Reports (and tweets) are swirling all over the internet about allegations that U.S. intelligence agencies bugged the Trump Campaign during the presidential election over suspicion the campaign had ties to the Kremlin, which stands accused of meddling in the 2016 presidential contest.
Perhaps because of this revelation, several observant readers brought to our attention reports that indicate the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy had contact with high-ranking Soviet officials during the lead-up to the 1984 presidential election.
The allegations stem from a 1983 memorandum composed by Victor Chebrikov, the top official at the KGB at the time. The memo was addressed to Yuri Andropov, the Secretary General of the Communist Party. The subject: Sen. Edward Kennedy.
The memo reportedly was discovered by London Times reporter Tim Sebastian in 1991 after Boris Yeltsin opened the Soviet archives. It describes a May 1983 trip to Moscow made by Kennedy confidant John Tunney, who had been tasked with conveying a message to the Soviet Union’s top Communist, Andropov.
Details of the memo come from a Forbes article published in 2009 titled “Ted Kennedy’s Soviet Gambit.” It was written by Peter Robinson, a former White House speechwriter and research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.
So what was Kennedy allegedly signaling to the Kremlin? Robinson writes:
Kennedy’s message was simple. He proposed an unabashed quid pro quo. Kennedy would lend Andropov a hand in dealing with President Reagan. In return, the Soviet leader would lend the Democratic Party a hand in challenging Reagan in the 1984 presidential election. “The only real potential threats to Reagan are problems of war and peace and Soviet-American relations,” the memorandum stated. “These issues, according to the senator, will without a doubt become the most important of the election campaign.”
Specifics were offered by Kennedy, Robinson continues:
First he offered to visit Moscow. “The main purpose of the meeting, according to the senator, would be to arm Soviet officials with explanations regarding problems of nuclear disarmament so they may be better prepared and more convincing during appearances in the USA.” Kennedy would help the Soviets deal with Reagan by telling them how to brush up their propaganda.
Then he offered to make it possible for Andropov to sit down for a few interviews on American television. “A direct appeal … to the American people will, without a doubt, attract a great deal of attention and interest in the country. … If the proposal is recognized as worthy, then Kennedy and his friends will bring about suitable steps to have representatives of the largest television companies in the USA contact Y.V. Andropov for an invitation to Moscow for the interviews. … The senator underlined the importance that this initiative should be seen as coming from the American side.”
It’s a stunning charge, and presumably accurate assuming the memo is not a forgery. Bear in mind, these communications between a Kennedy surrogate and the KGB took place during one of the chilliest periods of the Cold War.
Regarding the current controversy, we have very few details as to what kind of dealings U.S. intelligence agencies suspect the Trump Campaign had with Russia. But the nefarious dealings would have to be serious to surpass those of Kennedy, who was secretly orchestrating a media campaign with America’s primary geopolitical foe as the Cold War was reaching a crescendo.
None of this, of course, would excuse any secret dealings Trump or his campaign surrogates may have had with Russia.
In any event, it’s clear that Americans deserve to know two things: 1) Did Did Donald Trump or representatives of the Trump Campaign have improper, election-related communications with Russia? If so, what was the precise nature of these communications: 2) Did U.S. intelligence agencies spy on a presidential candidate in the midst of an election? If so, on what basis was this decision reached?
Americans have the right to know.
Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org. His writing/reporting has appeared in TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, Fox News, and the Washington Times.