Spats between the White House and intelligence agencies are hardly new, though in decades past these feuds tended to be on policy grounds. Trump’s, however, is more personal. Now, the question is not whether he continues to wage war with the intelligence establishment—it is how far he is willing to go.
Call it what you will: Flynnghazi. Russiagate. The Crackpot Dome scandal. No matter the sobriquet attached to the inappropriate discussions between the Russian ambassador and Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security advisor, the growing cancer from this case is not going away.
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus flatly denied Sunday that the two camps colluded during the 2016 presidential campaign. Priebus also insisted that ousted national security advisor Mike Flynn had done nothing illegal in discussing sanctions against Russia with the country’s ambassador to Washington prior to Trump’s inauguration, and batted aside questions about disorder and disarray in the White House.
Over the last week Trump and his team, unwittingly or not, have dragged Russia back into conversation, even if that conversation is about disillusionment in Moscow. While Trump has remained loyal to a familiar and vague idea of getting along with Russia, it is his cardinals who are making headlines in Russia now and curbing the enthusiasm for the presidency in Moscow.
Two sources familiar with the decision said Admiral Harward turned down the job in part because he wanted to bring in his own team at the National Security Council.
That put him at odds with Trump, who had told former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s deputy, K.T. McFarland, that she could stay.
President Trump dismissed a growing controversy about ties between his aides and Russia on Thursday as a “ruse” and “scam” perpetrated by a hostile news media, and denied that any of his associates had contacts with Moscow before last year’s election.
Press secretary Sean Spicer, the M.C. Escher of bullshit, claims Flynn’s resignation “isn’t a legal issue, it’s a trust issue.” But the Stephen Colbert wonders if what Flynn did was so darn legal, then why did Trump ask for his resignation? Colbert explains,“It’s funny ‘cause it’s treason.”
Michael Flynn submitted his resignation hours after Trump said that he was reviewing the situation and talking to Vice President Mike Pence. The national security adviser had promised Pence he had not discussed sanctions with the Russians but it was later discovered that the subject had come up.
Top White House officials have been reviewing Flynn’s contacts with the Russians and whether he discussed the possibility of lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia once Trump took office. That would potentially be in violation of a law banning private citizens from engaging in foreign policy, known as the Logan Act.
“He’s not out of the woods,” said a U.S. official who is familiar with the transcripts of intercepted communications between Flynn and the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, in late December. This official said Flynn “did discuss sanctions.”
The FBI has been examining Flynn’s contacts with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, according to reports. At issue is whether Flynn tried to undermine the Obama administration’s move to toughen sanctions against Moscow after concluding that Russia had meddled in the U.S. election.
For Putin, in his 17th year of dominating the Russian political landscape, a deal with President Trump, or even an early symbolic concession such as easing minor sanctions, matters. Expected to contest a presidential election next year that could extend his time in the Kremlin to 2024, he needs sanctions relief to help lift the economy out of recession.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will propose offering to end sanctions imposed on Russia over its annexation of Crimea in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal with Moscow, he told The Times of London. “They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia,” the Republican president-elect said during his interview.
The timing of the calls between Flynn and a Russian envoy raised questions about whether the Trump team had given Russia any assurances to soothe their anger over the sanctions. If that were the case, it would have raised a possible entanglement with the Logan Act, which bars unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating with foreign governments with which the U.S. has disputes.
In some ways, it’s just like old times, when the Kremlin and Washington regularly engaged in tit-for-tat expulsions of a spy or two. But in other ways, it’s not: this spy war long ago moved out of the shadows to entangle the U.S. presidential elections.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier proposed expelling 35 U.S. diplomats after President Barack Obama ordered the expulsions and sanctions, but Vladimir Putin said he would wait for the actions of President-elect Donald Trump before deciding on any further steps in relations with the United States.
Moscow has accused U.S. President Barack Obama of “personal hatred” for Russia after the U.S. introduced new sanctions in light of allegations that Russian hackers interfered in the U.S. presidential election.
The move against the diplomats from the Russian embassy in Washington and consulate in San Francisco is part of a series of actions announced on Thursday to punish Russia for a campaign of intimidation of American diplomats in Moscow and interference in the U.S. election.
Asked by reporters if the U.S. should sanction Russia, Trump replied: “I think we ought to get on with our lives. I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what’s going on.”
By Steven Zeitchik, Los Angeles Times The battle for control at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 entered a new chapter Sunday focused on the fate of victims’ bodies, and U.S. and British leaders pointed fingers at Russia for nurturing the separatists suspected of bringing down the airliner. “There’s a buildup of extraordinary […]
Washington (AFP) — President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke by phone early on Thursday about tough new sanctions imposed on Moscow on Ukraine. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that the call took place “early” on Thursday morning. He did not divulge other topics of the conversation, but the timing of the […]
Washington (AFP) — The United States signaled it could go it alone on toughening sanctions on Russia if Europe does not agree to increase pain for Moscow over its “destabilizing” policies in Ukraine. A raft of unilateral measures have been prepared that President Barack Obama could use to land new blows on the Russian economy, […]