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Abramson writes: "In the unfolding Russia scandal enveloping the White House, we are so fascinated - and entertained - by the supporting cast that we are losing sight of the man in the starring role, Donald J Trump."

Donald Trump. (photo: Martin Schoeller/TIME)
Donald Trump. (photo: Martin Schoeller/TIME)

Donald Trump - Not His Son - Is the Real Protagonist of the Russia Drama

By Jill Abramson, Guardian UK

14 July 17

The story around Donald Trump Jr and Jared Kushner are titillating. But the real issue is: what did the president know and when did he know it?

n the unfolding Russia scandal enveloping the White House, we are so fascinated – and entertained – by the supporting cast that we are losing sight of the man in the starring role, Donald J Trump.

This week, thanks to great reporting by The New York Times, we’ve been captivated by some new characters: Donald Trump Jr, a Russian lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rob Goldstone, the rotund music promoter who was their go-between.

Then, there is the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who accompanied Trump Jr to the June meeting with the Russian lawyer to gather damaging goods on Hillary Clinton. Did he dime out his own brother-in-law and disclose the meeting in order to draw attention away from himself?

As the Trump campaign’s digital captain, did he have the skill to direct all the Russian bots and trolls that spread dirt on Hillary Clinton in key political precincts? (This theory of the case was put forth in a recent coop from McClatchy). Should Kushner’s security clearance be rescinded? Should he be prosecuted for leaving out information about his Russian contacts on Form 86, the required disclosure for White House officials?

Yes, this is all titillating stuff, but it diverts us from the real issue at the heart of the Russia scandal: what did the president know and when did he know it?

From the first disclosures about fired national security adviser Michael Flynn’s meetings with the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, that question keeps getting overlooked. Why would Flynn have initiated these meetings on his own? Surely, someone else must have deputized him to be the emissary between Russia and the campaign.

Similarly, it strains credulity that Kushner, a complete neophyte in foreign diplomacy, would have undertaken on his own the setting up of a secure back-channel to the Russians. Who suggested he do so? And Jr? He is nothing other than his father’s cypher and surrogate.

It’s true that Donald Trump Jr and Kushner have business ties to rich Russian oligarchs and Russian banks involved in their real estate deals. It’s possible that Kushner’s originally undisclosed meeting with banker Sergey Gorkov during the transition was about his family’s troubled investment in a Fifth Avenue office tower.

In 2008, Donald Trump Jr gushed about “all the Russian money pouring in” for New York real estate. But the timing of their meetings – right after Trump clinched the Republican nomination and right before he took office – suggests politics, not business, was the subject at hand.

Let’s remember that the Russians all had something they desperately wanted and needed out of the new Trump administration: the lifting of US sanctions against the outlaw state for its Crimean and Ukrainian land grabs. Isn’t it clear that this scandal is about a quid pro quo: Russian help to elect Donald Trump so that he could free his friends from the bonds of the sanctions.

It’s simply ridiculous that such a deeply corrupt and grand bargain, had it been made, could have been struck without the express knowledge and direction of Donald J Trump. There’s no way the father was an unwitting chump.

He says he did not know about his son’s tete a tete with the Russian lawyer, but surely he knew the Russians were lobbying to relax the sanctions, including the Magnitsky Act. His son-in-law would never have attempted his back-room pirouettes without his father-in-law’s express blessings.

Anyone who has watched the Trump family dynamics knows that the sons, son-in-law, and Ivanka are consumed by filial devotion. Their clout and success in the business and political worlds are completely dependent on Donald Trump. The senior Trump was also Michael Flynn’s ticket back to power after being fired by Obama. Not one of them would have endangered their status with Donald Trump by engaging with the Russians without his knowledge and approval.

This is particularly true of Kushner, whose more tenuous ties are through marriage rather than blood. With his Harvard background, smoother demeanor and broad White House portfolio, he does seem properly cast in the role of Machievelle.

But having visited his own father in a federal slammer, surely he knows better than the rest of the Trump clan the awful consequences of breaking the law. At 36, still a young age, could he have hatched and executed a complex plot of Russian political collusion and risked his whole future? It’s doubtful.

It’s his father-in-law who has a history of striking deals with all kinds of sketchy characters from the worlds of real estate, reality television, professional wrestling and international beauty pageants.

Certainly, Kushner’s security clearance should be immediately revoked. His high-priced defense lawyers, Jamie Gorelick and Abbe Lowell, have their work cut out for them in shielding Kushner from prosecution for lying on federal forms or violating federal campaign laws as a top member of the Trump campaign. Kushner has said he intends to cooperate with congressional investigators probing the Russia affair. We shall see.

In this scandal, there are inescapable comparisons to Watergate. That investigation ended with a lingering mystery: it remains unknown whether Richard Nixon ordered or knew beforehand about the burglary of Democratic Party headquarters, the event that shattered his presidency. Donald Trump’s direct role in polluting and subverting the 2016 election must not remain a mystery.

The relatives who fill the rooms in Donald Trump’s House of Atreus may be culpable, too, but they distract from the real person of interest, the president of the United States. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

-60 # Old School Conservative 2017-07-14 16:05
Give it up people. Even if the entire Trump family had meetings with foreign governments and received dirt on Hillary, there would still be no crime committed. It is only a crime if the campaign was taking money from foreign governments. It has just been reported that the dirt they had on Hillary was that the Democrat National Committee was receiving money from foreigners. That actually is a crime. Why is that not being investigated?
+14 # futhark 2017-07-15 01:40
I would say that since Mr. Trump senior has considerable investments in Russia that it is not inconceivable that he may be attempting to curry favor with the Russian government with personal gain in mind. This sounds like a possible ethical violation, if not legal one. Ms Clinton is not currently in a position to influence government policy, so whatever she may have done wrong in the psst as pertains to getting dirt on the opposition is rather a mute point.
-19 # Old School Conservative 2017-07-15 09:09
It's not inconceivable but there is also no evidence. It's conceivable that you cheat on your taxes, what does that mean? Hillary is not a mute point, if the Clinton crime machine was selling out America for personal gain, they should be prosecuted for it. The double standard on the left is just mind boggling.
+18 # wrknight 2017-07-15 09:14
Quoting futhark:
I would say that since Mr. Trump senior has considerable investments in Russia that it is not inconceivable that he may be attempting to curry favor with the Russian government with personal gain in mind. This sounds like a possible ethical violation, if not legal one...

My guess is he WANTS Russian investments rather than HAS. My suspicion is that the Trump empire is in deep financial shit (witness he won't release his tax returns and he's been in bankruptcy 6 times before) and he wants the Russians to invest in his projects so he can use the money to bail out his empire. In return, the Russians want the U.S. to relax its sanctions. So here's the makings of a nice quid pro quo. Relaxing sanctions in return for big investment money from the Russians.

Having gone through bankruptcy 6 times and always coming out ahead, you know someone else got stiffed. (I wonder what his credit rating is.) No smart U.S. investor is going to sink money in his enterprise, so he's looking for foreign suckers. (Note the Qataris recently turned him down.) Putin is clever enough to recognize that removal (or even relaxation) of sanctions for a measly couple of billion dollars would be a tremendous return on investment for Russia - even if Trump defaulted.
+19 # wrknight 2017-07-15 09:17

I have the suspicion that Trump has been running the equivalent of a Ponzi scheme for a long time, using new investors' money to bail out earlier investment projects and when that fails, declaring bankruptcy - meanwhile living high on the hog on investors' money.
+23 # ericlipps 2017-07-15 07:26
(1) No. If the information was illegally obtained, that IS a crime: espionage. Money doesn't have to have changed hands, though it's a good bet that if U.S. citizens were involved, that did happen.

(2) Where has it been "reported" that the DNC was "receiving money from foreigners"? How credible are these reports?
+45 # DongiC 2017-07-14 16:36
As the scandals grow and multiply, Trump Senior can feel their heat intensify. No doubt more mistakes will occur and his ship will sink even faster. The Republic will be the beneficiary.
-23 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-07-14 17:36
Actually the real protagonist in this spectacle being played out before our eyes is the hydra-headed monster comprised of the CIA, NSA, FBI, NYT, and Wapo. Others yap and snarl around it like harpies.

The root of protagonist is the Greek agōnistḗs which means the aggressor, the actor, or combatant who drives the action. This monster is in control of everything that happens. The intelligence agencies have all the communications of Trump and his associates back for decades. They leak to the chorus at the NYT and Wapo and thereby control the national discourse. They determine what we all think and talk about.

In Greek tragedy it is the overweening aggression of the "agonistess" that leads to his fall. In this drama, Trump is the victim and he is increasingly being seen in that way.

Lies such as this one only come from journalism out-of-control pride:

"the lifting of US sanctions against the outlaw state for its Crimean and Ukrainian land grabs."

Russia does not need US sanctions lifted. It is moving its business toward China and India. The BRICS nations have a larger GDP and growth rates than do the NATO nations. Russia did not grab any land in Ukraine. The people of Crimea voted by 90% to leave Ukraine and join Russia. The Donbass region is about to do the same. This is called the right of political self-determinat ion.

It is the press that is heading for a fall in this drams. It has staked its position on lies. Greeks called that "hamartia."
+22 # Caliban 2017-07-15 01:00
No, the press will not be the falling one in the upcoming years. The Donald is both more erratic than the press and less trustworthy.

If there is a big fall to be taken in the next year, it will be The Donald. He has neither the intellect to be president nor the character to accept that fact and step down.

If we are lucky, the next seven plus years will continue bring stories about Trump's laziness and irrelevance. But if we are unlucky, look for many more stories of Trump actually trying to pass legislation and make his regulators actually regulate.

This "serious" Trump is the one we as a country need to be saved from.
-2 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-07-15 10:01
Caliban -- we'll see how this turns out. I think Bill Clinton benefited from the Ken Starr witch hunt. Obama benefitted from the Birthergate scandal. Of course, Trump won't rise in the estimation of people like you and me. We both know who he is. But he will rise in the eyes of republicans and some conservative independents. These are people who hate the mainstream media already. As we saw in 2016, there are enough of these people to put republicans in control of government at all levels.

To me, the media is vastly overplaying its hand. There is very little evidence but the media calls it a "bombshell." The mass media has only one direction to go and that is down.
+2 # Caliban 2017-07-16 00:41
I agree that the Trump story is far from over, and you seem to be right that Donald is not losing popularity with his base.

But I would respectfully disagree that there is "very little evidence" out there. A family meeting with Russians of dubious origins in the family business offices is certainly evidence of something. I'm just not sure yet of exactly what.

But the media "falling"? No -- the media loves this story, which must mean more readers, circulation, and advertising revenues, i.e. happiness. And let us not forget that the Donald is a skilled media performer of a unique American sort -- the gameshow host and a ratings star.

Hey, even I used to watch The Apprentice every now and then.
+27 # hectormaria 2017-07-15 07:41
This is not a 'Greek Tragedy", IT IS AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY. The supporting cast is made up of people like "Old School Conservatives" above.
+9 # Kootenay Coyote 2017-07-15 08:07
& let’s not forget the Republican Party’s deep, abiding guilt for its ongoing support of these criminal clowns: they are after all, its own creation.
0 # Depressionborn 2017-07-16 05:05
i am impressed. Reality is showing its ugly head. It is so good it gets lots of red thumbs. thanks # Old School Conservative 2017-07-14 16:05
+3 # MikeAF48 2017-07-16 08:38
Russia is doing business with Donald Trump.
+5 # PABLO DIABLO 2017-07-16 14:58
Does anyone care about the government actually "governing"?
+1 # jrobbie 2017-07-16 21:50
Trump is the American puppet master. Putin is Trump's master puppeteer. Jared will tell us just what his father in law directed. Follow the Ruskie Mob money to Donald J Trump. The truth will expose the entire collusion mess and trump supporters will receive their just rewards.
Who is running the USA?? It is not D.J.Trump. He's watching television.
0 # DongiC 2017-07-17 14:36
And, composing twitters. Are we, perhaps, approaching a political and financial apoclypse in the United States?
0 # MikeAF48 2017-07-17 19:48
Hate to change the subject but. Barack Obama's Affordable Health Care plan is in fact the law of the land, sorry big guy.
+1 # FDRva 2017-07-18 01:45
I have an old friend in Odenton MD. Near NSA HQ at Ft Meade. He can hack anything--and leave someone else's signature.

He could make it look like Barack Obama & I hacked your bank account--and the last election.

Things are not always as they seem

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