Saturday, May 05, 2018

Trump Unleashing His Inner Nixon

Filing Cabinet of Dr. Lewis Fielding, with markings where Hunt, Liddy, Martinez. and the others broke into it in the hopes of finding out something nasty about Daniel Ellsberg, a patient of Dr. Fielding's, in 1971; Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History, via Wikipedia.

Progressives who'd rather we stop talking about Russia Russia Russia and Trump's criminality might take a look at this story, just out in The Guardian, which has nothing to do with Russia: It seems that a year ago, just after Trump's visit to Tel Aviv (when he promised Netanyahu that he would ensure "Iran would never have nuclear weapons"), his people hired a private Israeli intelligence agency to "get dirt" on the personal and political lives of Ben Rhodes, President Obama's deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, and Colin Kahl, former national security adviser to Vice President Biden, which they hoped "would discredit those who were pivotal in selling the deal, making it easier to pull out of it."
Among other things they were looking at personal relationships, any involvement with Iran-friendly lobbyists, and if they had benefited personally or politically from the peace deal.
Investigators were also apparently told to contact prominent Iranian Americans as well as pro-deal journalists – from the New York Times, MSNBC television, the Atlantic, Vox website and Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper among others – who had frequent contact with Rhodes and Kahl in an attempt to establish whether they had violated any protocols by sharing sensitive intelligence. They are believed to have looked at comments made by Rhodes in a 2016 New York Times profile in which he admitted relying on inexperienced reporters to create an “echo chamber” that helped sway public opinion to secure the deal. It is also understood that the smear campaign wanted to establish if Rhodes was among those who backed a request by Susan Rice, Obama’s final national security adviser, to unmask the identities of Trump transition officials caught up in the surveillance of foreign targets.
This is pretty clearly Nixon-level skullduggery, reminiscent of the original Plumbers burglary when they attacked Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office, with the added weirdness of using a foreign agency, and similar to what the Trump people are alleged to have done with Russian agents and a British firm trying to "get dirt" on Hillary Clinton in the campaign period. It's also similar in the tie-in of allowing foreign leaders to dictate US policy—Netanyahu for the Iran deal, Putin for the Ukrainian and Syrian issues, not to mention old Flynn offering US cooperation to the Turkish authoritarian president Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan.

Or Trump selling his acquiescence to Saudi's blockade of Qatar last summer, which seemed connected to Jared Kushner's failing to get a loan from Qatar for his debt on the 666 Fifth Avenue building, or Trump's new friendship with Qatar, to which the US has just sold $197 million worth of missiles, and Trump himself has sold a $6.5 million apartment in Trump Tower to go along with the other three units, worth about $10 million, they already own.

It's very Trumpy that there's a discernible profit motive in special cooperation with the Netanyahu government, at least for Jared (who seems to have vanished from view in recent weeks), because the Kushners seem to have huge investments from Israelis and interests in Israel, including the official charity of the Israel Defense Forces:
Another key Israeli beneficiary is the Israel Defense Forces. Between 2011 and 2013, the family foundation donated a total of $315,000 to Friends of the IDF (FIDF) – a U.S. organization doing fundraising for the Israeli army. Indeed, until he joined the Trump administration in January 2017, Jared Kushner served on the FIDF national board. A day after Haaretz submitted questions to FIDF and a Kushner family spokesperson about his continued involvement on the board, his name was suddenly removed from FIDF’s website.
But there's something especially Nixonian about this particular episode, too, in its narrow focus, in its concern with "enemies"—we all understand Trump's personal stake in abrogating the JCPOA is to wound Obama and undo his accomplishment, and we see how this project goes after the reputations of people who are loyal to Obama as well. Note also the implied recognition that there isn't a legitimate case against the JCPOA:
Jack Straw, who as foreign secretary was involved in earlier efforts to restrict Iranian weapons, said: “These are extraordinary and appalling allegations but which also illustrate a high level of desperation by Trump and [the Israeli prime minister] Benjamin Netanyahu, not so much to discredit the deal but to undermine those around it.”
It's not even the only apparent ratfucking going on as we approach Trump's deadline for withdrawing from the Iran deal; Twitter lit up today with the story of former secretary of state John Kerry working on something like his old schedule to salvage the deal, having meetings with Mohammed Zarif, German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the EU's Angela Mogherini, and France's Emanuel Macron, and this completely open and above-board activity—
The rare moves by a former secretary of state highlight the stakes for Kerry personally, as well as for other Obama-era diplomats who are dismayed by what they see as Trump’s disruptive approach to diplomacy, and who view the Iran nuclear deal as a factor for stability in the Middle East and for global nuclear nonproliferation. The pact, which came after a marathon negotiating session in Vienna that involved Iran and six world powers, lifted sanctions in return for Iran stopping its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
“It is unusual for a former secretary of state to engage in foreign policy like this, as an actual diplomat and quasi-negotiator,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a foreign policy expert at the Brookings Institution. “Of course, former secretaries of state often remain quite engaged with foreign leaders, as they should, but it’s rarely so issue-specific, especially when they have just left office.”
—is being treated by rightwingers, completely wrongly, as a violation of the Logan Act of 1799.

Even if you think the Russia collusion is kind of amorphous and unprosecutable and not even a necessarily bad thing, you should recognize that this ratfucking after Trump has become president, in aid of Netanyahu and Trump's own private hatreds, and against peace in the Middle East, is very bad, and distinctly criminal, because the law on it was all worked out in 1974.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

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