Washington is witnessing “the biggest scandal since Watergate”. President Donald J. Trump is dismissing it all as a “witch hunt” but that will not be enough to make it go away.
Buried inside a CNN report with the headline “More Trump advisers disclose meetings with Russia’s ambassador” is this retelling by a former Trump adviser, J.D Gordon, of a meeting with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that occurred on the sidelines of the Republican National Convention which nominated President Donald J. Trump as their candidate in July last year. Also present at this meeting were advisers Carter Page and Walid Phares.
Gordon stressed to the Russian envoy that he would like to improve relations with Russia…Gordon had advocated for language in the GOP platform that the Ukrainians not be armed in their battle against pro-Russian separatists, an effort [which] was ultimately successful. But Gordon says he was simply advocating what Trump himself had expressed — that he did not wish to see major war break out over the situation in Ukraine.
The event in Cleveland on July 20, 2016, was billed as the Global Partners in Diplomacy program and was held at Case Western University and included some notable Trump officials, speaking on panels and a variety of diplomats from around the world. In that context, it’s not unusual several Trump officials broke off into side meetings. What should raise eyebrows is that the discussion with Kislyak revolved around language in the RNC platform which softened Republican opposition to Russia’s incursion into the Ukraine – the main reason sanctions against Russia exist.
Even more suspect, is that the meeting included Trump adviser Carter Page, who just 12 just or 13 days earlier allegedly met a key Putin ally in Moscow. The meeting is described in the dossier of compromising material collated by former Mi-6 spy Christopher Steele. Steele quotes a source alleging Page was offered a deal: one-fifth of Russia’s oil in exchange for the lifting of sanctions:
[Putin] was so keen to lift personal and corporate western sanctions imposed on the company, that he offered Page a 19% (privatized) stake in Rosneft in return. Page had expressed interest and confirmed that were TRUMP elected US president, then sanctions on Russia would be lifted.
The context of that meeting may explain why Trump’s advisers were working overtime during the RNC to soften language in the party’s political platform on Ukraine. The original language in the RNC Platform was proposed by a Ted Cruz supporter, Diana Denman, and called for providing “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukrainians fighting Russian-backed rebels. It read, in part:
“Today, the post-Cold War ideal of a ‘Europe whole and free’ is being severely tested by Russia’s ongoing military aggression in Ukraine. The Ukrainian people deserve our admiration and support in their struggle.”
“I was troubled when they put aside my amendment and then watered it down,” Denman told the Washington Post. “I said, ‘What is your problem with a country that wants to remain free?’ It seems like a simple thing.” The final amendment adopted by the convention dropped the words “lethal defensive weapons” in favor of “appropriate assistance”.
All of this, in concert with Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s private citizen diplomacy with ambassador Kislyak, promising a roll-back of sanctions just as President Obama imposed them and revelations Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner also had meetings with Kislyak, can only lead you to one conclusion. Trump officials were working behind the scenes to create a less hostile environment against Russia and were planning to not only drop their support for Ukrainian independence, but also intended to work towards dropping sanctions against Russia.
What isn’t yet proven but is surely the most important question for the Trump administration is this: Was there a deal struck in exchange for this unprecedented effort? More importantly, what did President Trump know and when did he know it?
It’s entirely plausible that Trump was merely trying to avoid “a world war 3” over Ukraine, but it’s hard to simply discard the Steele Dossier allegations that a monetary deal was struck. Especially, since one month after Trump was elected, 19.5% of Rosneft was sold off to an unknown shell company, just as Steele had alleged it would be in his dossier.
What also needs to be investigated is the enormous effort by both Russia and the Trump administration to cover-up the trail of evidence. Former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn lied and lost his job. Former Trump Campaign Manager Paul Mannafort was fired for his connections with Russia. Carter Page was dismissed from the campaign for his ties to Russia. Now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been caught lying about his meeting with the Russian ambassador. While President Trump, continues to offer public support for these men, decrying a “witch hunt” it seems logical, he soon will have to account for the meetings and the cover up.
On the Russian side, 6 senior diplomats have died mysteriously in the last 4 months, one key source of the Steele dossier, an ex-KGB General is dead, and 4 alleged US spies have been arrested by the Kremlin for treason in Russia. While conspiracy theories abound, it seems at least possible, Putin is covering the tracks of his operation to destalbalize the US elections.
Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Trump’s ties to Russia is “the most serious scandal since Watergate and I don’t say that as any form of exaggeration or hyperbole.” The drip, drip, drip is taking down Trump’s key men, and it won’t be long before the the rising waters reach the Oval Office. Trump should act quickly to reveal what he knows or he’ll be in danger of being swept away, too.