Dr. Emanuel L. Paparella
There is a Russian bear roaming around the White House. It just will not go away. The alarm inside the house is palpable and growing. He keeps poking his nose at the windows, seems to know quite well some of the people inside, and wants to gain access at any cost and become part of the dream team.
After all, it has managed to put its paws on the scales of the US presidential election of last November, as per US intelligence community which is carrying on an investigation.
The bear was also previously connected with Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, and, as it has just surfaced, it has also been in close contact with Trump’s top aide, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, even before Trump took office on Janurary 20; thus violating federal law.
Flynn too, like Manafort, may be headed for Siberia, so to speak, but that remains to be seen, given that the pathologically narcissistic ego of the Caligula-like President does not easily allow him to admit to any missteps. In fact, he usually doubles down on them.
Is this the first staff crisis of the new presidency in its making as we speak?
As is well known, despite denials by the Kremlin and some geo-political experts who have somehow minimized the whole incident, Russian intelligence agencies created havoc in the US presidential race by hacking into the email accounts of Democratic and former national security leaders and then releasing what they stole. The candidate Trump himself went around encouraging them to do so.
President Obama retaliated by expelling some Russian spies operating under diplomatic cover and imposing economic sanctions on Russia’s military intelligence agencies.
On Christmas day, when he was still a private citizen, and before Obama had announced his punitive measures, Flynn communicated with Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak. Flynn said that he called to wish the ambassador Merry Christmas. How cute! More likely, it was a warning to the ambassador about the pending sanctions and a reassurance that Trump, once in office in a few weeks, would reverse them.
If that happens to be the case, despite the reassurances of vice-president Pence on CBS Face the Nation that Flynn did not talk about sanctions with Kislyak, it would be against the federal law provisions of the Logan Act. In any case, charges of secret collusion with the Kremlin are now in the air, while the bear is still anxiously hanging around. He seems to expect something that was promised him.
Let us remember that what brought about the menace of a Nixon’s impeachment in the mid-seventies (avoided when he decided to resign) was not so much the crime itself of a bungling burglary by inept party spies, but the attempted cover-up and denial by the Nixon administration.
Flynn is now back-pedaling. He is going around saying that he may, after all, have talked about sanctions, but he doesn’t remember. In other words, Flynn, the man with his finger on the nuclear button (you need two fingers to activate and launch nuclear weapons) has suddenly discovered that US intelligence agencies monitor conversations by private citizens with heads of foreign powers. Oh my, does it get complicated.
As with Nixon, the question now is: did Trump know, and if so when did he know it?
What remains bizarre is that Putin responded to Obama’s sanctions by doing nothing. He took the high road; he could afford to do so after Flynn’s warning. Immediately Trump resorted to his twitter and called Putin “very smart.”
As Caligula redivivus exclaims from time to time: “What’s going on”? Given what is regularly leaked from the White House on a daily basis, and the counter-leaks in the press and TV, what may be going on in Trump’s inner circle is a struggle for who gets access to the “brilliant” emperor strutting around with invisible clothes; who gets the authority to speak for him outside the White House. Bannon, as is well known, is a top contender for that coveted position, but there are others. In other words, it’s an intense internal Machiavellian struggle for power and influence.
You may now ask: what do we know for sure? This much: Flynn has in the past traveled to Russia after he left his DIA job. There he appeared on Russia’s state-rum propaganda arm, the RT. He was seen sitting at the same table with Putin.The new US secretary of state is the recipient of a Russian medal of honor from Putin.
We also know, as reported by Reuters that Trump did not have the foggiest about the 2010 new START treaty when he spoke to Putin on the phone recently. We know that the top US commander in Afghanistan has warned Congress of recent Russian meddling there, all intended to undermine NATO. We know that Russia has increased its military attacks in Eastern Ukraine.
Is Trump losing control of the story? It appears so. The Senate’s Intelligence committee is set to investigate the ties between Trump and Russia, so is the FBI. The best of the story may still be coming. Meanwhile fasten your seatbelts.
Emanuel L. Paparella is a former professor of Italian language and literature at the University of Puerto Rico and the University of Central Florida. He is the author of various books: Hermeneutics in the Philosophy of Giambattista Vico (Mellen Press, New York, 1993), A New Europe in Search of its Soul (Authorhouse, 2005), Europa: an Idea and a Journey (Exlibris, 2012), Tre Novelle Rusticane di Giovanni Verga (ed. 1975, Florentia Publisher), as well as innumerable articles on Italian literature and philosophy.