Ryan Lizza on the Sergey Kislyak Coverup
Lizza argues that we should not go too far and see the simple act of meeting with the Russian Ambassador as a crime.
“There is nothing inherently wrong with the fact that Flynn, Sessions, and other Trump advisers talked to the Russian Ambassador. With the Kislyak affair, in which multiple conversations between Trump officials and the Ambassador have been concealed, so far, we have a coverup without a crime.”
“Some of the media discussion has turned contact with Kislyak into a crime, with officials anonymously leaking that he is a spy rather than a diplomat. “He’s the Ambassador plenipotentiary to the United States!” Talbot said. “I have never heard any suspicion or rumors that he is a spook in diplomat’s clothing. There are some of those, for sure. I’ve known him long enough, and I would be very, very surprised of that.”
McFaul agreed. “ ‘Is he a spy versus a diplomat?’ We are going too far with that,” he said. “Knowing whether he actually works for the S.V.R.”—Russia’s foreign-intelligence service—“is not really that important. He’s part of the Russian political system that the intelligence services play a very major role in.”
“The suggestions that there’s something wrong with speaking to Kislyak is “really sensitive to me because, when I was the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, that’s what the Russian government did to me,” McFaul added. “They really discouraged people to meet with me that were not part of the government, and if there was ever a meeting with someone defined as the opposition it became crazy, awful, page-one news that I was meddling in their internal affairs. We don’t want to become that.”
“And yet there was something about their contacts with Kislyak that caused both Flynn and Sessions to conceal them. McFaul, while cautioning against overreacting, said that the amount of contact was unusual, more than he had in 2008, as an Obama adviser. But the denial of contact was even more unusual. “Why are they being so deceptive about it?” McFaul asked. “That makes no sense to me at all.”
It may be hard to understand if you look at it as Lizza is looking at it here-without any sense of the larger political context. But if you look at this larger context it’s not hard to understand at all
We need to remember where we are and what we are talking about. The context is that our top 17 intelligence agencies have all said that Russia subverted our election and they did it with the expressed purpose of helping on candidate-Donald Trump-at the expense of the other-Hillary Clinton.
Their candidate-the Manchurian candidate if you will-won. After the election the Russians reportedly celebrated. Putin gloated that ‘No one believed he could win but us.’
For a few months, there was some real Trump love for Trump in the Russian media. That has now changed because Putin and friends see that Trump will have a much tougher time giving them the kind of pro Russia policy they had banked on.
So now mostly Trump isn’t discussed at all. But we must keep our eye on the ball. No all things being equal there’s nothing wrong with talking to the Russian Ambassador and we should do it just as there’s nothing wrong as Trump blithely puts it in ‘Getting along better with Russia.’
But again, this comes against the context that our 17 intelligence agencies all say that Russia interfered in our election and they did so to help the man now occupying the White House. A week before Trump was sworn in, the GOP chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee-Richard Burr-agreed to a full investigation that looks seriously at this question: did anyone in the Trump campaign collaborate with this Russian interference?
With this backdrop then, all communications between the Trump team and Russia takes on a totally different coloration. When we hear that Jeff Sessions spoke twice to the Russian Ambassador and lied about it under oath this is not going to be seen innocently against the backdrop that we’re trying to figure out whether or not the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia or not.
And it’s totally understandable why Sessions didn’t want to admit it: because he knows about the investigation of whether the Trump team coordinated with Russia and his meeting with Kisylak will be seen in this context.
As McFaul himself says, the amount of contact that high ranking members of the Trump team had prior to the election is unusual.
That Michael Flynn talked to Kisylak five times the very day Obama imposed the sanctions raises alarm bells on all kinds of levels.
This is not going to be seen innocently: ‘Geez, why aren’t we allowed to even talk to the Russian Ambassador?!’
“Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national-security adviser, had several conversations with Kislyak during the transition. In December, he met with Kislyak at Trump Tower, along with Jared Kushner, to “establish a more open line of communication in the future,” according to the White House. Later that month, after the Obama Administration kicked out Russian diplomats and instituted economic sanctions, Kislyak and Flynn had phone conversations in which they discussed the future of those sanctions. Flynn’s effort to conceal those talks led to his resignation, last month.”
Why Flynn-and Trump-wanted to conceal this conversation is not hart to understand:
1. Arguably, Flynn-who was certainly not going rogue as Trump later said he was doing what he wanted him to do-violated the Logan Act. Yes, this hasn’t been used since 1790. Maybe because there was never this level of potential collaboration to throw an election with the help of a hostile foreign power before.
At the very minimum it violated the One President at a Time rule. And it was not a call about the weather as Flynn tried to frame it initially.
2. Not only was Flynn trying to undermine the policy of the current President at the time but it was a policy meant to sanction Russia for their interference in our election; interference meant to help Flynn’s boss get elected.
Interference that was being investigated to see if the Trump team coordinated with this interference.
This is why all this seeming constant communication with Kislyak is not going to be seen as innocent. We’re going to want to know exactly what those conversations were about. After all, we’ve now clearly already established that many in the Trump campaign spoke to Russia. We therefore need to know if any of those conversations were about coordinating with Russia’s interference.
Regarding potential coordination, I’d start with Roger Stone.
“Trump Dirty Trickster Roger Stone: How ‘Hero’ Assange Could Help Our Campaign.”
The conspiracist reveals he’s been in touch with the WikiLeaks founder regarding Clinton emails—and when to dump them on the media.”
As I always warn: Don’t underestimate Roger Stone.
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