Trump smoke and fire: Spies, lies, and the Russian ties

“SOME people in the Trump campaign may end up in jail,” revealed Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro in a CNN interview on  Tuesday, April 4.
The congressman’s declaration comes after more classified information was presented to the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the allegations that the Trump campaign and Russia conspired to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
With probes also being performed by the Department of Justice, FBI, the National Security Agency and the Senate Intelligence Committee to get to the bottom of the assault of Russia on U.S. democracy, new deep connections between members of the Trump campaign and transition team and Russian officials have been coming to light.
The Trump camp had initially denied the numerous secret meetings that various members had with Russian officials here in the United States, in Russia and other parts of the world. Some even lied under oath and recently, evidence has revealed that those meetings actually occurred.
These Trump associates included, among others:
National Security adviser Michael Flynn who lied about meeting with Russian officials and failed to disclose payments from Russian companies;
Attorney General Jeff Sessions who lied under oath that he met with the Russian ambassador to the United States twice;
Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was found to have worked to help Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government push its interests around the world;
Former campaign associate Carter Page was targeted for recruitment by Russian spies;
Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner met with the Russian ambassador during transition and met with a Russian bank chairman with ties to Putin;
Major campaign donor, Erik Prince — founder of government service and security company Blackwater and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos —  reportedly had a secret meeting arranged by the United Arab Emirates at the Seychelles islands, just nine days before Trump’s inauguration. U.S., European and Arab officials revealed that the meeting was with a Russian close to Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump.
The questions that need to be answered: Why did the Trump campaign have to make these meetings “secret”? Why did they have to lie about these, with Sessions even being not forthcoming under oath? Was there coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia in hacking and leaking damaging information about the Democratic National Committee and nominee Hillary Clinton to help Trump win? Were there talks between the Trump campaign and Russia about easing sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama against Russia for interference in the 2016 election? What did Trump know? When did he know them? What did he do when he knew about any of the talks?
On March 4, as the Russian probe went deeper, Trump shocked the world with his early morning tweets accusing Obama of wiretapping him without offering any evidence to support his allegations. This accusation was debunked by the U.S. intelligence community to be unfounded.
And then Trump dropped another smoke screen: that British spies did it for Obama. This was an allegation that was vehemently denied by America’s closest ally and the U.S. intelligence community.
And then this past week, another smoke screen — allegations that Obama’s former National Security Adviser Susan Rice illegally unmasked names of Trump’s associates in surveillance against him and leaked information for political expediency.
This accusation against Rice was debunked by members of the intelligence community who said that as an adviser, she was just doing her job in requesting to unmask (get to know) the identities of individuals who arose to be in communication with foreign entities believed to be a threat to U.S. national security.
Unmasking was legal and was necessary to know the context of the communications between the U.S. person and the foreign entity. Rice never leaked the information to anybody, disproving accusations she and the Obama administration had used it for political reasons.
The Bloomberg story by Eli Lake that broke the news implicating name of Susan Rice in this development concluded:
“Rice’s requests to unmask the names of Trump transition officials do not vindicate Trump’s own tweets from March 4 in which he accused Obama of illegally tapping Trump Tower. There remains no evidence to support that claim.
But Rice’s multiple requests to learn the identities of Trump officials discussed in intelligence reports during the transition period does highlight a longstanding concern for civil liberties advocates about U.S. surveillance programs. The standard for senior officials to learn the names of U.S. persons incidentally collected is that it must have some foreign intelligence value, a standard that can apply to almost anything. This suggests Rice’s unmasking requests were likely within the law.
The news about Rice also sheds light on the strange behavior of Nunes [Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also part of Trump’s transition team] in the last two weeks. It emerged last week that he traveled to the White House last month, the night before he made an explosive allegation about Trump transition officials caught up in incidental surveillance. At the time he said he needed to go to the White House because the reports were only on a database for the executive branch. It now appears that he needed to view computer systems within the National Security Council that would include the logs of Rice’s requests to unmask U.S. persons.
The ranking Democrat on the committee Nunes chairs, Representative Adam Schiff, viewed these reports on Friday. In comments to the press over the weekend he declined to discuss the contents of these reports, but also said it was highly unusual for the reports to be shown only to Nunes and not himself and other members of the committee.
Indeed, much about this is highly unusual: if not how the surveillance was collected, then certainly how and why it was disseminated.”

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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to,

Gel Santos Relos

Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to and

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