On Jan 23rd, President Trump issued a statement which said in part “Today, I am officially recognizing the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela. In its role as the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people, the National Assembly invoked the country’s constitution to declare Nicolas Maduro illegitimate, and the office of the presidency therefore vacant.”

This came in the midst of widespread protests against current Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. HUFFPOST reported: “The U.S. called Maduro’s election an “insult to democracy” and previously placed sanctions on his government. The Trump administration also barred certain Venezuelan officials from entering the U.S. as part of the president’s revised 2017 travel ban, which largely targeted Muslim-majority countries. Trump reportedly asked top national security advisers in August 2017 why the United States couldn’t simply invade Venezuela to oust Maduro, according to The Associated Press. National security adviser John Bolton declared Venezuela part of a modern “Axis of Evil” in a November speech.”

Vox reports: “The Trump administration is sanctioning Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, adding significant pressure on President Nicolás Maduro to step down and transfer power to the US-backed resistance leader who is challenging his claim to the presidency. But some worry the move could backfire — angering Maduro and giving him all the more reason to cling to power.”

What better way for Trump to distract from his current problems while exercising the power of the president to mount a large military operation to another country? With less than three weeks to go before he has to deal with the Democrats refusing to give him his wall, he could guarantee media coverage by sending 5,000 troops to engage in a large-scale military deployment.

Consider that way back in August of 2017 the Washington Post reported: “Many Americans discovered that Venezuela is in crisis on Friday, when President Trump made a supremely ill-advised threat about keeping ‘military options.’ open. To be clear, the United States shouldn’t — and won’t — invade Venezuela, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t take action. A second out-and-out dictatorship in the Americas is definitely not in U.S. interests, and with a little creativity, the United States could make a major difference in Venezuela with no military involvement at all.”

That was when Trump was riding high, at least compared to now. It was prior to the election debacle for the Republicans which lost him the House. It was before a string of Mueller indictments. It was, of course, before Nancy Pelosi made him feel like he’d been emasculated.

Now we have a photo circulating on Twitter showing National Security Advisor John Bolton holding a yellow legal pad with the words “Afghanistan -> Welcome the Talks. 5,000 troops to Colombia.”

Columbia and Venezuela border each other.

 

CNN reported Monday night: “A Defense Department official said on Monday that there are no plans to send any forces to South America nor are any discussions ongoing at the policy or operational levels. There are a limited number of US troops currently in Colombia as part of the Plan/Paz Colombia mission but that number is in the hundreds, the official said.When asked about Venezuela on Monday, acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told reporters, ‘Here in the Department of Defense, we are very closely monitoring the situation.’ Colombia’s foreign minister reacted to Bolton’s notes Monday evening, saying he was unaware of the thinking behind them.”

I’ll leave it to military experts to analyze whether a deployment of 5,000 troops on the border with Venezuela would accomplish anything significant. However, politically Trump may now think it will burnish his image as a tough “Putin has nothing on me” leader.

Now the question is whether John Bolton was sending a deliberate message by displaying his notepad face out and so easy to be photographed so it would be all over the media, or whether he is merely inept. Either way there is a hard to deny that there is a disconnect between what Trump’s National Security Advisor is writing on hs notepad and what the Defense Department is saying.

If all this is confusing I can imagine how officials in the Defense Department and in Columbia feel.

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