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The Russia Probe has already found a number of American ‘players' who while aligned with Trump, have been indicted and found guilty of crimes associated with working surreptitiously with Russia during the Trump campaign, and who also have been found to have been involved in subsequent "Trump cover ups."
So what about Trump himself? According to recent reports, the FBI suspected that Trump was knowingly working for the Russians when he first fired James Comey. Since then, Trump’s former campaign manager and attorney, Michael Cohen, was found to have made payments in coordination with and at the direction of Trump, that establish Trump as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the Cohen case.
So that raises questions of Trump’s involvement. What if his lies about Russia (nobody in my campaign ever met with a Russian, there is no collusion, I have nothing to do with Russia) are a cover for his remark on Monday in New Orleans: “I never worked for Russia,” and the Mueller probe determines otherwise?
With Trump having denied Russian contacts and then backtracked from them so many times, the logical question is, what if all this Russia stuff is true? What if the Russians made a deal with Trump to help him get elected? What if all those meetings actually were about “collusion?” What if Trump actually does have the connections he went into such detail to deny — “deals” and “dealings,” and “current pending deals” and “loans?”
What if Trump really is working for Vladimir Putin?
If he is, that would certainly answer why was he so solicitous of Putin during the campaign, why has he consistently refused to say even one critical thing about Putin, why has he has accepted Putin’s word over that of his own government that the Russians didn’t interfere in the presidential election, and why he stood next to Putin at Helsinki and virtually surrendered his nation to the interests of Russia.
But it leaves the question, what hold could Putin possibly have over him?
Former United States ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul was on MSNBC on Monday night talking about Russia “giving money to Trump in 2008.” “That’s how Putin does business,” McFaul went on to explain. “He gives money to people for free, and then they collect.”
So if it’s money, that raises even more questions: How long has it been going on? How did it work? Why did it begin in the first place? Was Trump facing bankruptcy and Putin bailed him out, and now Trump owes him?
That’s what happened on a smaller scale with Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. He worked for Russian interests for at least a decade in the Ukraine and was lavishly paid for it. Court documents unsealed last summer show that when Manafort’s Russia-connected man Viktor Yanukovych was ousted, Manafort ran short on money, and Putin’s pal Oleg Deripaska loaned him $10 million. The affidavit also showed that it was Deripaska who backed Manafort’s political consulting work in Ukraine from the beginning, in 2005 and 2006.
As we now know, Deripaska went to Manafort to collect on his debt during the campaign, asking for “briefings” and eventually being given campaign polling data by the former campaign manager. Does this raise questions about why Trump is now moving to lift sanctions on companies controlled by Deripaska? You bet it does.
Three Really Big Questions
There are three big questions we don’t have answers for. First, what is Putin’s overall aim? It’s known that he believes the break up of the Soviet Union was “a major geopolitical disaster of the century,” as he told the Russian parliament in a kind of “state of the union” address in 2005. We know he has designs on Ukraine and has already annexed Crimea, which was Ukrainian territory. We know that like every Russian leader before him, he would like to see NATO weakened, if not broken up altogether, and he’d like to see the European Union come apart at the seams.
If Putin wants NATO weakened, the New York Times reported yesterday that Trump repeatedly told aides in 2018 that he would like the U.S. to withdraw from the 70-year Atlantic alliance. If he wants more influence in Syria, Trump gave it to him when he recently announced the pullout of American troops.
The second question is, what will happen if Trump stops giving Putin what he wants? What will they do to him?
Which immediately raises the third question: If Trump is actually working for Russia because Putin in effect owns him, how can he extricate himself? Better still, can he extricate himself? People who cross Vladimir Putin tend not to live long and healthy lives. Could Donald Trump be afraid not just for his fortune, but for the well-being of himself and his family if Putin turns on him?
When you start looking for the answers to questions like these, Trump’s lies about Russia appear in an entirely different light. Maybe all those lesser lies – nobody in my campaign ever met with a Russian, there is no collusion, I have nothing to do with Russia – have been in service of the biggest lie of them all, the lie we heard him utter on Monday afternoon on his way to address the farmers in New Orleans. “I never worked for Russia.”
Maybe this is what he’s been afraid of all along. After asking us to believe all those other lies he’s had to backtrack on, now he needs us to believe the big one to survive. Maybe he’s fighting hard to stay in office not because he wants to be president so badly, but because he’s afraid of what Vladimir Putin will do to him if he’s ousted. Given Putin’s track record, I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes. Would you?
The entire story, written by LUCIAN K. TRUSCOTT IV, SALON, can be accessed by clicking on the following link: