As the Leaves Turn
Believe it or not, there are leaves beginning to turn in New England. In the same way, it seems, so are Donald Trump’s fortunes. As the American people are truly getting to know Trump (as we New Yorkers have for far too long), they are realizing he will never “grow into the job." Slowly but surely, it is dawning on all those “moderates” and Obama-turned-Trump voters that what we’re seeing is what we get. While many continue to say they “support” him, we are seeing indicators that the thin minority that tipped the Electoral College in Trump’s favor may be slipping away. A Fox News poll shows that 56% of people think Trump is dividing the country, as opposed to 33% (his base) who believe he is uniting us. People are making note of the fact that the man totally lacks empathy for others. His silence about Heather Heyer, about the 17 sailors killed in the Pacific collisions, about the victims of Hurricane Harvey, have put Trump’s callous and self-serving personality in high relief for all to see. And then, of course, there’s that whole Russian thing.
In a clever (?) move yesterday, the “President” called Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa --- the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee --- to let him know how much the Administration supports ethanol, a huge money maker for Grassley’s state. Of course, the fact that the phone call came the day before Donald Trump, Jr. was going to testify before Grassley's Senate Judiciary Committee about meeting with Russians in June of 2016 does not seem suspicious at all. Grassley and the Administration will assure us that ethanol, and only ethanol, was discussed in the phone call. On another part of the Russia front, we learned that Robert Mueller is teaming up with New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in pursuing the Paul Manafort investigation --- which rules out the use of a pardon for Manafort as NY State criminal charges are immune to a Federal Pardon from the President (check --- and mate?).
The connections between Russian banks and the Trump Organization are another problem that won’t go away for the “President” and his son-in-law. That there may have been dealings with certain sanctioned banks is only one problem. Another is a questionable connection to an unsanctioned bank --- Alfa Bank --- not only because of (A) their inexplicable link to Trump Organization servers but also because (B) Trump’s nominee to head the Criminal Division of the Justice Department represented Alfa Bank when they were investigated for that link! As regards (A), according to the Daily Kos, July 16, 2017:
In October of 2016 Slate magazine and the New York Times reported a story about two mysterious servers registered to Alfa Bank in Moscow communicating with a server registered to the Trump organization on Fifth Avenue in NYC. The line of communication was designed to be discreet and specific to the two parties, not available to others, “ configured something like a digital hotline connecting the two entities, shutting out the rest of the world, and designed to obscure its own existence”. Per Slate..” The conversation between the Trump and Alfa servers appeared to follow the contours of political happenings in the United States. At election-related moments the traffic peaked.” On September 21 a reporter from the New York Times contacted Alfa Bank to ask questions about the servers. The bank denied any involvement, but shortly after that meeting, the Trump Domain name went cold. One could only conclude the Trump organization shut down the server.
The part of this story that makes it "curiouser and curiouser" was reported in the July 25 CNN Politics online publication:
President Donald Trump's nominee to head up the criminal division at the Justice Department has disclosed to members of the Senate judiciary committee that he previously represented a Russian bank whose computer server activity has been under scrutiny by FBI counterintelligence.
Brian Benczkowski served in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush and is currently a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. He told senators in a letter obtained by CNN that he specifically disclosed his law firm's representation of Alfa Bank in connection with completing his SF-86 security clearance form. Benczkowski, who led the Trump-Pence transition team at the Justice Department, has a longstanding relationship with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
If Benczkowski were to be approved for the post (once held by Robert Mueller and, later, by Christopher Wray) he would be in charge of the Alfa Bank investigation! Talk about the Fox in the Henhouse.
On top of this, of course, we have the Michael Cohen/(convicted felon)Felix Sater emails about building a Trump Tower in Moscow amid all the “President’s” denials about not having anything to do with Russia. This all becomes more and more questionable as the days go on. While none of this may be the proverbial “smoking gun” we do seem to be accumulating a preponderance of evidence that the Trump Organization, the Kushner family, and a wide web of Trump associates (see chart above) were clearly involved with Russia during the presidential campaign.
(I advise you to go to the March/April 2017 Politico Magazine link created by Michael Crowley http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/03/connections-trump-putin-russia-ties-chart-flynn-page-manafort-sessions-214868 to read about “All of Trump’s Ties to Russia, in 7 Charts”).
Remember: the Watergate break-in was in June of 1972 and Nixon’s resignation was not until August of 1974. We may see the leaves turning next fall before the Trump House of Cards collapses on itself.