Saturday, August 20, 2016

Trump, Manafort, and the 'Russia problem'

Things happen fast in the world of Donald Trump.   It was only a few months ago that Paul Manafort was brought in to right the campaign, on the grounds that he was an expert in convention in-fighting and delegate persuasion.   And, by the way, it allowed them to ease out campaign manager Cory Lewandowski, who encouraged Trump to be Trump.   Manafort was supposed to make Trump (appear to be) more presidential.

Now Steve Bannon has been brought in to replace Manafort and to let Trump be Trump again.   It turns out that Trump doesn't like having to be "presidential."   And Kellyanne Conway, an experienced political pollster, has been brought in to get the day to day campaign under control.   He's the message-guy;   she's the one to keep the train on the track.

They said Manafort would be staying on, but that lasted only two days;  and now he has resignedAccording to Eric Trump, the campaign "didn't want to have the distractions" that Manafort is having to deal with" -- presumably meaning the stories that keep escalating about Manafort's former work for the ousted, Pro-Russian Ukrainian president Yanukovych.    Now there is evidence that Manafort may even be legally culpable for failing to register as a lobbyist when his firm was obviously doing lobbying work to influence our government for the Yanukovych forces, as well as trying to undermine U.S. support for his rival Yulia Tymoshenko, former Ukraine Prime Minister who was being held as a political prisoner.

What's flying under the radar, however, is that Rick Gates, Manafort's deputy, is still working with the Trump campaign.   It was actually Gates, as Manafort's associate, who personally worked with the lobbying firms as part of the Manafort team.

So does Trump really care about Manafort's shady past -- or did they ask him to leave simply because it was bad publicity?  Manafort has said that Trump knew about his former work in Ukraine and Russia when he began with the campaign, and he was ok with it.  Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, issued this statement:
“Paul Manafort’s resignation is a clear admission that the disturbing connections between Donald Trump’s team and pro-Kremlin elements in Russia and Ukraine are untenable.  But this is not the end of the story.  It’s just the beginning.  You can get rid of Manafort, but that doesn’t end the odd bromance Trump has with Putin.” 
How true.   This is nothing new.    Josh Marshall wrote about Trump's Russia-Putin connection months ago.   Also see ShrinkRap posts on:  August 12 and 13, as well as July 29, and May 14, for previous reporting about this, including the puzzling fact that the Trump campaign took no interest in the Republican Party Platform -- except for one item.  They insisted on getting rid of support for the new Ukraine government that replaced Manafort's ousted boss, Yanukovych.

Given Manafort's past working relationship with pro-Russian forces in Ukraine;  given the sketchy information about Trump's possible debt obligation to Russian investors and oligarchsand given the pro-Russia tilt apparent in Trump's positions since Manafort came on board;   plus Trump's obvious admiration for Putin even before that -- is it time to have some of Trump's own proposed "extreme vetting" of this presidential candidate for his loyalty to the United States?   Or would that put us on a slippery slope of governmental control of who can run for elected office?    Either way, this Trump-Putin connection is something that voters should be informed about and take seriously.


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