Trump and Putin
There’s a lot more that we do not know about the relationship between Trump and Putin, than we do know. Based on a series of strange foreign policy stances, a string of lies and denials, and a series of hacks, the reporting has mostly been speculation to this point. The hacks, linked to Russian spy agencies, were targeted specifically at Trump’s opponent. The problem is that no matter how many coincidences there are, the facts do not exist to link them together. So lets look at what we do know, and everyone can come to their own conclusions:
Fact: The Trumps have lied about their business ties to Russia, we just don’t know when they lied. In 2008, Donald Trump Jr. claimed they had lots of investments coming in from Russia. In 2016, Donald Trump Sr. insists he has had no business ties with Russia. One of them was lying.
Fact: In 2013, 2014, and again in 2015, before his presidential run, Trump claimed he a personal relationship with Putin. In 2016, Trump insisted he had no personal relationship with Putin. He said he doesn’t know him, and “I don’t think I have ever met him.”
Fact: Trump took several foreign policy positions on Russia during his presidential run. Most have been a complete u-turn from the bi-partisan positions the U.S. held for decades. He also questioned whether the U.S. should support our NATO allies if faced with Russian aggression. Even whether the U.S. should stay part of NATO. When asked at a press conference if he were President would he accept Russia’s annexation of Crimea, remove sanctions against Russia, and refuse to arm Ukraine. His only comment was “we are looking into that.”
Fact: Paul Manafort, Trump’s Campaign Manager, has worked indirectly for both Trump and Putin. He has very extensive ties to pro-Putin forces in Ukraine, and possibly to Putin himself. Manafort spent most of the last decade in Ukraine, working for a series of pro-Putin candidates, including Viktor Yanukovych. Secret ledgers have surfaced in Ukraine, detailing cash payments made off the books by the party of the former President Yanukovych of Ukraine, a Putin puppet. Trump praised Putin as a strong leader before Manafort joined the campaign, but it was an echo of something he heard from several Fox News anchors. Trump’s pro-Putin policy positions regarding Ukraine only surfaced after Manafort joined the campaign. Putin and Russia were never mentioned at any of the debates, or campaign rallies during, the primaries.
Fact: Carter Page, a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign has regularly praised Putin and criticized American foreign policy towards Russia. He has spoken publicly U.S. sanctions on Russia, and questioned U.S. involvement in NATO. Like others in the Trump, he has also business ties to Russia, with investments in Gazprom.
Fact: General Michael Flynn, Trump surrogate and has become very close to Putin since retiring. The former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 to 2014 has called for better relations with Russia, and military cooperation with them in Syria. He also had dinner recently with Putin in Moscow. At a Russia Today conference US General Michael Flynn sat at the head table with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Fact: Russian hackers, with ties to Russia spy agencies, have hacked several DNC computer systems. Days before the Democratic Convention began, the emails were made public by WikiLeaks. The Russian government hacking US government computers is nothing new. Russia leaking the recovered data is new.
Fact: Trump asked Russia, a foreign power and enemy of the US, to hack into US government computers and find the deleted emails of his political opponent.
Fact: Trump stated that Putin would never invade Ukraine, believe me! It was then pointed out to him that they already annexed Crimea two years earlier. Trump gave an awkward response. His answer suggested he either wasn’t aware that Crimea was part of Ukraine, or he considered it part of Russia.
Trump and Putin do have a lot in common, but most of those similarities are that Trump has intimated he would like to do things that Putin has already done. There are no hard facts to make a direct link between Trump and Putin. The Russia hackers, though, appear to have no interest in hacking or leaking data from RNC computers. It would merely be speculation to say the facts are anything other than a remarkable series of unconnected coincidences. After all, Putin does have a vendetta against Clinton. She publicly called out his last presidency victory as a fraudulent election. Who can blame him for wanting a Putin-loving lap dog like Trump in the White House to give him the green light to restore the former glory of the Soviet Union.