Veteran Washington Attorney Calls the Trump-Russia Allegations a ‘Hall of Mirrors’
“This is a mess.”
These are the words of Jack Blum, a veteran Washington, D.C., lawyer who recently appeared on KPFK’s “Background Briefing” with Ian Masters and analyzed the alleged ties between Donald Trump and Russia.
Blum, an expert on international financial crime, has decades of experience working inside and outside Congress—for instance, he often testifies in front of congressional committees investigating tax crime.
When he spoke with Masters, Blum argued that allegations of Russian influence in the Trump administration are “more serious than most of the other scandals” he has worked on.
“This is direct interference by a foreign power in American politics, undermining the credibility of our democracy,” Blum continued. Listen to the full conversation below:
Blum’s main argument was that the Trump administration has “doubled down on denials that later proved to be flimsy if not false.” Why is Trump doing that?
According to Blum, Trump “can’t clear the air” no matter how hard he tries, because there is a strong likelihood that intelligence agencies already know all the facts—making it difficult for the president and members of his administration to lie.
So whatever contact Trump has had with Russia, “somewhere, in the intelligence world, there’s a record of it,” Blum said. Members of the administration can’t say much because anything they may say could later “blow up in their face.”
“What we’ve walked into here is a hall of mirrors,” Blum told Masters. “It is worthy of a top-notch spy novel, but at the moment it’s undermining completely the credibility of the administration.”
Blum analyzed the business dealings of Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
“The idea that there was no contact between the campaign and the Russians” is not credible, Blum declared. He also said that classified information eventually would become public, either through a leak or through testimony.
In this regard, Michael Flynn, a former Trump campaign adviser, offered to testify about Russian dealings in exchange for immunity, an offer that the Senate Intelligence Committee quickly rejected.
Many observers argued that Flynn probably had little to reveal. “It’s not a serious offer, and it suggests he has nothing to say (or is not willing to say anything that would incriminate others),” Alex Whiting wrote at Just Security.
In a tweet Friday, President Trump endorsed Flynn’s quest for immunity and labeled the Russia investigations a “witch hunt.”
The investigations are continuing—and already have resulted in alarming statements.
“You also ought to follow the trail of dead bodies,” one national security expert said, speaking of the Russia probe.
Another national security expert echoed these remarks on the first day of Senate Intelligence Committee hearings on Russian cyberattacks.
“Follow the trail of dead Russians,” Clint Watts, a former FBI special agent, told the committee. “There’s been more dead Russians in the past three months that are tied to this investigation who have assets in banks all over the world.”
In his interview, Blum touched on the subject of wealthy Russian elites, noting that they are successful only because they have close ties to Putin.
On the topic of Russian interference, there has been a growing wave of criticism of the allegations against Trump. Journalist James Carden explained in a recent piece on Quartz:
In the months following Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the US presidential election, it has become increasingly clear that the Democratic party is unwilling—and perhaps unable—to come to terms with the country’s post-election reality. The party’s inability to accept defeat has since manifested itself through an increasingly hysterical campaign to blame Hillary Clinton’s defeat on alleged Russian interference.
The charge that Russia, in the words of respected Russia expert and longtime Clinton associate Strobe Talbott, breached “the firewall of American democracy” has been repeated so often and by so many that it has taken on the patina of fact. It has become an article of faith, among disappointed Clinton partisans, mainstream political commentators, Democrats on Capitol Hill and Republicans like senator Lindsey Graham, that the election was tainted and that Trump’s legitimacy as president is questionable, at best.
Liberal observers also argue that people who raise questions about the validity of the allegations against Trump are quickly silenced or subjected to unfair scrutiny.
For instance, journalist Adam Johnson tweeted:
so…let me get this formulation right: everyone who didnt support Clinton is, by definition, an “unwitting agent” of Russia. By definition.
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) March 31, 2017
perhaps more progressives would buy the Russia angle if it wasnt constantly used as a catch-all bludgeon to smear anyone not lockstep w/ HRC
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) March 31, 2017
Blum believes it’s the responsibility of congressional investigative committees and journalists to find out “what’s going on behind the curtain” when it comes to Trump and Russia, although some critics charge that current congressional investigations will do little to uncover the truth.
Take the example of Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., head of one congressional investigation into Trump and Russia, who has come under fire the past several weeks for alleged close ties with the Trump administration.
Nunes “has functioned less as a watchdog than a lapdog, providing information about the investigation of Trump to Trump in a breach of protocol,” Sarah Kendzior wrote for The Correspondent.
“Given the erratic behavior of not only Trump but members of his administration—and the sheer number of administrative officials who appear to be implicated—it will be difficult to ensure a thorough inquiry,” Kendzior continued. “But that is precisely what’s needed, and as quickly and publicly as possible.”
Blum, however, was cautiously optimistic that the truth will be uncovered.
“The combination of journalists and congressional investigations will eventually open the door to figuring out what’s going on,” he concluded.