Sunday, July 9, 2017

Did Trump and Putin collude in Hamburg? He said, he said, he said, and she said.

'Let's move beyond the 2016 election hacking.'  That was the implicit message from the Trump-Putin meeting in Hamburg, despite somewhat different versions put out by their sole advisers who were in the room with them (US Sec. of State Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov).

It is true that Trump answered a reporter's questions about the hacking in a press briefing in Poland the day before.   Trump:   “I think it could very well have been Russia, but I think it could well have been other countries.”  And then he said that "nobody really knows for sure."

At Trump's insistence, the Hamburg meeting included only Trump, Putin, Tillerson, Luvrov and two translators;   there was no note taker.   So we get, predictably, various versions of what went on.  Everyone agrees that Trump did bring the election meddling up with Putin in the meeting.   And, even with the differing accounts of how tough Trump was or how quickly he gave in to Putin's denial, the consensus seems to be:   "Let's move on, meaning 'to other things.'

After the Hamburg meeting, Tillerson said that Trump had "pressed Putin more than once" on his government's role in the hacking and selective leaking.   But he also indicated that "there was not a lot of relitigating of the past" and that what was important was that they agreed to "find a way forward."   He also commented on the positive chemistry between "the two presidents."

Sergei Lavrov gave the Russians' version, which emphasized that Putin had denied that his government had any involvement and that President Trump had accepted those statements.  Lavrov further stated that Trump had then commented on the lack of any evidence being presented to back up the months of accusations.  In other words, Lavrov seems to be saying, not only that Trump accepted Putin's denial, but was giving Putin another talking point.  In addition, Lavrov said they had discussed cybersecurity and agreed to set up a joint group to address the issue.

Talk about giving away the store:   Trump not only backed down to Putin's denial, he's planning to work with Putin for the future?   What?   We're going to share information and just open the door to Russia to come into our cyber space?

Now that is collusion.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was interviewed about all this.   His response:   "I think Russia's goal here is to 'prep the battlefield' for the 2018 elections."

So what did our United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley have to say about this?  In an interview to be aired on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday, she said:  Everybody knows that Russia meddled in our elections. . . .  They’re doing this across multiple continents, and they’re doing this in a way that they’re trying to cause chaos within the countries."  It's not the first time she has put out a very different position statement than President Trump -- his position on climate change, for example.

CNN also has reported that, since the November election, our intelligence and law enforcement agencies "have detected an increase in suspected Russian intelligence officers entering the US under the guise of other business."   They cite multiple current and former senior intelligence officers as their source.  They estimate that Russia now has nearly 150 suspected operatives in the US.

Of even more concern, they say the Russians are "targeting people in the US who can provide access to classified information" and seeking employment at places "with sensitive information."   In spite of this, the State Department (under Tillerson) continues to issue temporary duty visas to these suspected Russian intelligence officers.   The US officials who spoke to CNN did so because they are concerned about this.

If this is all true, then we have good reason to be urgently concerned about the 2018 and 2020 elections -- but about our democracy as well.   It looks like Trump's "pressing Putin about the hacking" was a farce.   He seems ready to give it all away. 

As Daniel Marans, who reported this on HuffPost, said:  "It's hard not to see this as a treasonous crime in progress.   Trump and the Russians are STILL colluding!"


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