It is worth remembering that after Donald Trump won the election last November, there was reason for America’s foreign policy community to engage in some introspection. After all, petition after petition of national security and foreign policy professionals had been issued warnings that Trump would be a foreign policy disaster.
Despite these warnings, Trump won — which suggested that maybe foreign policy professionals and experts needed to do some soul-searching.
That was then. Now, however, introspection is a thing of the past.
Let’s consider his team. Rex Tillerson has given zero indication that he knows how to run the State Department. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross made clueless comments about Saudi Arabia that left the impression of him as a doddering fool. As secretary of homeland security, John F. Kelly keeps saying things designed to scare the hell out of people rather than make them feel more secure. He seems to have fallen victim to the worst pathologies of the Bush administration — and at least 9/11 could explain the behavior of those officials. National security adviser H.R. McMaster and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn seem to be focused far more on pleasing the president than offering cogent advice. Whatever influence they had over the national security team seems to be on the wane. Jared Kushner? Please. The rest of the White House staff is busy trying to be more absurd propagandists than Kim Jong Un’s flacks. So far, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley are the only foreign policy hands who have managed to retain their dignity, and that’s mostly because what they say contradicts Trump. And their assurances to allies do not seem to be working.
Then there’s the president himself. Just a glance at the decision-making process he used on withdrawing from the Paris climate change accord makes it clear how manifestly unfit he is to do his job.
From The Washington Post — Written by Ellen Nakashima, Adam Entous, and Greg Miller — Image courtesy of Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post
Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports.
Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.
The meeting also was attended by Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser.
The White House disclosed the meeting only in March, playing down its significance. But people familiar with the matter say the FBI now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of investigative interest.
Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.
From The Washington Post — Written by Amber Phillips — Image courtesy of Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post
The Washington Post’s national security team just reported that during the transition, Jared Kushner proposed to the Russians that they set up a secret channel of communication using secure Russian facilities. That’s what the Russian ambassador to the United States told Moscow about a December conversation he had with Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser.
This is a damning piece of news for the White House caught under an avalanche of revelations about its dealings with Russia.
If it’s true, it’s the most difficult for them to explain in the context of an FBI investigation into Russia meddling in the U.S. election and whether Trump’s campaign helped. Why would Trump’s transition team need to secretly talk to the Russians, using their Russian channels?
The White House declined to comment.
Everything we’ve learned these past few weeks as it relates to the FBI’s investigation into Russia is noteworthy, but it can be caveated with a reasonable explanation from the Trump White House. This news is much more difficult to caveat.