President Trump & the Establishment (Part 4): Renovating the ‘Swamp’
By Will Banyan (Copyright © 21 November 2017)
“I am self funding and will hire the best people, not the biggest donors!”
Donald J. Trump, Facebook Post, April 3, 2016.
“[Trump] does not want a globalist, he does not want someone who belongs to the Council on Foreign Relations, he does not want someone who is part of the Washington-New York elite.”
‘Former’ Trump Advisor Roger Stone, WIOD Radio, July 14, 2016
“My father values talent. He recognizes real knowledge and skill when he finds it… He hires the best person for the job, period.”
Ivanka Trump, Speech at GOP National Convention, July 21, 2016
“I think one thing my father will do — it’s going to be a different regime. It’s going to be different people…These aren’t going to be the Washington insiders who have been there for a hundred years and are the very reason why the system in Washington is very broken”
Eric Trump, ‘The Cats Roundtable’ Radio Program, July 30, 2016
During the 2016 presidential campaign Donald Trump claimed he was “fighting for real change” against the “powerful”; he also pledged that he would “drain the swamp” and, critically, “give new voices a chance to go into government service.” This messaging clearly worked with an exit poll on Election Day reporting that 83 per cent of voters believed that Trump would “bring needed change”, compared to just 14 per cent for Hillary Clinton. Interviews by the Los Angeles Times with Trump voters across the country soon after the election revealed that most saw him as “an outsider unbeholden to a corrupt and rotten political system.” “People voted for Trump because they felt they have not had representation in Washington for a long time”, argued one Trump voter (LA Times, Nov. 13, 2016).
During the transition process, however, it quickly became apparent that “draining the swamp” and excluding the “Washington insiders” was no longer a priority. As CNN (Dec. 10, 2016) reported, Trump’s selection process did not seem to follow any blueprint or plan, instead the President-elect appeared to be “relying on instincts and personal relationships.” In fact:
His campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” — or keep the familiar Washington, DC, insiders outside the halls of federal power — has gone largely unfulfilled as wealthy, connected donors and bankers grab up influential positions in the new administration.
Not only was his transition team “staffed with long-time Washington experts and lobbyists from K Street, think tanks and political offices” (CNN) he had previously attacked, but for Trump “loyalty was the golden ticket” (New York Magazine) into his administration; demonstrated fealty to him was something he clearly “prized…above all else” (Washington Post). The result was a strange cabinet, populated by a mix of “wealthy Washington outsiders, Republican insiders and former military officers who have been critical of the Obama administration” (New York Times, Dec. 15, 2016).
To many commentators it has been obvious that Trump has seriously failed to live up to his pledge. Jesse Heitz, an opinion contributor for The Hill (Feb. 20, 2017), accused Trump of making “swamp-dwelling a matter of course” in his presidency. In fact:
Trump had emphatically sold his supporters on the need to overthrow the tenured elites, yet the upper-echelon of his administration is loaded with individuals long plugged into the Washington political and economic machine.
Mainstream commentator Michael Cooper described Trump’s presidency as a “reality TV show of betrayal”:
Instead of draining the swamp, Trump surrounded himself with Goldman Sachs and Anthony Scaramucci and he put his son-in-law in charge of the opioid crisis and bringing peace to the Middle East (US News & World Report, Aug. 3, 2017).
In May, New York Times conservative columnist Ross Douthat complained that despite his anti-elitist rhetoric “Trump is not actually governing as a populist or revolutionary”; indeed his “promised war with the establishment has been fizzling almost from day one” because he is “too lazy to figure out what policies he should champion and too incompetent and self-absorbed to fight for them.” Conor Friersdorf in The Atlantic (Sep. 21, 2017) listed 16 instances where Trump “flagrantly” “violated the letter of his promise” to “drain the swamp”, including numerous conflicts of interest involving the Trump Organization, the appointment of lobbyists, profiting from government agencies using his properties, and Cabinet members using government jets for private purposes. Ryan Bourne from the libertarian Cato Institute, found “little momentum behind [Trump’s] pledge to overhaul the relationship between big vested interests and the US government.” Indeed, Trump’s “arbitrary conduct risks exacerbating crony capitalism in future” (CapX, Aug 3, 2017). In commentary marking a year since Trump’s election victory, Senator Bernie Sanders accused Trump of having “repeatedly reneged on his promises by supporting the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of working families” (Los Angeles Times, Nov. 5, 2017).
A more immediate concern for Trump’s myriad supporters was that make-up of his administration was threatening his “America First” agenda. Pro-Trump gadfly Mike Cernovich, for instance, noted with alarm that when it came to appointments, “Never Trumper’s and GOP Establishment have been favored over [Trump’s] base…” James Corbett, of The Corbett Report (Feb. 04, 2017), also expressed concern that Trump had “filled his swamp” with more “swamp-dwellers”:
With promises to “drain the swamp!” still ringing in our ears, we have watched Trump appoint nothing but Goldman banksters, Soros stooges, neocon war hawks and police state zealots to head his cabinet.
These fears seemed to have been progressively realized starting with firing of National Security Adviser General Michael Flynn in February, the purge of “America First” advocates from the National Security Council (NSC), and then the departure in August of Trump’s Chief Strategist, Stephen Bannon, and presidential adviser Sebastian Gorka, both of whom had been repeatedly pilloried in the mainstream media as supporters of the racist “alt-right”. Bannon and Gorka both portrayed their exits as a sign that Trump’s “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) agenda had been undermined and abandoned. In his resignation letter Gorka complained that MAGA opponents were “for now—ascendant within the White House” while MAGA supporters had been “internally countered, systematically removed, or undermined in recent months.” In his comments to the neo-conservative Weekly Standard (Aug. 18, 2017), Bannon was just as pessimistic:
“The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over. We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else. And there’ll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over.”
Bannon’s explusion from the NSC in April had already prompted jubilant claims that the “globalists” were in the ascendency. Not surprisingly Bannon’s total ejection from the White House was seen as evidence the “globalists” had finally triumphed (Figure 1). The Gateway Pundit, for instance, lamented that with Bannon gone, “President Trump has surrounded himself with globalists…”; Bannon’s expulsion was a “clear win for the globalists” observed The Guardian’s Washington correspondent; Bannon’s “downfall” also meant that his “crusade against globalism is on the verge of total failure”, argued Zack Beauchamp in Vox; and it would most likely “[t]ip the trade policy scales in favor of the Trump administration’s ‘globalist’ faction…” claimed Reuters.
While the excitement about the ascendency of the “globalists” may have been premature, Trump’s failure to live up to his basic promise of excluding entrenched interests, whether from the ill-defined “swamp”, industry lobbyists, Wall Street interests or the Establishment is indisputable. Not only has Trump appointed nearly 100 former corporate lobbyists to key positions in various agencies—including energy lobbyists to the Environmental Protection Agency; defense industry lobbyists to the Pentagon; and nominating Alex Azar, who spent 10 years working in senior roles in the US division of pharmaceutical manufacturer Elli Lilly and was involved in lobbying for “Big Pharma”, as the next Secretary for Health and Human Services—but he has also appointed numerous people with strong Establishment qualifications. Despite its populist nationalist façade, the Trump Administration is increasingly dominated by the elitist globalist power centres it was supposed to exclude.
The Enemy Within
Trump’s indifference to the Establishment affiliations has been obvious since the transition period, when he considered nominees involved with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group and other think-tanks and secret fraternities considered as synonymous with the “Deep State”. The reaction from pro-Trump observers was mixed. Concerns were raised about a few of the early proposed appointments. In December, for example, Trump briefly considered appointing CFR Director Richard N. Haass as Deputy Secretary of State, prompting a rebuke from Breitbart warning that the “economic-nationalist wing of the Trump base…do not like the thought of seeing anyone from the [CFR] assuming a high-profile job in the Trump administration, much less its longtime president.”[*] Alex Newman, writing in The New American (Dec. 08, 2016), had also expressed concern over some of the names Trump was considering for Secretary of State as most of them were “well-known establishment globalists…” This had apparently “sparked confusion and even outrage among many of his closest and fiercest supporters…”
But at least initially, many anti-globalists were optimistic about Trump’s emerging administration. An effusive Trump confidante Roger Stone, for example, told Alex Jones the appointments of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General and Michael Flynn as National Security Adviser signalled the “beginnings of a team of nationalists…A team of men and women who will put America, not the globalist agenda, first.” In January, Israeli analyst Baruch Kogan, argued the presence of only two CFR members in Trump’s Cabinet – Elaine Chao (Secretary of Transportation) and Robert Lighthizer (US Trade Representative) – was evidence of a “quiet revolution against the American Deep State” (Medium, Jan. 13, 2017).
A month later, however, following the firing of Flynn, some analysts at the John Birch Society’s The New American, were troubled by additional appointments of former CFR members Lt. Gen. Herbert R. McMaster as his replacement, and the nomination of Judge Neil Gorusch to the Supreme Court. McMaster’ CFR membership was a “disturbing indication that he is very much at home among internationalists”, wrote Warren Mass. That McMaster was endorsed by “interventionist, neoconservative member” Senator John McCain should also “raise suspicion” (The New American, Feb. 21, 2017). The appointments of McMaster and Gorusch seemed to suggest that Trump’s “winning spree against the powerful forces that opposed him”, wrote Alex Newman, “appears to be slowing down.”
These four appointments alone, however, did not tell the full story. A closer look at the rest of Trump’s White House and other senior appointments reveal a more persistent pattern where “Washington insider”, Wall Street or “Establishment” affiliations have proved to be absolutely no obstacle to being selected. For example, Trump’s Secretary of Defense retired General (and former Hoover Institution Fellow) James Mattis was a participant at the 2015 Bilderberg Meeting in Telfs-Buchen, Austria. Secretary of Energy, former Texas Governor Rick Perry was a participant at the 2007 Bilderberg Meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, which later earned him the calculated smear “Bilderberg-approved” from the now pro-Trump Infowars.
Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin – who has “long been a member of the financial elite” and the first hedge fund manager to head Treasury according to the New York Times (Dec. 19, 2016) – was “tapped into Skull and Bones”, a secret fraternity at Yale that has long been the subject of conspiratorial speculation. Mnuchin has also had professional associations with billionaire investor George Soros, a constant target of the alt-right (though not of Trump) because of his financial support for the Democrats. From 2003 to 2004 Mnuchin was chief executive of SFM Capital Management, a firm that was reportedly backed by Soros, and he also worked as an Investment Professional at Soros Fund Management LLC.
Finally, “billionaire”[†] Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who had worked for Rothschild Inc. in the US from 1976 to 2000 before setting up his own company, had a number of interesting Establishment qualifications. Before joining Trump he had been Chairman of the Japan Society (a New York-based organization, founded in 1907 and devoted to improving US-Japan relations, that had been revived by John D. Rockefeller III in the 1950s) since 2010 and member of its Board of Directors since 2005. He was elected to the Board of Trustees of the Brookings Institution in 2013. And in 2012 Ross was identified as the leader or “Grand Swipe” of the Wall Street “secret society” Kappa Beta Phi, which holds an annual private dinner where “around 200 of the biggest names in finance carry on like fraternity kids…”
On May 1, 2015, Ross was a signatory to a letter from the Partnership for New York City (which has its origins in David Rockefeller’s 1979 creation of the New York City Partnership) to members of the New York State Congressional Delegation, urging them to support the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 so as to “allow negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement to move forward.” The letter cited the view of “Trade experts and economists” that the TPP would be “a catalyst for creating new jobs in the United States, attracting more foreign investment to this country, and benefitting American workers in a broad range of industries.” Ross was an Executive Committee member of the Partnership.
Moreover, Trump seriously considered appointing four-time Bilderberg participant (2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016) and former CIA Director David Petraeus as Secretary of State. Trump eventually chose Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson after his name was put to Pence by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former national security adviser Stephen Hadley (CNN, Dec. 13, 2016) – (incidentally Rice, Gates and Hadley ran a consulting firm that had Exxon as a client). Though not a CFR member, Tillerson had addressed the Council about energy issues in 2007 and again in 2012. In his 2007 speech Tillerson said he “felt at home” at the CFR because it was “founded on a number of beliefs I share…and that is the belief in the promise of international engagement and in the potential of global approaches to meeting this nation’s challenges.”
The Establishment was also well-represented among the NSC staff. In addition to Trump’s new National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, being a CFR member, the following senior NSC staff members also have Establishment credentials:
- Dina Powell – Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy – CFR member.
- Nadia Schadlow – Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy – senior program officer at Smith Richardson Foundation and CFR member – reportedly with “impeccable neocon credentials” and author of a book on nation building.
- Tom Bossert – Assistant to the President and Homeland Security Advisor – Zurich Cyber Risk Fellow with the Atlantic Council.
- Christopher Ashley Ford – Senior Director for Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Issues (recently nominated as Assistant Secretary of State, International Security and Non-Proliferation) – a former Rhodes Scholar and member of the CFR.
- Joel Rayburn – Senior Director for Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Gulf States – CFR member and member of Atlantic Council Task Force on Iraq.
- Matthew Pottinger – Senior Director for Asia – former CFR fellow.
Also with an interesting resume is Kenneth Juster, up until recently Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic International Economic Affairs and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council (NEC), and now slated to be the US Ambassador to India. Besides being a member of the CFR and the Trilateral Commission, Juster was also a Partner with the global investment firm Warburg Pincus. His “reassignment” to India from the NSC and NEC marked him out as a casualty in the battles between “globalist” and “nationalist” factions; though CFR President Haass praised Juster’s new appointment as “inspired”. Perhaps the only CFR member clearly in the “America First” camp was Kathleen T. McFarland, Deputy National Security Advisor and confidante to the short-lived Flynn, but she was later cashiered from the NSC and geographically sidelined as the nominee for US Ambassador to Singapore as part of the purge of the populists.
The strong Establishment affiliations of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, were also seemingly no obstacle to his appointment as Ambassador to Russia. A former member of the CFR, Huntsman was also recently the Chairman of the pro-NATO policy-planning group, the Atlantic Council, and had openly supported the TPP. Similarly, Robert Wood Johnson IV, newly appointed US Ambassador to the United Kingdom, had no trouble being appointed, despite his prior membership of President George H.W. Bush’s pro-NAFTA Export Council or the fact he had been a member of the CFR since 1993. The Financial Times (Apr. 29, 2017) had praised Johnson’s “globalist sympathies” and “internationalist instincts”, also noting he was “steeped in traditional Republican Party thinking” and had earned “a reputation for working behind the scenes.”
Other appointees and nominees with Establishment connections of note include:
- Mira Radielovic Ricardel appointed as Under Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration – CFR member.
- Robert P. Kadlec appointed as Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response – CFR member.
- Jeffrey Kessler nominee for Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Enforcement and Compliance – CFR term member.
- Randall G. Schriver nominee for Assistant Secretary of Defense, Asian and Pacific Affairs – founding partner of consulting firm Armitage International LLC (founded by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage) and member of the Board of Advisors for the “bipartisan” security think-tank the Center for a New American Security.
- Brian Hook Senior Policy Adviser and Director of Policy Planning at the State Department – co-founder of the so-called “John Hay Initiative” (JHI) established in 2013 to keep Mitt Romney’s foreign policy team together, but also to counter “neo-isolationist” thinking while promoting “conservative internationalism.” Hook co-authored a chapter in the JHI book Choosing to Lead, arguing that a “strong United States is essential to the maintenance of the open global order”; this “international order” was based on a commitment to “free trade” and a strong alliance system, including NATO.
And just this month the White House announced the appointment of Federal Reserve Governor Jerome H. Powell to replace Janet Yellen as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Powell’s appointment was celebrated in the financial press as “wise decision” that would bring “continuity and predictability” (Bloomberg) and represented “a rejection of calls for radical change among conservative Republicans in favour of stability at the US central bank” (Financial Times). Not mentioned in the official announcement was Powell’s role as a partner in the controversial Carlyle Group from 1997 to 2005; his $20-55 million fortune making him “one of the wealthiest people to ever lead the Fed” (Forbes); and his membership of the Council on Foreign Relations.
More noteworthy is that such contacts have not been terminated with their ascension to the Trump Administration. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, for example, was a speaker at the Trilateral Commission’s 2017 Plenary Meeting, held earlier this year in Washington DC (Figure 2). While four Trump Administration officials – Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, National Security Advisor McMaster, Deputy National Security Advisor Nadia Schadlow and Assistant to the President and Director of Strategic Initiatives Christopher Liddell (the New Zealand-born businessman is also a CFR member) – were all participants at this year’s Bilderberg meeting, held in Chantilly, Virginia.
Mnuchin’s Trilateral Commission performance seems to have been ignored by the pro-Trump alt-media, but the Bilderberg participation of Ross, McMaster, Schadlow and Liddell generated some tortured responses as Trump supporters tried to reconcile the participation of these officials with their belief in Trump’s anti-globalism. Infowars (Jun. 01, 2017) opted for the more charitable explanation that the “reason three [sic] members of the Trump administration…have been invited…is that Bilderberg thinks there is still a chance to put pressure on Trump to force him to back down on his America-first agenda.” Infowars tried to encourage its readers to attend what it billed as a “historic” rally at Chantilly to support Trump and “show the globalists America won’t back down”, although “only a couple dozen Trump loyalists…bothered to show up.” Some of those supporters then argued fruitlessly with each other on the fringes of the meeting about whether or not Trump could be trusted.
The Goldman Exception
Perhaps even more remarkable were the number of Goldman Sachs alumni that had joined the Trump Administration in many pivotal positions. Remarkable because unlike the CFR, Bilderbergers, Trilateral Commission, Atlantic Council or other such Establishment outfits, who were never mentioned by the GOP candidate,[‡] Trump had repeatedly attacked Goldman Sachs by name throughout his campaign. Trump had denounced both Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton as puppets of Goldman Sachs. “I know the guys at Goldman Sachs.” Trump said in February last year, “They have total, total control over [Ted Cruz]. Just like they have total control over Hillary Clinton.” He had even invoked the spectre of Goldman Sachs when sniping at Bernie Sanders for endorsing Hillary (Figure 3).
More controversially Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman, was briefly shown in a Trump campaign ad (Figure 4) that warned of “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.”
And yet, for all his invective, Trump seemed unperturbed by the number of his appointees with Goldman Sachs in the resumes. Noting that Trump had surrounded himself with a number of the bank’s former employees, Politico (Nov. 30, 2016) claimed that Goldman Sachs was “dominating the early days of the incoming Trump administration” in a “stunning reversal of fortune.” This included his Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who had “spent 17 years at Goldman Sachs” rising to Partner and Chief Information Officer at Goldman early in his banking career; his campaign chair and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, who had worked at Goldman Sachs from 1985 to 1989; and Andrew Scaramucci, a key fundraiser and economic advisor to Trump during the campaign, a member of executive committee of Trump’s transition team and recently appointed Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at the US Export-Import Bank and for just ten eventful days White House Communications Director, had worked at Goldman from 1989 to 1996.
The Director of the National Economic Council, Gary Cohn, had been Chief Operating Officer and President of Goldman Sachs before he resigned last year to join the Trump Administration. Dina Powell, originally appointed in January as Assistant to the President and Senior Counsellor for Economic Initiatives and subsequently elevated to Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy, was President of the Goldman Sachs Foundation and head of Goldman’s Impact Investment business and Environmental Markets Group. Despite fears there were “too many ‘Goldman Guys’” in Trump’s Administration, yet more Goldman alumni have been added: in March it was announced that Goldman Managing Director Jim Donovan had been nominated to the position of Deputy Treasury Secretary (he later withdrew from the process); in April Politico reported that Ivanka had hired as her chief of staff, Julie Radford, a consultant for Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative; and in June Trump nominated as Under Secretary of State (Management) Eric Ueland, a former vice-president of the Duberstein Group which had lobbied for Goldman Sachs and Owen West, a Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, former Marine and CFR member, as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict.
In July The Intercept reported that Jay Clayton, Trump’s pick as Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, an attorney who had advised Goldman Sachs “during the bailouts of 2008”, had brought with him a team of “former Goldman Sachs attorneys.” Then in August, Elizabeth Erin Walsh, a CFR member and former Executive Director at Goldman Sachs in the Asia Pacific, was sworn in as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets. Then in November, Goldman CEO Blankfein, was reportedly the “only executive of a major financial company” represented in the 29-strong business delegation that accompanied Secretary Ross during his visit to China, that coincided with Trump’s visit.
These Goldman Sachs appointments have been greeted by Trump’s supporters with bewilderment and dismay. In March long-time nationalist provocateur, Patrick Buchanan, warned on the Laura Ingraham radio show that it would be “fatal for the Trump presidency” if he “abandons” the economic nationalists in his administration and takes the “Goldman Sachs route.” The Goldman Sachs people, he observed, were “the Globalists”:
The Goldman Sachs people are interested in the globe; these are the Davos people. These are the folks that cost the Republican Party and cost the country and destroyed manufacturing.
The John Birch Society’s William F. Jasper (TNA, Mar. 16, 2017) complained that when it came to the issue of Wall Street and Goldman Sachs “Candidate Trump and President Trump appear to be two very different individuals.” Noting that at least seven people working close to Trump had Goldman Sachs experience or ties, Jasper was despondent: “the new Trump administration is looking more and more like yet another replay of ‘Government Sachs’…”
Consulting with the “Kingpin”
Another manifestation of Trump’s anti-Establishment hypocrisy has been his eagerness to consult repeatedly with Establishment stalwart, Secretary of State to Presidents Nixon and Ford, Henry Kissinger. A highly controversial figure in any case, Kissinger has long been the bête noire of anti-New World Order activists and researchers due to his closeness to Nelson and David Rockefeller and his long-time association with and membership of the CFR, Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission. At the height of his power in the 1970s Kissinger was denounced at length by the late Gary Allen as a “wilful agent of a conspiratorial apparatus working for a New World Order” and an “outright Rockefeller agent” (Gary Allen, Kissinger: The Secret Side of the Secretary of State, 1976, pp.10 & 22). More recent critics have described Kissinger as the: “Bilderberg kingpin” (Infowars); “New World Order kingpin” (Personal Liberty); “the quintessential establishment insider” (The New American); and a “globalist henchman” (We Are Change).
And yet, as Trump’s transition team announced last year, the president-elect and Kissinger “have known each other for years.” Their first private meeting during the campaign was on May 18 last year at Kissinger’s home. That meeting had followed “weeks of phone conversations between Trump and Kissinger”, according to the Washington Post (May 16, 2016). Details of these discussions were not divulged, but Trump later boasted that Kissinger had supported his unconventional approach to foreign relations; a claim Kissinger later disputed. But Kissinger, displaying his lifelong talent for cultivating the powerful, issued a statement with former Secretary of State George Shultz that declined to endorse either Clinton or Trump; instead they pledged to support a “bipartisan foreign policy.”
This calculated fence-sitting soon paid off with Kissinger summonsed to Trump Tower on November 17, where they “discussed China, Russia, Iran, the EU and other events and issues around the world”, according to a statement from the transition team. Trump had also reaffirmed his “tremendous respect for Dr. Kissinger” and appreciation for “sharing his thoughts with me” (The Hill, Nov. 17, 2016). In his assessment of the meeting Kissinger argued that Trump should not be held to his campaign promises. As he told CNN: “One should not insist on nailing [Trump] into positions that he had taken in the campaign.”
Trump and Kissinger had another meeting on December 6, after Kissinger had dashed off to China to reputedly sooth Chinese sensibilities after the President-elect had accepted a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. There was no public read-out from this third meeting, but C. Mitchell Shaw from The New American (Dec. 07, 2016) was naturally suspicious and clearly alarmed at Trump’s admiration for the wily “statesman”:
That Trump would either ask for or agree to a sit-down to discuss foreign policy with a man who has spent his life and built his career selling America out to build the “New World Order” is curious. That this is at least the third such meeting is concerning. That Trump has “tremendous respect for Dr. Kissinger” and “appreciates him sharing his thoughts” on matters related to “China, Russia, Iran, the EU and other events and issues around the world” is disturbing.
During the transition period there were reports that Kissinger was “positioning himself as a potential intermediary” between Trump and Putin, and had “chatted” with Trump “on multiple occasions”, according to Politico (Dec. 12, 2016). The managing director of Kissinger Associates Inc. (and a Senior Fellow at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs), Thomas Graham, was reportedly considered by Trump as a potential Ambassador to Russia. Kissinger, meanwhile, had praised Trump’s appointment of Tillerson; “I think it’s a good appointment.” Kissinger also reportedly acted as an unofficial link between the Trump transition team and China; helping to “connect Chinese politicians with the US president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner” ahead of Trump’s meeting with Chinese President. There were also suspicions that Kissinger had performed a similar role with Russia.
On May 10, Trump had met privately with the Russian Foreign Minister and Russia’s Ambassador to the US. This was followed shortly thereafter with an “unscheduled meeting” with Kissinger – their fourth – to discuss “Russia and various other matters.” Trump said it was “an honour” to speak with Kissinger because “he’s been a friend of mine for a long time” (see Figure 5). Then, ahead of the Trump-Putin meeting at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Kissinger had visited Moscow for a “strictly private” meeting with Putin.
A fifth meeting occurred on October 10, where Kissinger again appeared, slumped in a chair beside Trump in the Oval Office after they had a private discussion according to a White House official, about North Korea and China. Trump praised the cunning diplomat as a “man of immense, talent, experience and knowledge” and boasted of his relationship:
“Henry Kissinger has been a friend of mine. I’ve liked him. I’ve respected him. But we’ve been friends for a long time, long before my emergence into the world of politics, which has not been too long” (UPI, Oct 10, 2017)
Kissinger has also cultivated a relationship with Trump’s son-in-law and now Assistant to the President, Jared Kushner. In his statement to the Congressional committees investigating the Trump campaign’s link to Russia, for example, Kushner casually name-dropped “Dr. Henry Kissinger” as an example of those “people with deep experience” he had called on for policy advice when engaging with foreign representatives. And yet, Kissinger’s two paragraph profile extolling Kushner for Time magazine’s 100 most influential people issue, was widely interpreted as having damned the would-be-dauphin with the faintest of praise. Kissinger admitted to having “sporadically exchanged views” with Kushner, but struggled to find merit in someone who owed his position solely to his marriage to Ivanka Trump, who had a “broad education” but no relevant foreign policy experience or qualifications, but who was sure to find “success” in his “daunting role of flying close to the sun.”
Unremarked by some of Trump’s supporters, alarmed at his continuing contacts with Kissinger, is that his much-maligned predecessor had never sought the private counsel of this “self-avowed globalist”. As Kissinger’s slavish biographer Professor Niall Ferguson had noted with some dismay in the pages of Foreign Affairs (Sep/Oct 2015): “…Barack Obama is unusual. He is the first U.S. president since Dwight Eisenhower not to seek Kissinger’s advice.” With five private meetings to date Trump appears to be making up for this oversight.
To be concluded in Part Five
[†] After examining his financial disclosure forms and other data, Forbes (Nov. 7, 2017) recently found that Wilbur Ross is not billionaire, as he had previously claimed, but worth a more modest US$700 million. The reason for the discrepancy: Ross had been counting money from investors in his firm as though it was part of his personal fortune. Forbes quoted two former Ross associates who observed that he “doesn’t have an issue with bending the truth” and had “lied to a lot of people.”
[‡] One is reminded of John. F. McManus’ criticism of Jimmy Carter, that during the 1976 presidential campaign he had “played up to this resentment” against the “insiders” but at same had “carefully avoided naming any names or discussing any of the organizational ties of identifiable Insiders” (McManus, The Insiders: Architects of the New World Order, 2004 edition, pp.4-5).