“Frequently people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late.”
— John Brennan, former Director CIA, May 2017
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (10/15/18)
Dear Fellow Readers,
In March 2017 House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) led the first committee to hold a public hearing on Trump-Russia corruption. Nunes has suffered repeated catastrophic failures while trying to quash and deflect any consideration of Trump-Russia, this was to be one of his most infamous failures. Nunes called then FBI Director James Comey as one of the witnesses. While Nunes intended to put an end to the increasing fervor around questions of the Trump’s campaign contact with Russians, he scored a spectacular own-goal when Comey related that the FBI was in fact investigating the Trump campaign. Comey elaborated, “the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russian efforts”. (The Apprentice:Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy, pg. 271).
Former CIA Director John Brennan did not testify at this hearing and Nunes proceeded to cancel all scheduled additional hearings at the time. But in May Brennan did testify before the committee and offered that Russia “brazenly interfered” as well as the quote above. Reporting at the time, Vox added:
“It’s important to note that Brennan wasn’t literally accusing anyone in the Trump campaign — let alone the president himself — of committing treason, which has so high a bar that almost no one in the history of the US has been of it.
“Still, enough evidence of potential wrongdoing has piled up that the Justice Department recently tapped former FBI Director Robert Mueller to lead an into the president’s Russia connections. The investigation is already reaching straight into the West Wing: The Washington Post late last week that a member of Trump’s inner circle — widely believed to be Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and main adviser — is a “significant person of interest” for the FBI.”
Where we’re going next is to consider the actions of both Trump and Jared Kushner with Saudi Arabia given that journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi has gone missing since entering the Saudi consulate in Instanbul on October 2.
Saudia Arabia jumps in the mess
There are many Trump- Russia questions to be explored including: Trump, Kushner, Russia, Saudi Arabia… Is It Treason?
Brennan mentioned treason though he did not accuse Trump of treason. So what is treason? Greg Olear, writing for Medium, offers this:
“Treason, after all, is a vague term. It’s not visceral, like rape or murder. It requires a certain level of imagination to fully grasp its scope and impact. But make no mistake: treason of the kind Trump and his associates engaged in is arguably the worst crime an individual can commit. It jeopardizes not just us as individuals, but our nation as a functioning democracy.”
Is our functioning democracy as a nation being put at risk? Olear adds this (his reference to nuclear annihilation is with regard to the Rosenbergs who in 1953 were “sent to the electric chair for conspiracy to commit espionage”:
“Nuclear annihilation is not the same as cyber warfare, true, but by compromising our election process — and by his staunch refusal to commit resources to ensure that such chicanery will never happen again — Donald Trump has absolutely “altered the course of history to the disadvantage of our country.” Not only that, but his callous disregard for NATO has vastly increased the likelihood of war in Europe. Too, we thinking Americans “live in a constant state of tension.” And the evidence of Trump’s treachery is, indeed, around us every day.”
“The result is without obvious parallel in U.S. history, a situation in which the personal insecurities of the president — and his refusal to accept what even many in his administration regard as objective reality — have impaired the government’s response to a national security threat. The repercussions radiate across the government.
“Rather than search for ways to deter Kremlin attacks or safeguard U.S. elections, Trump has waged his own campaign to discredit the case that Russia poses any threat and he has resisted or attempted to roll back efforts to hold Moscow to account.”
“No amount of vicious tweets, FAKE NEWS proclamations by the likes of Sean Hannity, or cute MAGA hats can make this go away.”
At the very least, Trump and Kushner continue to put their own best interests ahead of the interests of the United States.
Have the Saudis killed Khashoggi and why?
‘The Saudis own half of the international Arabic media. As a journalist and activist Khashoggi may have been uncomfortable for them, but not a real threat.
“‘But Khashoggi knew a lot. He was trusted with the most delicate issues in the kingdom and he was a member of the super-elite – he may have known too much.’
“Asked for examples of what Khashoggi might have known about, he mentioned corruption, possible connections to extremism and ‘the internal disputes and wrongdoing of the royal house’.”
Was Khashoggi killed because of what he knew about the Saudi royal family?
A next question: does any of this have to do with Trump and Kushner? This from The Observer: NSA: White House Knew ‘Disappeared’ Saudi Dissident Was In Danger. Why Didn’t They Protect Him?
“The United States government in fact knows what happened to the missing man—and seems to have known something about his fate even before his disappearance. by the Washington Post last night, “US intelligence intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture” Khashoggi, adding:
“The Saudis wanted to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and lay hands on him there, this person said. It was not clear whether the Saudis intended to arrest and interrogate Khashoggi or to kill him, or if the United States warned Khashoggi that he was a target.
“I can confirm that the National Security Agency, America’s big ear, indeed intercepted Saudi communications that indicated Riyadh had something unpleasant in store for Khashoggi.”
If the White House knew of the threat and failed to take steps to protect a journalist, though serious, how does this have broader significance? The Daily Mail carried a troubling story that may well relate: EXCLUSIVE: Saudi crown prince bragged that Jared Kushner gave him CIA intelligence about other Saudis saying ‘here are your enemies’ days before ‘corruption crackdown’ which led to torture and death.
This is from April 2018; ‘MBS’is Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman:
“MBS bragged to his closest regional ally, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed – the de facto joint ruler of the United Arab Emirates – and others that Kushner was ‘in his pocket,’ a source told The Intercept.
“Access to the president’s daily brief is closely guarded, but Trump has the legal authority to allow Kushner to disclose information contained in it as the president is the ultimate declassifying authority and legally free to do so at any time.
“However if Kushner, 37, had passed on names to the Saudis, the move would be a stunning intervention by the US into the internal affairs of an allied nation.
“If Trump’s son-in-law, however, discussed the names with the Saudi prince without Trump’s specific permission, he may have violated federal laws around the sharing of classified intelligence.”
Would Kushner violate federal law? Would Trump allow him to be comprised in such a way? Why would this make any sense?
Trump’s longstanding relationship with the Saudi princes may provide some clues: ‘I like them very much:’ Trump Has Long-Standing Business Ties With Saudis, Who Have Boosted His Hotels Since He Took Office.
Would Trump compromise our government with the Saudis?
“For President Trump, Saudi Arabia is not just a political ally. It has also been a customer.
“Trump’s business relationships with the Saudi government — and rich Saudi business executives — go back to at least the 1990s. In Trump’s hard times, a Saudi prince bought a superyacht and hotel from him. The Saudi government paid him $4.5 million for an apartment near the United Nations.
“Business from Saudi-connected customers continued to be important after Trump won the presidency. Saudi lobbyists spent $270,000 last year to reserve rooms at Trump’s hotel in Washington. Just this year, Trump’s hotels in New York and Chicago in bookings from Saudi visitors.”
The article adds, “Saudi royalty has been buying from Trump dating to 1995, with some of the deals coming during periods when Trump was in need of cash”.
But what about Kushner? Deal Gives Kushners Cash Infusion On 666 Fifth Avenue.
Remember that Kushner “paid a record-setting $1.8 billion for the building in 2007, and it has been a drag on his family’s real estate company ever since”. The Kushner family business was at risk before a company named Brookfield Property Group invested; and who is Brookfield?
“Brookfield is one of the world’s biggest real estate companies, and among its investors is the Qatar Investment Authority, one of the world’s largest sovereign funds, which bought a $1.8 billion stake in one of the company’s subsidiaries, Brookfield Property Partners in 2014, and is the second-largest investor in the company, ranking only behind Brookfield Asset Management. That has raised questions given Jared Kushner’s portfolio in the White House, which includes the Middle East.”
Like father-in-law, like son-in-law
Is it any wonder that Kushner is Trump’s son-in-law? Kushner Paid No Federal Income Tax for Years, Documents Suggest.
In spite of Kushner’s financial success, “His net worth has quintupled to almost $324 million”, there is also this, “appears to have paid almost no federal income taxes, according to confidential financial documents reviewed by The New York Times”.
We only recently learned from the New York Times that Trump’s father managed to hand him $413 million (not the $1 million self-proclaimed-self-made-man as Trump has spun).
But again, what does any of this have to do with Trump and Kushner and their choices of how to govern?
“Developers might have to pay capital gains taxes if they sell their properties. But the Kushners, like others in the real estate business, often avoid that tax, too, by using the proceeds of sales to buy more properties within a certain time window.
“At least in part because of that perk, the Kushners’ property sales in the period covered by the documents — totaling about $2.3 billion, according to Real Capital Analytics, a research firm — generated little or no taxable income for Mr. Kushner.
“Last year’s tax legislation eliminated that benefit for all industries but one: real estate.”
That’s right; Trump’s tax package made a special provision that benefitted both. Kushner specifically benefitted by paying no taxes on property sales of $2.3 billion.
But we’ve strayed, what does this have to do with Trump, Kushner and the Saudis? Well, check out this from The Hill: Trump Registered Eight Companies In Saudi Arabia During Campaign.
It would appear that Trump does have his reasons for his assurances that he “wants to protect Saudi Arabia”:
“During a rally on August 21, the day Trump created four of those companies, he said he gets along well with Saudi Arabia.
“”They buy apartments from me,” Trump said during the Alabama rally. “They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”
“In January of this year, Trump on Fox News he “would want to protect Saudi Arabia.””
And we’ll end with this, it can’t be said any better: America Deserves To Know How Much Money Trump Is Getting From The Saudi Government.
Matthew Yglesias adds a sub-head: “His corruption is a national security issue”.
And Yglesias brings us to the perfect ending point:
“It’s almost certainly not the only instance of a foreign state putting money directly into Trump’s pockets with disturbing implications for the conduct of US foreign policy. But the only way to find out how often it happens or what policy choices it’s linked to would be to get a Congress that bothers to care.”
We need a Congress that cares.
VOTE. VOTE FOR OVERSIGHT.
(Commoner Call cartoon and photo by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )