(c) 2017 by Paul DuginskiUsed only with express written permission
Our so-called president has spoken admiringly of the Russian dictator, Vladimir V. Putin, since well back in the campaign. After being elected, he famously equated America with Russia in moral terms during an interview with Bill O’Reilly. Our intelligence agencies have said that Putin was behind hacking attacks that helped Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.
Now we’re beginning to get hints about the reasons for this unseemly bromance between Trump and Putin.
Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has had ties to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. Former Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s national security advisor, resigned after lying about contacts with a Russian diplomat. Now Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, has reportedly delivered a peace plan for Russia and Ukraine to the administration, according to a story in Sunday’s New York Times about complicated back-channel contacts between the administration and Russia.
There already is a #putingate hashtag on Twitter, and people are showing up and demanding answers at town hall meetings held by members of Congress. Since the revelations about Flynn, many are asking Sen. Howard Baker’s famous question from the Watergate hearings: “What did the president know and when did he know it?”
I was around for Watergate and I’ve probably read “All the President’s Men” at least four times. To me, this nascent scandal is starting to smell a lot like Watergate.
I’ve heard Trump claim on television not to know Putin or have any contact or business dealings with Russia. Yet, his personal attorney seems to, as does Felix H. Sater, who was described in the New York Times story as a Russian-American businessman with longstanding ties to the Trump Organization. The same goes for Paul Manafort, and of course, Mike Flynn.
And there reportedly were contacts between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Was there a quid pro quo for which Moscow agreed to skew the election? Does our commander in chief owe his job to Vladimir Putin? Was our democracy perverted? Were our votes negated? Even though Trump won the Electoral College, he lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes — was this all part of a clever calculation?
On top of that, the private intelligence dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British MI6 intelligence agent, alleges ties between Trump and Russia. It claims that the Russian FSB security service has kompromat — damaging or embarrassing information — which could be used to blackmail Trump. This is where the unverified tales of Trump cavorting with Moscow prostitutes came from — the scenario that triggered guffaws on Saturday Night Live.
So there’s a lot of smoke, but as yet no proof of fire, although some details look damning.
In my opinion, there’s a lot here that reeks to high heaven. If you open up your refrigerator and something stinks, I can guarantee that there’s something rotten in there. You just need to find it. I think we can trust the press to dig it out.
Is it any wonder Trump calls the press the “enemy of the people”? In reality, it’s the tireless digging that he doubtless fears and dreads about the Fourth Estate. He’s probably terrified.