On Trump and Russia, It’s Probably A Lot Worse Than We Thought

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit at the G20 Summit, Friday, July 7, 2017, in Hamburg. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci/AP

I have never been convinced that our current policy of trying to unseat the Assad government in Syria is the only reasonable one for the US to pursue or even the correct one. A couple years ago I wrote that I wasn’t sure it made sense, or was even logical, to think we could battle ISIS in Syria and the Assad regime at the same time.

I know there are strong contrary arguments. The situation on the ground is now quite different with respect to ISIS and Assad than it was two years ago. But that’s not my point here. My point here is simply to grant that it is not inherently questionable or suspicious to end our covert support for anti-Assad rebels in Syria, as President Trump has just done, according to reports this afternoon. But it is highly, highly disquieting in the context of Trump’s extremely suspicious behavior with respect to Russia in general.

Yesterday we learned that President Trump had a second, undisclosed discussion with President Putin for as long as an hour with only Putin’s translator present. In other words, no other American citizen was there to make a record of or hear what was discussed.

It’s been noted that President Obama spoke for a few minutes one-on-one once with Dmitry Medvedev when he was President or Russia. My understanding is that Medvedev actually speaks decent English; so translation is less of an issue. But no one had any reason to believe that President Obama was compromised by the Russian government or somehow in league with it. We have plenty of reasons to believe that about President Trump. (Is this circular reasoning? No, as I’ll explain in a moment.) I see no plausible explanation for this latest revelation other than President Trump wanting to discuss things with President Putin that he does not want any other American citizen to hear.

I know that sounds ominous and even hyperbolic. But what is the alternative explanation – when all the other relevant evidence is considered? I can’t see any.

Add into the mix that even if you think that most or all of the Trump/Russia stuff is a bum rap, it is clearly the case that speaking privately with Putin for an hour – with no witnesses – would raise an insane level of suspicion. Why would you do that? You would only do that if you thought having the conversation was really, really, really important. It’s not circular reasoning because the suspicion is a fact; courting it for no reason is all but impossible to explain.

The mix of President Trump’s bizarre toadying to Russia and Putin himself, combined with the latest revelations about Don Jr and the rest make it no longer credible that there’s any innocent explanation to this mystery. I think a lot of higher-ups in government have not fully thought through and absorbed what this means.

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