Presidential Campaign

Donald Trump, the Russian candidate

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This is not another “birther” conspiracy. This is the story of how GOP nominee Donald Trump has become Russian President Vladimir Putin’s choice for president of the United States — and Trump’s embrace of Putin’s rhetorical and weaponized support from Russia to win the White House.

{mosads}There is a consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia’s government is responsible for the cyber break-ins of the Democratic National Committee and the leaking of sensitive political information that convulsed the election some weeks ago.

Similarly, the Russian cyber burglary of former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s email created an uproar with his damning (and private) ruminations about the candidates and such former colleagues as Vice President Dick Cheney, leaks that fueled Trump’s attacks on his opponent. Meanwhile, Trump encouraged more cyber spying when he implored the Russians during a news conference to hack Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s email.

Why is Russia so important to Trump? Besides the damaging leaks against the Democrats, he needs their money to keep his business afloat. Donald Trump Jr. publicly stated the importance of Russian money to the Trump business empire. He said, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets … we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

As Trump’s reputation for shady business practices spread through the American financial system, largely shutting him of from traditional financing in this country, his company hunted financial support from the Russian oligarchy.

Now seemingly lost in the barrage of unsavory Trump disclosures, Trump’s former campaign chair has a long history of working for pro-Russian clients. For example, he’s been accused of taking $12.7 million in payments from the Ukrainian political party most closely aligned with Putin’s Russia. He also has worked directly with Russian oligarchs in deals that look decidedly dodgy.

Most recently, Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page is now being investigated by U.S. intelligence agencies under suspicion that he has been negotiating a political deal with the Russians — including dropping of sanctions against Putin’s closest vassals. If this allegation is proven true, it will open the door to serious criminal charges.

In an attempt at deflecting what could be a dirty bomb at the core of the Trump campaign, Trump’s campaign manager Kelleyanne Conway is now saying Page is no longer an adviser.

Which, when you think about it, that’s a totally irrelevant late-game distancing. It was Page and other Trump advisers who gave fawning speeches about Russia and criticized longstanding, bipartisan U.S. foreign policy, all while trying to impress Putin’s band of billionaire cronies.

Times change, and some of our greatest historical enemies, such as Japan and Germany, are now our closest partners in politics, economics and security. The collapse of the Soviet empire provided both Russia and the U.S. with the opportunity to end the Cold War madness and reframe the relationship. But the emergence of Putin crushed any hopes of a real rapprochement.

The interference of Putin in the American presidential race is as enraging as it’s dangerous. After the destruction of Russian parliamentary democracy by Putin, the decapitation of the free press, his intimidation of Europe and land grabs in Ukraine and Georgia, war-crimes in Syria, et al, we have dispelled any romantic notions that this former great enemy can now be a partner for peace and mutual prosperity.

But for Trump, Russia is a friend and Putin is a great leader, even better than democratically elected President of the United States Barack Obama.

It’s impossible not to conclude from the facts that Trump’s business is highly dependent on Russian capital. Equally impossible to ignore is the reality that Trump has surrounded himself with Russophiles with deep and lucrative financial ties to the Russian oligarchy and, by extension, to Putin himself — the maker and destroyer of oligarchs.

While we can only speculate about what Trump is trying to hide by not releasing his tax returns, we don’t need a forensic accounting of his extensive ties with the Russian establishment. The facts are already on the record: Trump’s threats to NATO, the suggestion that the U.S. should recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea, and repeated praise for both Putin and his kleptocracy are just the tip of the Putin-Trump alliance iceberg.

The lies about President Obama’s nationality that “birther” Trump pushed for years, a lynchpin for gaining support from the bleeding right, should be a disqualifier for the presidency. But it is Trump’s deep relationship and financial ties to the Kremlin that should seriously alarm Americans.

Electing Russia’s candidate to the White House is a danger to the very integrity of American democracy, our Constitution and national security.

Espuelas is Washington-based political journalist working in broadcast, digital and print media. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @EspuelasVox.

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


Tags Barack Obama Cyberattack Democratic National Committee DNC Donald Trump Email Hack Hillary Clinton NATO oligarch Russia Russian Federation Ukraine
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