Donald Trump is travelling to Helsinki to have his first summit with Vladimir Putin despite news that the U.S. Justice Department has indicted 12 Russian nationals for interfering in the 2016 presidential election.
Apart from satisfying the American president’s insatiable need for attention, there is no obvious reason for this meeting, no pressing issues that can be settled to the advantage of the United States.
There were calls for Trump to cancel the summit because of the indictments against the Russians, who were acting in their official capacity as intelligence authorities. The White House response, however, contained no condemnation of Russia.
One could assume that Putin, meantime, is hoping for a meeting much like the one enjoyed by Kim Jong Un — Trump will make dramatic concessions for no reason other than the compulsion to sound grand.
By seeking to meet with Putin while still under the cloud of Russian involvement in the U.S. election, Trump is feeding into suspicions about Russian influence on his presidency.
Justice can be slow
The intelligence community has concluded Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, a finding endorsed by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has issued indictments and had hinted at more to come, but legal matters must be done carefully and are therefore slow. But what we know already is sufficient to give us insight into Putin’s subversive actions against the United States.
As an expert in U.S.-Russia relations who advised the Bill Clinton White House, I know a bit about subversion. And Putin’s actions, to me, are as plain as the nose on your face.
Russian use of social media to manipulate American opinion has been well-documented. But what’s happened since the election is just as problematic. There are those who believe Trump continues to be compromised by Russia and that he is, in effect, a “stooge” for Putin.
How to thwart democracy
What could Mueller be looking for as he examines whether Trump might have ties to Russia? And could such a scenario really be possible — that the president of the United States is beholden to Russia? Based on my experience in watching how Russian espionage works, a few things would need to play out for such a scenario to exist.
First you have to “buy” your stooge. You must make him an offer that he cannot refuse. This might mean cash, threats of compromising material and promises of future advantage, such as a big fancy hotel project in Moscow.
The trickier part is the payoff. This must be done through a conduit, someone discreet and conniving at the same time. If you were dealing with the Mafia, your natural conduit would be the consigliere, a lawyer-like adviser. (Think Robert Duvall in the Godfather movies). Such an individual would have unwavering loyalty to the target and also look clean enough not to attract too much suspicion.
Any payoff must be carefully passed on to crucial members of the stooge’s party so their election platform conforms to your interests and so your investment is protected after he is elected.
And then there is the media. Facebook and other social media platforms are now known to have been used as tools, but television is still a dominant medium. A propaganda organ would be necessary to protect your investment as well.
Finally, Mueller would be looking for others who might either directly help a stooge or at least help maintain the social chaos essential to his survival.
For example, if there are any other prominent organizations in the target country that might have strong appeal to those who have voted your stooge into power, such as associations and some influential industries, then a little money to them would be money wisely spent.
Mueller keeps us guessing
Mueller’s investigation has shown us a bit of the sordid network in which Trump is embedded, but the slow pace has left most of us guessing.
I have not named names. But it should be easy for anyone who has been following the Trump debacle to plug in names if allegations prove true that he is, in fact, compromised by the Russians: The conduit, those who control Republican party finances and the legislators who have acted to enable Trump.
Has Trump been a useful idiot, as the Russians call their stooges?
Domestically he has sowed chaos and hate on a daily basis, while his supine party has allowed him to discredit not only their conservative ideals, but the very United States itself.
Trump is a man who confuses cruelty with strength, and as such could have potentially been an ideal agent for Putin’s needs to marginalize the U.S. Indeed, by initiating trade wars and affronting the G7 (now, in essence, the G6), Trump has weakened the entire West.
It was the most effective way of doing so, since outright warfare is impractical. As Trump went first to NATO before his meeting with Putin, there were concerns the president would do to NATO what he did to the G7 — thereby weakening the only alliance that has a prospect of deterring any Russian future military moves. True to form, he maligned NATO allies and criticized Germany for its reliance on Russian energy before demanding they double their military spending commitments.
European diplomats have been worried about continued U.S. support for NATO. But even as Trump hit allies, he also signed on to efforts to strengthen the alliance against the Kremlin and other rivals, as well as a statement that the alliance does not accept Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
At the summit with Putin, Trump could recognize Crimea as part of Russia and hand to Putin a formal victory in Syria.
A daring de-Trump proposal
What happens next? The Democrats may carry the day in the November mid-term elections and initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump. Mueller may reveal more corruption and collusion, forcing Trump to resign. Both prospects are far enough ahead that Trump will have done much more damage by then.
Because it’s clear Russia corrupted the 2016 election, the entire process was therefore tainted and not legitimate. The conclusions are simple. There are mounting allegations that Trump is not a legitimate president (something recently suggested, reluctantly, by former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper) and is a strategic danger to the nation (something put forward by retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the most decorated living American general).
Trump’s status as 45th president must be cancelled and everything he has done must be annulled: Tariffs, ensuing trade wars, judiciary appointments starting from the Supreme Court on down, tax changes, separation of children from their parents and anything else that owes its inception to his bogus authority.
This may sound quite drastic to many, but the logic is simple and the circumstances dire. Julius Caesar once said that “all bad precedents begin as justifiable measures.” The U.S. now finds itself in a Roman-like predicament: Something must now be done to stop the damage that Trump is doing to his country and to the world.