President Trump’s complimentary remarks during his campaign regarding Russian President Putin have raised eyebrows. There is certainly nothing wrong with expressing a desire to have a good relationship with another foreign leader, but Mr. Trump hit a sensitive nerve with with those in the intelligence community as well as some congressmen and senators. This has created controversy that finally boiled over with the resignation of national security advisor Michael Flynn.
Here is how The New York Times puts the story:
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.
The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.
President Trump can be encouraged by that last statement. If no such cooperation happened, then there’s no issue.
The other source of controversy is the issue of whether Russian officials intervened in the US election on Mr. Trump’s behalf, and whether Mr. Trump or his team had any knowledge of this or whether there was any cooperation.
A report from American intelligence agencies that was made public in January concluded that the Russian government had intervened in the election in part to help Mr. Trump, but did not address whether any members of the Trump campaign had participated in the effort.
Regardless of whether all of this is just unfounded rumor designed to derail President Trump’s administration, it is certainly a very unhelpful distraction. As Washington and the media work, even if Mr. Trump and his team are utterly innocent of any wrongdoing, the issue will swirl around for many months.
It should also be pointed out that such accusations are nothing new. The Obama administration went through a similar situation regarding contacts with Iran and Hamas.
Amid the controversy surrounding White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s alleged conversations with Russia, it may be instrumental to recall that representatives for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign were accused of meeting with Hamas and Iran.
Depending on what took place, the alleged contacts with Iran may have violated the Logan Act, which bars citizens from negotiating with foreign governments in dispute with the United States. It may be questionable whether Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, legally qualifies as a foreign government.
In 2008, Robert Malley stepped down as an informal foreign policy adviser to Obama’s campaign when it was revealed that he met with Hamas members.
Malley admitted to the meetings, but he claimed he met with the terrorists as part of his private job.
It is clear that President Trump has infuriated the intelligence community. It is also likely that elements of leadership within that community want relations with Russia to remain stressed. Recent events make it clear that they are prepared to take actions, including illegal ones such as leaking information to the press as they did with the Flynn case, in order to prevent the current administration from improving American-Russian relations.
It is a no benefit to our form of government when its intelligence community can impose its will on US presidents as ours has done for decades. Leaks to the press from the CIA and other organizations are no way to influence policy, and any accusations of wrongdoing need to be investigated by Congress and law enforcement agencies, not pursued through covert means.
Source: The New York Times