Donald Trump’s links to Russia make for a topic that won’t go away. However, the true source of these rumours is something else altogether.
Donald Trump is not an agent of the Kremlin, nor did he collaborate with Russian authorities during the 2016 election. The claims made vociferously by the Clinton campaign, Obama administration officials, and a cabal of hive-minded sycophantic journalists – suffering a craven obsession with institutional politics – that Trump colluded with the Russians to win the presidency, have gestated long enough. A six-month labour has delivered nothing more than stillborn conspiracy theories and a fluid mix of secret sources, intelligence leaks and artificially induced dossiers.
With the combined energies of the CIA, FBI, Obama White House, NYT, MSNBC, Washington Post and Congressional hearings invested in a search for direct links between Donald Trump, Russian hacking and the WikiLeaks of DNC and Podesta emails – if there was any there, there – we’d know about it. For. Sure. The fact that precisely zero direct evidence of collusion has been provided whatsoever tells you a lot about the accusations. Similarly, the fact that the story won’t go away, and that there is an abundance of “circumstantial evidence” tying Trump to Russian oligarchs and shady Eurasian dealings, is highly relevant.
Let’s begin by laying out the facts of the case.
1. Yes, Putin attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election. Although last December’s Department of Homeland Security/FBI intelligence report couldn’t provide direct evidence the Russian state did the hacking, officials concluded, based on motive, opportunity, and modus operandi, Moscow was responsible. This conforms with Russia’s official policy of multi-vector, un-ending “information warfare”: a vital component of their national security policy.
2. Yes, Trump has significant ties to Russia, the oligarchs and an assortment of unsavoury ex-Soviet characters. These are of a specifically business and financial nature.
3. Yes, Russia is a threat to American influence.
4. Yes, the Americans are right to worry about an assertive Moscow. And yes, it is in the US’ long-term national interests to contain Russia, and/or destabilise Putin domestically.
These four points are the ingredients of a sound understanding of what is taking place in America viz establishment paranoia about Trump-Russia ties.
The underlying problem for the American military-industrial complex, deep-state, institutional government, security apparatus – whatever you want to call it – is they now have a man in the White House that fundamentally agrees with the worldview of their preeminent geopolitical adversary.
It must have been extremely troubling, in the autumn of 2015, for officials of the State Department and CIA to hear a candidate for president echo the political rhetoric of Vladimir Putin. Trump began saying things in public that no politician had said before; let alone the Republican front-runner. But, it’s important to understand that Trump wasn’t inventing statements out of whole cloth. Donald probably heard and discussed many of these ideas with his Russian friends and associates over dinner, or during a cushy private flight. Ideas like the suggestion that the “real unemployment figure” in the US is 37%; or, the disutility of NATO to combat contemporary threats; or, a destructive apathy toward the EU; or, the term “globalist”; or, the notion that “Western civilisation is under siege”; or, the belief that America should get out of the “regime-change business”; or, the assertion that 9/11 was preventable and George W Bush responsible… These are but a few positions that as they started to tumble out of Trump’s mouth, into his microphone, to be swept across the American political landscape, must have made US intelligence officials shriek. Middling analysts, ranking intelligence members, advisors to geopolitical think tanks must have been aghast to hear Putin’s version of American domestic and international life projected from the mouth of Donald Trump.
If we accept that Russia threatens US national interests (“an enemy”), and that the President has adopted Kremlin positions that if implemented would grant Moscow influence and power in their region (“giving them aid”), is this not treason according to the statute?
It is highly likely that, over the past 30 years, travelling back and forth between the US and Russia (he even dined in the twilight of the Soviet Union), Trump went – as they say in diplomatic circles – “native”. That is to say he spent so long in a foreign culture, and developed such intimate and felicitous ties with the locals, that the host’s way of seeing the world imprinted itself upon him as the guest. Trump doesn’t hate America, far from it. But he has accepted Russian solutions for the natural disagreements he had long harboured for his nation. It’s not altogether surprising that Russian explanations for American failures might be more persuasive that the ones coming out of Washington. It’s a fact that the sitting president agrees with a lot of Vladimir Putin’s thinking. Trump even employed the kind of moral relativity ubiquitous of the Russian president when he told Fox News, “There are a lot of killers… you think our country is so innocent?”
The majority of the positions outlined above, from “globalism” to “fake economic statistics”, are official dogma of the Kremlin information warfare program. These ideas have been crafted and cultivated specifically to reduce American legitimacy in the international system.
So, tracking back to the Trump-Russia conspiracy. There is no direct collusion. There will be no evidence of treason. However, the “establishment” will never stop trying to remove Trump from the White House, by any means possible. If they can’t remove him they will delegitimise and frustrate his presidency so he is incapable of meaningfully exercising his powers.
Here’s an interesting question: At what point does thinking like your enemy become treason? Treason is defined according to US code as:
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason.
If we accept that Russia is a geopolitical adversary that threatens US national interests (“an enemy”), and that the President has adopted Kremlin positions on substantive issues that if implemented would grant Moscow influence and power in their region (“giving them aid”), is this not treason according to the statute?
I will not take a position on the question one way or another, but I do offer this calculus as an explanation for why the FBI, CIA, Obama administration, et al, have been (and will continue to be) prepared to fabricate all manner of story, source, dossier, report, testimony or scandal in a concerted attempt to get Donald Trump out of the White House.