Mueller investigates, Peters quits Fox, White House leaks abound

Former CIA Director John Brennan and retired General Barry McCaffrey recently suggested that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin appears to have a strange hold over President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE for unknown reasons, raising the possibility that Putin could be blackmailing Trump.

This concern is widely shared privately but rarely discussed publicly by serious, patriotic and nonpolitical national security professionals. 

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The latest leak brought the revelation that Trump was advised to not congratulate Putin on his victory in a fixed and sham election, and to confront Putin about his attacks against American democracy and recent attempts, which are widely believed to have been made by operatives working for Putin, to commit murder on British soil.

 

The most interesting question about the latest leak, involving Trump’s ill-fated conversation with Putin where he did the opposite of what he was advised to do, is whether the leaker will ultimately take public responsibility, warn the nation about why it was done and offer evidence to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE who is investigating the Russian attacks against America.

It was reprehensible for Trump to congratulate Putin for his victory in the sham election, to refuse to condemn Putin for his attacks against America and the attempted murders in Britain and to spend so much time criticizing patriotic Americans and democratic allies.

The obvious question, which is widely discussed far more than citizens realize, is whether Trump’s praise for Putin and his refusal to criticize Putin suggest that he is being blackmailed by the Russian dictator.

The possibility of Russian blackmail against Trump was suggested in the famous Steele memo, written by former British spy Christopher Steele.  

While some other allegations in the Steele memo detailing Russian attempts to influence the American election have been validated by revelations since the memo was written, other allegations, including the suggestion of blackmail, have not been been proven at this time.

Not all leaks are created equal. The leaks earlier in the Trump presidency were often committed by individuals widely believed to be close confidants of Trump leaking negative information against each other.

The most recent leaks are probably being committed for deeply patriotic reasons, by people close to Trump who are alarmed by the ominous facts surrounding his relationship with Putin.

Why does Trump often praise Putin while he simultaneously refuses to condemn him?  I am not endorsing the blackmail theory, but it is certainly plausible. When figures as credible as former CIA Director Brennan and General McCaffrey publicly discuss this theory, it will deservedly generate major public discussion.

When some suggest that the special counsel should never have been appointed because there is no cause to believe a crime has been committed, the Mueller investigation of the famous Trump Tower meeting alone proves this assertion to be neither right nor credible.

Individuals acting on behalf of Russia requested a meeting with individuals close to Trump, for the explicit purpose, stated in writing, to provide negative information about Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHouse Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally It's about the delegates, stupid MORE, obtained by Russia, almost certainly illegally, to further the Russian plan to elect Trump.

The recipient of this request, Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpTrump remarks deepen distrust with intelligence community Lieu trolls Trump with 'warning' to foreign powers on office door Lieu trolls Trump with 'warning' to foreign powers on office door MORE, expressed pleasure at this prospect. He forwarded the request to the president’s campaign manager, Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortNew York activists go on hunger strike to advocate for ending solitary confinement New York activists go on hunger strike to advocate for ending solitary confinement House panel subpoenas Flynn, Gates MORE, and his son-in-law and close advisor, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerFinancial disclosure form shows Ivanka Trump earned M from DC Trump hotel Financial disclosure form shows Ivanka Trump earned M from DC Trump hotel Kim Kardashian West joins Trump at White House event for ex-prisoners MORE, both of whom attended the meeting.

The president was later involved in preparing a false statement about the purpose of the meeting.

Mueller is now investigating this meeting, without having yet rendered any judgment about whether crimes were committed. Whatever it concludes, the investigation is not only justified but essential.

Regarding the resignation from Fox News of retired Lt. Colonel Ralph Peters, Peters is an American hero for his service in the military, a conservative with whom I rarely agree, but a principled and patriotic man who, like others, is offended that any news organization could disseminate what he calls propaganda in support of Trump.  

While some at Fox News do not disseminate propaganda, others at Fox News fiercely defend actions by Trump that they would fiercely condemn if they were taken by former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein Obama2020 Democrats mark 7th anniversary of DACA Aren't delirious Democrats now accusing Team Obama of treason? Trump won't say if he'd endorse Pence in 2024 MORE.

The relationship between Trump and Putin, Trump’s penchant for praising Putin while undermining allied democratic leaders and his persistent attacks on the FBI all create a crisis of conscience for conservatives. Peters should be applauded for his principled stand. Others should follow.

As I wrote in my column this week in The Hill, Republicans should join Democrats in passing legislation to prevent Trump from firing Mueller, which would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis for America and constitute a huge victory for the Russian dictator who commands the attacks against us.

While I never support leaks, the leaks involving Trump’s relationship with Putin were probably done by someone very close to Trump for the most patriotic of reasons. If Trump fires Mueller, there will be a tidal wave of leaks that will astound and appall the American people.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.