Window On The Russia Scandal: Why Tuesday Was A Large Day Bordering On The Huge
If you are following the Russia scandal, which an increasing number of concerned Americans apparently are, Tuesday was a large day bordering on the huge. In the span of a few short hours, we were provided a window into why the scandal is not going away, is increasingly engulfing the First Family, and further confirmation that the U.S. is basically defenseless as Russia prepares to interfere in the midterm elections as it did in 2016 in delivering the presidency to the Kremlin-loving Trump.
And behind it all was the invisible but steady hand of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who in scandal terms is dead meat, albeit photogenic dead meat, kicked things off with eight hours of non-testimony before the beleaguered House Intelligence Committee by acknowledging that a president who routinely exaggerates and lies has occasionally required her to do the same — specifically what she termed “white lies” — but invoking executive privilege of a sort, lied yet again in saying she hadn’t lied about anything having to do with election interference.
On the other side of the Capitol, Admiral Michael Rogers, director of the NSA and head of the U.S. Cyber Command, told the long faces on the Senate Intelligence Committee that Trump has given him no new authority or capabilities to strike at Russian sabotage ahead of the midterms, and he has been left with no choice but to cobble together his own response to foreign cyberthreats as the president continues to insist that the whole thing is “fake news.”
But the big news was anything but fake.
Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who like Hicks also is dead meat, although certainly not photogenic, is viewed by officials in at least four countries — China, Israel, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates — as ripe for manipulation because they know they can take advantage of his unashamed commingling of business and official duties, his immense financial difficulties (he needs a billion bucks fast) and foreign policy naïveté, according to a blockbuster story in The Washington Post, which undoubtedly was based on leaks from long knives in the intelligence community for whom Trump and Kushner have been an unrelenting nightmare because of their Me First Always approach to national security.
You didn’t ask, but methinks that Trump, who last week washed his hands of Kushner’s security clearance woes, would throw his son-in-law under the bus if he finds himself vulnerable, and that may include not pardoning him if he is indicted.
As it is, the odds of Hicks and Kushner escaping Mueller’s indictment machine — which has bagged more than 100 criminal counts against 19 people and three Russian companies, netting five guilty pleas — range from slim to nonexistent.
Meanwhile, Mueller’s investigative juggernaut reportedly has been asking witnesses about Trump’s seamy business activities in Russia prior to 2016 (you know, the ones he repeatedly insists did not exist), specifically the timing of his decision to seek the presidency, potentially compromising information the Russians may have on him, and why his efforts to brand a Trump Tower in Moscow kept falling through.
As early as 1984, Trump began tapping into what would become an extensive network of contacts with corrupt businessmen, mobsters and money launderers from the former Soviet Union, Russia and their satellite states to make deals ranging from real-estate sales to beauty pageants sponsorships to bailing out his frequently ailing enterprises.
It is tempting to say that Trump built that network himself as his business empire grew, but in reality members of the network more often used him as a convenient patsy. This has been especially true of money launderers, and it is not an exaggeration to say that dirty Russian money saved Trump, if only barely.
These developments come at a time when a new CNN poll finds that 61 percent of Americans say the Russia scandal is a serious matter that should be investigated. Some 55 percent say Trump has tried to interfere with Mueller’s investigation and 60 percent are not confident that Trump is taking steps to safeguard the nation against future sabotage.
Expect those numbers of spike after the events of Tuesday — a large day bordering on the huge.