While so many people seem so obsessively focused on a handful of emails out of nearly 20,000 showing that a few officials at the DNC weren’t entirely the biggest fans of Bernie Sanders (though most were just replies or private discussions in regards to something Sanders or his campaign had said — with absolutely no evidence where officials discussed “rigging” the primary), there’s a much more important issue at play here: Mounting evidence seems to indicate that this has all been part of a plan by the Russian government to try to undermine Hillary Clinton, hoping to help Donald Trump become our next president.
Or to rephrase that in another way: Growing evidence seems to point toward the possibility that the Russian government is trying to influence an American presidential election so that the candidate the strong-armed dictator-type Vladimir Putin wants elected, Donald Trump, wins in November.
Before you scoff at that James Bond-style plot, I would like to remind everyone that these two have spoken quite highly of one another in the past.
During an interview in December, when he was asked by MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough about allegations that Putin has had journalists and political opponents killed, Trump said this:
He’s running his country and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.
I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe, so you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, a lot of killing, a lot of stupidity.
Yes, even though it’s widely believed by most experts that Putin has, in fact, had journalists and political opponents murdered, Trump actually defended the Russian president, praising his “leadership” and essentially trying to excuse these alleged murders by saying that we do “plenty of killing also.”
Keep in mind, just the day before, Putin had referred to Trump as “bright and talented.” Trump called the praise a “great honor,” adding “when people call you brilliant, it’s always good, especially when the person heads up Russia.”
Later in the interview he also went on to boast about Putin’s approval rating:
I’ve always felt fine about Putin. I think that he’s a strong leader. I think he’s up in the 80s, which is you see where Obama’s in the 30s and the low 40s and he’s up in the 80s, and I don’t know who does the polls, maybe he does the polls, but I think they’re done by American companies, actually.
His words don’t just come off as someone praising and defending the Russian president, he sounds like someone who flat-out admires Putin.
Keep in mind that Vladimir Putin is someone who:
- Is quite friendly with Iran.
- Has tight restrictions on the country’s news, often using state-sponsored media entities to push his propaganda.
- Has been accused of killing political rivals, journalists who are critical of him and rigging elections.
- Is extremely anti-LGBT.
- Has had human rights activists imprisoned without trial.
- Is an ex-KGB agent who many believe wants to reform the Soviet Union.
- Is considered an elected president, but is really more of a dictator.
The list goes on and on. There’s no debate about it, Vladimir Putin is a really bad guy — who Donald Trump praises, defends and seemingly admires.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Here are a few things Talking Points Memo dug up in relation to Trump’s ties to Russia:
Post-bankruptcy Trump has been highly reliant on money from Russia, most of which has over the years become increasingly concentrated among oligarchs and sub-garchs close to Vladimir Putin
One example of this is the Trump Soho development in Manhattan, one of Trump’s largest recent endeavors. The project was the hit with a series of lawsuits in response to some typically Trumpian efforts to defraud investors by making fraudulent claims about the financial health of the project. Emerging out of that litigation however was news about secret financing for the project from Russia and Kazakhstan. Most attention about the project has focused on the presence of a twice imprisoned Russian immigrant with extensive ties to the Russian criminal underworld.
Then there’s Paul Manafort, Trump’s nominal ‘campaign chair’ who now functions as campaign manager and top advisor. Manafort spent most of the last decade as top campaign and communications advisor for Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian Ukrainian Prime Minister and then President whose ouster in 2014 led to the on-going crisis and proxy war in Ukraine. Yanukovych was and remains a close Putin ally. Manafort is running Trump’s campaign.
Trump’s foreign policy advisor on Russia and Europe is Carter Page, a man whose entire professional career has revolved around investments in Russia and who has deep and continuing financial and employment ties to Gazprom.
Over the course of the last year, Putin has aligned all Russian state controlled media behind Trump. As Frank Foer explains here, this fits a pattern with how Putin has sought to prop up rightist/nationalist politicians across Europe, often with direct or covert infusions of money. In some cases this is because they support Russia-backed policies; in others it is simply because they sow discord in Western aligned states.
So, here we have Trump with links to some rather shady Russian investors, with a pro-Putin/pro-Russia campaign manager, and a foreign policy advisor who has deep ties to Russia — to go along with the “bromance” that seems to exist between the GOP presidential nominee and the Russian president.
Oh — but there’s even more.
During the RNC convention, the Trump campaign made sure that the Republican platform wouldn’t include a push to supply Ukraine to fight against Russian forces.
As reported by The Washington Post:
The Trump campaign worked behind the scenes last week to make sure the new Republican platform won’t call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces, contradicting the view of almost all Republican foreign policy leaders in Washington.
Throughout the campaign, Trump has been dismissive of calls for supporting the Ukraine government as it fights an ongoing Russian-led intervention. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, worked as a lobbyist for the Russian-backed former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych for more than a decade.
Still, Republican delegates at last week’s national security committee platform meeting in Cleveland were surprised when the Trump campaign orchestrated a set of events to make sure that the GOP would not pledge to give Ukraine the weapons it has been asking for from the United States.
By the way, removing the anti-Putin rhetoric was the only thing the Trump campaign pushed to have removed from the GOP’s platform.
To summarize all of this, Trump:
- Has quite a few financial ties to Russia, including some rather shady (and even allegedly criminal) investors.
- Appointed a campaign manager who was a pro-Russian/pro-Putin lobbyist.
- Named as a top foreign policy advisor someone whose career has been heavily involved in Russian investments.
- Has (on more than one occasion) praised Russian President Vladimir Putin — including basically defending him against allegations that he had political opponents and journalists killed.
- Worked behind the scenes to water-down anti-Russian language from the GOP’s convention platform.
- Has often talked poorly of NATO, which is something that Russia absolutely loves as weakening NATO would play right into the hands of what Putin wants.
Here’s what Vice wrote about the DNC’s hack and the possible Russian involvement:
In early May, the DNC called in CrowdStrike, a security firm that specializes in countering advanced network threats. After deploying their tools on the DNC’s machines, and after about two hours of work, CrowdStrike found “two sophisticated adversaries” on the Committee’s network. The two groups were well-known in the security industry as “APT 28” and “APT 29.” APT stands for Advanced Persistent Threat—usually jargon for spies.
CrowdStrike linked both groups to “the Russian government’s powerful and highly capable intelligence services.” APT 29, suspected to be the FSB, had been on the DNC’s network since at least summer 2015. APT 28, identified as Russia’s military intelligence agency GRU, had breached the Democrats only in April 2016, and probably tipped off the investigation. CrowdStrike found no evidence of collaboration between the two intelligence agencies inside the DNC’s networks, “or even an awareness of one by the other,” the firm wrote.
Then, naturally, all this information found its way into the hands of Wikileaks, which has been accused of being “friendly” to the Russian government – who then just happened to release these emails days before the DNC convention in Philadelphia. Of course, this created a “controversy” just before Hillary Clinton’s big week.
I would also like to point out that, while a lot of attention has been paid to contents within these emails, this was an illegal hack of a private database. That’s part of what I’ve found rather ironic (and hypocritical) is that many of the same people who rally against the NSA and government spying seem to be fine with the fact that these emails were illegally obtained. Furthermore, contained within this email release were Social Security numbers and credit card information of some of these individuals.
By the way, I think it’s also important to mention that the DNC was targeted, not the RNC. Imagine the “controversial emails” that could be found within the RNC databases as officials of a party who clearly didn’t want Trump to be their nominee were discussing all their options leading up to their convention. Don’t forget, Ted Cruz and John Kasich made a “pact” with one another in a failed attempt to deny Trump the nomination outright. An agreement between the two candidates that I fully believe was pushed by the RNC, itself.
Look, I don’t care what anyone thinks of Hillary Clinton, or even what political “side” anyone is on, the fact that all evidence seems to point toward the Russian government trying to manipulate who becomes our next president should terrify the hell out of everyone — both on the left and the right.
Though what’s alarmed me is how so many people seem to either not care that this is happening or don’t seem to think that this is a big deal. We’re looking at a situation where the Republican presidential candidate is seemingly acting as a bit of a puppet for Vladimir Putin, with the Russian government actively trying to sabotage our presidential election hoping it will put in power the candidate Putin wants to be in charge. A candidate who just happens to be someone who’s spoken quite highly of the Russian president; went out of his way to remove anti-Russia talking points from the GOP’s platform; and has made criticizing NATO a big part of his campaign (something Russia absolutely loves).
I don’t care if you’re a Bernie Sanders supporter who wants to be upset over a handful of these emails, or you’re a Donald Trump supporter who hopes he becomes our next president, no one should be okay with a foreign government orchestrating the highly complex and illegal hacking of private American email accounts in a blatant attempt to influence a presidential election.
But, by all means, let’s not focus on any of that — let’s keep talking about the 7 or so emails out of 20,0000 where a handful of individuals expressed frustration with Bernie Sanders and his campaign after the Democratic primary was all but over. Because, you know, that’s a much bigger deal than Vladimir Putin and the Russian government trying to sabotage an American presidential election.