Trump’s Russian connection

Trump’s Russian connection

Paul Manafort may have left the Trump campaign, but Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn’t. The KGB/FSB is still doing opposition research for Donald Trump, and Julian Assange and Wikileaks is their preferred distribution channel. 

Putin and Assange are known to share a desire to defeat Hillary Clinton, and the Russian leader thinks Trump, with his business ties to Russia, would be a malleable ally in the White House, easily susceptible to flattery. 

When Putin called Trump “very talented” and said he welcomed the real estate developer’s desire to move “to a deeper level of relations,” the obviously pleased GOP standard bearer said, “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected.”

Trump has indicated he would defer to Moscow for leadership on the Syrian civil war and other issues in that region. “I’m all for Russia going in and knocking and dropping bombs on ISIS. As far as I’m concerned, we don’t have to have exclusivity on that,” he told ABC This Week.

What he conveniently overlooks — or is unaware of — is that Russia is there to protect its client, the Bashar Assad regime in Syria, and has been more focused on hitting Assad’s enemies — the moderates and our own allies — and ISIS only secondarily

U.S. intelligence officials say Trump’s vow to work with Putin against ISIS would only further Russia’s goal of undermining American efforts to end the civil war and replace Assad.

Trump’s criticism of NATO, questioning its value and hinting that he’d only selectively honor charter obligations, had to be music to Putin’s ears, and it has America’s allies worried.

No ally should be more worried by Trump’s talk of weakening NATO and letting Putin take the lead in Syria than Israel. Russia is there to protect its client, Assad, along with his allies, Iran and Hezbollah, Israel’s mortal enemies. 

Another cause for concern in Jerusalem is Trump’s assertion that more countries should have nuclear weapons, including Saudi Arabia, something certain to spark a region nuclear arms race. 

No less troubling was another Trump comment about nuclear weapons. “If we have them, why can’t we use them?” he reportedly asked at a security briefing. “Somebody hits us within ISIS, you wouldn’t fight back with a nuke?”

Few things could be more egregious than his call for Russia to hack Clinton’s private e-mails and publicly release them. When asked if inviting Russian espionage into the former secretary of state’s files bothered him, he replied, “No, it gives me no pause.” 

Only after these comments sparked a firestorm of criticism did he claim he was only being sarcastic.

Trump has boasted about dealings with “all the oligarchs” over many years, as if that was a good thing. His son, Donald Jr., was quoted telling a real estate conference in 2008, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

The candidate has said he has “zero investments in Russia,” but apparently not for lack of trying. There is no way of knowing for sure because he refuses to open his records. Also, that statement dodges the question of his financial ties to Russian interests outside of that country, including major Russian investments in Trump projects in the United States and elsewhere.

“There is strong evidence that Trump’s businesses have received significant funding from Russian investors,” according to the Washington Post.

For many years, Donald Trump sought to build a Trump Tower near Red Square with his Russian partners. He even went to Moscow hoping to meet Putin, but the meeting was cancelled at the last minute. 

Trump boasted on MSNBC, “I do have a relationship” with Putin, and later said he “spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin,” but he subsequently confessed none of that was true. 

Manafort left the campaign under a cloud of federal investigation into millions of dollars paid him by his Russian and Ukrainian clients, payments apparently not reported to the Justice Department as required.

While running Trump’s campaign, he reportedly was able to remove from the GOP platform references to arming Ukraine to fight pro-Russian rebels backed by Putin. 

It is unclear whether Manafort was still on the Ukrainian payroll while working for Trump and shaping the GOP platform, and how much Trump knew about those ties.

For someone who has called for “extreme vetting” of immigrants, Trump seems to have done a poor job of that when it comes to people running his presidential campaign.

Manafort left behind a team of advisers with financial and other ties to Russia that he had brought into the campaign. 

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif), senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has said the Russian ties of Trump’s advisers indicate the “Kremlin has tentacles into the Trump campaign.” 

Former CIA director Michael Morell has called Trump an unwitting agent of Putin. “Trump is not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security.” He said Putin, a former top intelligence official, “played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities” by “calculated” flattery.

“In the intelligence business, we would say that Mr. Putin had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation,” Morell said.

Trump’s Russia connection has American intelligence officials, leaders in both parties, and our allies worried, and the GOP candidate either doesn’t understand the problem or just doesn’t care.

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