The world now has knowledge of just how far Donald Trump, his family and his campaign team went to collude with Russia in the 2017 presidential election.
Since Trump’s son’s meeting with Kremlin-associated lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was revealed – also revealing the Trumps’ desire to get damaging information from Russia – there is less a question of if Trump stacked the deck in the election and more a question of why.
Some postulate that Trump is trying to destroy American democracy, but that’s not totally correct. Trump at one point was heavily influenced by Steve Bannon, a man who wants to watch the world burn so he can be king of the ashes. That influence seemed to show in the cabinet and department picks for the Trump administration where every pick seemed to be the last person you would want to head the department. Rick Perry, head of the Department of Energy, didn’t know his department was the one in charge of nuclear. The head of the EPA is against environmentalism. The former head of the Labor Department doesn’t like treating employees like people with lives to lead and bills to pay.
But that had nothing to do with Trump really. It appeased Bannon, who joined the campaign in time to mitigate the fallout of Trump describing which body parts he likes to grab. It also appeased voters looking for Trump to shake things up. The definition of shaking things up is taking people with no governmental/departmental experience and putting them in charge of something they know nothing about.
Trump has degraded democracy. Several times, in fact, with the most glaring being the fact that he’s still profiting off of his office and his proclamation this week that he can pardon whoever he wants, including himself, from the Russian investigation. Sounds like an abuse of power if I’ve ever heard one.
But none of that is the reason Trump colluded with Russia. Trump did not seek assistance from America’s greatest adversary of the past half century just so he could be a terrible president. He may be able to make the executive branch inept, but the checks and balances of America’s system are still wholly intact.
It’s possible the Trump deal was as simple as a one-for-one exchange: Russia delivers Trump the presidency and Trump relieves sanctions on Russia. But even that can’t be the whole story. Was Trump lacking confidence so much that he accepted help from another country for help? No, that doesn’t sound like Trump.
The real reason Trump has had anything to do with Russia is the same reason he has had anything to do with anything: money.
Trump doesn’t want to be president, but he knows he has boosted his brand value. The connection with Russia didn’t begin with a desire to run for office. The connection began years ago with Trump’s normal (shady) business practices.
Since the 1980s, Trump and his family have visited Russia hoping to do business and establish a Trump Tower, according to numerous reports and investigations. Trump has tried at least five times to get a Trump Tower in Russia, remarking in the 1980s that he was looking at a deal to put one across the street from the KGB headquarters.
In 2008, Trump Jr. said, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets...We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
That’s a lot different from Trump’s claim that, “I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals in Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because I’ve stayed away.”
So what’s the relationship?
According to global financial policy experts, Trump, the self-proclaimed “king of debt,” lost his ability to borrow from American banks some time ago. He had gained access to prominent Russian billionaires, oligarchs and governmental officials, however, and began using Russian money to fund projects. Seva Gunitsky, a Russian-raised politics professor in Toronto, said that money from the Russian oligarchy was pumped into Trump casinos and real estate, possibly in the range of hundreds of millions and “possibly
even enough to keep Trump out of another bankruptcy.”
His years of dealings with Russia culminated with the 2013 Miss Universe pageant where Trump may or may not have been caught doing something that can warrant blackmail, but even without that possibility, it’s reasonable to believe Trump is, once again, in debt. However, this time he’s in debt to the Russian oligarchy and possibly even government officials themselves.
America is in trillions of dollars of debt to countries including China, Russia and Saudi Arabia. But to have the president of the United States personally in debt to a foreign adversary is unheard of.
Of course, there is a chance that Trump is not in debt to Russia, but that would make the entire situation much cloudier. Every member of his campaign team has failed to disclose ties and contacts to Russia. Trump has repeatedly denied having contact with Russia despite a strong historical record proving that to be another lie. If it’s not debt, then why else would Trump be so keen to poorly hide his connection to the former Soviet Union?
There are no answers yet, but after the trickle of leaked information has become a river in recent months, one thing is for sure: We’re going to find out. •