Was the Trump campaign’s messing with Diana Denman on Ukraine really proof of Russian influence?

 

Good day Austin:

A question I have yet to get is, Why can’t First Reading be longer?

But, in anticipation of that question, the answer is, yes it can be, and here it is.

And, in anticipation of a follow-up question, this one is especially long because I am trying to unravel a controversy with a Texas angle that, merited or not, appears to be occupying some murky but important space at the heart of the controversy over President Trump and the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia.

Last Monday at First Reading I wrote “How Diana Denman’s singular stand for Ukraine revealed the Trump campaign’s soft spot for Russia.”

Diana Denman and Grant Mood at the Republican National Convention

 

It was about how Denman, a Cruz delegate from San Antonio, offered an amendment to the Republican platform on Ukraine during the deliberations of the national security subcommittee of the Platform Committee in advance of the Republican National Convention in July in Cleveland, and how an emissary of the Trump campaign, J.D. Gordon, objected to the plank’s promise of providing Ukraine with  “lethal defensive weapons” to defend itself against Russian aggression, and the subcommittee agreed to drop those words from the platform.

The paragraph you just read still stands. I don’t think there is any disagreement about that.

But I subsequently heard from Gordon, the Trump campaign representative to the Platform Committee on national security. He objected to some particulars of how Denman has depicted their interaction and how this story more broadly had been reported since July, leaving what he contends is a misleading impression that has been woven into the narrative about President Trump and his campaign’s relationship with Russia and its president Vladimir Putin.

Indeed, as Trump critics in the media and in Congress have sought to “connect the dots” of what they view as President Trump and the Trump campaign’s nefarious Russia connections, Gordon’s intervention on Ukraine increasingly looms as an early and important dot.

As Chuck Ross noted in a debunking article last week in the Daily Caller — “Revisiting The Persistent Myth That The Trump Campaign Changed The GOP Platform To Help Russia”:

Gordon, a former Pentagon spokesman, was identified last week as one of several Trump campaign members who had encounters and/or meetings with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Gordon met Kislyak at an event coordinated with the GOP convention in Cleveland. Some liberal pundits are now suggesting that Gordon may have discussed the platform issue with Kisylak.

 

 

From Chuck Ross:

Gordon says that he spoke with Kislyak for a few minutes at a public event and later at a cocktail party, but did not discuss the GOP platform with him. He said he made boilerplate comments about a future Trump administration seeking to improve relations with Russia.

Gordon feels personally aggrieved that Denman’s words and actions had tarnished his reputation and may be costing him a post in the Trump administration.

As Gordon told me last week: “I am under consideration for some for some administration posts, though, given the mass hysteria over Trump-Russia this past week, including my role in the GOP platform, my chances have been seriously damaged.”

Denman, in turn, is steadfast in her account of what happened and feels that Gordon has not “come clean” in his account, that he has been mischaracterizing what she has said and done and has unfairly tarnished her reputation.

Based on my back-and-forth conversations with Gordon and Denman last week, I think the point of contention in their recounting of events really turns  on one conversation that occurred during the meeting of the subcommittee at which Denman offered this amendment:

Today, the post-Cold War ideal of a “Europe whole and free,” is being severely tested by Russia’s ongoing military aggression in Ukraine. Launched in 2014, Moscow’s offensive constitutes the first attempt since the end of World War II to change by force the sovereign boundaries in Europe. Ukraine’s government and people have shown a remarkable resolve to resist Russian pressure, including by mobilizing a military force that, together with European sanctions, has successfully thwarted further advances by the Russian military and its surrogates.

The Ukrainian people deserve our admiration and support in their struggle, and in their efforts to strengthen “the Rule of Law,” forge a Free Market economy,  and expand democratic governance. We therefore support maintaining (and, if  warranted, increasing) sanctions against Russia until Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored. We also support providing lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine’s Armed Forces and greater coordination with NATO  on defense planning. Simultaneously, we call for increased financial aid for Ukraine, as well as greater assistance in the economic and humanitarian spheres, including government reform and anti-corruption.

The line in bold caught Gordon’s ear because, he said, it was “clearly at odds with everything  Mr Trump has said about lethal defensive weapons.”

“Mr. Trump had said publicly and privately that he didn’t want World War III over Ukraine. He said that many times,” Gordon said.

Gordon was at a side table in the meeting room with Matt Miller of the Trump campaign and two Trump campaign lawyers. Gordon flagged the problem with Denman’s amendment for Miller, who brought it to the attention of Steve Yates, the Idaho GOP chair who was one of three chairs of the national security subcommittee. Yates brought the objection to the attention of the subcommittee, which subsequently agreed to lose the language about “lethal defensive weapons.”

But, before that happened, Denman approached Gordon at the side table to ask why he was messing with her platform language and on whose authority.

As Denman recounted the exchange to me:

So (Gordon)  said something to the effect that the wording had to be cleared. And I said, `Cleared with who?’

And he said, `Cleared with New York,’ and I thought maybe he was overdoing his assignment and I didn’t quite believe him and I said, `Who are you clearing it with?’ And he said, `New York,’ and I said,`Who are you clearing it with?’

Denman said she pressed Gordon on who he had to clear it with in New York.

He got more specific, but I’ve refused to have a quote on that. He got very specific because I asked him three times.

Gordon said Denman has said that he said he was talking directly to Trump, but Denman said she has quite explicitly not said that. However, as in our conversation, the implication may be plain.

Gordon said the idea that he was getting direct orders from the candidate, or Paul Manafort, the campaign manager at the time, to thwart Denman’s amendment –  or even that he was directly on the phone with New York during the subcommittee meeting – is ridiculous, and that he didn’t tell Denman that that’s whom he was talking to.

Rather, he said, he was on the phone with the other members of the campaign’s policy team who were assigned to the six platform subcommittees, and he was filling them in on what was happening at his subcommittee meeting, “and they were talking to New York.”

There were six subcommittees, so could you imagine every single subcommittee policy representative all  trying to call New York and could you imagine how ridiculous it would be for me to  say I‘m going to call Mr. Trump? Do you really think I would say  that  at the side table where I was assigned with two Trump lawyers next to me and Matt Miller (of the Trump campaign) right next to me?

“I’ve been a think tank senior fellow for a long time; I’ve been a Naval commander, 20 years in the Navy; I was a Pentagon spokesman. Do you think I’d tell” Diana Denman,  `Hey listen, lady. I’m talking to  Mr. Trump. That stretches the imagination, yet that’s what she told people.”

Again, Denman says that’s not what she told people.

Gordon said he wasn’t taking orders from anyone when he was on the phone at the subcommittee meeting.

All I was doing was calling my colleagues and saying there was an issue here and there is media in the room, so in other words, what happened in one second could be on the wire in a minute. That’s why I had to tell people, there’ s a problem, there’s an issue.

Gordon said he and his colleagues were under instructions from the Trump campaign not to mess with the platform “if it’s something  that Is not critical or not going to make a huge story, which I did except for that one issue.”

The language about “defensive lethal weapons” was a problem, he said.

That was a glaring contradiction and the news story would have been, `GOP rebukes Trump over Ukraine.’ That would have been the story. We didn’t want any news stories out of the platform except for kumbaya. Oh Trump and GOP fall in love on the GOP platform and it’s kumbaya. Paul Ryan’s happy, Mr. Trump’s happy. But Diana Denman’s insistence on the Ukraine thing was at odds with that.

And, Gordon said, “Mr. Trump won the nomination, not Diana Denman.”

Gordon believes it was Denman who went to the press with the story  about the meddling with her amendment – which Denman said is absolutely untrue – beginning with Josh Rogin’s July 18, 2016, piece  in the Washington Post, “Trump campaign guts GOP’s anti-Russia stance on Ukraine.”

As Rogin wrote:

The Trump campaign worked behind the scenes last week to make sure the new Republican platform won’t call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington.

Throughout the campaign, Trump has been dismissive of calls for supporting the Ukraine government as it fights an ongoing Russian-led intervention. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, worked as a lobbyist for the Russian-backed former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych for more than a decade.

A few weeks later, on March 31, Manafort spoke on “Meet the Press,” denying the campaign had any role in changing the platform language on Ukraine.

CHUCK TODD:

And before I let you go, there’s been some controversy about something in the Republican Party platform that essentially changed the Republican Party’s views when it comes to Ukraine. How much influence did you have in changing that language, sir?

PAUL MANAFORT:

I had none. In fact, I didn’t even hear of it until after our convention was over.

CHUCK TODD:

Where did it come from then? Because everybody on the platform committee had said it came from the Trump campaign. If not you, who?

PAUL MANAFORT:

It absolutely did not come from the Trump campaign. And I don’t know who everybody is, but I guarantee you it was nobody that was on the platform committee–

CHUCK TODD:

So nobody from the Trump campaign wanted that change in the platform?

PAUL MANAFORT:

No one, zero.

Trump denied his own involvement with the platform flap in an interview the same day with George Stephanopoulos:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, why did you soften the GOP platform on Ukraine?

TRUMP: I wasn’t involved in that. Honestly, I was not involved—

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your people were.

TRUMP: Yeah. I was not involved in that. I’d like to— I’d have to take a look at it. But I was not involved in it—

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you know what they did?

TRUMP: They softened it, I heard. But I was not involved.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, they took away the— part of the platform calling for provision of lethal weapons to Ukraine to defend themselves. Why is that a good idea?

TRUMP: It’s— look, you know, I have my own ideas. He’s not going into Ukraine, okay, just so you understand. He’s not gonna go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want—

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he’s already there, isn’t he?

TRUMP: Okay— well, he’s there in a certain way. But I’m not there. You have Obama there. And frankly, that whole part of the world is a mess under Obama with all the strength that you’re talking about and all of the power of NATO and all of this. In the meantime, he’s going away. He take— takes Crimea. He’s sort of, I mean—

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you said you might recognize that.

TRUMP: I’m gonna take a look at it. But you know, the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that, also. Now, that was under— just so you understand, that was done under Obama’s administration.
And as far as the Ukraine is concerned, it’s a mess. And that’s under the Obama’s administration with his strong ties to NATO. So with all of these strong ties to NATO, Ukraine is a mess. Crimea has been taken. Don’t blame Donald Trump for that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve said you —

TRUMP: And we’ll do better. And yet, we’ll have a better relationship with Russia. And having a good relationship — maybe. And having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.

Gordon said it was Manafort’s denial that really launched the story.

That’s where it blew up. Before that, nobody cared, even though Josh Rogin wrote a story about it. But after that Manafort thing, oh, my phone started blowing up, emails, I had to do two memos to him and poor Mr. Trump. I had to do a conference call about it. There was a lot of angst about it in the campaign after that and I was squarely in the cross-hairs for doing my job because Paul didn’t answer the question in a forthright way.

Gordon said Manafort knew about the campaign’s involvement on the Denman amendment.

“Manafort knew,” Gordon said. “I gave him an after-action report the 11th of July, but he has a lot of stuff of his mind,” this is “down in the weeds and Chuck Todd’s bothering him about it,” so Gordon speculates, Manafort went into a “default” denial.

Three weeks later Manafort was out as Trump campaign manager, in part because of persistent questions about his ties to pro-Russian elements in Ukraine.

Then, last Wednesday the platform story get another jolt of energy from a report by Kenneth Vogel and David Stern at Politico, about the role that one Konstantin Killimnik may or may not have played in the episode.

U.S. and Ukrainian authorities have expressed interest in the activities of a Kiev-based operative with suspected ties to Russian intelligence who consulted regularly with Paul Manafort last year while Manafort was running Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The operative, Konstantin Kilimnik, came under scrutiny from officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Department partly because of at least two trips he took to the U.S. during the presidential campaign, according to three international political operatives familiar with the agencies’ interest in Kilimnik.

Kilimnik, a joint Russian-Ukrainian citizen who trained in the Russian army as a linguist, told operatives in Kiev and Washington that he met with Manafort during an April trip to the United States. And, after a late summer trip to the U.S., Kilimnik suggested that he had played a role in gutting a proposed amendment to the Republican Party platform that would have staked out a more adversarial stance towards Russia, according to a Kiev operative.

xxxxxxxxx

Manafort summarily rejected questions about whether Kilimnik might be in league with Russian intelligence, declaring Kilimnik “pro-Ukraine,” and casting the inquiries into his associate as politically motivated “smears.”

Kilimnik declined to answer questions about any interest by authorities into his activities. Instead, he attributed scrutiny of him to “a heated political environment [that has] led to exaggerated and out of context reporting in the hope of establishing connections that, to the best of my knowledge, have not yet been proven.”

He added that “Ukraine and Ukrainians are being used as scapegoats in the U.S. political and media battles” — a dynamic that he said has been made “abundantly evident from how my own circumstantial relationships were misrepresented, exaggerated and overblown.”

The White House declined to respond to questions about Manafort’s relationship with Kilimnik, or whether there were any inquiries into it by U.S. authorities.

xxxxxxxxxx

When Kilimnik traveled to the U.S. in late summer, he drew the attention of U.S. authorities, according to a Washington consultant with ties to U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

And when Kilimnik returned to Ukraine after that trip, he suggested to Kiev political operatives that he played a role in a move by Trump’s representatives to dilute a proposed amendment to the GOP platform calling for the U.S. to provide “lethal defensive weapons” for Ukraine to defend itself against Russian incursion.

“He led me to believe that he was involved in the platform fight, but not necessarily through Paul,” said a Kiev-based operative who travels in the same circles as Kilimnik. The operative added that Kilimnik could have been “just bullshitting like political consultants do.”

A Trump campaign adviser familiar with the platform debate said he was not aware of Kilimnik playing any role in the proceedings and, in fact, hadn’t even met Kilimnik.

From Gordon:

The level of disinformation surrounding the GOP Platform and Diana Denman’s Amendment on Ukraine has reached epic proportions. Diana Denman’s repeated exaggerations and mischaracterizations of the Trump Campaign’s legitimate role in the GOP Platform process led to inflammatory and misleading news reports. Now we’re hearing blatant falsehoods allegedly made by people who had no role whatsoever in the GOP Platform, like Konstantin Kilimnik. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone claim to have been a Trump Advisor, or influenced the campaign in some way, I’d be a rich man.

Diana Denman’s proverbial acorn has certainly grown into that mighty oak.

Gordon believes that Denman was motivated by her opposition to Trump. But Denman says that is not ture, and my experience with Denman at the convention was that she was not among the Cruz delegates seeking to open up the convention to deny Trump the nomination.

Who is J.D. Gordon?

From his bio:

J.D. Gordon is a former Pentagon spokesman who served under Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary Robert Gates from 2005-2009. He has also served in senior positions on three presidential campaigns as National Security & Foreign Policy Advisor to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, as well as Businessmen Donald Trump and Herman Cain.
Gordon has served as a Senior Fellow and Advisor to numerous think tanks and foundations based in Washington, DC. A contributing columnist to Fox News, The Washington Times, The Daily Caller and The Hill, he regularly appears as a national security and foreign policy commentator on a wide variety of international, national and local Washington, DC television and radio outlets in English and Spanish languages.
 
A career Navy public affairs officer and retired Commander, he has been the on-scene spokesman for numerous internationally newsworthy events over a 20-year active duty career.  
Gordon is no stranger to controversy.

From Will Rahn in the Daily Caller on October 13, 2011, when Gordon was playing a leading role in Herman Cain’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination:

Before he became Herman Cain’s chief spokesman and a senior foreign policy advisor to his campaign, Jeffrey “J.D.” Gordon publicly accused a female reporter of sexual harassment while serving as an officer in the Navy.
The story first came to light in 2009 (Howard Kurtz wrote about it in the Washington Post) when Gordon, then a high-level Navy spokesman, wrote a letter to the Miami Herald’s editor claiming that the paper’s military affairs reporter, Carol Rosenberg, had been sexually harassing him and other service members. Gordon wrote in the letter that this was “a formal sexual harassment complaint” and asked the paper for a “thorough investigation.”
“I don’t recall what it said,” Gordon told The Daily Caller when asked about the letter. “It was a couple years ago, but I just thought that the comments that she had been making had to stop, and so I talked to my office and sent the letter to her executive editor and they handled it in-house.”
 
According to Gordon, the issue was an “internal personnel matter” that he could not discuss in detail, but that it was ultimately resolved in a “satisfactory manner.”
From Elspeth Reeve in the Atlantic on Oct. 31, 2011:

(Miami Herald) Executive editor Anders Gyllenhaal explained, “We found some inconsistencies in [Gordon’s] version of events.” (Former CNN correspondent Jamie MacIntyre said he had no memory of an incident Gordon described in which MacIntyre was supposedly directly involved.)

Rosenberg was allowed to keep her beat but told not to say so many swears, but Gordon didn’t let his beef go. A year later, Gordon wrote a column for Fox News objecting to the military’s decision to allow Rosenberg and three other reporters to cover the detention facility after a brief ban. Bigger newspapers had backed the Herald’s push to get Rosenberg allowed back on the base. Again, Gordon complained of a media conspiracy: “Once the ‘big media’ were brought in to the legal picture on the banning issue, it was all but over for the Pentagon,” he wrote.

After that story was posted, Rosenberg’ emailed the Atlantic: “The record is clear. Gordon’s claims were unfounded, part of a long string of abusive efforts to block meaningful coverage of Guantanamo. He was removed from Guantanamo responsibilities, I was not. No further comment is merited.”

As for his current controversy, there appears to be no easy exit for Gordon.

Last Wednesday, Rachel Maddow devoted her show- for what is not the first or likely to be the last time –  to The Russian Connection, and Gordon was right there, albeit with her own spin, in the thick of Maddow’s conspiracy theory.

 

MADDOW: So, after the Republican convention, the candidate himself denies having anything to do with it. His campaign manager Paul Manafort denies having anything to do with it, denies that neither he nor anyone from the  Trump campaign had anything do with it.

How did it happen? Don`t know, must have been fairies.

Well, now, that bizarre non-explanation, those denials, have fallen apart because now, a former Trump campaign official has fessed up about it. He`s a former Trump campaign official named J.D. Gordon and he says, as a Trump  campaign official at the time, taking orders from the Trump campaign at the time, he`s the one who did it. He says now that he was the one who interceded in the Republican Party platform to get this language that would  keep Russia happy and he says he did it specifically at Donald Trump`s
request.

But Maddow was most excited on her Wednesday show because of the Politico report about Konstantin Kilimnik, who offered just the right shadowy figure to the mix.

“Politico” reports tonight that U.S. investigators, including the FBI, are looking into a Russian citizen in conjunction with one of the incidents on the Trump campaign last year which defied explanation at the time – dramatic news tonight from Politico.com.

This incident that happened last year, last summer of the Trump campaign, it was one of the first direct signs that we had that something strange was up in the Trump campaign when it came to the issue of Russia. It`s an incident that came to light during the Republican National Convention. Just in the last few days, the explanations around this strange incident that happened during the convention, just in the last few days, the explanations have started to unravel. We`re getting some insight into why tonight.

xxxxxx

Even though they let all this other stuff slide, that was very much not in keeping with Trump and the campaign, they did decide to get up on their hind legs and fight and intercede aggressively for one specific thing in the platform. One specific part of the Republican Party platform, and that was a thing about Russia.

There was a proposed plank for the Republican Party platform that said Ukraine should get help from the United States up to and including lethal weaponry so Ukraine could fight off Russian incursions. And you know what? The Trump campaign let everything else in the platform slide. Even stuff that might theoretically have bothered them but that, that Ukraine and Russia thing, they jumped right up on that and they insisted that that plank only, that one, had to be taken out, that language could not stand.

And it was weird at the time and, yes, there was a lot else going on in presidential politics, it was the conventions, right? But even then, you know, as the Russia/Trump questions continued to percolate and ultimately got more acute over time, ultimately, Trump the candidate did have to answer for what his campaign did with the platform at his convention.

xxxxxx

MADDOW: OK. So, this is just one thing that happened on the Trump campaign. It was weird at the time. We got all these denials that seemed implausible about it for months, now it`s falling apart.

Why now? Why is this falling apart now? Why are people from the Trump campaign now admitting that, yeah, they did change that plank in the Republican Party platform to make it nicer to Russia? Why are they admitting it now after denying it for months? I don`t know.

But tonight, as I said, this breaking news, “Politico” is reporting that the FBI is on to this now, too because this Russian citizen who worked with Paul Manafort reportedly visited Paul Manafort while he was running the Trump campaign at the time and he reportedly later told people that what he came to the United States for last summer, around the time of the Republican convention, was to get that language changed in the Republican Party platform on the issue of Russia.

You can – you can feel the pillars start to sway here a little bit, right? Oh, now, we`ve got an explanation for it. Now you`re fessing up. Why did you deny it for so long? And what`s the FBI finding? And why is a Russian citizen involved?

xxxxxxxxxx

Now, Politico.com is reporting what is basically a direct Russian tie to that change in the Republican Party platform to benefit Russia last year. If “Politico`s” reporting is accurate, then the FBI is looking into a Russian national who was previously suspected of ties to the Russian security services and they are reportedly looking into his role in what the Trump campaign now admits were its efforts to – what is it? Quote, “Sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue.” to take Russian intervention in Ukraine basically out of the Republican Party platform as an issue.

Maddow also had U.S. rep. Eric Swalwell on Wednesday’s show.

MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell is a new member of Congress in California. He`s on the Intelligence Committee. Look what he just did today.

He posted today – look at this – he posted this on his website today. It`s sort of an encyclopedia. It`s like a one-stop connect-the-dots reference guide laying out all the open source non-classified stuff that we
as Americans know right now about the Russia connection to the Trump campaign. This is very handy.

 

SWALWELL: A lot of work on this issue is classified. I wanted in an unclassified way for my constituents to understand first why Russia is not our friend.

And, you know, Rachel, we`ve seen a lot of young people who look at Russia  and they think, well, maybe, this is just a Cold War adversary. So, we  posted a lot of atrocities in Syria and in Ukraine.

And then we walked through the Trump-Russia ties, which is growing everyday, as you pointed out. From there, we point out the influences and the different changes in positions that we`ve seen from Trump officials  from Jeff Sessions to the platform committee`s changes and the president himself. And then, of course, we point out the interference campaign Russia ran and then lead everyone to the independent commission that I and Elijah Cummings are calling for and every Democrat has supported in
Congress.

So, we wanted to walk them through so they understand kind of bit by bit what the evidence is in this case.

I don’t know.

In their pursuit of Trump’s Russia ties, it strikes me that Maddow is a bit too breathless and Swalwell’s connect-the-dots is a little too handy when it comes to placing the platform change on Ukraine as an important dot on the Russia Connection map.

It seems to me that a far simpler and more likely explanation is that – whatever he did or didn’t say to Diana Denman – J.D. Gordon objected to Denman’s language about “lethal defensive force,” because he knew that contradicted the Republican nominee’s well-known position on the issue.

That did not require the intercession of the Russian ambassador or nefarious Russian agents, or of Trump or even of Manafort. And the idea that any of them would have spent that much time and effort to change a platform that has no binding or practical effect, beyond whatever headline it might or might not generate back in July, seems a stretch.

Also lost here is that, when all was said and done, the Republican Platform still reflected Denman’s support for Ukraine vs. Russia – albeit without the mention of lethal defensive weapons – which made its position virtually indistinguishable from the policy pursued by President Obama.

From Glenn Greenwald a week ago at The Intercept, “Democrats Now Demonize the Same Russia Policies that Obama Long Championed”:

This attempt to equate Trump’s opposition to arming Ukraine with some sort of treasonous allegiance to Putin masks a rather critical fact: namely, that the refusal to arm Ukraine with lethal weapons was one of Barack Obama’s most steadfastly held policies.

From the New York Times on June 11, 2015, “Defying Obama, Many in Congress Press to Arm Ukraine,” by Jennifer Steinhauer and David Herszenhorn:

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who has championed the effort to send arms to Ukraine for more than a year, dismissed the fears that it would worsen the conflict and unravel the international coalition.

Citing the attacks on Ukraine as “one of the most shameful and dishonorable acts I have seen in my life,” Mr. McCain said in an interview that the response so far to Russia’s aggression had been insufficient. “They are not asking for a single boot on the ground,” he said on the Senate floor Thursday, adding, “I am a bit taken aback by the vociferous opposition” to weapons help.

Earlier this week, the Ukrainian prime minister, Anseniy P. Yatsenyuk, met with lawmakers in Washington to make the case for military and financial aid, and was met with sympathy.

“There has been a strong bipartisan well of support for quite some time for providing lethal support,” said Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California. “We have offered Russia all kinds of exit ramps and they were clearly not interested in taking them.”

But in the latest sign of the reluctance by the White House, Samantha Power, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, gave a speech on Thursday in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, in which she excoriated Russia but did not mention sending offensive weapons as a possibility.

Instead, she focused on combating the Russian misinformation campaign, praising the Ukrainians for undertaking a government overhaul and warning only vaguely of a tougher stance by the United States.

From the March 6  New Yorker – “Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War What lay behind Russia’s interference in the 2016 election—and what lies ahead?” by Evan Osnos, David Remnick, and Joshua Yaffa.

After Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea in 2014:

In the United States, the issue of what to do about Russia was a growing point of contention between the Pentagon and the White House. Ukraine’s government wanted advanced weaponry to help battle Russian-backed rebels. Evelyn Farkas, the Pentagon’s most senior policy officer for Russia, strongly supported the request; Obama and others on his national-security team turned it down. Instead, the U.S. provided “nonlethal” aid, including vehicles, radar, and body armor. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in 2014, Farkas argued for greater American force, calling Russia’s actions “an affront to the international order that we and our allies have worked to build since the end of the Cold War.”

The Administration believed, with considerable justification, that escalating the conflict would provoke retaliation from Russia, push Putin into a corner, and—since Putin would never let the rebels suffer a battlefield defeat—prove costly for Ukraine. But Farkas disagreed: “We just ignore everything the Russians do in Ukraine because, well, that’s Ukraine and the stakes are so high for Russia there. They wouldn’t risk it in the U.S.” Finally, she gave up trying to convince Obama. “I was so done,” she said. “I was so tired of fighting.” She resigned in October, 2015, and eventually became a foreign-policy adviser to Hillary Clinton, who had sometimes favored the use of military force when Obama did not. “The crazy thing was, when I joined the Clinton campaign, I was, like, Great, I’m not going to have to fight anymore, because she got it on Russia,” Farkas said. “Then it just got worse.”

From Glenn Greenwald:

Put another way, establishment Democrats – with a largely political impetus but now as a matter of conviction – have completely abandoned Obama’s accommodationist approach to Russia and have fully embraced the belligerent, hawkish mentality of John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Bill Kristol, the CIA and Evan McMullin.

xxxxxxx

This is why it’s so notable that Democrats, in the name of “resistance,” have aligned with neocons, CIA operatives and former Bush officials: not because coalitions should be avoided with the ideologically impure, but because it reveals much about the political and policy mindset they’ve adopted in the name of stopping Trump. They’re not “resisting” Trump from the left or with populist appeals – by, for instance, devoting themselves to protection of Wall Street and environmental regulations under attack, or supporting the revocation of jobs-killing free trade agreements, or demanding that Yemini civilians not be massacred.

Instead, they’re attacking him on the grounds of insufficient nationalism, militarism, and aggression: equating a desire to avoid confrontation with Moscow as a form of treason (just like they did when they were the leading Cold Warriors).

Here is what the 2016 Democratic Platform had to say on Ukraine and Russia:

Russia is engaging in destabilizing actions along its borders, violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and attempting to recreate spheres of influence that undermine American interests. It is also propping up the Assad regime in Syria, which is brutally attacking its own citizens. Donald Trump would overturn more than 50 years of American foreign policy by abandoning NATO partners — countries who help us fight terrorism every day — and embracing Russian President Vladimir Putin instead.

We believe in strong alliances and will deter Russian aggression, build European resilience, and protect our NATO allies. We will make it clear to Putin that we are prepared to cooperate with him when it is in our interest —as we did on reducing nuclear stockpiles, ensuring Iran could not obtain a nuclear weapon, sanctioning North Korea, and resupplying our troops in Afghanistan —but we will not hesitate to stand up to Russian aggression. We will also continue to stand by the Russian people and push the government to respect the fundamental rights of its citizens.

And here is what survived of Denman’s amendment in the 2016 Republican Party Platform:

In the international arena, a weak Administration has invited aggression. The results of the Administration’s unilateral approach to disarmament are already clear: An emboldened China in the South China Sea, a resurgent Russia occupying parts of Ukraine and threatening”neighbors from the Baltic to the Caucasus, and aggressive Islamist terror network in the Middle East. We support maintaining and, if warranted, increasing sanctions, together with our allies against Russia unless and until Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully restored. We also support providing appropriate assistance to the armed forces of Ukraine and greater coordination with NATO defense planning.

Meanwhile, Denman and Gordon, who travel in some of the same conservative political and foundation circles, may have a reunion of sorts at the end of the month when The Philadelphia Society holds its spring meeting in Dallas.

Both plan to be there.

 

Reader Comments 0

0 comments