He has repeatedly and emphatically rejected criticism of Vladimir Putin’s methods of rule, including his murders of journalists.
He has called NATO obsolete because it is too focused on the threat from Russia. At his own convention, he told The New York Times he would not defend small NATO countries like Estonia against a Russian attack.
Trump’s convention team, largely indifferent to the work of the party-platform committee, acted decisively to strike pro-Ukraine language. Trump himself has urged decreased U.S. support for Ukraine as it resists Russian invasion.
And at this most recent press conference, he indicated openness to recognizing Russia’s conquest and annexation of Crimea—and expressed opposition to maintaining sanctions against Russia. That statement would have topped the news on any day except one in which a candidate for United States president openly invited foreign espionage against his political opponent.
For a candidate with few consistent views on anything, this adds up to a very clear picture. Joined with other evidence of Trump’s deep personal business obligations to people in the Putin ruling circle, and his campaign leadership’s long-standing involvement with the former pro-Putin authoritarian leader of Ukraine, the picture becomes even more troubling—even sinister.
Let’s revert to that second excuse I mentioned at top. You’ll hear a version of it repeated and amplified by conservative voices on Fox News and talk radio: “Hillary’s carelessness is the real issue, not Trump’s naked hope that his Russian friends will use that carelessness to his benefit.”
Hillary Clinton was very careless, yes. She was careless—choosing to shield her email from scrutiny by hosting it on a personal server, perhaps over-learning the lessons of decades of subpoenas and congressional hearings. She obfuscated and dissembled about what she had done, and why. Along the way, she may have exposed classified information to foreign-intelligence agencies. She may also have exposed herself to blackmail, if those agencies hacked more personal confidences.
Those are things one may suspect. They are not things that are known. Conservatives who invoke fears about what Clinton may have done as a defense against what Trump repeatedly has done are inverting all reasonable concerns. Trump actually is acting to advance Russian interests. He actually has subordinated U.S. national security to his own political ambitions. He already has compromised the security of U.S. alliances and the integrity of the U.S. military guarantee.
No candidate for president since Henry Wallace ran as a “Progressive” in 1948 has run a campaign so openly in service to an adverse foreign power as Trump’s. His complaints about the insufficient number of American flags on the Democratic convention stage are clumsy parodies of patriotism, and the flag pins on the lapels of the TV talking heads who will condone his latest pro-Putin remarks are no better.