Is It Normal That Trump’s NSA Pick Michael Flynn Called the Russian Ambassador?
Joshua Keating ()Jew), Slate, Jan 15 2017
Is This Normal? is a new series that will attempt to determine which controversial Trump World behaviors are outrageously unprecedented, which are outrageous but within the realm of what others have gotten away with, and which shouldn’t be considered outrageous at all.
David Ignatius of the WaPo reported in a column on Thursday that Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s choice for National Security Advisor, held several phone conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak on Dec 29, the day the Obama administration announced retaliatory measures for supposed Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including new sanctions and the expulsion of 35 diplomats. The Obama administration says it is aware of the conversations. We don’t know what Flynn and Kislyak talked about, but in the context of this week’s news, the meeting has been taken as evidence of suspicious collusion between the incoming administration and the Russian government, and a possible violation of the Logan Act, which prohibits Pindosi citizens from unauthorized negotiations with foreign governments about disputes involving the Pindostan government. Flynn, after all, is not yet an authorized government official, yet he made the calls anyway. Is this normal? By custom, officials awaiting Senate confirmation for cabinet-level positions don’t engage in these types of meetings, so this would be a different story if it were Rex Tillerson or James Mattis making these calls. The position of national security advisor does not require Senate confirmation. In a 2008 article on Obama’s reluctance to meet personally with foreign leaders during the transition, the NYT noted:
The Obama team is scrambling to arrange for surrogates to meet with visiting foreign officials.
During Ronald Reagan’s transition, Vice Pres Bush Sr, a former DCI, was delegated with taking most of the calls from foreign ambassadors. David Clinton, chair of the political science department at Baylor University and co-author of ‘Presidential Transitions and Pindosi Foreign Policy’, says:
Foreign governments are always interested in feeling out the incoming administration and it’s certainly not uncommon for representatives of the president-elect to have discussions with representatives of foreign powers just as an informational exercise to allow each side to get to know each other. Such exchanges are part of modern day transitions.
Peter Feaver, a National Security Council staffer in the Clinton 42 and Bush 43 administrations who is now a professor at Duke, says:
This type of meeting would be done quietly, it would be done without giving away any policy positions, binding the administration in any way or undercutting the current administration.
The last point is critical. The expectation is that the incoming administration won’t get in the way of the president who is still in office. A 1986 bi-partisan commission on presidential transitions and foreign policy co-authored by a number of former cabinet officials recommended:
Pre-inaugural meetings between representatives of the incoming administration and foreign diplomats or leaders should be sharply limited. … Nothing should give the impression that the president-elect has any authority to act before the inauguration or interfere with ongoing actions by the incumbent administration.
Of course, the implication of Ignatius’s column is that Flynn’s was more than just a casual chat. The conversation came shortly before Putin decided not to retaliate against Obama’s new sanctions and was praised by Trump for it. Conversations that actively contradict the current administration’s foreign policy are problematic, but not unprecedented. The most famous example of this took place before an election, when Richard Nixon’s team reportedly urged South Vietnamese officials to scuttle peace talks organized by the Johnson administration, promising them a better deal under the new administration. And in 1980, the WaPo reported that Jimmy Carter’s ambassador to El Salvador criticized Pres-elect Ronald Reagan’s advisors for undermining him by promising a shift in Pindosi policy toward the country, then sliding into civil war. As for the Logan Act, which prohibits private Pindosi citizens from engaging in unauthorized freelance diplomacy, Flynn probably doesn’t have to worry about going to jail for his phone call to Kislyak. No one has ever been convicted under the 18th century law and only one person has ever been charged. If anyone wereever convicted, they’d have a decent case to make that the law violates the first amendment. But Peter Spiro, a Jew professor at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law and co-author of the international law blog Opinio Juris, says:
That doesn’t mean it’s meaningless. The Logan Act really represented a pretty hard norm in the conduct of foreign relations. You didn’t go around talking with foreign officials unless you had authority to do so, and that authority came from the president. But that norm has been fading in recent years. For instance, in the last major instance where the threat of the Logan Act was discussed publicly, when Sen Tom Cotton and others wrote to the government of Iran in 2015 promising to cancel the Obama administration’s nuclear deal in a fairly blatant attempt to undermine the administration’s foreign policy, there were no legal or political consequences. The law has been unenforceable in practice for a long time now, but it is now also dead in spirit. Meetings between the president-elect’s team and foreign officials are Normal. Negotiations that undermine a sitting president’s foreign policy are not unprecedented, but remain highly controversial and Not Normal.
Trump wants Putin summit in Reykjavik
Tim Shipman, Toby Harnden, Richard Kerbaj and Tom Harper, Sunday Times, Jan 15 2017
Trump is planning to hold a summit with Putin within weeks of becoming president, emulating Reagan’s Cold War deal-making in Reykjavik with Gorbachev. Trump and his team have told British boxtops that their first foreign trip will be a meeting with Purtin, with the Icelandic capital in pole position to host the talks as it did three decades ago. In a bid to reset western relations with the Kremlin, Trump will begin work on a deal limiting nuclear weapons. Sources who have discussed the plans with boxtops at the Russian embassy in London say Moscow is set to agree to a summit. Senior figures in the government fear that a warming of Pindo-Russian relations will upset theg gravy train they ride on with the arms manufacturers. … (subs only)
Trump Ensnares Media in Yet Another Fake News Boondoggle
The_Real_Fly, ZeroHedge, Jan 15 2017
The media was rife with ‘I told you so’ headlines yesterday, after reports from more unnamed sources said the first order of business for the Trump administration was to hold a summit with Vladimir Putin, in Iceland, just like Reagan did with Gorbachev, circa 1986. The headlines were smug and the Twitterati of newly born left wing militarist war mongers were resplendent with calls for martial law or protests or anything that could stop Donald Trump, an obvious traitor against Pindostan, a revolting person of low qualities who enjoys to be urinated upon by Russian hookers. The only problem with that narrative, as touching as it may seem, is that it’s completely false. According to Trump’s press secretary, it’s all fake news.
Here is what Bloomberg peddled for news yesterday.
Donald Trump’s advisers have told British boxtops that the incoming president’s first foreign trip will be a meeting with Putin, potentially in Reykjavik within weeks of taking office, the Sunday Times reported. Trump plans to begin working on a deal to limit nuclear weapons, the newspaper said, without providing details. It cited an unidentified source for the summit plans, and added that Moscow is ready to agree to the meeting, based on comments from officials at the Russian embassy in London. The paper, citing an unidentified adviser to Trump, told the Times that the president-elect, who will be sworn in on Jan 20, will meet with Putin at a neutral venue “very soon.” Trump’s transition team didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Did the media just make up this story out of thin air in an attempt to further deride Trump? I must admit, only in a bizarre world, such as the one created by the left for the left, is holding meetings with a military super power in the attempts to normalize relations and preserve peace considered a bad thing. Alas, we are living in an era of war, where the military industrial complex works overtime to control useful idiots to foment anger and sway public opinion towards (you guessed it) MOAR WAR. This story was likely leaked by team Trump on purpose, in order to make the media look like jackass fools. By leaking falsehoods to an ornery and invective media, Trump keeps them on their toes and makes them second guess anything they hear coming out of his quarters, an effective disinformation strategy used to fool an enemy during a time of war.