But back in the real world, suspicions about Trump’s relationship with Putin took on a new urgency in the final days of the campaign. Clinton suddenly found herself ahead in the polls but slipping, reportedly because of a strange alliance: FBI agents, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, Russian hackers and “the highest levels” of Russian intelligence.
All, according to various reports, were ganging up on the former secretary of state in service of … what? That’s the big question.
We know that the FBI is divided internally. FBI Director James Comey, according to various reports, took heat internally for deciding in July not to prosecute Clinton for what he called her “extremely careless” handling of emails that included some classified information.
We also know that former KGB operative Putin has had a burr under his saddle for Clinton since at least 2011 when he accused her of inciting street protests that erupted against him over charges of — Guess what? — election fraud.
We know Assange has it in for Clinton because he thinks she’s too pro-war.
And we know that Trump sounds so cozy with Putin whenever the Russian autocrat’s name comes up that they should invite each other over for sleepovers.
Trump curiously and routinely has rushed to the defense of Putin, even when the high-confidence judgment of U.S. intelligence found Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and used embarrassing emails to sow internal confusion.
“I don’t think anybody knows that it was Russia that broke into the DNC,” he said. “It could also be lots of other people.” When things go wrong for Democrats, he complained, “they always blame Russia.”
Oh? Here’s another view: “Rejecting a fact-based intelligence assessment — not because of compelling contrarian data but because it is inconsistent with a pre-existing worldview — that’s the stuff of ideological authoritarianism, not pragmatic democracy. And it is frightening.” So wrote Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005 and of the CIA from 2006 to 2009, in a Washington Post op-ed on Friday headlined “Russia’s useful fool.”
Other disturbing signs include Trump’s declaration in July that as president he would be “looking at” recognizing Crimea as “Russian territory,” reversing current U.S. policy toward Putin’s illegal incursion.
Trump’s comfort with Putin may well be connected to Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s consulting work for the pro-Russian regime of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine.
Yet, as hazardous as a Trump presidency might have been to the health of the international order that the United States has helped build and maintain since World War II, the movement that grew up to put Trump into the White House was undaunted by such niceties. They’re mad as hell at the status quo, they tell me repeatedly, and just want to “shake things up.”
I understand. But the destruction of our delicate postwar balance of powers would have been, in my humble view, too big of a price to pay.