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Larry Beinhart's Body Politic: Is There a There There?


  • Gillian Farrell

Why do all the people around Trump get agitated whenever the word Russia pops up?

Commentators are baffled. What's there to hide? They ask: "Is there any there there?"

In real journalism, you can't deduce what's inside the black box of the White House. An insider has to speak or a paper must be leaked.

Yet in physics, chemistry, and biology it's quite normal not to have testimony from inside. Scientists look at what's going in and what comes out, then make up a story about what's happening unseen. If it sounds good, it's treated as the truth until some new facts are observed that don't fit.

Let us look at the Universe of Trump and the collection of cronies that swirl around him.

Most notorious is Michael Flynn. Trump appointed him National Security Advisor in spite of knowing he was being paid by Russia and Turkey. Trump tried to keep him even when it became public. Then Trump tried to stop the investigation.

Trump advisor Paul Manafort received millions from the astonishingly corrupt, Putin-puppet, ex-president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. Some of that money was laundered through the Bank of Cyprus, a favorite of Russian oligarchs. Wilbur Ross, with a stake in Bank of Cyprus, is now Secretary of Commerce.

Trump's son-in-law and most trusted henchman, Jared Kushner, wanted a back channel with Russia. That might be okay, except he wanted it constructed in a way that would be open to Russia and secret from US intelligence.

Trump has stridently sworn he has no businesses in Russia. Probably not, but Donald Jr., aka the Truth Blurter, said, "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets," and "We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia [to Trump interests]."

Trump's buddy Roger Stone knew ahead of time which anti-Hillary material Russia was putting out through WikiLeaks. Felix Slater, a Russian-American who did real estate deals with Trump brought a Russian plan for Ukraine to Michael Gordon, a Trump Organization lawyer, who brought it to the White House. Trump claims to have no memory of Felix Slater.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was once awarded the "Order of Friendship" by Vladimir Putin. He was head of Exxon's subsidiary in Russia before becoming CEO of ExxonMobil, which has a major project in Russia stalled by US sanctions.

There are more connections: J. D. Gordon, Erik Prince (founder of Blackwater) and several others. Why did Attorney General Jefferson "Jeff" Beauregard Sessions III lie, repeatedly, under oath, about meetings with the Russian Ambassador?

Now, let's look at what's coming out.

Donald Trump went to Europe. He insulted European leaders. Got beaten in a hand-squeeze contest by the president of France. Made an enemy of Angela Merkel. Then weakened NATO as a deterrent to Russia by refusing to endorse Article 5—the promise of mutual defense, that an attack on one would be an attack on all. It made the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, feel vulnerable. Perhaps not open to reconquest, but more likely to bend to Russian interests out of fear. It weakened America's influence with Europe and hurt trade relations. It signaled, again, less commitment to Ukraine's efforts to be free of Russian interference and change the culture of corruption that they feel comes with it.

Trump not only tweeted it was "a great success," he said, "We hit a home run." Yeah, sure, if you're batting for the Moscow Moles.

NATO has been the military bulwark. The EU has been the political and economic competitor. The EU has been successful in that after the fall of the USSR, all the Eastern European countries directly in it or in its sphere of influence moved to join EU. The most important members are England, France, and Germany. Donald Trump was all for Brexit, the UK leaving the EU. He supported Marine Le Pen, who wanted to leave the EU, and he's verbally attacked Germany.

Even before being elected, the Trump team tried to make the Russian invasion of Ukraine a nonissue by tweaking the Republican platform.

Bashar al-Assad is the most murderous and destructive ruler in the world today. He is also Russia's sole ally in the Middle East. Trump's policy—on which he has since waffled—was to join with Russia and Assad to fight ISIS.

All the Gulf States—Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar are close allies of the United States. After Trump visited, they broke into a public quarrel, verbally attacking and blockading Qatar. As monarchies, sheikdoms, and emirates go, Qatar is very progressive, the Arab state rated highest in human development by the UN, and founder of Al Jazeera (for whom I've worked) the first genuine news service in the Arab world. Trump was on the other side.

Trump supports any authoritarian he hears about. He admires Putin and the way he rules. He supports Recep Erdogan, who's jailed 70,000 political opponents and effectively ended freedom of the press in Turkey; Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who's returned Egypt to Mubarak's type of rule; Nursultan Nazarbayev, president for life of Kazakhstan; and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who has the police murdering people and who has publically endorsed rapes committed by the police.

Trump discredits democracy. Simply by being elected. By showing that American democracy can be subverted. By constantly claiming that there are illegal voters and fixed elections and that judges in our democracy can't be trusted. He's undermined the free press. And truth itself.

Sure, there's no "evidence" that Donald Trump is doing Putin's bidding. Just because his whole crew freaks out when Russia is mentioned. That there's no reason for someone like Flynn to be there unless an old KGB officer thinks Trump needs a handler. That virtually all of Trump's foreign policies—and some of his domestic ones—benefit Russia and harm America.

The other alternative is a two-fold theory. That Trump fell into a crew of money-hungry bottom-feeders who, like himself, could only get money from Russia. A sort of kinship and camaraderie. While Trump himself is like a kindergarten kid, who's large, because he's been left back, and who, when he walks into the classroom, just has to kick over anything any of the other kids have made out of blocks.

Your choice: Conspiracy or kindergarten.

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