Just before the Republican National Convention, the Republican party released their new platform for 2016. The New York Times called it “the most extreme Republican platform in memory.” Among other things, according to the Times, this new platform outlined positions “making no exceptions for rape or women’s health in cases of abortion; requiring the Bible to be taught in public high schools; selling coal as a ‘clean’ energy source; demanding a return of federal lands to the states; insisting that legislators use religion as a guide in lawmaking; appointing ‘family values’ judges; barring female soldiers from combat; and rejecting the need for stronger gun controls — despite the mass shootings afflicting the nation every week.” This apparently came to pass largely because Donald Trump, who would go on just a few days later to accept the party’s nomination for President, didn’t push back. With one notable exception, Trump and his team, accepted everything that was suggested without debate.
According to Talking Points Memo, “The Trump Camp was totally indifferent to the platform. So party activists were able to write one of the most conservative platforms in history. Not with Trump’s backing but because he simply didn’t care. With one big exception: Trump’s team mobilized the nominee’s traditional mix of cajoling and strong-arming on one point: changing the party platform on assistance to Ukraine against Russian military operations in eastern Ukraine.”
That’s right. They didn’t push back against any of the retrograde domestic policies, but, curiously, they insisted that proposed wording about our need to arm the Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces be stricken, “contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington,” according to the Washington Post.
And this is the first thing that came to mind this morning when I read Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager’s comments concerning the recent Wikileaks release of some 20,000 DNC emails which appear to show that those overseeing the Democratic primary process were biased in favor Clinton. Telling CNN’s Jake Tapper “I don’t think it’s coincidental that these emails were released on the eve of our convention,” Robby Mook went on to say that security experts have indicated that the hack was initiated in Russia. “What’s disturbing to us is that experts are telling us Russian state actors broke into the DNC, stole these emails, and other experts are now saying that the Russians are releasing these emails for the purpose of actually of helping Donald Trump,” Mook said.
And, with that, I went down a rabbit hole leading me to the terrifying conclusion that Trump very well may be running as a proxy for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
I mean, I knew the two men had made statements in the past concerning their admiration for one another, but I had no idea just how deep the connections went. Take, for instance, the fact that Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had worked for many years for Viktor Yanukovych, the Putin-backed former president of Ukraine. Or, how about the fact that a good deal of Trump’s current wealth can be tracked backed to Russia?
Following are three points from Talking Points Memo about the financial connection between Trump and Russian oligarchs with ties to Putin.
1. All the other discussions of Trump’s finances aside, his debt load has grown dramatically over the last year, from $350 million to $630 million. This is in just one year while his liquid assets have also decreased. Trump has been blackballed by all major US banks.
2. Post-bankruptcy Trump has been highly reliant on money from Russia, most of which has over the years become increasingly concentrated among oligarchs and sub-garchs close to Vladimir Putin.
3. One example of this is the Trump Soho development in Manhattan, one of Trump’s largest recent endeavors. The project was the hit with a series of lawsuits in response to some typically Trumpian efforts to defraud investors by making fraudulent claims about the financial health of the project. Emerging out of that litigation however was news about secret financing for the project from Russia and Kazakhstan. Most attention about the project has focused on the presence of a twice imprisoned Russian immigrant with extensive ties to the Russian criminal underworld.
Relevant to the second point, here’s an interesting quote from Trump’s son, Donald Jr., as reported by the Washington Post earlier this year. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets… We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” [This, according to the article, was said at a 2008 real estate conference.] And Trump himself said in a 2007 deposition, “Russia is one of the hottest places in the world for investment.”
So, having been turned away by every bank in the United States, where he’s known to be a crook and swindler, Trump apparently cozied up to Russians like Aras Agalarov, who was among those in 2013 to pony up a reported $14 million to bring Trump’s Miss Universe pageant to Moscow. [It’s been reported that Agalarov and Trump have also talked about building a Trump Tower in Moscow.]
In an article posted just recently on The Atlantic’s site titled It’s Official: Hillary Clinton Is Running Against Vladimir Putin, Jeffrey Goldberg put’s it this way. “I am not suggesting that Donald Trump is employed by Putin… I am arguing that Trump’s understanding of America’s role in the world aligns with Russia’s geostrategic interests; that his critique of American democracy is in accord with the Kremlin’s critique of American democracy; and that he shares numerous ideological and dispositional proclivities with Putin—for one thing, an obsession with the sort of ‘strength’ often associated with dictators. Trump is making it clear that, as president, he would allow Russia to advance its hegemonic interests across Europe and the Middle East. His election would immediately trigger a wave of global instability—much worse than anything we are seeing today—because America’s allies understand that Trump would likely dismantle the post-World War II U.S.-created international order. Many of these countries, feeling abandoned, would likely pursue nuclear weapons programs on their own, leading to a nightmare of proliferation.”
And it seems to be getting worse. Just recently, in an interview with Maggie Haberman and David Sanger of The New York Times, Trump suggested that we may have to reduce our military presence in the world. He even went so far as to say that, if he were president, he may not automatically honor the security guarantees we have with other NATO nations. “He even called into question whether, as president, he would automatically extend the security guarantees that give the 28 members of NATO the assurance that the full force of the United States military has their back,” wrote Habermas and Sanger. “For example, asked about Russia’s threatening activities that have unnerved the small Baltic States that are the most recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations ‘have fulfilled their obligations to us’.”
So this goes a little bit deeper than Trump just saying that he admires Putin and the way he “handles” journalists, and Putin making complimentary comments in response… Just how financially beholden is Trump to Putin and his fellow oligarchs? I don’t know. But, given everything outlined above, I’d say that it’s at least possible that there are Russian forces other forces pushing Trump toward the White House. I know it’s unlikely, but, the more I read, and the more I think back about all of the insane things that Trump has said over the past year, the more I wonder if, just maybe, he’s been trying this whole time to throw the election and get out of some agreement he’s had with Putin, only to find his polling numbers jumping every time he calls a woman a “pig” or makes fun of a handicapped reporter. What if, beneath it all, Trump’s a decent man who just can’t get free of the Russian mob?
[I made the image at the top, but this one is from an old article in New York Magazine.]