Russia-Ukraine flare-up: FBI probes close in on Trump inner circle | Sunday Observer

Russia-Ukraine flare-up: FBI probes close in on Trump inner circle

The world’s 20 most powerful nations met in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Friday and Saturday but little concrete is expected of the summit meeting given the severe disagreements between member states of the ‘Group of 20’ that accounts for some 85 per cent of the world’s economy and nearly two-thirds of its population. The G20 Summit was due to end last evening but most analysts were doubtful whether host Argentina would succeed in getting unanimity for any Summit ‘declaration’.

But US President Donald Trump went to the Summit with his thoughts focussed more on the crimes and high treason probes against himself back in Washington.

More attention was being paid in the Argentinian capital to which state leader would meet with whom and who would ignore each other and who would appear to be friendly. Trump had already cancelled a formal meeting with Russian Presdident Vladimir Putin due to the Ukraine-Russia dispute. The Saudi Arabian Crown Prince was also attending and journalists were counting the number of leaders who spoke with him and who shunned him.

Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe war tensions were at its highest level since the Russian-backed insurgency broke out in Ukraine in 2014 and Russia forcibly annexed the strategically important Crimean Peninsula. Last Sunday tensions flared when Russia seized three small Ukrainian navy gunboats and detained their crews accusing the vessels of violating agreed procedures to transit through the Kerch Strait that separates Crimea from the Russian mainland.

While big power attentions focused on this latest flashpoint, the United Nations with the people of Palestine celebrated the annual UN Day of Solidarity with Palestine on Thursday to remind the world of the 70-year tragedy of a nation evicted from its territory and crowded into dozens of refugee camps in tiny enclaves held militarily by the power that originally evicted it – Israel. Over a million Palestinian refugees also live permanently in refugee camps in adjoining Jordan, Lebanon and Syria while lakhs more are now spread out across the world as a ‘diaspora’.

Many Sri Lankan Christians will doubtless visit Palestine this month in pilgrimage to their ‘Holy Land’ to pray and worship at the many sites sacred to the memory of Lord Jesus and his teachings. It is to be hoped that during their visit, the pilgrims will genuinely pray and reflect on the bizarre tragedy that afflicts this Holy Land in which the original inhabitants live in crowded, militarily hemmed-in, pockets of territory declared as the ‘State of Palestine’ but lacking official recognition by much of the world community and prevented by occupying Israel from functioning fully as an independent nation-state.

The many checkpoints and processing that pilgrims must go through is enough evidence of the on-going tragedy of a wholly displaced and besieged nation. The circuitous routes to the holy sites will prevent pilgrims from travelling through and observing the reality in the Palestinian residential areas and sectors of tension where illegal Israeli settlements are being forcibly built to alter the demographic balance in favour of ‘greater Israel’.

Sadly, pilgrims will not have time to see through the Israeli triumphalist propaganda and appreciate the true predicament of the Israeli Jews themselves. Israel actually represents a community of European Jews who have had to flee extreme anti-Jewish racism in Europe and who were then settled with European military and economic aid on Palestinian territory after the forcible eviction of the Palestinians (who comprised the indigenous Arab and Jewish population). Even today, many Jews are continuing to flee mounting racism in America and Europe and settle in Israel, the only place they feel safe in.

But world attention is elsewhere. Even as tensions remain high in the Black Sea around the Russia-Ukraine naval incident, the world’s most powerful man, US President Donald Trump, faces an ever-deeping probe into the most serious accusations ever faced by a sitting American President.

These are the accusations of a conspiracy between himself and the Russia in which Russia may have subverted the US presidential electoral process to help gain the US presidency. These accusations amount to nothing less than high treason, which, if proven, would mean the criminal prosecution or impeachment of the President.

Last week the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller filed even more charges against the former chairman of Trump’s presidential election campaign, Paul Manafort. Manafort, who had earlier pleaded guilty of numerous other charges including non-declaration of (Russian provided) foreign funds and money-laundering, was further indicted for lying to the US Senate during special Senate hearings on the suspected Trump-Russia consipiracy. The FBI now accuses Manafort of lying about Donald Trump awareness about dealings between the Trump business conglomerate and the Kremlin and allied business groups, even while Trump himself was in the thick of the election campaign.

With over a dozen other top Trump aides already convicted of similar charges of lying and covering up, there is, increasingly, a case building against the US president of actual treason.

Since US judicial policy prevents a sitting president from being directly criminally prosecuted, the FBI will only be able to issue a report with evidence of the crimes and confirmation of guilt. It will be up to the US Congress to take up the report and then impeach the president. Whether this is feasible remains to be seen given that the US Senate is controlled by Trump’s own governing Republican Party.

However, the evidence mounting is seen as likely to lead to charges being filed against Trump’s inner circle – his two elder sons and daughter and son-in-law - for their role in the alleged conspiracy with Russia and their own possibly misrepresetations during the Senate hearings.

It must be noted that the ‘Russia collusion’ story is not based on mere claims by political rivals but arose directly out of suspicions raised within the US national security establishment based on their professional investigations. US public opinion is also mounting against Trump in this connection.

Even if Trump is not impeached, the new majority held by the opposition Democratic Party in the House of Representatives could mean a slew of new congressional probes that could embarrass Trump and the Republicans to such a degree that, in order to protect their own political futures, the Republicans could informally pressure Trump to voluntarily resign.