Tag: scandal

The Russia Follies, Chapter 58

The advantage of being on vacation is that I can watch an entire Trump news cycle play out before commenting on it. So it is with the latest Russia scandal. Apparently, Jeff Sessions, our Attorney General, denied meeting with the Russians during the campaign. But it has now been revealed that he met with the Russian Ambassador twice. Today has brought more revelations of unreported meetings and unreported business ties.

As is usually the case with revelations about this Administration’s contacts with Russia, it provoked an instant reaction of “Treason! Impeachment! Worse than Watergate!” followed by the refractory period of, “OK, we’ll look into it.” as more facts come out. For example, most of these contacts between Trump officials and the Russian ambassador took place at the RNC … at an event organized by the Obama Administration State Department.

A few things to unpack from this.

First, one of the big claims is that Sessions perjured himself in his testimony to Congress. Having thought about this for a while and read quite a bit of online commentary, I’m inclined to think he didn’t. There’s enough leeway in his answers that he can honestly say he didn’t discuss the campaign with Kislyak. One of the most hilarious figures in this mess is now Claire McCaskill. After she claimed to have never met the Russian ambassador, it took ten seconds for conservative Twitter to show that she had. Sessions may have forgotten these meetings or regarded their content as insignificant. His answers were problematic, no question. But sticking a charge of perjury on them requires a lot of facts that are not yet in evidence.

Questions of perjury aside, I agree with the calls for Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the ongoing Russia investigation (after I drafted this, Sessions agreed to recuse himself). I also think Sessions needs to give a full account of his conversations with Kislyak to determine if he did perjure himself before Congress.

And I agree that there needs to be a full independent Congressional investigation into this matter. At minimum, we’re talking about members of the Administration potentially using their positions to advance their business interests. At worst, we’re talking about the subversion of Administration members by a foreign power. Even if you are a Trump supporter, you can not have this cloud hanging over him for the next four years. There is a tendency for partisans to hunker down and not want to “give in” to the other side. That’s a bad instinct. Bad for America. And frankly bad for Trump. Investigate now. Investigate fully. This isn’t some Daily Kos conspiracy theory any more.

(I suspect, incidentally, that the explanation here is closer to the “business interests” side of the spectrum than the “treason” side. The Trump Administration is filled with amateurs who have no idea how important disclosure is and filled with business people who have ties to Russia and potential conflicts of interests — all the way up to the President himself. If it were shown that the Administration is subverting American interests in favor of Russian ones, that would be one of the worst scandals in American political history. But I find that unlikely to be the case, especially with Sessions who is a notorious hawk on Russia.)

I’ll be honest. We’re a month and a half into the Trump years and I am frankly getting tired of this clown show with the Russians. This entire thing could have been avoided had Trump released his tax returns and disclosed his business interests (and not done his whole, “Putin, if you’re listening” routine). One thing that needs to come out of this is full financial disclosure from both the President and his advisors. Releasing tax returns can no longer be optional. And while we’re on it, we should make medical disclosure mandatory too. We don’t need another JFK hopped up on five kinds of prescription meds trying to navigate a potential nuclear war.

How Deep the Rabbit Hole Goes

I think we could save ourselves a lot of time with this Petraeus scandal if we just assumed everyone is sleeping with everyone, everyone is e-mailing everyone and everyone is sexting everyone:

The FBI probe into the sex scandal that prompted CIA Director David Petraeus to resign has expanded to ensnare Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, the Pentagon announced early Tuesday.

According to a senior U.S. defense official, the FBI has uncovered between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of documents — most of them e-mails — that contain “potentially inappropriate” communication between Allen and Jill Kelley, the 37-year-old Tampa woman whose report of harassment by a person who turned out to be Petraeus’s mistress ultimately led to Petraeus’s downfall.

Allen, a Marine, succeeded Petraeus as the top allied commander in Afghanistan in July 2011. He also served as Petraeus’s deputy when both generals led the military’s Tampa-based Central Command from 2008 until 2010.

And:

A federal agent who launched the investigation that ultimately led to the resignation of Central Intelligence Agency chief David Petraeus was barred from taking part in the case over the summer due to superiors’ concerns that he was personally involved in the case, according to officials familiar with the probe.

One official said the agent in question sent shirtless photos to Ms. Kelley well before the email investigation began, and FBI officials only became aware of them some time later. Eventually, supervisors told the agent he was to have nothing to do with the case, though he never had a formal role in the investigation, the official said.

It’s fun to wallow in the salacious details, I guess. And I know the media is having fun tearing down these men and women. But I actually think there may be a serious side to this, which is the uncontrolled and pretty much unsupervised explosion of the National Security State. Expect the media to ignore that side when their are shirtless photos and hot biographers around. But the rabbit hole is getting deeper each day.

Update: Oh good fucking grief.

Update: Our story, so far:

Jill Kelley, the woman who was (allegedly) threatened by Gen. Petraeus’s squeeze Paula Broadwell and who (apparently) started the FBI investigation that led to Petraeus’ ouster, who went to the FBI for help after the threats and then (allegedly) had a relationship with the FBI agent in charge of her own case, who (allegedly) sent her shirtless pics of himself, also (apparently, allegedly) had “compromising” communications with Gen. John Allen, the Big Damn Commander of our war effort in Afghanistan.

OK.

FBI Better At Keeping CIA Director’s Affair Secret Than He Is

In my initial post on l’Affaire Petraeus, I expressed skepticism about whether there was something more sinister surrounding his resignation for broadening the well, if you will.  The timing, I did question, but I didn’t read much more into it than a guy getting stupid and certainly didn’t see or expect a Benghazi connection.

Well, here’s the twist: He didn’t get stupid and spill the beans.  The woman he was nailing did and went full bunny-boiler on another woman, which set off an FBI investigation.  USA Today reports that the FBI found Petraeus didn’t violate any confidentiality rules, though they did notify him of what they found out shortly before the election.  Or the political class is just protecting itself, as usual.   Either way, Petraeus now gets to do the Schwarzenegger to his family but he’s off the hook for any legal issues.

Is this a scandal?  I suppose so, but that was never in question.  It just further darkens Petraeus in my eyes, who didn’t come clean about what he had done and didn’t resign immediately when the jig was up.   Does the FBI deserve any criticism here?  I don’t think so.  Petraeus broke no laws, but I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when the agents got to explain to a sitting CIA director that they knew what he was up to. 

Obama?  Yeah, I’m sure he was aware of this before the election and he probably begged Petraeus to keep his mouth shut until after Super Tuesday.   I’m not sure where you go with it from here.  This will be just one of many scandals that I expect are already piling up within the Administration, given how undisciplined and opportunistic everyone in it is. 

Shit, if even Petraeus went bad…