Muftic: Russian smoke looms over White House (column)
March 28, 2017
The explosive revelation by FBI Director James Comey before the House Intelligence Committee on March 20 that Donald Trump's campaign's Russian connections had been under investigation by the FBI since last July raises many questions. While there is yet no proof publicly provided that Trump or his close associates were in collusion with Russian agents, there are enough smoke plumes coming together that hang like one big cloud over the White House. Whether there is fire in that smoke is the question.
Those smoke plumes represent three elements coming together at once: Trump's long-time desire to do business in Russia, those close to him and friendly to Russia during the campaign and into the White House, and an electorate that was weary of foreign entanglements and NATO obligations and who cared more about their own domestic agenda than Russian connections. Those political currents were expressed in Trump's America First or Make America Great Again sloganeering, but they also played into Russian foreign policy aspirations to move into the Baltics and the Balkans.
The influence of Russia on the 2016 election is also slowly being revealed or alleged by media fed by leaks from whistle blowers within the US government or in foreign dossiers. A concerted cyber attack from Russia to influence the 2016 election in the form of planted fake news stories, hacking data bases and leaking transcripts unflattering to Hillary Clinton, were confirmed by Comey's testimony before the House committee.
It is possible Donald Trump himself turns out to be innocent of any collusion. Due to his business dealings, he was already kindly disposed to Russia and President Vladimir Putin well before the campaign. During Trump's presidential campaign, few thought he would win, incluing Trump himself. His bromance with Putin and supporting Russian foreign policy initiatives could be attributed to promoting his business opportunities there with the powers that be. That made Trump fertile ground on which others of close ties to Russia could plant pro-Russian foreign policy seeds when it became clear Trump had a chance to be a viable candidate.
How likely is it pro-Russian sympathizers in his campaign or transition or White House staff influenced his positions on foreign policy similar to Russia's or influence the GOP platform? His campaign staff, his cabinet and White House advisers, were full of Russian friendlies. His campaign chairman from May to mid August, Paul Manafort, had provided paid services to the now deposed Putin confidant and former president of the Ukraine, and he signed a contract for millions with an oligarch close to Putin to promote Putin's interest in the world. Manafort also was paid as a consultant to the Montenegro government Russia was influencing. Roger Stone is suspected of communicating with Russian intelligence in cyber matters. Carter Page, active the Russian energy sector and an open apologist for Putin, was a campaign hanger on. Two members of his cabinet have Russian ties. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was Exxon president and got official recognition for his friendship with Russia. Trump's old friend and new Commerce Secretary, is Wilbur Ross, major investor in a Cyprus bank known for money laundering for Russian clients. His constant campaign companion, and later briefly national security advisor, Gen. Mike Flynn, had been paid to promote Russian state sponsored television. For More, visit http://www.mufticforumblog.blogspot.com