US headed for constitutional crisis? | Sunday Observer

US headed for constitutional crisis?

Probes reveal ‘Matrix’-style cyber ‘swarms’ struck 2016 election :

Putin offers sacked FBI Director asylum:

Incidents such as the horrific highrise tower fire in London, shooting of US Congress members and officials by a gunman in Washington (not IS, for once), and, the clash of ocean Titans – an American destroyer accidentally rammed by a giant container carrier - off Japan’s coast on Friday, all caught our attention last week. But these are dramatic incidents that are normally side shows to the bigger drama of world politics and the achievements of global power brokers and statesmen and women.

Nowadays, a country which led such global drama this past half century and more, is hardly noticed on the stage of world politics. Rather, the world is watching – aghast, bemusedly, delightedly, depending on perspective – what is happening inside the United States, specifically, the fortunes of the country’s head of state. To the chagrin of America’s fandom, much of the world is chuckling wickedly over the seemingly exposed villainy of America’s new President and his own blundering attempts to evade pointing fingers.

In the past, the world chuckled and sniggered over President Bill Clinton’s proclivities with women – mostly with consent with little of the “grabbing” that Donald Trump boasted about. In Bangkok, astute restaurateurs briefly added a small ‘Clinton Plaza’ of salacious attractions in the middle of that city’s famed nightlife area on Sukhumvit Road (it’s no longer there).

Electoral motto

But Bill Clinton did not make ‘America First’ or even ‘America is No.1’ his electoral motto. Today, the world must deal with an American head of state who scorns other countries, berates America’s closest allies, denigrates entire religious communities and, rubbishes global crises as if the very Earth’s future is not at stake.

And Donald Trump does all this even as he parrots ‘America First’. It is difficult not to laugh as such a bombastic and uncouth personality gets tied up in knots of his own doing. It provides some comic relief from the crudities. It is most concerning, however, when those knots are also hobbling and constraining one of the world’s great powers, undermining some of democracy’s most historic institutions and political cultures.

What is happening in the US of A? Readers following the news of happenings in the West must be stupefied by the welter of news stories that are not about the plans and early great initiatives of America’s new President. Rather, they are about numerous antics by that President himself to possibly evade criminal charges – of high treason, among other offences!

The bulk of the ‘news’ coming out to of America is about President Donald Trump and his officials being investigated either for possibly conniving with America’s main geo-political rival, Russia, to win the presidency or, for blocking or evading the actual investigation itself.

To recap: by mid-2016, with the US presidential election contest heating up, key US counter-espionage agencies of that country quietly warned then President Barack Obama that Russia, the US’ long-standing geo-political rival, was attempting to influence the election outcome through cyber warfare. One by one, all of the US counter-intelligence and security agencies, bureaus and departments (17, according to the US press) began investigating and monitoring the Russian cyber assault at the heart of the American political process.

News of this cyber operation began coming out in the US news media toward end-2016. Even though the public was not informed, the counter-espionage surveillance had discovered that Russia was not only infiltrating key election computer systems and stealing data. The US espionage watchdogs also had the impression that the Russians were attempting to swing the election in favour of the candidate who openly spoke in their favour – Donald Trump.

All this was made public early this year when numerous credible news reports of these treacherous goings-on (not denied by the US counter-spy agencies) prompted the US Congress oversight committees to launch investigations.

In televised public hearings, the heads of US intelligence and counter-intelligence agencies confirmed to both the Senate and House of representatives committees that all what had been reported was broadly true. Today, only the politically most illiterate or most ignorant American will deny what the entire US security apparatus has concluded: Russia did intervene to influence the election result.

Within weeks of Trump’s presidential inauguration, investigations had been launched by no less than four Congress oversight committees: the Judiciary Committees of both the Senate and House as well as both Intelligence Committees. These civilian political and administrative probes are in addition to the already on-going professional probes by the FBI and several counter-intelligence agencies.

Scope of the probes is wide: the extent and depth of the Russian cyber penetration, the space-age technology used, the data stolen, the false data introduced, data manipulated and distorted, which installations were penetrated.

The counter-spy probes are also hunting for any American citizens who may have aided and abetted in this foreign subversion. US politicians who have seen the evidence now being offered by the US security agencies are shocked at the severity of the implications and are now describing the Russian cyber attack as the “worst attack on America since 9/11”.

Equally shocking has been the revelation by all these security agencies that the Russians probably cultivated the Moscow-friendly Trump’s election campaign officials in their machinations to influence the election. In fact the investigators want to know whether such Trump officials were unwittingly manipulated by the Russians and, whether some of them were willing collaborators, traitors to their country in their desire to ensure a Trump victory.

The biggest, most explosive question of all is: did President Trump know about this connivance with America’s main rival?

Even more shocking has been the revelation, first by leaked information to the news media and then confirmed in sworn testimony to the Congressional Committees by officials, that the President and some of his officials, were attempting to halt or deflect these probes of the Russian attack.

Witch hunt

The fact that President Trump, from the very onset of his presidency, has publicly dismissed the Russia probe as a ‘witch hunt’ by the much-derided ‘Washington Estabishment’ only adds to suspicions.

And when he sacked the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey, and later was recorded admitting that it was the Russia probe that prompted the sacking, suspicions have arisen higher. Comey later voluntarily testified before the House Intellligence Committee in hearings that were the most watched hearings since the Watergate probes that ended President Richard Nixon’s presidency.

Comey explicit confirmed to the House Committee that not only were Trump election campaign officials under suspicion of ‘collusion’ with the Russians but that some of them tried to hide their dealings with the Russians and, worse, the President himself pressured the FBI to end the Russia investigation.

There are also subsidiary investigations under way:

- America’s new Attorney General, former Senator Jeff Sessions, is under probe for dealings with the Russians during the elections (and also for not disclosing these dealings when he was vetted for his post);

- former National Security Adviser, Army General (Retd.) Michael Flynn (who had to resign his post within days for lying about his contacts with the Russians) is under probe for those contacts;

- President Trump’s communications with some other key officials, such as the head of the National Security Agency and the Director of National Intelligence (both Trump appointees) are being probed to ascertain whether he attempted to influence these officials to force a halt to the Russia probe.

- the dealings of Trump son-in-law and Presidential Adviser Jared Kushner with Russian businessmen known to be political intermediaries for the Russian government. As if to bug the easily irritated Trump further, Russian President Putin last week told a press conference in Moscow that his government would be happy to provide political asylum to sacked FBI Director Comey.

One thing that is abundantly clear: American democracy is alive and kicking. As observers the world over are wondering, will it be long before the wrongdoers are identified and are kicked out of the (White) House? While many American commentators are already talking about ‘impeachment’ of the President, the process of democracy is slow and tortuous in lieu of the naturally stringent requirements to ensure that justice is done.