By the time this column appears in a few days, no doubt there will be a new installment to Donald Trump’s strange, unsettling Russian saga. Drip. Drip. Drip.
Less than two months into his presidency, however, it is becoming clear to many people that Donald J. Trump simply has to go. Whether it is by resignation, impeachment, military coup or arrest, Trump cannot remain in office. He cannot be allowed to continue playing Russian roulette with the American republic.
Seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russians interfered with the 2016 U.S. elections by hacking into the Democratic National Committee and releasing stolen emails to sabotage Hillary Clinton and to benefit Donald Trump. Then, last week, we learned that the Trump campaign may have rewarded the Russians for their hack job by changing the GOP platform to soft peddle Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.
The list of Trump associates with shady Russian connects has grown to include former campaign manager Paul Manafort; Manafort’s lobbying partner Roger Stone; former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn; Attorney General Jeff Sessions; Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner; Trump Soho partner Felix Sater; Trump Toronto partner Alex Shnaider; Trump attorney Michael Cohen; foreign policy adviser Carter Page; Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. Flynn was forced to resign after lying about his contacts with the Russians. Sessions should be forced to resign as well for lying under oath about his own contacts with the Russians.
Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, may have been tapped as secretary of state in order to restore a $500 billion oil deal that was stopped by sanctions imposed by the Obama administration, sanctions one suspects Trump will try to lift. Sater and Cohen supposedly carried that message to the Russians during the campaign.
Wilbur Ross, known as The King of Bankruptcy for his expertise in acquiring bankrupt companies, may have been chosen as secretary of commerce because he sat on the board of the Bank of Cyprus, the bank that launders ill-gotten gain for Russian oligarchs.
One of those oligarchs is Fertilizer King Dmitry Rybolovlev, who paid Trump $100 million for a $40 million mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, apparently both to hide some assets from his wife during a messy divorce and to help bail out the financially troubled Trump. The tacky monstrosity is now being torn down.
A story in The New Yorker last week detailed how Trump did business with the “Don Corleone of Azerbaijan” in building a bogus luxury hotel in Baku. The corrupt transportation minister behind Trump Tower Baku, a project personally overseen by first daughter Ivanka Trump, has known connections to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, leading The New Yorker to suggest that the Trumps may have violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, which prohibits American companies from rewarding foreign government officials in exchange for material reward or preferential treatment, a prohibition that sure sounds as though it should apply to the Putin oil deal as well.
And what about Trump’s bromance with Vladimir Putin? Could the fact that Trump has badmouthed Barack Obama, the intelligence community, the military, the court system and the press while playing kissy-face with a stone-cold killer be explained by that blackmail dossier of sordid behavior that no one wants to take seriously?
Be that as it may, Donald J. Trump will not be a legitimate president of the United States until he releases his tax returns, puts his assets in a blind trust and is cleared of collusion with the Russians. But at this rate, he will not be our so-called president much longer anyway.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has begun investigating all of the allegations, including Trump’s twitterstorm about President Obama bugging Trump Tower, but it may take Congress appointing a special counsel to get to the bottom of Trump’s Russian funny business.
A Quinnipiac University poll last week found that 66 percent of Americans support an “independent commission investigating potential links between some of Donald Trump’s campaign advisers and the Russian government.” My question is, “What in heaven’s name is wrong with the other 34 percent?” Either one-third of the American people are incapable of handling the truth or they have inexplicably fallen in love with Mother Russia.
Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.