Given @RealDonaldTrump’s charismatic manipulation of the masses and his storied relationship with Russia, can we call him the Moscow Mule (that’s a Foundation reference).
Anyway. Now that the loveable Grump Muppet Sen. Sanders is channelling his inner Nancy Grace (he’s just asking questions, amiright?), my guess is this @RealDonaldTrump-Russia story is going to be something like when the Reagan Campaign maybe colluded a smidge with the Iranian government to delay the release of American hostages¹…allegations and reasonable conjecture, but no solid “conclusion”.
The main things muddying the water here:
– Most news and intel agencies (as single entities) seem to dislike @RDT, so it’s hard to even pretend objectivity (if Hillary’s campaign had done this, there would likely be a counter-narrative of “this is just serious diplomacy”)
– Russian intel agencies are good at hiding and getting away with things
– A GOP Congress faces the prospect of investigating a (pseudo) GOP president, and probably says “Nah.”
– This kind of situation is murky by nature and not without precedent as de facto “ok”: see also backchannel talks with Iran, Cuba, China, etc.²
– Trump’s actual *known* business relations with Russia are sad. A flopped Miss Universe pageant, a failed vodka (how do you fail with vodka in Russia?), a failed Trump Tower…these are not the same as say, former German PM Shroeder’s sitting on the board of Russian energy giant Gazprom³.
So as with everything @RealDonaldTrump, the potential scandal/drama might more with his team and not the man itself. (This is a U.S. Presidential tradition if not a hallmark of top-level leadership, where your team does the dirty work). The name that stands out isn’t the scapegoated Flynn (whose public evisceration is totally disproportionate to his actual transgression of being a trusting idiot tripped up by his own ambition) but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who by virtue of being a Big Name at Exxon Mobil is the @RealDonaldTrump Administration’s closest link to Russian national interests — oil and gas.
But here’s the thing about Russia and its energy industry and sanctions. Geography and history have not kind to Russia, and its oil/gas industry is what keeps Russia from collapsing (even as it sustains a dangerous system of autocracy and oligarchy). One of the ways the USA “won” the Cold War was to use economic leverage points to punch the USSR repeatedly in the nuts. So while the Obama Administration instituted sanctions against Russia, the Obama Administration’s intent would *never* have been to force Russia to collapse with sanctions.
Oil/gas aside, there are plenty of non-@RealDonaldTrump and Tillerson reasons that a 2017 U.S. President would have dealings with Russia on its agenda. Carrot and stick. There is no substantive Syria policy without Russia. There is no substantive climate change policy without Russia (world’s 5th largest source of CO2 emissions). There is no substantive U.S.-Europe policy without Russia. There is no nuclear proliferation policy without Russia. And there is damn sure no U.S.-China policy without Russia.
Sen. Sanders mentions concern about American allies trusting the @RealDonaldTrump Administration with intelligence. That is a curious statement, not just given the history of Russian/USSR intelligence operations in Europe from the 1900’s on (hint, everybody has had at least one morning waking up in bed with the Russian Bear). U.S. allies, especially European governments, are very familiar with this awkward relationship with Moscow. Russia is Mr. Burns to Europe’s Springfield, with a dash of Sauron for a perpetual threat of doom and domination. That’s why European heads of state regularly have to talk about normalizing and improving ties with Russia, finding ways of trading and dealing with Russia, even while considering Russia a threat and a rival.
So, nothing is simple here. You can call it “determinism” if you want, and there is no doubt that the @RealDonaldTrump Administration is shaping U.S.-Russia policy according to its own definition of interests. But dealing with Putin’s Russia does *not* mean the U.S. Presidency is compromised.
The U.S.-Russia connection I find most troubling is the cultural engagement between White Supremacists/Nationalists in Russia and the USA, who do have quite a lot in common. That is similar, but not the same as, why Infowars.com and Alex Jones can shake one fist at the UN/Illuminati/One World Government while bumping the other fist with the most blatant Putin-directed media. The enemy of his enemy is his friend.
Meanwhile, this @RealDonaldTrump-Russia story will mostly be political theater and showboating, elbow jabs, plenty of news agencies digging into a juicy unprovable scandal, and a nice fat punching bag for vocal opponents of the @RealDonaldTrump administration.
But an actual, provable case for treason or impeachment? I’m not sure.