This is not another Birther conspiracy. This is the story of how GOP nominee Donald Trump has become Vladimir Putin’s choice for President of the United States, the record of Trump’s embrace of Putin’s rhetorical and weaponized support to win the White House.
Here are the facts: There is a consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia’s government is responsible for the cyber break-ins of the DNC and the leaking of sensitive political information that convulsed the election, to Trump’s benefit, some weeks ago.
Similarly, the Russian cyber burglary of former Secretary Colin Powell’s email created an uproar with his damning (and private) ruminations about the candidates. Meanwhile, Trump encouraged more cyber spying when he implored the Russians during a news conference to hack Hillary Clinton’s email.
Why is Russia so important to Donald Trump? Besides the damaging leaks against the Democrats, he needs their money to keep his business afloat. Donald Trump Jr. publicly stated the centrality of Russian money to the Trump business empire. He said, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets…we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
As Trump’s reputation for shady business practices spread through the American financial system, largely shutting him off from traditional financing in this country, his company hunted financial support from the Russian oligarchy.
Now seemingly lost in the barrage of unsavory Trump disclosures, Trump’s former campaign chair, Paul Mannafort, has a long history of working for pro-Putin clients. For example, he’s been accused of taking $12.7 million in payments from the Ukrainian political party most closely aligned with Putin’s Russia. He also has worked directly with Russian oligarchs in deals that look decidedly dodgy.
Most recently, Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page is being investigated by U.S. intelligence agencies under suspicion that he has been negotiating a political deal with the Russians – including dropping of sanctions against Putin’s closest vassals. If this allegation is proven true, it will open the door to serious criminal charges.
In an attempt at deflecting what could be a dirty bomb at the core of the Trump campaign, Trump’s campaign manager Kelleyanne Conway is now saying Page is no longer an advisor.
Which, when you think about it, that’s a totally irrelevant late-game distancing. It was Page and other Trump advisors who gave fawning speeches about Russia, criticized long-standing, bipartisan U.S. foreign policy – all while trying to impress Putin’s band of billionaire cronies.
Times change, and some of our greatest historical enemies, such as Japan and Germany, are now our closest partners in politics, economics and security. The collapse of the Soviet empire provided both Russia and the U.S. with the opportunity to end the Cold War madness and reframe the relationship. But the emergence of President Putin crushed any hopes of a real rapprochement.
The interference of Putin in the American presidential race is as enraging as it’s dangerous. After Putin’s destruction of Russian parliamentary democracy, the decapitation of the free press, his intimidation of Europe and land grabs in Ukraine and Georgia, war-crimes in Syria, et al, we have dispelled any lingering romantic notions that this former great enemy can now be a partner for peace and mutual prosperity.
But for Donald Trump, Russia is a friend and Putin is a great leader, even better than democratically elected President of the United States Barack Obama.
It’s impossible not to conclude from the facts that Donald Trump’s business is highly dependent on Russian capital. Equally impossible to ignore is the reality that Trump has surrounded himself with Russophiles with deep and lucrative financial ties to the Russian oligarchy and by extension to Putin himself – the maker and destroyer of oligarchs.
While now we have some clues of what Donald Trump is hiding in his tax returns, we don’t need a forensic accounting of his extensive ties with the Russian establishment. The facts are already on the record: Trumps threats to NATO, the suggestion that the U.S. should recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea, and repeated praise for both Putin and his kleptocracy are just the tip of the Putin-Trump alliance iceberg.
The lies about President Obama’s nationality that Birther Trump pushed for years, a lynchpin for gaining support from the bleeding right, should be a disqualifier for the presidency. But it is Trump’s deep relationship and financial ties to the Kremlin that should seriously alarm Americans.
Electing Russia’s candidate to the White House is a danger to the very integrity of American democracy.