Analysis: Russia scandal closes in on Trump

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Jan Martínez Ahrens,”El yerno de Trump también se reunió con el embajador ruso antes de la toma de posesión; Jared Kushner acudió a la sospechosa cita acompañado por el general Michael Flynn, destituido luego por ocultar el contenido de sus contactos,” El País, 3 de marzo 2017 (13:41 EST).

With the revelations this week that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in his Senate confirmation hearings, did not reply forthrightly to questions about whether he had had contacts with Russian officials, and that Jared Kushner had been present at Michael Flynn’s meeting with the Russian ambassador in December, the circle of suspicion is tightening around President Donald Trump himself.

The revelation that Flynn met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and discussed sanctions being imposed by the Obama administration against Russia for inintervention in the elections was explosive, and ended up costing Flynn his job.

Trump and his spokesmen have repeatedly denied that there were any contacts between his campaign and Russian officials. We now know that these denials were not true.

The drip-drip-drip of revelations about contacts between Trump associates and the Russians, during and after the campaign, is now fully reminiscent of the manner in which the Watergate conspiracy unravelled in 1973.

It is simply not credible to believe that Trump was unaware of these contacts and conversations with the Russians, carried out by many of his closest advisers, including his son-in-law.

The meeting of Jared Kushner with the amabassador was particularly significant, as Flynn is reported to have later suggested to the Russians that they should not react in typical tit-for-tat fashion, as Trump would review the matter when he assumed the presidency (with the implication that the sanctions would be eased).  In the event, the Russians did not react in tit-for-tat or in any other manner to the sanctions.

Flynn lost his job as National Security Adviser as a result of this incident, and the fact that he lied to Vice-President Michael Pence about the meeting.  But Trump himself was aware of it, and refrained from informing his vice-president for some 10 days.  Now — and only now — we learn that Kushner was at the meeting at Trump Tower.

In other words, we now learn that the Russian ambassador had a direct and immediate channel to Trump himself through his son-in-law.

Are we to believe that all of these people who had contacts with Russian officials and other Russians were all free-lancing, and that Trump had no knowledge of their activities, during a prolonged period in which Trump made absolutely no criticism of Vladimir Putin or any of Russia’s actions, whether in Syria, the Ukraine or anywhere else?

We know that during this period the Trump campaign secured a watering down of the language on the Ukraine in the Republican Platform at the Republican National Convention in July. We know further that Trump subsequently attacked and dismissed the report of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, issued on January 6, 2017, concluding that Russia had intervened in the 2016 elections, with the involvement of Vladimir Putin, by cyber attacks, disinformation, and other means, in order to favor Trump.

Flynn represents an extraordinary danger for President Trump, as he may have been at the center of contacts with the Russians and, if prosecuted for violations of the Logan Act or lying to the FBI, or simply called to testify under oath before a congressional committee or independent commission, might have much to reveal.

The circle of suspicion is tightening around Trump himself.

It is hard too see how he could be revealed as the center of the cabal with Russian officials, and still continue in office.

The Trenchant Observer

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The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.