For months now, there have been overt and not-too-overt suggestions that Donald Trump was not only a fan of Russian president Vladimir Putin, but actively being helped by Putin in the American election. Here’s a brief summary of Trump’s relationship with Putin from Slate in an article written last month:
Donald Trump is like the Kremlin’s favored candidates, only more so. He celebrated the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU. He denounces NATO with feeling. He is also a great admirer of Vladimir Putin. Trump’s devotion to the Russian president has been portrayed as buffoonish enthusiasm for a fellow macho strongman. But Trump’s statements of praise amount to something closer to slavish devotion. In 2007, he praised Putin for “rebuilding Russia.” A year later he added, “He does his work well. Much better than our Bush.” When Putin ripped American exceptionalism in a New York Times op-ed in 2013, Trump called it “a masterpiece.” Despite ample evidence, Trump denies that Putin has assassinated his opponents: “In all fairness to Putin, you’re saying he killed people. I haven’t seen that.” In the event that such killings have transpired, they can be forgiven: “At least he’s a leader.” And not just any old head of state: “I will tell you that, in terms of leadership, he’s getting an A.”
The article goes on to suggest that Trump is basically a best case scenario for Putin, whose ultimate aim is to destroy the west and weaken the United States. In fact, Russia’s state controlled media has lined up behind The Donald. Putin seems to be using Trump as a tool, according to Michael Morrell, a former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
“Putin would never, ever say this, of course, but I believe that Putin sees Trump as a tool of his now. He wants Trump to be elected, and there is evidence that he’s trying to help that along.”
Trump is not only an ideal candidate for Putin, he’s a man with whom Putin and Russia have a lengthy business relationship. As the Post wrote last month:
Since the 1980s, Trump and his family members have made numerous trips to Moscow in search of business opportunities, and they have relied on Russian investors to buy their properties around the world.
“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
We have all known that Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had been working for former Ukraine President Viktor F. Yanukovych, who is pro-Russian. Now, thanks to the NYTimes, we know that Manafort was paid handsomely by the pro-Russian political party in the Ukraine.
Handwritten ledgers show $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments designated for Mr. Manafort from Mr. Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party from 2007 to 2012, according to Ukraine’s newly formed National Anti-Corruption Bureau. Investigators assert that the disbursements were part of an illegal off-the-books system whose recipients also included election officials.
In addition, criminal prosecutors are investigating a group of offshore shell companies that helped members of Mr. Yanukovych’s inner circle finance their lavish lifestyles, including a palatial presidential residence with a private zoo, golf course and tennis court. Among the hundreds of murky transactions these companies engaged in was an $18 million deal to sell Ukrainian cable television assets to a partnership put together by Mr. Manafort and a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of President Vladimir V. Putin.
Yeah, OK. Fine. Putin and Trump are pals and Manafort worked for and received $12 million in undisclosed payments from a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party, but have these relationships actually led to anything concrete?
Perhaps. From Politico, on Trump’s involvement in creating the GOP platform before the convention:
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.
Here’s the TL;DR take home:
Trump:— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) August 15, 2016
1. Praised Putin
2. Made GOP platform more pro- Russia
3. Wants to end NATO
4. Manager has secret deals w/pro-Russian oligarchs
You think it was a coincidence that it was the Russians who hacked into the DNC’s emails? Or that Trump called upon the Russians to hack into Hillary’s personal email account?
GOP may have abandoned the “establishment” faction of the party, but it’s still the party of Reagan, and once this scandal is simplified enough for the average Republican voter to understand it, they’re going to realize that where Reagan ended the Cold War, their man Trump is the anti-Reagan. He’s Putin’s bitch.
And while the average voter may not immediately connect the dots between Trump’s pro-Putin statements, his campaign advisor’s connections to a pro-Russian political party, or the pro-Russian GOP platform, they will understand optics, and right now, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, is on vacation in Croatia with Wendi Deng Murdoch.
This scandal may not be as easy to parse as most of Donald Trump’s gaffes, but once it filters into the American electorate this week, an already sinking Trump campaign will be completely under water.
There’s not enough water in the world to put out all the fires in Trump’s campaign right now.