It turns out there really is a “deep state” covertly impacting the Trump administration and responsible for all of its troubles. However, this “state” is not a cabal of CIA, NSA, and FBI employees abetted by George Soros and the liberal media but an actual state — the Russian Federation. Once again, we find Russia at the center of foreign meddling in our election processes and policy making.
Think not? Then, let’s play a little game we’ll call “Election Interference Roulette.”
Picture a huge roulette wheel with each ball pocket labeled with the name of a different country. There are 195 pockets, including labels for the Holy See and the State of Palestine. Now spin the cylinder to see where the ball comes to rest easily and smoothly. The odds will overwhelming favor Russia, given the scandalous discoveries of the last three years. The big question is “why?” Why was our global nemesis so eager to see a President Trump?
Let’s take a walk through recent history. First there was the meeting Donald Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort had with Russian operatives on June 9, 2016 in the hopes of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. Then the Kremlin hacked embarrassing DNC emails and timed their release through WikiLeaks. Russian intelligence complemented this with cyberattacks on social media spreading disinformation about Clinton, boosting Trump, and sowing chaos. Twitter alone discovered 50,000 automated bot accounts linked to Russia retweeting pro-Trump messages.
I’ll skip over the Mueller Report’s complex findings and Trump’s obstruction of justice and simply say that the special counsel found enough evidence to indict 25 Russians for criminal campaign interference in 2016. Unfortunately, they all remain safely in Mother Russia.
Now let’s fast-forward to the latest Russian connection. The FBI arrested Soviet-born but naturalized U.S. citizens and businessmen Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, on Oct. 9. Prosecutors have charged them with planning to direct funds from an unnamed Russian national "to U.S. politicians while trying to influence U.S.-Ukraine relations.” Both men are associates of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani and active GOP donors. Last year they gave $325,000 to the pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action.
So what has Russia received in return for its covert assistance to Trump? Upon taking office, Trump did everything in his power to deride and reduce the influence of our key Western allies and alliances like NATO and the World Trade Organization. He has attacked the Western democratic institutions of a free press and an independent judicial system and expressed his admiration for autocratic leaders like Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
Trump has also driven NATO ally Turkey into Russia’s sphere. The country recently took delivery of a Russian-made S-400 air defense missile system and is now shopping for Su-57 fighter jets. Putin has called Turkish President Recep Erdogan a “good friend” and says the sales “will open up new opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation.”
Of course, Trump has continued to deny Russian election meddling. How can anyone forget Helsinki in July 2018 when he cowered in front of Putin and, despite the overwhelming evidence of Kremlin election interference said, “I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. ... And I think we’re all to blame.” When asked if Putin, the Butcher of the Ukraine, was a killer (there were 4,266 documented deaths following Russia’s invasion), Trump unpatriotically responded, “There are a lot of killers. Do you think our country’s so innocent?”
Right now the country is transfixed with the impeachment inquiry. Evidence of how the president abused his office in an attempt to smear his main election rival grows by the day. All of these troubles are of his own making, but inherent in some of them is a push to further absolve Russia of campaign interference. Trump now claims it wasn’t the Kremlin that hacked Hillary Clinton’s and the DNC’s emails. It was the Ukraine, and its operatives were really working on behalf of Clinton. He continues the “fun house” craziness by speculating that a server with Clinton’s missing emails is not in Russia but instead hidden in the Ukraine.
As he thrashes about, Trump is crying “treason” and “coup” regarding his possible impeachment. I can’t think of two better words to explain Putin’s heavy thumb on him. Perhaps we will soon have a better understanding of what Trump calls “this Russia thing” as Congress continues to expose the administration’s metastasizing cancers. Or maybe, when the nation finds itself in a much weakened state as a result of Trump’s blunders and obeisance to Putin, historians will finally have put this puzzle together.
Frank Batavick writes from Westminster. His column appears every other Friday. Email him at email@example.com.