It turns out the God-King’s campaign had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence. More of that iceberg is showing…. (More)

“Raised a red flag”

CNN cites multiple sources, from intelligence and law enforcement to the God-King’s own campaign staff:

High-level advisers close to then-presidential nominee Donald Trump were in constant communication during the campaign with Russians known to US intelligence, multiple current and former intelligence, law enforcement and administration officials tell CNN.

President-elect Trump and then-President Barack Obama were both briefed on details of the extensive communications between suspected Russian operatives and people associated with the Trump campaign and the Trump business, according to US officials familiar with the matter.

Both the frequency of the communications during early summer and the proximity to Trump of those involved “raised a red flag” with US intelligence and law enforcement, according to these officials. The communications were intercepted during routine intelligence collection targeting Russian officials and other Russian nationals known to US intelligence.

Among several senior Trump advisers regularly communicating with Russian nationals were then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and then-adviser Michael Flynn.

CNN notes that investigators haven’t yet determined the “intent” of the conversations, and they never will if Sen. Rand Paul has his way:

Republican Sen. Rand Paul said Tuesday an investigation into the resignation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn would be excessive and it would not make sense to investigate other Republicans.

“I think that might be excessive. It looks like the President has handled the situation, and unless there’s some kind of other evidence of malfeasance, this sounds like something that was internal White House politics and it looks like the President’s handled it,” Paul told the Kilmeade and Friends radio show.

Nice of him to admit that, as Senate and House Republicans see it, the purpose of congressional investigations is not to expose wrongdoing … but to smear the opposition party.

“Watergate is the biggest political scandal of my lifetime, until maybe now”

So writes veteran journalist Dan Rather:

Watergate is the biggest political scandal of my lifetime, until maybe now. It was the closest we came to a debilitating Constitutional crisis, until maybe now. On a 10 scale of Armageddon for our form of government, I would put Watergate at a 9. This Russia scandal is currently somewhere around a 5 or 6, in my opinion, but it is cascading in intensity seemingly by the hour. And we may look back and see, in the end, that it is at least as big as Watergate. It may become the measure by which all future scandals are judged. It has all the necessary ingredients, and that is chilling.

USA Today’s Jill Lawrence seems inclined to agree:

If you start firing people for lying, for purveying fake news, for making U.S. foreign policy before you take office, for possibly having financial ties to Russia and possibly being vulnerable to blackmail by Russia, for being investigated by U.S. intelligence agencies – well. Where will it stop?

That’s the obvious and extremely uncomfortable question surrounding the forced departure of national security adviser Michael Flynn less than a month into the Trump administration. Because you might say President Trump is his role model.

If the tone is set from the top, Flynn may have thought he was doing exactly as Trump wanted. And it may not just be a tone. Who knows what Trump explicitly instructed or witnessed.

And it seems the God-King has known for weeks that Flynn had illegal conversations with Russian officials:

President Trump had been aware for “weeks” that Flynn had misled Pence and other officials, but did not act until Monday night, forcing the national security adviser to resign, the White House said on Tuesday.

White House counsel Don McGahn told Trump in a briefing late last month that Flynn, despite his claims to the contrary, had discussed U.S. sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said. Trump was briefed “immediately” after the Justice Department informed McGahn about the discrepancy, Spicer told reporters Tuesday.

Yet Paul Manafort is still professing innocence … in the form of ignorance:

CNN reported that then–campaign chairman Paul Manafort and then-adviser Michael Flynn were among the aides regularly communicating with the Russians. Manafort, who has business ties to Ukraine and Russia, denied the report, but also hinted at a possible defense, telling the [New York Times] it’s hard to know who’s a Russian operative:

“This is absurd,” he said. “I have no idea what this is referring to. I have never knowingly spoken to Russian intelligence officers, and I have never been involved with anything to do with the Russian government or the Putin administration or any other issues under investigation today.”

Mr. Manafort added, “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.’”

Color me Not Buying It.

“A giant tapestry of deception”

Neither is Martin Longman:

There’s a whole narrative available now about how the administration deliberated for weeks about what to do about Flynn, all while keeping Pence in the dark. Maybe parts of it are true or partly true. But the overall effort is a giant tapestry of deception.

At the root of it was that the Trump administration didn’t just disagree about what Obama announced on December 29th. They didn’t even accept the premise or justification for what Obama did. They actively worked behind the scenes to reassure the Russians that it could all be unraveled. And they did this all while under suspicion for colluding with the Russians in the robbery and strategic leaking of Democrats’ electronic communications. They refused to accept the conclusions of our intelligence community and called them Nazis. Trump even went to CIA headquarters in the midst of all this and brazenly disrespected their dead.

What they did or did not tell Mike Pence could not be more of a sideshow. The only truly curious thing is why they felt the need to lie about what Flynn discussed. In every other way, they were completely unembarrassed about their opposition to the idea that Russia had hacked the election or that they should be held accountable for it. Why was this one example such an important exception?

What Flynn actually did was completely consistent with Trump’s position at the time. They say that Trump has no problem with what Flynn said and that it wasn’t a crime. So, what’s the real problem?

Well, I’ll tell you.

The problem is that the intelligence community struck back. They caught Flynn in a lie and they used it to get rid of a guy they suspect of being a Russian mole who was, for twenty-five days, our National Security Adviser.

And, as you can see, the war hasn’t ended with Flynn’s resignation (or firing or whatever). It has just begun, because everything they thought about Flynn, they also think about Trump.

Astonishingly, The Week’s Damon Linker finds it “deeply disturbing” that our intelligence community value their oaths of office over personal loyalty to the God-King:

The United States is much better off without Michael Flynn serving as national security adviser. But no one should be cheering the way he was brought down.

The whole episode is evidence of the precipitous and ongoing collapse of America’s democratic institutions – not a sign of their resiliency. Flynn’s ouster was a soft coup (or political assassination) engineered by anonymous intelligence community bureaucrats. The results might be salutary, but this isn’t the way a liberal democracy is supposed to function.

Unelected intelligence analysts work for the president, not the other way around.

No, actually they don’t “work for the president.” They work for the U.S. government and serve the American people. They took oaths to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States from “all threats, foreign and domestic.” That includes a rogue president.

This is exactly “the way a liberal democracy is supposed to function.” While the God-King said last April that he wants government employees to sign the kinds of secrecy oaths he required of his employees, that’s not how our government is meant to function. There’s a reason we have a Freedom of Information Act … and the God-King and his sycophants will have to get used to it.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Good day and good nuts