More than ever, Rus­sia at heart of US pol­i­tics

Manila Times - - OPINION - AFP

WASH­ING­TON, D.C.: Be­tween the al­leged cy­ber-at­tacks on US po­lit­i­cal par­ties and se­cret deal­ings be­tween pres­i­den­tial aides-in-wait­ing and Rus­sia’s am­bas­sador, Moscow is front and cen­ter in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics in a way not seen since the Cold War.

And that show no signs of chang­ing any­time soon, cast­ing a long shadow over the fledg­ling gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump – and what some say are its murky links with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s Krem­lin. In July, US in­tel­li­gence of in­ter­fer­ing in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. They have since gone fur­ther, al­leg­ing Putin or­ches­trated a cam­paign to sway the vote in Trump’s fa­vor.

On Mon­day, White House na­tional se­cu­rity advisor Michael Flynn was forced to re­sign over his pri­vate dis­cus­sions with a Rus­sian diplo­mat in De­cem­ber – be­fore - dent Barack Obama was pre­par­ing to im­pose sanc­tions on Moscow over the al­leged elec­tion hack­ing.

Af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tions by US spy agencies and the Jus­tice Department, Congress is keen to get to the bot­tom of it all.

The is­sue has tainted Trump’s elec­tion vic­tory over Hil­lary Clin­ton, and raised fears that Moscow has found a new way to wreak havoc in - dence in elec­tions, the cor­ner­stone of Amer­i­can democ­racy.

The Repub­li­can prop­erty mogul- turned-pres­i­dent has made no se­cret of his de­sire to re­set relations with Rus­sia af­ter years of ten­sions.

But Democrats in Congress smell blood in the wa­ter, and want deeper in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Rus­sia’s ac­tions. And while some Repub­li­cans have said the is­sue should be laid to rest, oth­ers are start­ing to call for fur­ther in­quiries.

The Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee has al­ready opened a probe. And now they want to hear from Flynn.

“I would think that we should talk to Gen­eral Flynn very soon and that should an­swer a lot of ques­tions,” said Roy Blunt, a Repub­li­can se­na­tor on the com­mit­tee.

“What did he know? What did he do? And is there any rea­son to be­lieve that any­body knew that and didn’t take the kind of ac­tion they should have taken?”

Unan­swered ques­tions

Af­ter Trump’s shock vic­tory over Clin­ton in Novem­ber, Obama be­gan pre­par­ing the ground to re­tal­i­ate against Rus­sia over the hack claims.

But be­fore he an­nounced ac­tions on De­cem­ber 30 – more eco­nomic sanc­tions and the ex­pul­sion of 35 al­leged Rus­sian spies – Flynn was re­port­edly telling Rus­sia’s US am­bas­sador Sergey Kislyak not to worry.

Flynn re­port­edly con­veyed the mes­sage that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion had a dif­fer­ent view and would work to im­prove bilateral relations.

He re­signed Mon­day af­ter ad­mit­ting he had not been com­pletely hon­est with Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence about his phone dis­cus­sions with Kislyak.

But even with Flynn gone, the is­sue of Rus­sia’s in­ter­fer­ence re­mains a po­tent chal­lenge for the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

At least four Con­gres­sional com­mit­tees are look­ing into var­i­ous as­pects of Rus­sia’s al­leged in­ter­fer­ence, as well as Team Trump’s links to Moscow.

Flynn is not the first mem­ber of Trump’s in­ner cir­cle to prompt spec­u­la­tion.

His for­mer cam­paign di­rec­tor Paul Manafort was pre­vi­ously a con­sul­tant to Moscow-backed for­mer Ukraine prime min­is­ter Vik­tor Yanukovych, and also worked with Rus­sian oli­garchs linked to Putin. He even­tu­ally stepped down.

Sev­eral Repub­li­cans have ridiculed the probes as “hys­te­ria,” but Democrats and some Repub­li­cans like top Se­na­tor John McCain have em­pha­sized their im­por­tance.

Demo­cratic Se­na­tor Mark Warner, also on the in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, said Tues­day that prob­ing the is­sue “is more ur­gent than ever” af­ter Flynn’s res­ig­na­tion.

“Th­ese de­vel­op­ments un­der­score how many ques­tions still re­main unan­swered to the Amer­i­can peo­ple more than three months af­ter Elec­tion Day, in­clud­ing who was aware of what, and when.”

Ben Cardin, the top Demo­crat of the Se­nate For­eign Relations Com­mit­tee, called Tues­day for an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion ex­am­in­ing the hack­ing as well as what Trump him­self knew.

- sier compiled by a for­mer Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence agent with mul­ti­ple ex­plo­sive Wash­ing­ton for weeks.

Not only does it al­lege that Putin sought to give Trump’s cam­paign a boost over Clin­ton’s, it says peo­ple as­so­ci­ated with Trump’s cam­paign had on­go­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions with the Krem­lin dur­ing the elec­tion.

Me­dia re­ports in re­cent weeks say US in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials have con­firmed parts though not all of the dossier, in­clud­ing pos­si­bly com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween Trump al­lies

In­cred­i­bly tough

Trump has re­peat­edly de­nied that Moscow helped him to his elec­tion vic­tory, though he even­tu­ally con­ceded that they might have in­ter­fered in the cam­paign.

He also has made no se­cret of his ad­mi­ra­tion for Putin, tweet­ing in De­cem­ber that the Rus­sian leader was “very smart.”

On Tues­day, White House spokesman Sean Spicer in­sisted that Trump “has been in­cred­i­bly tough on Rus­sia.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.