— Vox (@voxdotcom) March 3, 2017
For a best-possible-faith counterpart, here’s Josh Marshall’s “The Innocent Explanation, Part #1”:
… The simplest explanation isn’t necessarily the right one. But in the spirit of Occam’s Razor, we should prefer it because it usually will be. To state the key point for clarity and emphasis, it is not the simplest explanation. It it is the simplest explanation which accounts for all the known facts. That distinction makes all the difference in the world.
With this prologue and with the above in mind, here is what I would call the innocent explanation of the Trump/Russia story. I don’t think it is necessarily the true story. Or, to put it more precisely, I don’t think it is necessarily the whole story. But I think it accounts for most of the what we know so far…
1. In the late 90s and early aughts, Donald Trump ran out of lenders. A string of bankruptcies on top of numerous ventures where he walked away unscathed and lenders lost their shirts convinced every major US bank to stop lending to him… This put Trump’s whole family business under great strain. In response he increasingly took capital from abroad, especially from Russia and other post-Soviet successor states… What we don’t know is quite the degree of his dependence on money from the former Soviet Union, both for investment capital and for the purchase the numerous apartment units which make up his ubiquitous high-rises. None of this is illegal or wrong. Foreign capital is pervasive in the New York City area real estate market.
2. Trump gets into this world. He associates with these people. He starts thinking like they do. Perhaps along the way, people in this murky Russian world where oligarchs and mafiosos and legitimate businesspeople are hard to differentiate and perhaps not really different at all, find out about his dirty laundry. Nothing extravagant like sex tapes. Just the more garden variety stuff business associates find out about each other from long association. We know Trump is highly secretive. His myriad partners and investors likely know a lot of those secrets…
4: Now the 2014 Russian seizure of Crimea comes along, to be followed by the low intensity intervention in eastern Ukraine and, critically, the imposition of western sanctions. If Trump is significantly dependent on capital out of Russia, those sanctions are going to put a crimp on all his ventures. It won’t be fatal. But it will hurt – potentially a lot…
5: So by 2015, this gets you to a pretty clear storyline: Sanctions wrong; Russia good; Putin good; Putin strong. To me this provides a fairly satisfying explanation for most of what we’ve seen over the last year and a half: Trump’s weirdly fawning attitude toward Putin, hostility toward Russia sanctions, insistence on the obviousness of ‘getting along’ and ‘making a deal’ with Putin. It also gets us most of the way to explaining why he has so many people in his orbit with conspicuous on-going communications and relationships with suspicious figures in the Russian intelligence world or the criminal underworld….
You should read the whole thing, but Marshall’s theory does seem to explain some of the weird cluelessness that the people in Trump’s orbit are showing about this whole ugly mess: You hang around with bad people, you gradually get inured to bad behavior — even very bad behavior. The nuns in my parochial school warned us about the importance of avoiding the near occasion of sin; my old man taught us the joke about the innocent young lady who took a day job scrubbing floors at the local whorehouse.
Inquiring minds want to know: name one thing congressional Ds are willing to work on, on a bipartisan basis, now. I am at a loss.
— JohnCornyn (@JohnCornyn) March 3, 2017
Bet they'd back a bipartisan commission on Russian election meddling.https://t.co/aGJqcJ8qa6
— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) March 3, 2017