President Trump and his supporters have been trying to sell the story that someone in Ukraine teamed up with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) during the 2016 presidential elections to falsely implicate Russia in hacking their computers and that somewhere in Ukraine there is a missing DNC server with lots of incriminating Hilary Clinton emails.

None of this is true, of course, but Trump loves a good conspiracy theory. During Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he not only encouraged Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, but he also asked Zelensky to look for the server. Trump’s former counter-terrorism adviser, Tom Bossert, recently said, “I’m deeply frustrated with what he and the legal team is doing and in repeating that debunked theory to the president. It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again and for clarity here, let me again repeat that it has no validity.”

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Bossert questions Trump’s intelligence with a focus on how easily he can be manipulated by others: “It sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again” said Bossert, regardless of how little credence there is to a story or how often this and other far-right conspiracy theories have been debunked by the FBI and the president’s intelligence agencies.

Russia has a long history of trying to influence other country’s elections, including Ukraine. American intelligence agencies, as well as the Mueller Report, have documented in detail Russia’s efforts to help Trump in 2016. The larger question, however, is why Trump is so intent to clear Russia, even at the expense of throwing Ukraine, an ally, under the bus? What benefit is it to Trump? More importantly, how is this good for America?

In fact, there is no benefit for America when the president undermines an ally, especially to help Russia. There is, however, some benefit for Trump and a significant benefit for his friend, Russian President Vladimir Putin. For Trump, the conspiracy theory tries to cast doubt on the fact that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. Trump does not like it that his election has been judged by some as illegitimate because he received foreign assistance from Russia and that Clinton received almost 3 million more votes.

But there were also significant benefits for Russia, now under strict economic sanctions from Congress for both their invasion of Ukraine and their interference in our presidential election. Trump continues to undermine these sanctions as much as possible. If successful in proving that Russia is innocent, Trump would be doing Putin a big favor. One has to wonder, however, why Trump goes out of his way to do Putin’s bidding?

Many believe that Trump held up military aid to Ukraine as a bargaining chip to get Zelensky to investigate Biden. While this is likely true, he had another reason: His two-month delay was a big help to Putin. Ukraine and Russia are in the middle of negotiations regarding Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea, as well as incursions into eastern Ukraine. Without American military equipment needed to defend itself, Ukraine has been in a much weaker bargaining position with Russia. Trump held up that support and no one, including the U.S. military, Congress, or Zelensky, could figure out why.

Trump first said that he held up the money because he was concerned about corruption in Ukraine. But the State Department and the Pentagon had already cleared Ukraine for the money, certifying that Ukraine had made significant progress addressing corruption. The next day, Trump had a second story. He said that he held the funds because other European nations were not contributing to Ukraine. But this was also false. In fact, the European Union, neighbors of Ukraine, has given more financial support to Ukraine than the U.S. More recently, Trump is back to the corruption excuse.

Even after the July 25 call that Trump described as “perfect,” Trump still waited until mid-September to release the funds. By then, however, he had already accomplished what he wanted. Being forced to believe that Trump may not provide the military equipment they needed, Zelensky’s bargaining position with Putin was weakened. I’m sure Putin was grateful.

The Washington Post reported that in a phone call to the United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump “disputed the conclusion by British intelligence that the Kremlin was behind the poisoning in England of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer who worked as a British double agent, and his daughter.” Again, one has to wonder: Why is Trump always defending Putin and Russia while questioning our allies?

Wouldn’t it be nice if our president defended our American constitution and our allies as vigorously as he defends Russia?

Tom Zirpoli is the program coordinator of the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. His column appears on Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.

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