Evidence of collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russians continues to pile up.
Previously, Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, was forced to step down for failing to disclose meetings with the Russian ambassador in Washington, Sergei Kislyak.
Now we know both Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, met and spoke with Kislyak as well. We don’t know what they discussed.
We have also learned that Kushner — who is nominally in charge of everything from Israeli-Palestinian relations to government modernization — met with Sergei Gorkov, a former Russian spy and the head of Vnesheconombank. We have no idea what they talked about either.
Sanctions bar Western companies from doing business with Vnesheconombank, which is basically an instrument of the Russian state.
After FBI director James Comey revealed that his bureau is investigating the Trump team’s ties to Russia, White House officials leaked classified information to the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, in order to throw doubt on the allegations.
Nunes — to the consternation of Democrats on the oversight committee — allowed himself to be used and made a mockery of the investigation by subsequently briefing Trump, whom he is supposed to be investigating, on what his underlings had leaked!
Now Flynn has come forward to offer his testimony in exchange for immunity from prosecution. One can only imagine what he has to say.
The Russia scandal isn’t distracting Trump from his overarching priority: turning the United States into a kleptocracy.
He has appointed his daughter, Ivanka, who is married to Kushner, as an unpaid advisor. Former White House chief ethics counsel Norman Eisen has described this as a flagrant ethics violation. But the current administration maintains there is nothing wrong, because Ivanka isn’t being paid for her advice.
Ivanka previously sat in on meetings with foreign officials, including the Japanese prime minister, when she had no government role but was a key player in her father’s real-estate empire.
Fox and friends
Trump’s favoritism extends to business associates.
He has frozen all new regulations, except one fuel rule that benefits the company of Carl Icahn, a billionaire friend of Trump’s who has also been made a special advisor to the president on regulatory matters.
The president has removed the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, from his post after earlier telling him he could keep his job. Bharara’s office is investigating Fox News for allegedly surveilling journalists and hiding sexual-harassment settlements from investors while Roger Ailes ran the Trump-friendly network. After being fired, Ailes joined the Trump campaign. His personal lawyer, Marc Mukasey, is now a contender for Bharara’s job.
Then there is Scott Pruitt, the head of Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency and a climate-change denier. He has come under scrutiny for lying during his confirmation hearing about using a private email account to communicate with oil and gas companies while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general. Those emails have yet to be released. Pruitt faces disbarment in his home state.
We have yet to find out to what extent the Trump campaign actively colluded with Russian intelligence to win the election last year, but clearly Trump is already imitating Putin in the way he bends the law to benefit himself and his friends.