Donald Trump; Robert Mueller (Getty/Saul Loeb/Alex Wong/Salon)

Trump and Russia: The Weasel-in-Chief

Why Donald Trump is likely to steer clear of espionage charges


Stephan RichterUwe Bott
January 17, 2019 11:30AM (UTC)
This piece originally appeared on The Globalist.
TheGlobalist

The Russia noose around the neck of President Donald Trump appears to be tightening. The suspicion that Trump may be working for the Russian government validates earlier analyses that Trump was, in fact, a Russian “Sleeper agent.” This may have been in the making for decades, as we pointed out on The Globalist quite some time ago.

As alluring as all of this is, what about the provability of this suspicion, even though the evidence appears to be mounting?

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Hard legal evidence?

If Trump is anything, he is a weasel. And Trump’s second nature as a “weasel” probably means that the hard, documentary, legal evidence may not be found in the near-term future that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Donald Trump is indeed the Manchurian Candidate.

Those of us with a reasonable appreciation of evidentiary support can very well believe that he is. A crucial part of the answer lies in the stunning “community of (policy) interests” that align Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Their alliance covers many key issues — from NATO and the global economy all the way to the Middle East, democracy and climate change.

History will tell

Still, in the short run, the remaining doubts will likely allow the Weasel-in-Chief to wiggle himself out of this and avoid jail.

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Trump has an unusually strong instinct for protecting himself from any direct link to malfeasance. Consider that, if this were otherwise, he would have spent time in jail already long ago for his many legal infractions in business over the decades.

Thankfully, history is more thorough than that. Decades from now, when records from Russian intelligence sources are released, they could very well prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the 45th President of the United States was indeed a full-fledged Russian agent.

Unfortunately, neither Trump nor those of us who are desperately hoping for a smoking gun are likely to be on this planet any longer.

Early linguistic evidence — provided by Trump

Trump also excels at conniving. Yes, as president he is uninformed, intellectually not curious, ignorant, but he is not a simpleton – as far as vital matters of self-preservation are concerned.

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But, time and again, it is his words that consistently get him into trouble. This is where an interview Trump gave to Fox News on Sunday comes in.

He answered the question on whether he was indeed working for the Russians with Clintonesque artfulness. He issued a non-denial denial, saying “I think it’s the most insulting thing I‘ve ever been asked.” Full stop. No further response.

However, that answer only heightened speculation in the media. When he was asked about the matter once again on Monday, he responded more forcefully by saying: “I never worked for the Russians.”

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Never mind that this is an absolutely unprecedented question asked of any U.S. President in history. It is also an equally unprecedented and mind-boggling response.

They don’t ask, you don’t say

Note that in his statement, Trump did not say: “I did not have business relations with the Russians.” Or: “I did not get money from the Russians.” He simply said: “I never worked for the Russians.”

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In Trump’s mind, this is a matter of binary choice. “Working for the Russians” means that Russia literally asked him to work for them and that he agreed. Then, that is a “deal”.

But without such explicit — albeit oral — contract, there is no relationship that could otherwise make him a servant to Vladimir Putin.

Trump’s answer, in the form of a very limited answer, leaves entirely open the matter of taking money from them or having shady business relations with Russia and/or Russians.

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Trading favors

In addition, the subtlety of Russia co-opting him into cooperation does not exist in his mind. Thus, giving Trump money for many real estate projects or killing a story about prostitutes in his Moscow hotel room (a story, the Russians would have created in the first place, if true; see the Steele dossier) — as far as Trump himself is concerned — does not meet the standard of “working for the Russians.”

He would just see that as a favor. Why should the Russians not be wanting to offer him “things” just because he is, after all, the amazing Donald Trump? By that logic, he would also not be obliged to give them something in return.

Thus, if he decides to offer something — whether out of the goodness of his heart or on the spur of the moment to prove his generosity — why would the Russians then be needing to expect anything from him in return anyway?

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Trump’s logic? As long as the Russians didn’t ask and he didn’t commit, it’s just a favor, not a deal or a quid-pro-quo transaction. You certainly cannot say that amazing acts of sophistry – or “subtlety” — never entered this “deal guy’s” mind.

Trump’s done it before: Stormy Daniels and Vladimir Putin

It does not bode well for Trump that, as far as lying in public and on the record is concerned, he has done it before. Just recall the Stormy Daniels affair, where he lied without compunction from the get-go. Here is how that affair went down on the airwaves in April of last year:

1. Asked if he knew about the payment to Daniels, Trump said “No.”

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2. Asked if he knew where the money came from to pay Daniels, Trump told reporters, “No, I don’t know.”

3. Asked why his lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid the money if the allegations were untrue, Trump told reporters on Air Force One “You’ll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael’s my attorney.”

Of course, today we know that Trump not only knew about the payments and their source, but that he directed Michael Cohen to make the payments.

Still, in that particular instance, it took a turncoat like Cohen to prove the President’s lies. In the Russia case, it certainly looks like there is substantial circumstantial evidence to suggest that Donald Trump has been for years a promoter of Russian interests.

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It also stands to reason that these Russian interests operated in direct opposition to those of the United States — and that he was on the take for his work, even if the transactions were cast as “real estate transactions.”

After all, they apparently included vast overpayments by Russian interests and operators.

This article is republished from The Globalist: On a daily basis, we rethink globalization and how the world really hangs together.  Thought-provoking cross-country comparisons and insights from contributors from all continents. Exploring what unites and what divides us in politics and culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  And sign up for our highlights email here.


Stephan Richter

Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist, the daily online magazine, and a columnist in newspapers around the world. He is also the presenter of the Marketplace Globalist Quiz, which is aired on public radio stations all across the United States. In addition, Mr. Richter is a keynote speaker at international conferences -- and the author of the 1992 book, “Clinton: What Europe and the United States Can Expect.” Follow him on Twitter @theglobalist.

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Uwe Bott

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