October surprise: Could Russia ties doom Trump's candidacy?
© Greg Nash

GOP nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpBiden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting Senate investigation of insurrection falls short MORE and Republicans might be counting on an "October surprise" of embarrassing material about Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden prepares to confront Putin Ending the same-sex marriage wars Trump asks Biden to give Putin his 'warmest regards' MORE obtained through Russian espionage against the Democratic Party, but what if the real October surprise is public disclosure of, or intelligence leaks about, the true extent of Russian espionage and, very possibly, possible Russian or pro-Russian Ukrainian financial relationships that could be a game-ending disaster for the Trump campaign?


Recent news stories suggest that a year ago, American intelligence officials briefed the bipartisan leadership Group of Eight in Congress about an aggressive and concerted effort by Russian intelligence to commit espionage against Democratic Party-associated organizations.

The front page of Monday's New York Times had a story suggesting that Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort benefited from a web of financial dealings with pro-Putin forces in Ukraine.

I recently wrote in The Hill that voters and pundits should at least consider the possibility that Trump is throwing the game against Clinton, because, for whatever reason, deep down he does not want to win.

Here is another way to look at the state of play in the presidential campaign. If it is true that a year ago, congressional leaders were briefed by intelligence officials on a Russian plan to attack the Democratic Party, then the intelligence operation that uncovered this Russian covert action must have begun long before the intelligence briefing, suggesting a long-term Russian plot to interfere in American politics.

In other words, to the degree that Russia has been working covertly to attack Democrats and Clinton and help elect Trump president, the CIA, National Security Agency and major Western intelligence services probably have a treasure trove of still-undisclosed information about Putin's nefarious schemes.

I do not know whether the New York Times story about Manafort's financial dealings with Ukraine is true. But it seems logical to assume Western intelligence sources would have substantial information about financial dealings between pro-Putin forces and American political players who take pro-Putin or pro-Russian positions.

That is why I suggest that if Russian President Vladimir Putin or Trump are hoping for an October surprise of embarrassing disclosures about Clinton from Wikileaks or any pro-Russian website, it is more likely that Putin and Trump will be the losers of the real October surprise either through open public disclosure of possible relationships, or intelligence-related leaks of this information.

It is no coincidence that long lists of Republican national security leaders have joined Democratic national security leaders in believing that Trump would be a disaster to American security. They are liberals, conservatives, Democrats and retired military and intelligence leaders.

Trump may have a new speech about the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) read from a working teleprompter, but he said not long ago that he knows more about ISIS than American commanders!

There is no doubt from most foreign policy, national defense and intelligence experts that Trump takes positions more friendly to the Russian strongman than any major party nominee in the history of American politics has ever taken toward an American adversary. Nor is there any doubt of the alarm throughout the national national security community — from those on the left to those on the right — about the dangers to American security of a Trump presidency.

Trump has falsely stated that Russia "not going into Ukraine" while Russian strongman Putin escalates his long campaign to subvert the current government of Ukraine after seizing Crimea. Trump has virtually endorsed the Russian annexation of Crimea, has suggested that America should let Russia solve the Syria problem, has stated that he is not firmly committed to American and NATO defense of Europe if Russia invades, and has engaged in a bromance, exchanging mutual praise with Putin, which is one of the strangest and most self-destructive actions in the history of presidential politics.

Perhaps the October surprise will not be news of embarrassing leaks about Hillary Clinton, but a public disclosure or announcement of damaging Russia ties for the Trump campaign.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Chief Deputy Majority Whip Bill Alexander (D-Ark.). He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at brentbbi@webtv.net.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.