Untitled, Watercolor, 21" x 17.5, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Palmer and Camille Hawkins**
This, according to Trump, is the biggest and worst political crime in the history of the United States.
When President Obama imposed sanctions on Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election and Russia sat still, Mr. Obama inferred something must be amiss. It turns out intelligence agencies had recorded certain of Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s conversations, including those with a person whose name was “masked”—redacted from intelligence transcripts and summaries. One such conversation was with a person who could educate the Ambassador on how the incoming administration would address, soften if you will, those sanctions. Presumably, the identity of the person with whom the Russians were actively conspiring to undermine United States foreign policy could matter. This person may have violated the Logan Act which criminalizes negotiations with foreign governments having a dispute with the United States by unauthorized persons. It turned out to be Trump’s incoming National Security Advisor.
To protect privacy, the names of Americans who are incidentally monitored by intelligence agencies during their surveillance of foreign targets, typically pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”), are presumptively “masked” or concealed in reports to protect privacy. A mechanism exists to “unmask” the person if his/her identity is critical to a full understanding and appreciation of the intelligence. The mechanism has stringent protocol because FISA should not be used as a pretext to spy on Americans.
Even though Mr. Trump claims Article II lets the sitting president “do whatever he wants,” the Obama Administration followed protocol, jumped through every hoop, to “unmask” the identity of the person whose name had been redacted from the intelligence transcripts and summaries. Mr. Biden, among others, was in favor of the unmasking.
In the face of the greatest health crisis in a century Trump failed every measure of leadership and stewardship. This unmitigated disaster has unnecessarily killed tens of thousands of Americans. Trump must change the subject. I predict Obamagate will be short-lived. Can you imagine the Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Marco Rubio?, placing Mr. Trump under oath? As Mr. Graham wisely said, “Be careful what you ask for.” Putting Mr. Obama back in the spotlight may not be the wisest political move for the party of Trump, and allowing a full explanation rather than releasing cherry-picked information would not bode well.
Some time ago, I surmised in a blog post that of all the Trump psychophants, not including blood relatives of course, Roger Stone was the stupidest. You may recall Stone put in writing the threats and attempted coercion that constituted his obstruction of Congress and justice. Michael Flynn is clearly competing, however, for that title. During the Obama Administration he was in charge of the Defense Intelligence Agency until his termination. Mr. Flynn was fully aware that United States intelligence services monitor telephone calls of Russian diplomats, including Mr. Kislyak. So do the intelligence agencies of our allies who are kind enough to share what they collect.
In the face of that knowledge Mr. Flynn lied to Pence.
In the face of that knowledge he lied to the FBI, denying he had discussed lifting sanctions with the Russian Ambassador.
Mr. Flynn also failed to disclose and lied about being a foreign agent/lobbyist for the Turkish government.
Mr. Obama had the good judgment to caution the incoming administration about Mr. Flynn's compromised status.
Mr. Trump, of course, has no judgment.
Remember, Trump fired Flynn for lying to the FBI and Mr. Pence.
That was a time before irony died.
*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com
**Richard J Van Wagoner is my father. His list of honors, awards and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in a number of traveling shows domestically and internationally. My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father's work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father's art reproduced in https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com are hers