Breitbart platform has been a big proponent of the administration’s anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and seemly white nationalism policies. While ethics regulations applicable to executive branch appointees prevent Bannon from doing business with his former Breitbart connections, there has been no official confirmation that Steve Bannon has officially cut ties with the organization. It has been claimed that Bannon resigned in a telephone call shortly after the election.
“A data mining firm that uses personality profiling, claims Steve Bannon as a board member.”
The winning Republican candidate’s campaign hired Cambridge Analytica shortly after he secured the nomination. Cambridge Analytica is widely believed to have played a big part in the surprised successful Brexit vote by targeting Facebook users with what has been termed the “Leave Campaign“. This strategy was deployed on the 2016 American electorate. The firm is now turning attention to the upcoming French and German elections. Following the surprise Brexit vote, Bannon reportedly said that,
The connections between Steven Bannon and Breitbart as the prime promoter of the Republican candidate, now President, cannot be doubted. Bannon, made this statement in mid- August, 2016, about Breitbart,
It appears certain that Mr. Bannon was selected for his role inside the administration because of his connections to the alt-right, conspiracy theorist, fake news, social media world.
The second part of the deal appears to include favors that would come from the incoming administration, and be lavished upon Russia, their pro-Russian Ukrainian associates, and the Turkish government, which currently is not on the same wavelength as the United States in the fight against global terrorism. The beauty of this part of the deal is the collateral benefits that will be flowing to the President, his family, his friends, and his associates.
There has been a strange mutual admiration between Putin and the candidate, now President. Republican Senator John McCain has publicly stated that he has never heard the new President utter a critical statement about the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. The now President continues to express his admiration for President Putin, while Putin has consistently returned the favor before and after the 2016 election.
The neutering of NATO, which began on the campaign trail, appears to have been part of the deal. The Republican candidate speaking about NATO in March of 2016, said that,
“We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore.”
Later in March, the candidate told the New York Times editorial board that NATO was “obsolete” and that the attention of NATO should be turned away from the protection of Western Europe. As reported by RT, he believed that NATO’s mission should change to fighting terrorism and ISIS, not fighting Putin.
There is also the curious case of the watered down Republican platform plank on the Ukraine.
According to J.D. Gordon, the campaign’s national security director, a proposed plank in the Republican platform was changed from,
“Calling on the U.S. to provide Ukraine lethal defensive weapons to the more benign phrase appropriate assistance.”
Mr. Gordon has said that the change in language was at the insistence of the candidate himself. Of course, Paul Manafort, the second campaign manager, denied that the campaign played any part in changing this platform plank.
Consider, too, the alleged plan to kidnap a 75 year old Turkish Islamic Cleric, Fethullah Gulen, from his legal residence in upstate eastern Pennsylvania. Turkey is seeking extradition of Mr. Gulen, accusing him of complicity in a failed July, 2016, attempted coup.
On September 4, 2016, General Michael Flynn, a campaign advisor, and former CIA Director, James Woolsey, then a member of the transition team, met with a representative of the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at the Essex hotel in New York City. At the time Flynn was working for the Turkish government and President Erdogan, but had not registered as a foreign agent. They discussed the kidnapping and the return to Turkey, probably for money, of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish citizen living in Pennsylvania, accused of involvement in the attempted coup in Turkey to remove Erdogan. Flynn has publicly called for the extradition of Mr. Gulen.
Lifting of sanctions imposed on Russia by the Obama Administration, which would allow Russian oil to flow from Siberia and the Black Sea, appears to be a critical part of the deal. Before becoming Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson was the CEO of Exxon Mobil, the oil and gas giant, that will make billions once those sanctions go away. The President elect indicated that he was open to doing just that.
Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warned the President not to lift the sanctions on Russia. A week later, at the national prayer breakfast in Washington, the new President promised that the sanctions would remain in place. This part of the deal appears to at least be temporarily on hold.
The third and critical part of the deal appears to be disabling the ability of the United States government to investigate the collusion between the new President, his associates, and the overseas actors, staring with the appointment of the chief law enforcement official of the United States. Jeff Sessions was the first United States Senator to endorse the candidacy of the new Republican President, doing so on February 28, 2016. The Senator, now Attorney General, was also a member of the campaign serving as the chairman of its national security advisory committee.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to recuse himself from any investigations pertaining to the 2016 campaign. Sessions also may have perjured himself before the Senate during his confirmation hearings when answering questions about his contacts with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, prior to inauguration. Positioning Sessions as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States certainly appears to have been calculated to protect the new President and his administration but it doesn’t seem to be working as intended.
Congressman Devin Nunes, (R-CA), a member of the transition team, was named as the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee for 2017. Nunes, with no military or intelligence background, now beginning just his third term in the House, was a curious choice to chair this important committee. Two Republican members of the committee outrank Nunes in years of service and experience. Former Prosecutor and former Chairman of the House Benghazi Committee, Trey Gowdy, (R-SC), is one of them.
Chairman Nunes, abruptly canceled the appearance of Paul Manafort, who was scheduled to speak to the House Intelligence Committee on March 31, 2017. The former acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, was also scheduled to testify on March 28, 2017, has also been scratched by Nunes. This came after two cryptic news briefing by Chairman Nunes, on March 22, 2017, that were sandwiched between a meeting with the President in the White House.
We have now learned that Nunes might have gotten the information he claimed to have been delivering to the White House from the White House. The night before his two press conferences and meeting with the President, Nunes made a middle of the night visit to view classified material, inside a secured area on the White House grounds. This smacks of collusion with the White House, and all the while the Chairman is denying his colleagues on the Intelligence Committee access to the documents. Questions are now being raised, but have yet to be answered, as to who cleared Nunes for that late night entrance to the White House executive offices.
The ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff (D-CA),is now calling for Chairman Nunes to recuse himself from any investigation concerning the administration. House Minority leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, (D-NY), have joined in that request.
There is also the additional wrinkle concerning the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the a former publisher of The Observer, yet another media platform which has also been extremely supportive of the family. Kushner, who has been part of the campaign and the transition team, is a senior adviser to the President, and now named as the head of a new White House agency designed to revamp the federal government using business ideas.
Mr. Kushner had agreed to meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee concerning his dealings with officials of the Russian government. There is now news that Kushner had a meeting with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, who is also a Russian trained intelligence officer. The bank had been sanctioned by the Obama administration in 2014 for involvement in espionage activities.
A part of the deal may also exist connecting the now Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, who still has interest in the Bank of Cyprus, where he was the Vice Chariman, beginning 2014, to Paul Manafort, who is accused of running a number of cash payments totaling many millions from his Ukrainian handlers through that bank. The Bank of Cyprus has been suspected to be a favored conduit for laundering Russian money.
There is also the matter that this President appears to be commingling the job of running the executive branch of the United States government with his business interests. He has visited one of his business properties one out every three days he has been in office on our dime. There is also the fact that he seems to be a part time President, who has spent 10 weekends to date entertaining his business associates at the Southern White House in Mara Lago.
It is clear that Chairman Nunes cannot lead a full and fair investigation. To date, only one Republican member of the House, Walter Jones, of North Carolina, has joined Democrats, who have called for a 12 member bi-partisan commission. Now languishing in the House, is the Protecting Our Democracy Act, intended,
“To establish the National Commission on Foreign Interference in the 2016 Election”
Public support for a special prosecutor to investigate the Russian connection now stands at 56% among registered voters. Even Congressman Darrell Issa, (R-CA) supports the idea. Despite the attempts by the new administration to disable the ability of the Congress and the Department of Justice to investigate the possible collusion with Russia, the appointment of a special prosecutor might happen soon. The parts of the deal are beginning to surface, but there are many more parts still to be discovered.