Trump Apologists Muddy Waters After Flynn Pleads Guilty

American president Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, arrive at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 20
American president Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, arrive at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 20 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

President Donald Trump’s defenders are muddying the waters in the Russia scandal after his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials.

Two of Trump’s confidants (Flynn and Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager) may have lied to investigators; four (also counting Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos) may have been charged with felonies, but at least, the president’s apologists argue, there is no evidence of collusion!

Yet. Read more

Russians Were All Over Trump’s Campaign

Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

Back in March, I wondered if anybody in Donald Trump’s inner circle wasn’t in touch with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The answer, we know now, is no. The Russians were all over Trump’s team.

Whether this was collusion or a case of collective and massive misjudgment is something Robert Mueller, the special counsel, must find out, but clearly the Russians were trying to influence the outcome of the election.

The fact that none of Trump’s underlings disclosed their Russian contacts, and when first asked about them lied, suggests they knew they were doing something wrong. Read more

Allies Wary of Sharing Intelligence Since Trump Betrayed Israeli Source

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 10
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov speaks with American president Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington DC, May 10 (Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Allies have become wary of sharing intelligence with the United States since President Donald Trump gave sensitive information about an Israeli covert operation to the Russians in May, reports Howard Blum for Vanity Fair.

The president boasted to Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the time that the United States had learned of an Islamic State plot to hide airplane bombs in laptops from a source deep inside the caliphate’s territory.

That spy turned out to be Israeli, raising concerns in the Jewish state that information shared with the Americans could, via Russia, find its way to their nemesis, Iran.

Michael Morell, a former acting director of the CIA, has publicly worried, “Third countries who provide the United States with intelligence information will now have pause.”

A senior Israeli military official was less circumspect, telling Blum, “Trump betrayed us.” Read more

Trump Cedes Initiative to China and Russia

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China observe a military ceremony in Shanghai, May 20, 2014
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China observe a military ceremony in Shanghai, May 20, 2014 (Presidential Press and Information Office)
  • Edward Luce argues in the Financial Times that Donald Trump is allowing China to take the lead in artificial intelligence and robotics. Whereas Trump is sabotaging his own country’s edge by proposing to cut investment spending, reduce visas for high-skilled migrants and pulling out of the Trans Pacific Partnership, China is spending generously, drawing in foreign talent and developing its “One Belt and One Road” trade initiative.
  • Michael Crowley reports for Politico that Trump is ceding postwar planning in Syria to Vladimir Putin, allowing not only Russia but Iran to maintain a foothold in the Eastern Mediterranean. The effect: Egypt and Turkey, once bulwarks of American influence in the Middle East, are eying an entente with Moscow.

Trump Accepts Putin’s Denials of Election Interference

American president Donald Trump meets with Japanese officials in Tokyo, November 6
American president Donald Trump meets with Japanese officials in Tokyo, November 6 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

America’s spy agencies are unanimous in their assessment that Russia tried to sabotage the 2016 election. Yet Donald Trump puts more faith in the word of Vladimir Putin.

“Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that’,” Trump told reporters after meeting with the Russian president on the sidelines of a summit in Vietnam, “and I really believe that, when he tells me that, he means it.”

Asked if he accepts Putin’s denials, Trump said, “I can’t stand there and argue with him,” adding he would rather discuss international issues, such as the war in Syria or the nuclear crisis in Korea.

“If we had a relationship with Russia, that would be a good thing,” he argued.

Trump’s Gutting of the Foreign Service Alarms Diplomats

American president Donald Trump waves at a crowd in North Charleston, South Carolina, February 17
American president Donald Trump waves at a crowd in North Charleston, South Carolina, February 17 (North Charleston/Ryan Johnson)

Barbara Stephenson, the president of the Foreign Service Association of the United States, is ringing the alarm bell.

In a column titled “Time to Ask Why,” the former dean of the Foreign Service Institute’s Leadership and Management School wonders why the current administration seems determined to gut the diplomatic agency.

“The rapid loss of so many senior officers has a serious, immediate and tangible effect on the capacity of the United States to shape world events,” she writes. Read more

How Significant Is Latest Republican Criticism of Trump?

Republican senator Bob Corker of Tennessee meets with then-Prime Minister George Papandreou of Greece in Athens, June 1, 2010
Republican senator Bob Corker of Tennessee meets with then-Prime Minister George Papandreou of Greece in Athens, June 1, 2010 (Greek Prime Minister’s Office)

Senior Republicans have castigated President Donald Trump in the last week, some implicitly, others explicitly.

  • George W. Bush, former president: “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication. … We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. … We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism — forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. … Our identity as a nation […] is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility.”
  • John McCain, Arizona senator, former presidential candidate and chairman of the Armed Services Committee: “To fear the world we have organized and led for three quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of Earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”
  • Bob Corker, Tennessee senator and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee: “The president has great difficulty with the truth. … I don’t know why he lowers himself to such a low, low standard and debases our country in a way that he does, but he does. … He’s obviously not going to rise to the occasion as president.”
  • Jeff Flake, Arizona senator: “We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country — the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth or decency.” Read more