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Saturday, February 18, 2017

ANDREI AKULOV -- Trump’s Embattled Team Gets Used to Living Under Scrutiny

Trump’s Embattled Team Gets Used to Living Under Scrutiny
ANDREI AKULOV | 17.02.2017 | WORLD

Trump’s Embattled Team Gets Used to Living Under Scrutiny

Michael Flynn’s resignation is the first casualty suffered by the current administration and it’s just a start. The issue is getting more tangled, rather than going away, it’s far from over. Many are already asking who of Trump’s team members will come under fire next? No doubt, reporters will bombard White House spokesman Sean Spicer with questions about the details. Was Flynn acting on his own, was he authorized to have the conversation with the Russian ambassador and how much the president was involved? One thing is certain – from now on other members of the president’s administration will have to live under tight scrutiny.
The US News reports that Democrats seek the creation of a bipartisan, independent commission to study the White House's connections with Moscow. As Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont put it«Michael Flynn leaving the administration isn't enough to clear up questions that many of us have about the Trump team's ties with Russia». «Removing one rotten plank doesn't fix a compromised platform»tweeted Rep. Eric Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

According to The New York Times, «Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election». No names yet, but it the scandal won’t just die away.
The F.B.I. has closely examined at least two other people close to Mr. Trump, besides Michael Flynn. They are Carter Page, a businessman and former foreign policy adviser to the campaign; Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative.
There is a petition asking Republican Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, to open an investigation into the Flynn case. On February 13, all Democratic Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent a letter to Chairman Jason Chaffetz, urging him to reconsider his repeated refusals over the past several months to join Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings in investigating Lt. General Michael Flynn and his ties to Russia.
Representative Eliot Engel of New York, the top Foreign Affairs Committee Democrat, called for a «thorough, bipartisan investigation to get the complete picture of Russia’s interference» in the U.S. presidential election following Flynn’s resignation.«Now, we in Congress need to know who authorized his actions, permitted them, and continued to let him have access to our most sensitive national security information despite knowing these risks», Representatives John Conyers of Michigan and Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top-ranking Democrats on the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, wrote in a joint statement. «We need to know who else within the White House is a current and ongoing risk to our national security».
Senate Armed Service Chairman John McCain says«General Flynn’s resignation also raises further questions about the Trump administration’s intentions toward Vladimir Putin’s Russia, including statements by the president suggesting moral equivalence between the United States and Russia despite its invasion of Ukraine, annexation of Crimea, threats to our NATO allies, and attempted interference in American elections».
The event is a part of a broader process – an offensive against President Trump. Contacts with Russia will be used against the administration. Those who try to hinder each and everything the new president does, especially mainstream media and Democrats, will most certainly insist that the former national security adviser was acting at the behest of the president or other officials. They’ll go to any length to chip away at the administration’s credibility.
Last summer, they invented the hacking scandal related to the presidential election without producing anything like proof. Back then, US intelligence officials said they believed with «high confidence» that Russia was behind the operation, but Donald Trump publicly refused the accept the findings. He was right - «high confidence» is not hard evidence.
The content of those materials revealed the wrongdoings by the Clinton campaign to destroy the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. It showed that, by and large, the same people who are obstructing the activities of Trump’s administration were actually doing nothing else but undermining America’s democracy. After Snowden and other revelations and scandals, has the U.S. conducted a thorough investigation of N.S.A. activities?
About the same time, Paul Manafort, the election campaign chairman, had to resign after an FBI investigation and a slew of damaging accusations about his ties to Russia. No evidence was produced to prove his guilt. The political operative with more than 40 years' experience could do a lot of good things but was deprived of such an opportunity.
Close ties with President Putin greatly hindered the confirmation of Rex Tillerson as State Secretary.
This year, BuzzFeed published a dossier, which alleged that Moscow had compromising material on Donald Trump, making him liable to blackmail. As in all other cases, no evidence has been produced. There is nothing there but unverified claims.
One can hardly imagine great damage done by talking to the Russian ambassador on the phone. John Schindler, former NSA official, believes the U.S. intelligence community is behind the Flynn’s resignation. He writes in his op-ed piece published by Observer, «the intelligence community pushed back against a White House it considers leaky, untruthful and penetrated by the Kremlin».
There are powerful forces in Washington pursuing the goal of having the president impeached. They are emboldened by Flynn’s departure and plan to press for more details.
Why Michael Flynn? Probably because he was among those professional military who opposed the Bush Jr. and Obama’s Middle East policies. He believed that the Islamic State, not Russia, was the biggest threat to the US security and supported the idea of cooperating with Russia in the fight against the common enemy. There is a fierce struggle going on in Washington launched by those who find the changes promised by Donald Trump unacceptable. Nothing will stop them. There will be a fierce fight ahead. The resignation of Michael Flynn was just one of the shots fired in the fierce battle to prevent foreign policy changes. Meanwhile, bookmakers are already taking bets over whether Trump will be impeached, and some have the odds at 4-1.

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