May 29, 2017

The Kushner Imbroglio: Searching for a There There.

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsIt seems this week’s Resistance agenda has been to publically skewer Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, for seeking a back channel with the Russians during the presidential transition.  This morning there were reports attributed to no one in particular that suggested that Kushner was being asked to step aside.  Who knows, maybe he was asked by President Trump, or, more likely, he hasn’t been asked to resign by anyone other than the concocter of today’s unattributed and, so far, unsubstantiated scheduled rumor. The “Kushner affair” is being presented, in well-orchestrated fashion, as though it were the greatest scandal since turncoat Benedict Arnold made his stealth dash down the Hudson River to the HMS Vulture nearly 240 years ago.

Presidential transition team back channels to the Russians, or for that matter to the Iranians or, actually anyone, are neither new nor illegal, so the so-called Resistance and the journalists who carry their water, have kept up an endless drumbeat of If’s—“if Kushner said this or offered that. The last we heard government intelligence sources were still opining that Kushner was neither the focus nor the target of any investigation…not yet anyway.

So far, the only real news seems to be that someone within the intelligence community has passed along to the press information that our snoops know Kushner sought the establishment of a back channel with the Russians in order to discuss who knows what. We’re sure it delights the never-under-any-circumstances-anti-Trumpsters that their government is listening and telling. Sad, there are so few civil libertarians among them, or that they don’t care because, after all, this is about Trump, or that those who do care have been so effectively silenced.

Perhaps Kushner wanted to offer the Kremlin our nuclear codes, but we rather doubt it. Perhaps, more plausibly, he wanted to explore chances for a significant improvement in relations sort of like Robert Kennedy, JFK’s brother and closest advisor, did when he secretly met with a known Russian agent in December 1960 just prior to his brother’s inauguration. Interestingly, Robert Kennedy who was also the senior-most member of President-elect Kennedy’s transition team, met with the Red agent at the Russian’s request.

Then of course we learned from Robert Sick who helped handle the Iranian hostage crisis during the Carter Administration that William J. Casey, a key Reagan confidant and future CIA Director, was meeting with representatives of Iran months before the 1980 election to discuss timing the hostage release after Reagan was elected and sworn it.

Then there was the leaked memo Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Kobryin wrote in 1969 to his bosses in the Kremlin in which he explained that Henry Kissinger confided to him that the Nixon administration wanted to conduct a “most confidential exchange of views” because President Nixon said (we love this part) “the Soviet side … knows how to maintain confidentiality; but in our State Department, unfortunately, there are leaks of information to the press.”

Much is being made, according to the leaks,  that Kushner suggested that the back-channel discussions take place through the use of Russian secure communications. Why would that surprise anyone, given how pathetically porous our own governmental and private communications have become?  Nothing other than, presumably, pillow talk seems out of listening range these days, and who can be sure of that?

We don’t know what conversations may have transpired between Jared Kushner and the Russians.  We’ll be surprised to learn that those conversations involved any skullduggery, but we don’t know.  What we do know is that our intelligence community has turned it’s snooping apparatus on American politicians and American political candidates, and, perhaps, for good reason…and perhaps not.

Julian Sanchez of the libertarian CATO Institute summed it up well. “Progressives who’ve recently learned to stop worrying and love the surveillance state should think hard about the precedent such leaks set — and the implicit message they send to political actors — even if any particular instance can be justified as serving the public interest. The leaks may not be, as conservative media would have it, the only real scandal, but nobody should be too enthusiastic about the prospect of living in a country where officials who antagonize spy agencies find their telephone conversations quoted in news headlines.”

We do know as a certainty that our intelligence apparatus is maliciously and illegally leaking to the press, apparently, with complete abandon, for no other conceivable reason other than to bring down certain public figures—especially if they are part of the Trump Administration. There may be reason to bring them down, but this is not the way to do it, and when all is said and done, the pervasive bugging and leaking may be the biggest scandal of all.

Maybe our snoops are bugging and leaking because they believe the Trump Administration is riddled with crooks and spies. And maybe the snoops are in high dudgeon simply because they can’t stand Donald Trump.

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7 responses to “The Kushner Imbroglio: Searching for a There There.”

  1. Susan duman says:

    You never cease to astound me. Why? Because your research and facts are, indeed, history. You have no selective amnesia.
    I no longer can be sure what the current nightmare is, but it does indeed exist.
    The psychology of influence was front and center during this trip. Did our president cozy up to authoritarian countries? Did he insult our long time allies? Should I start listening to Fox? Should I not believe the writers of The Washington Post?
    Since practically all our citizens have a bias, and practically none have the knowledge of history you have……….. I really can’t finish the sentence, but I’m sure you understand the conundrum.

    As always, grateful

    • There is, indeed, much to criticize about this Administration as we have in the past and will, no doubt,in the future. We aren’t counted among the friends of this Administration. Sadly,however, there is also much to criticize about the Never Trumpers in the media who see themselves on a search-and-destroy mission in which juicy innuendo is among the highest coins in their realm.

  2. Steve Marcus says:

    Our President could end most of this speculation if he would reveal his tax returns as all presidents in the last 50+ years have. During the campaign he promised to do so “at the appropriate time “. Does “appropriate time” include “never”? It’s no wonder, to me at least, that the smoke swirling up around Trump and his presidency suggests to many that there must be something driving the secrecy, obfuscation, and lies coming from the WhiteHouse almost daily. It’s particularly painful to see people with reputations for honesty and decency skewered almost daily as “fakes” and “liars” simply because they have said or written something that the president disagrees with. I guess his definition of “Not Fake” is someone who always agrees with him, and never writes or says anything negative about him.

    And while I’m at it Trump likes to fashion himself as an enormously successful businessman. Well, most successful business people adhere to the principle of “Praise publicly, Criticize privately”. Guess he missed that one. It will, sadly, come back to haunt us one day. Probably long after he’s out of office.

  3. Jerry says:

    I am really glad to read a very nuanced analysis of the now “Kushner” scandal. The relentless leaks and over the top hysteria unfortunately seems to be endless. I of course have no idea as to whether there is truth to the accusations but I doubt seriously that the alleged sins of the Trump campaign or presidency are much different than the previous Obama presidency or even likely the one that will follow Trumps.

    While it appears that the entire focus of country is holding its breath for the daily revelation of the current president, it’s worth noting that there is life outside of Washington . The Cubs play everyday, and because they aren’t quite the juggernaut so far they were thought to be-for many this is a big deal. Oh yes, the stock market rolls along and strong and the daily routine of life is what occupies most people’s lives-their jobs, their kids.

    And today is Memorial Day-and most of us I think woke up proud of our country and as one who served proud to have done so.

    Even if all that is said about Trump is-true, and in fact that may be the case, both I and the country will wake up the next day-still strong and grateful.
    Jerry K

  4. ben Donenberg says:

    These polemics are ultimately enervating. I’m trying to distinguish between personality and policy making, legislation, and local/global security.

    I don’t feel safer and I feel destabilized. I think President Trump has successfully distanced himself from allies and almost everyone possible to better his negotiation posture domestically and internationally.

    He has pretty much reset every bar.

    So, now what?

  5. Paul Silverstein says:

    The hypocrisy of the left is incredible. One of the current major foci of their allegations is the charge of collusion between the Trump administration and the Russians. The swirl of rumor, allegations, and innuendo have been fed by the WaPo’s “revelation” re Jared Kushner’s back channel negotiations with the Russians. How convenient that they utterly seem to have forgotten and do not even mention in this context the back-channel communications with Iran by the Obama administration in the prelude to the signing of the nuclear accord with Iran. Obviously, the left regarded the eventual signing of the agreement as a great triumph for Obama’s diplomacy and consequently never for once questioned what they now refer to as extralegal extraordinary measures by the Trump team when the shoe is on the other foot. The complicity of the press, even the WSJ, in promoting and fostering this travesty is truly disheartening. While the general public is buzzing about the “fake news” of Russia influencing our election they more than willingly ingest and absorb this toxic propaganda emanating from the left.

  6. sheila says:

    Paul Silverstein — I woke up on Memorial Day feeling devastated for our country, for the fact that 40% of the population elected a man who is so small, so narcissistic, so utterly ignorant of our Constitution, of our role in history, that he would trade our position as leader of the free world to align with dictators and thugs whose interests are to ravage their countries and destroy the planet in order to line their own pockets. Trump’s base, the white working class who really put him into office – will suffer the biggest loss in this unholy debacle, as they are apparently not yet aware that they have been “had” by one of the greatest con artists of all time. But wait until it all comes crashing down on us.

    As for Jered Kushner’s role in this ongoing national tragedy : why did Kushner need to meet with a banker, whose bank is controlled by Putin and who had no other diplomatic role? Emile Simpson, of Foreign Policy has some ideas.

    The bottom line is that if there is no Trump-Russia connection — if Jered is unjustly accused, or was working on anything legitimate, —why establish a war room? Why not embrace Mueller’s investigation and the press – why not cooperate fully with open arms?

    Hopefully, Mueller will get to the bottom of it, subpoena the long awaited tax returns and find the truth, and will be deft enough to sidestep assaults to his legitimacy that are sure to emanate from the White House. I just hope Bannon and Lewandowski aren’t watching this new season of House of Cards.

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