Did Trump team secretly meet the Russians?

Donald Trump
Donald Trump

In a week that brought the most astounding revelations yet in the Trump-Russia probe, tension simmered in Jerusalem and in Egypt, suspected IS-Egypt guerrillas stabbed and killed two German tourists at a Red Sea resort.

What may have tantalised eco-activists last week would have been President Trump’s remark about the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at Thursday’s joint media briefing with Macron. Replying comments by Macron on the US withdrawal from the Paris pact, the US President that position “could change”.

Donald Trump returned from a brief moment of heroic fame in Paris on Friday. The US President was chief guest at the French National Day celebrations where France especially marked the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War 1 to defend France against invading German forces. Meanwhile in Israeli-occupied Palestine, a guerrilla attack on worshippers and guards inside the Jewish section of the Holy Mount in Jerusalem led to suspending of Friday prayers at the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Feted though he was by a clearly benevolent French President Immanuel Macron, Mr. Trump that evening had to return home to a fresh revelation about the Russia affair that further inflamed suspicion of collusion with Moscow.

In France, President Trump had a great time – or, at least he may have thought. Most observers see the Paris visit as a moment of triumph for the French President and a brief respite for the US one from his troubles at home.

That Macron speaks English seems to have been a big enabler in his interaction with Trump. At the same time, the French leader, admired for his intellect and originality, would have guessed by now that while Trump knew words, he neither valued them nor kept them. Unfazed, Macron clearly humoured the bombastic Trump.

When Trump said he got along well with China’s President Xi Jin Pin after just one meeting, Macron told reporters that while he had met Xi thrice, he could claim friendship. One awkward moment was during the first meeting with Macron’s wife, 64-year-old Brigitte Macron, when Trump shook hands and breezily told her that she “… still looks good!” repeating it and, adding that “you are beautiful”.

Commentators the world over acknowledged that it was a sexist gaffe by the US President although no one seemed amused.

So whether the French President took Trump seriously or not, he gave him all the attention the American wanted. And Trump clearly preened at the praise of America in Macron’s speech.

Most observers conclude that the enterprising young French leader was attempting to cultivate Trump and get an edge over rivals for US attention. It is noteworthy that Trump has yet to visit traditional US special ally, the UK, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already brushed aside his posture on climate change and NATO. The widespread popular opposition in the UK to a Trump visit deterred the White House from fixing a visit for their President.

Macron, being new on the world stage, would have shrewdly exploited the opportunity for world attention due to the global media focus on the Trump visit. At the same time, Macron may see himself as a bridge between a distanced Washington and Europe. It is also possible that Paris sees an opportunity in the UK’s post-Brexit decline, to become the new ‘big power’ partner with Washington on the global stage.

The problem is, as the French probably realise, that there is no point in plotting global strategy with an American leader who knows little of state craft or world affairs and, whose word cannot be trusted! Their hope lies in Trump’s able Cabinet colleagues like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for mutual understandings and mapping of global strategy.

Sadly, Tillerson himself had an unsuccessful diplomatic shuttle last week between new Persian Gulf rivals Qatar on one side and Saudi Arabia-UAE on the other. Hemmed in on all sides by the hostile, Saudi-led mini-coalition, Qatar signed an agreement brought by the US Secretary of State last week pledging to curb funding of radical Islamist groups (not the Daesh/Al-Quaeda/IS). Whether Qatar or Qatari citizens have ever supported ‘terrorism’ is yet to be proven.

If the US official had hoped to persuade Saudi Arabia and the UAE to sign similar ‘anti-terror’ pacts, he was mistaken. They dismissed that overture and have, since then, been insisting that their blockade of Qatar will continue indefinitely.

The Qatar blockade has, of course, opened up opportunities for others to exploit – namely, Iran, which shares an undersea gas field with Qatar as well as holds the allegiance of Shia Muslims worldwide, including in the Shia in most Gulf countries. Turkey, another friend of Doha, has recently opened a military base there.

Back home, the US President now faces a veritable storm of controversy after revelations by the New York Times, the Boston Globe, Associated Press, and PBS.

Not only did his election campaign’s top officials rush to meet Russian go-betweens but that there were yet unnamed others in the room at that now famous meeting.

In addition to the Russian lawyer, there seem to have been other persons in that meeting held in Trump’s New York ‘Trump Tower’ with participation by son Donald Trump Junior, son-in-law Jared Kushner and the Trump Election Campaign manager.

This meeting seems to be the first concrete indication that there may have indeed been intent by the Trump Campaign to collude with the Russians to win the 2016 presidential elections.

Meanwhile, in Egypt, two IS-linked attackers on Friday knifed a group of women tourists in the Red Sea beach resort of Hurghada. Two German women tourists died in this attack. This attack is seen as yet another attempt by the Egyptian Islamic State group to disrupt Egypt’s vital tourism industry. 

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