President Trump is headed to the Middle East for a historic trip – in its scope one never undertaken by any other national leader. President Trump will head first to Saudi Arabia where he will meet with King Salman who has reportedly assembled a greeting committee of more than 20 heads of state. Following Saudi Arabia, President Trump will continue on to Israel to meet with officials including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – and also a visit into Bethlehem where he will meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. From there he will continue on to Rome for a meeting with Pope Francis. The trip wraps up with a visit to Brussels for a meeting with NATO leaders and finally to Sicily for the G7 Summit.
This will not be the first series of meetings President Trump will have with Middle East leaders. Rather, they are a continuation in a series of strategic meetings. In early April, I wrote about President Trump’s ongoing meetings with Middle East leaders in Trump’s Strategic Syrian Strike:
It is of no coincidence that Trump had meetings with Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the President of Egypt and Abdullah II, the King of Jordan in just the last week. Events which were preceded by meetings earlier this year. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in particular, has become a force against Islamic Extremism in the Middle East. And in an under-reported event, Saudi Arabia agreed to support safe zones in Syria and Yemen earlier this year. Syria’s Assad is now isolated from all but Iran and an opportunistic Russia.
Later comments by Tillerson showed the calculus in Syria:
[The goal is] “to defeat ISIS; it’s to begin to stabilize areas of Syria, stabilize areas in the south of Syria, stabilize areas around Raqqa through ceasefire agreements between the Syrian regime forces and opposition forces. Stabilize those areas; begin to restore some normalcy to them. Restore them to local governance – and there are local leaders who are ready to return, some who have left as refugees — they’re ready to return to govern these areas. We will start a political process to resolve Syria’s future in terms of its governance structure, and that ultimately, in our view, will lead to a resolution of Bashar al-Assad’s departure.”
King Abdullah II made some notable and important comments at his post meeting press conference with President Trump:
“We are very encouraged with the President’s determination to support Arab and Muslim states in their fight against terrorism. But it is not only the fight of terrorism inside of our societies, but we, as Arab-Muslim states standing behind the international community in being able to defeat this international scourge.
We launched the Arab Peace Initiative last week. It offers a historic reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as all member states of the Arab League. It is the most comprehensive framework for lasting peace and it ensures statehood for the Palestinians, but also security, acceptance and normal ties for Israel with all Arab countries and hopefully all Islamic countries.”
In many respects, the situation in the Middle East represents a stunning turn from where we stood prior to President Trump’s election. The leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan have all been recent visitors to the White House. Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Trump for talks on regional peace. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with a Trump envoy in March and conveyed that a peace deal was possible. Informal talks are taking place at an unprecedented level.
Make no mistake. Things are changing rapidly in the Middle East. I personally believe that peace in the Middle East – or some honest semblance thereof – is possible – if not probable – within three years.
It is exactly the historic nature of this trip that led to the timing of the Washington Post story claiming President Trump had shared classified info with the Russian Foreign Ambassador and Minister. The meeting with the Russian Ambassador and Minister happened on May 10th. President Trump leaves for the Middle East on May 19th. The story hit last night – 5 days after the meeting. And directly in front of President Trump’s meeting with Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan.
This is a direct attempt to undermine President Trump’s Middle East visit – a visit that is rife with possibilities for peace.
Once again, the Post cited anonymous “former officials” – Obama holdover loyalists. At the meeting were President Trump, National Security Advisor HR McMaster, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Senior Advisor for Policy Dana Powell – and Russian Foreign Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Bear in mind that President Trump did nothing illegal – even if you take the full extent of the Washington Post story at its face. The President of our country can declassify information whenever he wants – in this case threats related to laptop bombs on commercial flights. It is not even clear if the actual information shared was classified or already public. And some information may be both publicly known yet still be technically classified. Can you imagine the outcry if President trump refused to share information of this nature with Russia and they were then hit by exactly that threat?
Immediate responses from the few members actually at the meeting:
“During President Trump’s meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov, a broad range of subjects were discussed, among which were common efforts and threats regarding counterterrorism. During that exchange, the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods, or military operations.”
Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell:
“This story is false. The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.”
H. R. McMaster:
“I have a brief statement for the record. There is nothing that the president takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight as reported is false. The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation. At no time, at no time, were intelligent sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of the state, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. Their on-the-record accounts should outweigh anonymous sources. I was in the room. It didn’t happen.”
President Trump then tweeted out this message:
“As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining…. …to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”
The MSM took this tweet as confirmation of the Post story. I take it as clarification of what actually happened.
Today McMasters reiterated his position stating that what was discussed was “wholly appropriate” and that President Trump “wasn’t briefed on the source or method of the information.” He continued to note “I think national security is put at risk by this leak and by leaks like this and there are a number of instances where this has occurred and I think it’s important to investigate these sort of things.”
McMasters – or Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert – almost certainly called CIA head Mike Pompeo after the meeting in order to update him on what transpired. That’s standard operating procedure for meetings like this. It’s the people Pompeo told – downstream Obama loyalists – who were the leakers.
And it was no accident the Post broke the story. Historically, when governmental agencies want to get a damaging story out, a remarkably consistent dissemination pattern is followed. The CIA always leaks to the Washington Post and ABC. The Departments of State and Justice/FBI always leak to the New York Times and CNN.
Independent Journalism is truly dead. Agenda-driven Journalism thrives. Just ask the Washington Post’s press corps as they literally cheered when they broke the story.
What was illegal? The leaks – and leakers – themselves. I find it sadly ironic that the CIA leakers gave classified details to the Washington Post because they claim to be concerned over the sensitivity of the classified details. Let that sink in for a moment.
I also find it sadly ironic that we are enduring this uproar over President Trump’s legal disclosures while there was literally no Democratic outcry over Hillary Clinton’s repeated – and clearly illegal – handling of classified information on her email server.
The reality – this is more fake news. The financial markets – the best distillers of information – appear to agree given their non-reaction. The purpose of these ongoing stories and leaks is twofold. One is to simply throw as many accusations as possible and see what sticks. The other is to create a constant stream of issues that require Presidential addressing – to keep President Trump’s agenda off-balance.
While I was composing this piece – almost finished – the New York Times came out with an article saying President Trump asked Comey to end the Flynn Investigation.
Remember, the CIA leaks to the Washington Post and the DOJ/FBI/State Dept leaks to the New York Times. From the Times article:
“After writing up a memo that outlined the meeting, Mr. Comey shared it with senior F.B.I. officials. Mr. Comey and his aides perceived Mr. Trump’s comments as an effort to influence the investigation, but they decided that they would try to keep the conversation secret — even from the F.B.I. agents working on the Russia investigation — so the details of the conversation would not affect the investigation.”
Conveniently, the story manages to contain a built-in excuse that allows for contradiction of Interim FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s testimony that there was no effort by the White House to impede any investigation:
“In testimony to the Senate last week, the acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe, said, “There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.”
Annnd – back to the anonymous sources:
“The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of the memo to a Times reporter.”
There’s another troubling aspect to this whole affair. Comey apparently wrote the memo on February 14th – immediately after the meeting with President Trump – and the day after Flynn resigned. Yet the FBI seemingly had cleared Flynn back in January. From the Washington Post on January 23, 2017:
“The FBI in late December reviewed intercepts of communications between the Russian ambassador to the United States and retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn — national security adviser to then-President-elect Trump — but has not found any evidence of wrongdoing or illicit ties to the Russian government, U.S. officials said.
The calls were picked up as part of routine electronic surveillance of Russian officials and agents in the United States, which is one of the FBI’s responsibilities, according to the U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss counterintelligence operations.”
Ok – maybe there were parallel investigations – or perhaps the FBI re-opened that investigation after Flynn’s interview on January 24th. Maybe. But then why did Comey write the memo, do nothing with it for three months and then suddenly decide to leak it to the New York Times – as opposed to turning it over to, I don’t know, perhaps the Department of Justice? Why was absolutely no one – including Interim FBI Director Andrew McCabe – aware of President Trump’s supposed request to Director Comey at that dinner?
If President Trump did make the request, why did Director Comey take no action until this point? Why did he suddenly decide to take action today? And of course, a handwritten note inherently has no timestamp to it. Maybe James Comey should simply turn over all his “hand-written memos”. Including the ones surrounding the Clinton Email Investigation…
Perhaps the MSM sees this as a win no matter what. Force President Trump into turning over tapes of his conversations with Comey – if he has them – and they go after Trump for taping. FYI – Obama notoriously taped everything in the Oval Office. A taping is legal in Washington if one party is aware of the taping. But maybe…
This is crazy. And scripted.
The level of hysteria and over the top breathless accusations by the Left and the MSM have been so literally frenzied – so clamoring – that they render themselves caricatures. I’m not sure how many middle of the road voters even listen anymore. The sound level is always set to eleven.
Can you imagine if Obama – and his almost endlessly corrupt Department of Justice – had to endure this sort of non-stop, withering attack? I guess President Trump must be doing something right to upset the Washington sewer this badly.
Maybe President Trump should cancel the daily press briefings. I rarely watch them anymore. Same stupid questions. Same pack-mentality partisanship.
What we should be concerned with are the relentless streams of illegal classified leaking. The Obama holdovers are alive and active – and they don’t care if they hurt our country as long as they hurt President Trump.
President Trump’s Middle East trip will be an historic one – and may well mark the early beginnings of peace in a region that knows little of that word. Keep that thought in mind while you endure the screeching Left.
And let’s hope some of Obama’s shadowy CIA, State and DOJ/FBI leakers become exposed while he’s gone. Although the MSM may not report on either event.