Beginning to think Trump won't release his tax returns because Putin claims him as a dependent.
— LOLGOP (@LOLGOP) July 22, 2016
Josh Marshall, who has been on fire during this primary season, IMO, has a must-read piece up at TPM on the ties between Trump and Putin. An excerpt that summarizes the case for closer scrutiny:
To put this all into perspective, if Vladimir Putin were simply the CEO of a major American corporation and there was this much money flowing in Trump’s direction, combined with this much solicitousness of Putin’s policy agenda, it would set off alarm bells galore. That is not hyperbole or exaggeration. And yet Putin is not the CEO of an American corporation. He’s the autocrat who rules a foreign state, with an increasingly hostile posture towards the United States and a substantial stockpile of nuclear weapons. The stakes involved in finding out ‘what’s going on’ as Trump might put it are quite a bit higher.
There is something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of circumstantial evidence for a financial relationship between Trump and Putin or a non-tacit alliance between the two men. Even if you draw no adverse conclusions, Trump’s financial empire is heavily leveraged and has a deep reliance on capital infusions from oligarchs and other sources of wealth aligned with Putin. That’s simply not something that can be waved off or ignored.
Marshall explores the strong circumstantial evidence that suggests a Putin-Trump connection, including the fact that Trump owes his recovery from multiple bankruptcies to infusions of cash from Putin-connected oligarchs, Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort’s strong connection to the Kremlin and the fact that the Trump people’s sole involvement in the GOP platform was a pro-Putin intervention.
Marshall is sticking to publicly available facts, so he doesn’t address in depth the suspiciously timed Wikileaks DNC doc dump, which exposed emails that were obtained by a Russia-connected hacker and emphasize Democratic discord that Trump is playing to the hilt. But that’s one of the clearest signs yet that Putin is trying to manipulate the U.S. election, just as he supports right-wing nationalist movements in Europe to weaken the Western alliance that keeps his revanchist ambitions in check.
It remains to be seen whether the hardcore Sandersites will play the useful idiots here; I don’t think there are enough of them to swing the election, but it’s clear that is the aim of the wingnuts who are playing up the “Bernie wuz robbed!” aspect of the Wikileaks story, including Trump, who has been tweeting like a madman about it.
And maybe this is just me being paranoid, but this latest blatant attempt to divide the Democrats and advance Trump’s prospects explains a longer-term trend I used to find puzzling but no longer do: a weird affinity for the autocrat Putin among the fringier left in the U.S. I’ve seen it in the crackpot corners of the web for far longer than Trump has been a credible candidate: a drive to paint Putin as a victim of U.S. aggression. I used to write it off as individual crackpottery, but maybe Putin has been playing a long game.
FWIW, I don’t think Trump is directly taking orders from Putin. I think Trump is a vain and silly man, and Putin is playing him for a fool. But while Trump is certainly a clown, Putin’s interference in U.S. politics is serious shit. It would be swell if the Very Serious Persons in the Beltway would spend 1/100th of the effort they’ve expended on Secretary Clinton’s email server on the ongoing attempts of a hostile foreign government to manipulate a U.S. election.