By ann summers
Tom Nichol’s extended tweet thread of responses to Jonathan Chait’s article on Trump the Russian asset has now come out as a piece in Politico.
Beginning with Jonathan Chait’s original article and the various responses, Nichols’ piece has attracted a wide range of responses including a concerted antisemitic troll-bot effort.
If you haven’t read Chait’s piece it is worth the time if you haven’t picked up the timeline elsewhere.
Unfortunately, our infallible POTUS who apparently never apologizes will never cop to the Russian realities or his numerous faults beyond his non-Russian appetites of getting hit with a rolled-up Forbes and sex with teenage girls.
How could any US president “lean Moscow” but Trump does, often inexplicably, and only understandably because of his now obvious ties and obligations.
He may even be spending the coming weeks Finlandizing the US position in the NATO sphere.
There’s less than 1000 days left of his stupidity and we regret every dangerous second of trouble he’s caused.
But Trump is a Russian operative as much as Secret Squirrel is a secret agent and clearly involved with nuts, even his own even as a foreign asset and a domestic asshat.
…neither Chait’s narrative nor his conclusions (with some exceptions) strike me as unreasonable.
These facts, from the depth of Trump’s financial dealings to the personal connections of some of his top advisers and campaign staff to the Putin regime, are (or should be) undeniable. It is impossible to see the total picture and reach the conclusion that there is an innocent explanation behind it all. There’s simply too much to explain away.
In plowing through this history, three things should be kept in mind.
- First, the amount of contact Chait illustrates between Trump World and the Russians is simply staggering. Even by the standards of international business, this is an astonishing amount of interaction that involves not just Trump’s financial interests, but vertically deep ties that extend down into his family.
- Second, too many Americans do not understand that Russia’s oligarchs, millionaires, business leaders, state officials, and intelligence operatives are all part of the same ecosystem. It is not possible to shake hands with just one arm of this octopus without being enveloped by the others. If Trump was in deep with the Russian criminal and financial worlds, the Russian intelligence services knew it, and so did Russia’s top spook, Putin. Trump must know this as well.
- Third, Chait’s readers should not be looking for silver bullets that either doom or exonerate Trump. Rather, they should follow the argument about a pattern of interaction that would raise the suspicions of even the most amateur intelligence analyst. Chait does not assert that Trump is a foreign agent, instead calling him an “asset.” I am not sure I agree, at least not as an “asset” in the sense of someone who is knowingly trying to help the Russians, with their explicit guidance, against the United States.
Instead, what Chait presents, without having to get too far out on a ledge about agents or assets, is a plausible case that a U.S. president is compromised by a foreign power that has damaging information about him.
I do not know how much pressure the President is under from the Russians. Neither does Chait. Neither do Trump’s defenders. We may never get the full story, unless it is revealed to us by Robert Mueller or found in a future tranche of declassified documents.
But there is no way to read Chait’s story—or to do any judicious review of Donald Trump’s dealings with the Russians over years—and reach any other conclusion but that the Kremlin has damaging and deeply compromising knowledge about the president. Whether they are using such materials, and how, is a matter of legitimate argument. That such things exist, however, and that they seem to be preoccupying the president, should be obvious.
In the past, Just Security published a timeline called, “Russian Provocations and Dangerous Acts since January 20, 2017.”
The new timeline below, which now includes developments since early June and up until July 10, 2018, chronicles publicly reported Trump comments and actions toward Russia since the 2016 U.S. presidential election—whether accommodationist or adversarial or defying easy classification.
Some may view certain steps as acts of rapprochement aimed at a more cooperative relationship with Russia to fight common enemies and avoid dangerous escalation.
Other observers will see the acts as incriminating evidence of a quid pro quo or a dangerous appeasement to an adversary who attacked and continues to attack America’s democratic institutions. (some recent examples below)
- July 5, 2018 – In a particularly fiery campaign speech in Montana, Trump mocks criticism of Putin’s KGB background. “Putin is fine. He’s fine. We’re all people,” Trump says. Speaking hours after Ambassador Hutchison’s briefing for reporters on the pending NATO summit (see earlier July 5 entry), Trump laments trade deficits with Europe and then says, “on top of that, they kill us on NATO.” Trump also uses the occasion to promote better ties with Russia. “Getting along is a really nice thing,” he says on Russia and Putin. “It’s a really smart thing.”
- July 6, 2018 – Trump reiterates to staff in recent days a desire to cut U.S. spending on Europe’s defense if NATO allies don’t contribute more. The president often derides the EU to European leaders, saying it is “worse than China.” Some White House officials worry that Putin takes advantage of Trump’s inexperience and lack of detailed knowledge about issues and at the same time feeds the U.S. president’s grievances, according to the Washington Post. Trump often speaks to Putin as a kind of confidant, in contrast to his sometimes bullying exchanges with allies such as the leaders of Canada, the U.K., and Germany, in which he often cuts them off to make his point, senior U.S. officials tell the Post.
- July 9, 2018 – Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas cautions that Trump shouldn’t meet alone with Putin during the upcoming summit, citing what Moran says was Russian news media’s mischaracterization of discussions that he and others in a U.S. congressional delegation held with Russian leaders during a visit to Moscow the previous week. “If our experience is any indication of what the president will find, it will be denial, hostility, blaming others and long and tedious responses,” Moran tells the Wall Street Journal. “The Russians are skilled propagandists.”
- July 10, 2018 – Embarking on his nearly weeklong trip to Europe for the NATO summit and his meeting with Putin, Trump tells reporters that discussion with Putin “may be the easiest of them all.”
The Finlandization of Trump’s United States is pretty much complete. Trump won’t oppose Putin’s Russia under any circumstances. In some way, it’s worse than Finlandization. Trump’s not neutral, as Finland was during the Cold War. He leans Moscow, but is still offset to some degree by the honorable Americans of the State Department and the Pentagon.
To fail to see this is to invite disaster. Trump is not an unusual American president with contrarian ideas. He is an off-the-charts repudiation of everything the United States has stood for since 1945: representative government, liberty, the rule of law, free trade, a rules-based international order, open societies, pluralism and human rights.
Trump’s sympathies lies with Putin, not U.S. allies: The Finlandization of the United States https://t.co/z2Yv7c3bJz
— Roger Cohen (@NYTimesCohen) July 10, 2018