Flynngate and Russian clouds

With the exit of Gen Flynn from White House after hardly four weeks in office, the Trump administration is hunkering down to answer a plethora of questions on conduct of business. The Russian clouds appear to be omnipresent on the horizon of American politics and national security. The heated debate in US domestic and international media points to a kind of crisis brewing up in power circles of the sole superpower.

After a rebuke from the Judiciary on the issue of controversial immigration order signed by the Commander in Chief, Flynngate is the second exogenous shock (through the alleged Russian connection) hitting the White House. Is Trump’s own credibility at stake and why is Trump team in a crisis situation?

Despite getting approval from the concerned quarters, Trump’s team formation had raised more question then answered. His Chief strategist Steve Bannon is already being labeled as the Real President. Like Trump, Bannon is a Washington outsider who has never been elected to office, and he is most known for running a controversial website Breitbart News which is a divisive right-wing opinion and news outlet, known for offensive headlines like “Renegade Jew” and “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.” With Trump’s son in law Mr Jared Corey Kushner, who has been appointed by Trump as a senior advisor, he adds to the motley crew of the White House who probably want to run the US as a business enterprise.

Steve Bannon while speaking to the Hollywood Reporter in Nov 2016 said: “I’m not a white nationalist, I’m a nationalist. I’m an economic nationalist.” and went on to claim his own position in the Trump Administration as “Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors.” Interestingly, Cromwell was deposed by the his benefactor King Henry VIII, arraigned under a bill of attainder and executed for treason and heresy on Tower Hill on 28 July 1540. We hope Steve Bannon has read the history of England correctly. Bannon is a major ideologue of US–Russian rapprochement and considers political Islam as the major and most immediate threat to the west and is proponent of a joint Russian American effort to deal with political Islam. No wonder the ban on immigration from seven Islamic countries was Bannon’s brainchild.

Russian clouds are hovering over continental US; firstly it was the leaks that Russians were behind pre-election scandalising of Hillary Clinton’s election campaign, then came the controversy about Trump being compromised in Russia, as reported by the Mirror, “The billionaire has angrily denied claims made by former British MI6 spy Christopher Steele that the Russian government is in possession of compromising material on him”. And now we have the fall of Flynn, again connected to Russia. As reported by Washington Post on 14 February: “Vice President Pence first learned that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had misled him about the nature of his contact with a Russian official on Feb. 9, a full two weeks after other White House officials were briefed on the matter, an aide to Pence said on Tuesday. The timing indicates that Pence would have become aware of the controversy around the same time that a Washington Post report was published, detailing the degree to which Flynn had been in contact with the Russian ambassador to the United States on the issue of sanctions, Pence spokesman Marc Lotter said.”

The fall of Flynn has opened a new Pandora’s box in US politics, with some voices demanding a full-fledged inquiry into Flynngate, suggesting that fresh leads could go right up to President Trump. While the Republicans are downplaying Flynngate, things are boiling up in Washington. General Flynn has explained that his discussion with Russians was not about sanctions. It was about expulsion by the Obama administration of 35 Russians it said were intelligence operatives using diplomatic cover. It may also be noted that President Putin did not go for a tit-for-tat response to Obama’s expulsion of Russian diplomats, which is a normal feature in diplomacy, especially amongst states with uneasy or hostile relationship.

The main questions being raised in the Flynngate case are, why would Trump’s team hurriedly engage their Russian counterparts within the first few weeks of his inauguration, without consulting the head honchos of CIA, and, could it be possible for the National Security Advisor to contact the Russians without a nod from Trump, and, why did Putin hold his horses by not responding in kind to Obama’s action, was there a tacit understanding between Trump’s team and the Kremlin, even before 20 January?

The circumstantial evidence suggests some insight into Flynngate and challenges confronting President Trump:

Trump’s team dominated by Steve Bannon had a pre-conceived strategy to engage Russia,and despite objections by the Intelligence Agencies like CIA,Gen Flynn went ahead.

President Putin may have held his horses, either through a strategic assessment about Trump’s team and their leanings, or, some messaging took place between Kremlin and the new occupants of White House.

Is Flynn the first Fall guy of Trump administration?

How would Trump camp reconcile with big wigs of the Capitol Hill, the Judiciary and the master spies of CIA.

In our last article in The Nation published with the title “Trump’s Unwinding of Obama’s era” on 10 Feb, we had one major question left open-ended; can Trump survive his complete term in office till 2021?

Although it may be premature to comment on this question, one thing is certain, US politics is now entering unchartered waters, where its mature system of democracy and excellence in governance is in direct clash with Trump’s team, whose members are not only unorthodox, but also bullheaded and recalcitrant.

There could be three scenarios.

One, President Trump succumbs to increasing pressure and carries out a mid-course correction in line with the entrenched Establishment of Capitol Hill and CIA head honchos.

Two, the Trump team does not budge and goes for a head on clash with establishment, Trump bulldozes everything on his way through a ‘winner takes all’ strategy, leading to a totally new paradigm in American politics.

Three, Trump is impeached before Christmas of 2017, resulting in strategic chaos in US at grand scale, sending ripples across the globe.

Let’s hope, sense prevails and America comes out of this brewing crisis.

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