Anything’s possible

In Trumpland, truth getting stranger than fiction

(Credit: MGM/AP/Richard Shiro/Salon)

In the introductory post to my alt-America publication I said that its primary function is “to curate, hopefully with some added value, news items that catch my eye as they relate to the situation before us.”

Post #3 and my head spins faster as each day passes. Where to start?

With mainstream publications featuring headlines like ‘Donald Trump: A Modern Manchurian Candidate?’ That’s on a New York Times op-ed by Max Boot, a military analyst and historian, currently with the equally mainstream Council on Foreign Relations. He surmises that the unverified, 35-page intelligence dossier that really set the cat among the pigeons, “could either be a Watergate-style scandal that engulfs the Trump presidency or a ‘Hitler Diaries’-style hoax, or anything in between.” But given Trump’s behavior up to now, it may very well be the former.

“At the same time that Mr. Trump continues to exhibit paranoia about American intelligence agencies, he displays a trust verging on gullibility in the mendacious and murderous government of Mr. Putin… If it persists in office, Mr. Trump’s slavish devotion to the Russian strongman will continue to raise questions about the exact nature of their relationship.”

Paranoia indeed runs high, and not just on Trump’s side. At Newsweek, Kurt Eichenwald, who lives and breathes all things Trump, quotes a former British official saying, “A lot of people are now trying to connect the dots of all the data [in the intelligence files] to try and understand Trump. “There certainly are a lot of conspiracy theories being bandied about, but no question there is a lot of concern about what’s going on in Trump’s head…and whether we would be able to work with him.”

And here, for me, is the Whoa! graf:

Officials in Western Europe say they are so dismayed, they now feel compelled to gather intelligence on a man who is set to become the next president of the United States. According to a Western intelligence source, at least one allied nation is currently conducting intelligence operations in the United States, collecting details on officials surrounding Trump and executives in his company, the Trump Organization; the source, who works in government, expressed disbelief that such an effort had been deemed essential.

A journalistic colleague of mine, an experienced foreign, military and intelligence reporting, told me he’s heard the same thing. Another source, in the same profession, turned me on to this in from the Israeli daily, Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot:

Donald Trump’s upcoming inauguration as the next president of the United States is causing Israeli intelligence officials to lose sleep as well. Discussions held in closed forums recently raised fears of a leakage of Israeli intelligence top-classified information, clandestine modus oprandi and sources, which have been exposed to the American intelligence community over the past 15 years, to Russia — and from there to Iran.

As reported by Ronen Bergman, “The cause of concern are the suspicions of unreported ties between the president-elect or his associates and the Kremlin, whose agents are also associated with intelligence officials in Tehran.” According to Bergman, the concerns, “which began upon Trump’s election, grew stronger following a meeting held recently between Israeli and American intelligence officials.

The Americans implied that their Israeli colleagues should “be careful” as of January 20, Trump’s inauguration date, when transferring intelligence information to the White House and to the National Security Council (NSC), which is subject to the president. According to the Israelis who were present in the meeting, the Americans recommended that until it is made clear that Trump is not inappropriately connected to Russia and is not being extorted — Israel should avoid revealing sensitive sources to administration officials for fear the information would reach the Iranians.

That Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, a regular contributor to Russia’s RT network TV propaganda, is said to called the Russian ambassador “several times” on the day the Obama administration announced the expulsions dozens of Russian diplomats and other sanctions for its cyber espionage activities probably doesn’t do much to alleviate their concerns. As the Post’s David Ignatius, who broke the story, pointed out:

The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. Was its spirit violated?

“Mr. Flynn’s secret call did not violate the law,” a Trump spokesman told the New York Times. “But under the circumstances,” the Times, added, it is bound to raise eyebrows.”

Mutiny on the Potomac?

The president-elect, meanwhile, returned to Twitter this morning to lash out, once more, at the intelligence agencies.

At the same time, as National Public Radio reported today, ‘Trump’s Cabinet Picks Break With Him On At Least 10 Major Issues’ (the list here), including most definitely with his negative views of the U.S. intelligence agencies compared to the reliability of Russia’s. (At a town hall on CNN last night, House Speaker Paul Ryan, presumably Trump’s go-to guy in Congress, labeled Russia a “menace” and Vladimir Putin “menacing.”).

“A clear pattern has begun to emerge — prospective Cabinet members have carefully walked away from some of President-elect Donald Trump’s more controversial promises,” noted the Los Angeles Times. Not a problem, say Trump’s people; “in cases of disagreements, the president-elect’s agenda would prevail,’ a spokesman told the L.A. Times David Lauter.

But despite public insistence that Trump would still be, as President George W. Bush used to say, “the decider” in his administration, another theme emerged this week: The sometimes startling degree to which the president-elect and his choices for the senior-most positions in his administration have not discussed key issues.
The impression of a president-elect who is detached from the details — or in some cases even the broad outlines — of policy could change next week when Trump’s choices for key economic policy posts are scheduled to have their confirmation hearings.
For now, however, the confirmation hearings have contributed to the overall uncertainty about how much Trump grasps, or intends to shape, the policies of the administration he will soon head.

One week from today.

Endnote

The composite image at the top features Laurence Harvey as the brainwashed sap in the original movie version of Richard Condon’s 1959 novel, The Manchurian Candidate, and, to his left, Frank Sinatra, his army commander who tries to deprogram him.