Trump and Russia

The BBC is showing no signs of letting up on its anti-Trump propaganda campaign, perhaps believing that if enough middle class Brits get upset he will resign or something.

Today the topic of choice is Trump’s alleged links to Russia:

Throughout the confusion of Donald Trump’s campaign and the chaotic events of his early days in the White House, one controversy has clung to the Trump train like glue: Russia.

Except this isn’t quite true, is it? Russia only became the albatross of choice with which to hang around Trump’s neck when all others were laughed off: misogyny, racism, fake news, etc.

The sudden departure of Michael Flynn from his role as national security adviser on Monday was the latest in a string of controversies tying the administration to apparent Russian interests.

More accurately, it is possibly the one genuine story in a whole string of non-stories which the media has been peddling for all it’s worth since election day.

Mr Flynn resigned after misleading the president, and Vice-President Mike Pence, over whether he discussed sanctions with Russia’s ambassador in the weeks before Mr Trump took office – which would violate a law that prohibits private citizens from conducting diplomacy.

So Trump is maintaining discipline within the ranks. Why this merits front-page news at the BBC is anyone’s guess.

It was back in May 2016 that the first reports emerged of hackers targeting the Democratic Party. Over the next two months, the reports suggested US intelligence agencies had traced the breaches back to Russian hackers.

This was less of a hack than lapse security by dimwitted Democrats, and there was never any evidence provided that Russians were responsible nor that they specifically targetted the Democratic Party. But leaving all that aside: what has this got to do with Trump?!

In July, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, Wikileaks published 20,000 internal emails stolen by the hackers. US intelligence officials said they believed with “high confidence” that Russia was behind the operation, but the Trump campaign publicly refused the accept the findings.

Most of the world publicly refused to accept the findings of US intelligence officials over WMDs in Iraq.  Does this mean they were in cahoots with Saddam Hussein?

Instead, at a press conference, Mr Trump caused outrage by inviting Russian hackers to target Hillary Clinton’s controversial personal email server, saying: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing”.

Erm, no. Hillary’s server had been compromised years before that remark. Trump was assuming the Russians, along with everyone else except seemingly Hillary and the FBI, already had the emails taken from the now-destroyed server. The outrage, insofar as there was any, was whipped up by Hillary’s supporters who didn’t like the subject rearing its head during her ill-fated campaign.

About the same time the hacking scandal was beginning to unfold, Mr Trump’s then campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was accused of accepting millions of dollars in cash for representing Russian interests in the Ukraine and US, including dealings with an oligarch with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

I have no idea whether Manafort actually did receive millions of dollars from people representing foreign interests, but we all know Hillary did via the Clinton Foundation. Why are unproven allegations of dodgy dealings by a campaign manager seen as worse than actual corruption by a serving Secretary of State?

While Mr Manafort was running the campaign, the Republican Party changed the language in its manifesto regarding the conflict in Ukraine, removing anti-Russian sentiment, allegedly at the behest of two Trump campaign representatives.

So Trump’s campaign disagreed with mainstream Republicans on Russia and Ukraine. Along with pretty much everything else.

Mr Manafort was investigated by the FBI and quit as Mr Trump’s campaign chairman. Like Mr Flynn, Mr Manafort, a political operative with more than 40 years’ experience, was supposed to marshal some of the chaos and controversy around Mr Trump, but ended up falling prey to it.

Yet Trump still won and Hillary lost.

In October, the US intelligence community released a unanimous statement formally accusing Russia of being the perpetrator behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

It would have been better if they’d released evidence. But again, what’s this got to do with Trump?

Mr Trump continued to argue against the finding, claiming in a presidential debate that it “could be Russia, but it could also be China, it could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds”.

Which happens to be true: the DNC security was so poor that John Podesta’s emails were hacked via a simple phishing operation.

The same day that the intelligence agencies released their finding, the explosive “Access Hollywood” recording emerged of Mr Trump’s obscene remarks about women in 2005. An hour later, Wikileaks began dumping thousands more leaked Clinton emails.

What the hell has Trump’s remarks about pussy-grabbing got to do with Russia?

Mr Trump continued to refuse to acknowledge the consensus that Russia was behind the hack.

Would that be “consensus” in the global warming sense?

In December, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security published a report of the US intelligence findings linking Russia to the hack.

Which, if memory serves, relied heavily on a Wikipedia article.

In response, President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats and levied new sanctions on Russia. The world awaited Mr Putin’s response but he chose not retaliate. Mr Trump, by then the president-elect, sided with the Russian president, tweeting: “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!”

So Trump thinks Putin, who showed admirable restraint in the face of pure petulance by the outgoing Obama, did the right thing by not retaliating and doesn’t think Putin is stupid. Is this supposed to be controversial?

Mr Putin’s decision not to respond in kind struck many as a canny PR move, but reportedly set off suspicions among US intelligence officials that Russia was confident the sanctions would not last.

Or that he might finally get to deal with an adult in the White House in a few weeks.

The same month, Mr Trump picked Rex Tillerson as his nominee for secretary of state, arguably the most important job in the cabinet. The biggest hurdle for Mr Tillerson’s confirmation? Close ties to Mr Putin.

As CEO of the ExxonMobil oil company, Mr Tillerson cultivated a close personal relationship with the Russian leader, leading many to speculate on whether he was fit to serve as America’s most senior foreign diplomat.

There’s a lot of speculation in this piece, isn’t there? One would have thought with this spaghetti-like network of ties between Trump and Putin somebody would have been able to produce some evidence of one by now.

In January, Buzzfeed published a dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence official and Russia expert, which alleged that Moscow had compromising material on the then-president-elect, making him liable to blackmail.

Among the various memos in the dossier was an allegation that Mr Trump had been recorded by Russian security services consorting with prostitutes at a Moscow hotel.

Mr Trump dismissed the claims as fake news.

You mean the BBC thinks it is real?!!

CNN revealed that President Obama and President-elect Trump had been briefed on the existence of the dossier by intelligence officials, and Buzzfeed went one further, publishing the entire thing.

The document went off like a hand grenade tossed into the already febrile political scene and generated a backlash against Buzzfeed for publishing what were essentially unverified claims.

Which the BBC is nevertherless happy to include in an article on Trump’s supposed Russian connections.

In February, the most concrete and damaging Russia scandal finally surfaced, months after suspicions were raised among intelligence officials.

A Washington Post report said Mr Flynn had discussed the potential lifting of Mr Obama’s Russia sanctions with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak, before Mr Trump took office.

Mr Flynn, who had appeared regularly on Russian propaganda channel RT and once attended dinner with Mr Putin, resigned as Mr Trump’s national security adviser, saying he had “inadvertently briefed the vice-president-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador” late last year.

It is illegal for private citizens to conduct US diplomacy.

It’s also illegal for the United State security services to conduct surveillance on a private citizen without a warrant.  See Streetwise Professor for more details on that. But either way, this looks more like a matter of internal discipline of the Trump administration than proof that Trump is a Russian puppet.

Mr Trump has made no secret of his regard for Mr Putin and his desire to establish closer ties with Russia. But the more pressing question, and one which the president just can’t seem to shake, is just how close those ties already go.

On the basis of what’s in this article, not very far at all.

Look, if Trump had a tower with his name on in Moscow or a casino in Vladivostok then one could raise legitimate questions over his connections to Putin. But he doesn’t, and nothing I have seen suggests Trump ever had any business or other interests in Russia aside from him having a quick look-see back in the 1990s or early ’00s and deciding, quite sensibly, that it wasn’t worth the hassle. Has Trump actually ever been to Russia in person? Has he met Putin? I’ve not seen any evidence he’s done either, and if it existed surely we’d have seen it by now. This whole obsession with Russia is nothing more than the latest in a line of pathetic attempts to cast doubts on the legitimacy of Trump’s Presidency and shore up the narrative that he is not acting in the interests of America. The media, including the BBC, needs to put up or shut up.

10 thoughts on “Trump and Russia

  1. Tim, Trump has personally been to Russia, as the owner of Miss Universe pageant during one of its events. Other than that, he has no business ties there.

  2. Tim, Trump has personally been to Russia, as the owner of Miss Universe pageant during one of its events.

    Thanks for that. Yes, I would have guessed he had but for something so completely unrelated to politics or even proper business that the media is not telling us when and why because it would show they have nothing else.

  3. I think the real reason the BBC (and the other left-leaning news organizations – but I repeat myself) are in a tizzy about a possible connection between Trump and Russia is that consorting with the enemy is what they do. Chasse gardée, as the French would say. To have Trump potentially muscling in on that turf is a problem for them.

  4. “It was back in May 2016 that the first reports emerged of hackers targeting the Democratic Party.”

    And Obama rubbished the link with Russia in October last year, a fact which has vanished down the Memory Hole.

  5. The BBC has joined the lunacysphere by including and believing that Buzzfeed bollocks. Unbelievable that an organisation which believes itself to be the epitome of journalism can print such nonsense, but that horse bolted long ago.

    They are vigorously pissing away what remains of their reputation for…what?

  6. “Or that he might finally get to deal with an adult in the White House in a few weeks.”

    Don’t think you could have put that better.

  7. Trump may as well have been Putin’s manchurian candidate, and it’s not about his business interests or lack of them in Russia. You fundamentally misunderstand the problem, and in trying to make it a BBC/Guardianista thing, you miss the point too. Putin is trying to destabilise and legitimize western democracy and break western institutions. Brexit and Trump were therefore projects behind which he put his propaganda swamps, deliberatly cultivating readership amongst Brexity-Trumpkins. Even intelligent examples of this tendency (like you) are now regurgitating his lines.

  8. Jackart

    But luckily you are to smart to fall for it!

    I don’t think our host “fundamentally misunderstands the problem” I think he has correctly understood that those against Trump – and Brexit in your view – are very keen to imply that those victories were illegitimate and caused, in part, by Russian black propaganda. It’s pitiful. As if states haven’t always had interests that they attempt to push. It’s not as if we in the West don’t play the same game.

  9. @Jackart: No doubt the Kremlin is hoping to benefit from the polarization and turmoil in the West, even though it could eventually backfire on the Moscow regime. Kremlin-backed media helped stoke the flames of discontent well before Trump’s run: recall their coverage of Occupy Wall Street and Ferguson. However, the Kremlin has no control over the central issues that motivate Trump’s base, such as US immigration and trade policy. The idea that Russia helped install Trump in the White House is not much different from the Kremlin’s favorite talking point (much parroted on the American left and right), that the 2014 protests in Kiev were nothing but a US-manufactured coup d’etat.

    At any rate, Russian propaganda is a poor excuse for the BBC to tell lies. By 2016, Hillary Clinton’s private email server was no longer in operation and her hosting provider had already deleted her email archive. There was nothing to hack, simply put. Trump called on Russia, rhetorically, to release HRC’s emails dating from her tenure at State, implying that Russia had stolen them when the server was still active. To interpret Trump’s simple rhetoric device as an invitation to hacking requires the sort of self-imposed obtuseness (“I went to Oxbridge but now I’m going to reason like a preschooler”) that is equivalent to lying.

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