Tuesday, December 13, 2016

To Russia with Love

As Russiagate heats up, Trump adds further fuel to the fire by putting Rex "Tillie" Tillerson forward as his nominee for Secretary of State.  This does little to deflect attention away from the allegations that the Kremlin manipulated the elections, as Tillie is a great buddy of Vlad, having cut deals with Russia's oil giant, Rosneft, which is exploring oil leads in the Arctic Circle.  This has sent up a number of red flags in Congress, and even Trump's press secretary in waiting, Reince Priebus, had to admit Tillie is not a done deal.

But, Tillerson is just part of the problem.  At the roots are so many links between Trump and Russia that it is not surprising he put a guy like this forward for his top cabinet official.  The amazing part is that his Russian ties gained so little traction during the campaign, despite being first aired during the primaries.  The media was too obsessed with Hillary's ongoing e-mail scandal to pay that much attention to Trump's love for Russia, which extended far beyond hosting Miss Universe in Moscow, 2013.  This was just icing on the cake.

The scandal has reached such proportions that a group representing the Electoral College has demanded an intelligence briefing on Russia's role in the election.  The FBI apparently knew Russia was perusing DNC e-mails last year, but didn't let the Democratic National Committee onto it until it was too late. This may be the first time the Electoral College has been put in the position of serving as a jury on the election.  At stake are 37 electoral votes.  Anything less than 270 electoral votes would void Trump's win.  Right now he stands at 306.

This doesn't necessarily mean the electors would cast their vote for Hillary.  They may simply choose not to vote for Trump or put up some other names.  If Trump fails to gain a clear majority, the decision as to the next President is kicked to the House of Representatives.  They may choose to stick with Trump, but it significantly lessens the "mandate" he believes he won in the election.

We've really never encountered something like this before.  The closest we came to it was when Taiwan was accused of tampering with the 1996 election by funneling money indirectly into Bill Clinton's campaign through the infamous "Charlie" Trie and other Taiwanese Americans.  This resulted in investigations by the Department of Justice and Congress.  But, the campaign finance controversy is pretty small potatoes compared to the Kremlin hacking into DNC e-mail accounts and releasing them through wikileaks, greatly undermining Hillary's campaign.  This is Watergate proportions and one has to wonder how much the Trump campaign was in on it, as he made his infamous call for Russian hackers to find Hillary's missing e-mails back in July.

It's not like he even did a very good job concealing his ties.  Rather, he chose to obfuscate them by tossing out outrageous claims at such a rate that no one paid much attention to his Russian connections until now.  Trump no longer seems to care, putting forward a man for Secretary of State whose former company would have the most to gain from renewed ties with Russia, as the 2014 sanctions forced ExxonMobil to dissolve its partnership with Rosneft.

This has been a monumental con job pulled off right in front of our eyes, yet a huge cross section of the country refuses to see it.  They are deluded by the promise of a renewed industrial America and the return of traditional blue collar jobs, not taking into account all that has happened since the 1960s to make us what we are today.

The worst of it is the relationship American industries have forged with Russia, much like those they did with Hitler's Germany in the 1930s, smelling a whole new market to be exploited regardless of the autocratic nature of Putin's government.  It's not just ExxonMobil.  The broad list includes such American giants as Boeing, GE, General Motors and Pfizer, all helping to fuel Putin's Russia, or were before the sanctions in 2014.

Putin made a big show of blacklisting McDonalds in 2014 to show his contempt for the American-backed sanctions, but he sure didn't toss ExxonMobil under the bus.  He awarded Tillerson with an Order of Friendship.  Sound familiar.

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