Trump - The Three Stooges
Russian government officials were in contact with members of Donald Trump's campaign prior to the election, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said 10 November 2016. "Obviously, we know most of the people from his entourage," Ryabkov told the Interfax news agency. "Those people have always been in the limelight in the United States and have occupied high-ranking positions. I cannot say that all of them but quite a few have been staying in touch with Russian representatives." Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks denied the claim, consistent with Trump's denial throughout the campaign that he had any contact with the Russian government.
On 30 December 2016 the Kremlin responded to US sanctions by declaring that they “will not resort to irresponsible ‘kitchen diplomacy,’” and reiterated their hopes to work toward a better relationship with the US when President-elect Donald Trump takes office.
At Clinton's rally in Reno, Nevada, on 25 August 2016, she accused Trump of having ties with Russia and President Vladimir Putin, who she referred to as the “grand godfather of this global brand of extreme nationalism.... Trump himself heaps praise on Putin and embrace pro-Russian policies”. She also took the opportunity to attack Nigel Farage – the man behind Britain's Brexit campaign – who recently endorsed Trump. “Farage has appeared regularly on Russian propaganda programs. Now he's standing on the same stage as the Republican nominee,” she said.
On 27 February 2016, Reuters said that Trump's advisor on Russia was retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, who was President Barack Obama's Defense Intelligence Agency [DIA] chief from 2012, shown the door as head of DIA in August 2014. Flynn, who supported closer cooperation between Moscow and Washington, was the former commander of special forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. Flynn also has said that the Iraq war was a mistake that helped create IS, among a number of statements that defied Republican orthodoxy.
Flynn said February 13, 2016 Hillary Clinton should pull out of the presidential race while the FBI investigate her use of a private email server for official government communication while secretary of state.
Since leaving office, Flynn had been fiercely critical of the Obama administration's approach to the Middle East and has told Tapper that the President's advisors are more concerned with appearances than hard realities. Flynn said he had made himself available for advice to any presidential campaign that has asked, Democrat or Republican, and five campaigns have taken advantage of the offer, including Trump's.
Flynn raised eyebrows in 2015 when he sat with Putin at a banquet in Moscow celebrating Russia Today, the Russian state English-language network aligned with the Kremlin that broadcasts into the U.S. and other Western countries. Flynn told Russia Today in a December 2015 interview that the United States and Russia should work together to resolve the Syrian civil war and defeat IS, rather than work at cross purposes.
In the opinion of President of the Institute of Strategic Evaluations Alexander Konovalov, "American society is tired of the succession of familiar politicians.... This means bad news for Clinton, who is a member of a famous political 'clan.' American citizens are not thrilled about the fact that the presidential throne is constantly and alternately occupied by successors of the Republican Bush family and the Democratic Clinton family."
Gloria Borger, Pamela Brown, Jim Sciutto, Marshall Cohen and Eric Lichtblau at CNN reported 21 May 2017 that Russian officials bragged in conversations picked up by US intelligence during the presidential campaign that they had cultivated a strong relationship with former Trump adviser retired Gen. Michael Flynn and believed they could use him to influence Donald Trump and his team. "This was a five-alarm fire from early on," one former Obama administration official said, "the way the Russians were talking about him."
Paul J. Manafort
Franklin Foer noted "Trump has a long history of sucking up to Russian political leaders to advance his business interests in that country. His praise of Putin has correlated with large infusions of Russian cash into his real estate projects. Furthermore, his campaign is staffed by aides with financial ties to the Russian state. .. Ukrainians use the term “political technologist” as a favored synonym for electoral consultant.... Manafort had a special gift for changing how dictators are beheld by American eyes.... he remade Ukrainian politics and helped shift the country into Vladimir Putin’s sphere of influence.... Manafort didn’t just represent oligarchs tight with the Kremlin. He became business partners with them."
On 29 March 2016 Donald J. Trump, girding for a long battle over presidential delegates and a potential floor fight at the Cleveland convention, enlisted the veteran Republican strategist Paul J. Manafort to lead his delegate-corralling efforts. Manafort had drawn attention in recent years chiefly for his work as an international political consultant, most notably as a senior adviser to former President Viktor F. Yanukovych of Ukraine, who was driven from power in 2014.
Michael Caputo, who helped Trump win the New York primary, worked in 2000 to help state-owned conglomerate Gazprom Media improve Putin's image in the United States, according to the Washington Post. The Post cited a Caputo interview in which he said that, at the time, "Putin wasn't such a bad guy."
On Wednesday, The New York Times published an editorial stating that Trump had spoken admiringly of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The editorial noted that Trump's campaign chairman Paul Manafort had extensive connections in Russia and Ukraine. Moreover, the editorial reiterated speculations that Russia may be behind the recent Democratic National Convention email hack. Trump ridiculed The New York Times over its support for the Democratic Party’s allegations that his presidential campaign is benefiting from Russian support.
Trump said that, if elected, he would consider recognizing Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. "I'm going to take a look at it," Trump said in an interview broadcast 31 July 2016 on the U.S. television program This Week. "But you know, the people of Crimea, from what I've heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that, also." The move would be a reversal of the Obama administration's policy of refusing to recognize Russia's occupation and illegal annexation of Crimea in March 2014.
He also suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin had no designs on Ukraine. "Just so you understand. [Putin is] not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down and you can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want," before admitting, after prodding by the program's host, that, "OK, well, he’s there in a certain way, but I’m not there yet," an apparent reference to the U.S. presidency.
Writing on Facebook, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov called Trump's remarks "shameful," adding that "a marginal who support Putin’s dictatorship cannot be a guarantor of democratic freedoms in the U.S. and the world." Trump’s campaign manager, political strategist Paul Manafort, previously had been a lobbyist for Ukraine’s ousted pro-Russian former President Viktor Yanukovych.
In an article for the Washington Post, on 18 July 2016 American journalist Josh Rogin called attention to the fact that the Trump team has changed the Republican security platform's stance on Ukraine, to the astonishment of delegates. "The Trump campaign worked behind the scenes last week to make sure the new Republican platform won't call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington," Rogin wrote.
Democratic US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign manager said Republican rival Donald Trump should explain "the extent to which the Kremlin is at the core" of his campaign, her team's latest suggestion of Russian meddling in the November 8 election. “Donald Trump is refusing to disclose deep financial ties that potentially reach into the Kremlin, which could influence his foreign policy decisions,” Mook said. “None of this is being disclosed.”
The August 21 comments to ABC News by Robby Mook came just days after the resignation of Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, amid reports about his lobbying work for a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian political party and failure to register as a foreign agent. "Paul Manafort has been pushed out, but that doesn't mean that the Russians have been pushed out of this campaign," Mook said. He added that there are "real questions being raised about whether Donald Trump himself is just a puppet for the Kremlin in this race."
“I would also point out that Paul Manafort has been pushed out, but that doesn’t mean that the Russians have been pushed out of this campaign,” Mook added, pointing to Trump’s criticisms of NATO. “We now need Donald Trump to explain to us the extent to which the hand of the Kremlin is at the core of his own campaign.”
The bombastic billionaire turned Republican nominee took to the hardline conservative talk radio show "Savage Nation" on 17 August 2016 to discuss his foreign policy stance. The real estate tycoon and former reality television star argued that Russian President Vladimir Putin, "doesn't want ISIS any more than we do" calling Moscow "a natural ally" against the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism that threatens safety and security in the West.
Paul Manafort had been the subject of extensive news coverage over his work for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich that allegedly involved overseeing millions of dollars in secret payments. Manafort denied that he received any off-the-books cash payments. FBI and Justice Department prosecutors were investigating whether US companies were used to aid alleged corruption by the party of Yanukovich. Manafort and a business partner had been consultants for the pro-Russian governing party of Ukraine in 2012, and helped two major DC lobbying firms obtain lobbying contracts to work on behalf of the foreign party.
The two firms, the Podesta Group Inc. and Mercury LLC, were paid approximately $2.2 million to advocate for Ukrainian interests in the United States. The Podesta Group said the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine pledged in writing that none of its activities were controlled or financed by a foreign government or political party. The Podesta Group lobbied lawmakers in Washington for positions favored by the pro-Russian group. The Podesta Group is run by Tony Podesta, brother of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) found that "Many of the activities one might assume are covered under a law called the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) are, in fact, not addressed. Although the law is meant to provide transparency on the activities of US lobbyists working on behalf of foreign clients, POGO’s investigation examined thousands of lobbying filings and found a pattern of lax enforcement by the Justice Department, and loopholes in the law and regulations that make it difficult, if not impossible, for the government to police compliance or discipline those who fail to comply."
Trump's foreign policy advisor Carter Page also has "deep and continuing financial and employment ties" to Gazprom, according to journalist Josh Marshall writing on news site TPM. "It is no exaggeration to say that you cannot be involved with Gazprom at the very high level which Page has been without being wholly in alignment with Putin's policies," Marshall writes.
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