Saturday, May 27, 2017

What did Trump do today?

He largely ducked the first wave of press questions about the Jared Kushner bombshell that dropped yesterday.

Kushner is Trump's son-in-law, a major player in the Trump campaign, and arguably the most powerful White House staffer since Henry Kissinger served as President Nixon's Secretary of State, national security advisor, and de facto chief of staff simultaneously. The Washington Post reported yesterday that during the transition, Kushner sought the Russian ambassador's help to use Russia's secure communications facilities to establish a diplomatic backchannel between the Trump administration and the Putin regime.

Diplomatic backchannels are common; even nations at war with one another will often have private avenues for discussion. But Kushner's proposal--which shocked even the Russians--would have had Trump dealing directly with the Putin regime in ways that were invisible and unaccountable to the United States. Russia, of course, would be able to record, analyze, and selectively leak anything said. Normally taciturn intelligence and defense experts were aghast: former CIA and NSA chief Michael Hayden rhetorically asked "what manner of ignorance, chaos, hubris, suspicion, contempt, would you have to have to think that doing this with the Russian ambassador was a good or appropriate idea.”

Overwhelmed today by questions about the Kushner affair, Trump's current national security advisor H.R. McMaster would only say that backchannel communications are common (though, of course, using a foreign country's own espionage channels is not). Sean Spicer would only add, "we have nothing."

So what?

  • This is the second time in two weeks that the otherwise respected McMaster has been forced to use lawyerly evasions to cover for an emerging Trump security scandal.
  • Presidents are responsible for the actions of their subordinates.
  • As a rule, people who try to shield their actions from the United States government are not looking to act in the United States' best interests.