The President-elect is scheduled to hold a press conference at 11:00 AM EST today. Here’s the live feed:
It is currently streaming the Chao confirmation hearings.
The purpose of today’s press conference is, ostensibly, for the President-elect to publicly delineate how he is going to deal with his business interests and holdings as President and then, one would expect, take questions. Given the CNN reporting yesterday afternoon, followed by the release of further related information well into this morning, I’m not sure that anyone knows exactly what may or may not happen.
As a national security professional, what I would like to see is the President-elect address the now long standing and ongoing allegations regarding his connection to Russia. If the allegations are spurious, as he and his team have claimed every time they’ve come up, or if there is a straightforward and simple explanation that can be made, he needs to make it. I think a lot of the foreign, defense, and national security policy concerns that many across the political spectrum have with the President-elect’s longstanding policy preferences dating back to 1987 arise from all of the smoke around the claims of Russian connections and interference for Russia’s, not the US’s, not the President-elect’s, interests.
As I’ve noted in previous posts, the President-elect has had a long standing belief that the US’s allies and partners have been taking advantage of us and that our treaty and statutory alliances and agreements need to be revisited. He has an almost as long standing belief that the US and the then USSR should partner to deal with the threat of nuclear proliferation from non-superpower nations. And he has had a consistent stated preference for creating something of a bilateral partnership with Russia against ISIL throughout the campaign and into the transition as part of improved relations with Russia.
Throughout the campaign and the transition I’ve been somewhere between confused and concerned by what I’ve seen articulated by the President-elect as his foreign, defense, and national security policy preferences because they represent such a large break with longstanding US policy preferences under both Democratic and Republican Presidents. I would be a lot less worried if the seeming, alleged, rumored, Russian connections were put to bed. I completely understand that a lot of ego is tied up in running for public office, let alone the Presidency. And that winning the electoral college, but not the popular vote would be troubling to any incoming President even if they were not a political neophyte. But the responses from the President-elect and his team on these questions have been inadequate throughout the campaign and the transition. From CNN’s reporting this appears to be one of the reasons that the two page annex summarizing the former MI6 officer’s oppo research was included in the classified report and briefings to the President, the President-elect, and the Gang of Eight on Russian active measures, desinformaziya, and kompromat in the 2016 US elections. The leaders of the US Intel Community wanted it made explicit to the current and outgoing President, the President-elect and his National Security Team, and to the Republican and Democratic leadership of the House and Senate and both chambers Intelligence Committees that this material existed, it presents an ongoing threat to both political parties and to the US and its interests, and could still be used. And I would add: regardless of whether any of it is true, false, or a combination of the two. As CNN reported (emphasis mine):
One reason the nation’s intelligence chiefs took the extraordinary step of including the synopsis in the briefing documents was to make the President-elect aware that such allegations involving him are circulating among intelligence agencies, senior members of Congress and other government officials in Washington, multiple sources tell CNN.These senior intelligence officials also included the synopsis to demonstrate that Russia had compiled information potentially harmful to both political parties, but only released information damaging to Hillary Clinton and Democrats. This synopsis was not an official part of the report from the intelligence community case about Russian hacks, but some officials said it augmented the evidence that Moscow intended to harm Clinton’s candidacy and help Trump’s, several officials with knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.The two-page synopsis also included allegations that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government, according to two national security officials.
There will always be breaks or changes or adjustments to policy from Presidential Administration to Presidential Administration, depending on who is elected, from which party, and what is actually going on. But the changes that President-elect Trump has either long argued for, or argued for throughout his campaign, would be a lot easier to understand if he and his upcoming Presidency were removed from under the cloud of alleged, possible influence by a hostile foreign power.