The bipartisan, nearly full-political-spectrum tsunami of factually unverified allegations that President Trump has been sedi tiously “compromised” by the Kremlin, with scarcely any nonpartisan pushback from influential political or media sources, is deeply alarming. Begun by the Clinton campaign in mid-2016, and exemplified now by New York Times columnists (who write of a “Trump-Putin regime” in Washington), strident MSNBC hosts, and unbalanced CNN commentators, the practice is growing into a latter-day McCarthyite hysteria. Such politically malignant practices should be deplored wherever they appear, whether on the part of conservatives, liberals, or progressives.
The allegations are driven by political forces with various agendas: the Hillary Clinton wing of the Democratic Party, which wants to maintain its grip on the party by insisting that she didn’t lose the election but that it was stolen by Russian President Vladimir Putin for Trump; by enemies of Trump’s proposed détente with Russia, who want to discredit both him and Putin; and by Republicans and Democrats stunned that Trump essentially ran and won without either party, thereby threatening the established two-party system. Whatever the motivation, the ensuing slurs against Trump, which are already producing calls for his impeachment, pose grave threats to US and international security and to American democracy itself.
So far, no facts have been presented to back up the allegations. (Without facts, all of us are doomed to malpractice or worse.) An impartial investigation might search for such facts, if any exist, which should then be evaluated objectively—but neither may be possible in the current political atmosphere, only a witch hunt.
For now, six allegations pass as evidence that Trump has been compromised, or worse, by the Kremlin:
1. The president has “lavished praise” on Putin. All Trump has said in this regard is that Putin is “a strong leader” and “very smart” and that it would be good “to cooperate with Russia.” These are empirically true statements. They pale in comparison with the warm words of previous US presidents for Russia’s leaders, including those of Franklin Roosevelt about Joseph Stalin, those of Richard Nixon about Leonid Brezhnev, and particularly those of Bill Clinton about Boris Yeltsin, whom Clinton compared favorably to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. Only against the backdrop of the unrelenting US political-media establishment’s demonization of Putin could Trump’s “praise” be considered lavish. Instead, unlike virtually every other mainstream American political figure and media outlet, Trump simply refuses to vilify Putin—declining to characterize him as a “killer” of personal enemies, for which there is also no evidence.
2. Trump and his associates have had, it is charged, business dealings in Russia and with Russian “oligarchs.” Perhaps, but so have many major American corporations, including Boeing, Pfizer, Ford, General Electric, Morgan Stanley, McDonald’s, and Starbucks. Their Russian partners are often “oligarchs.” Moreover, unlike many international hotel corporations, Trump tried but failed to build his signature enterprise in Russia. The “Russian assets” about which his son spoke seem to have been from selling condos and co-ops in the United States to cash-bearing Russians in search of a luxury brand—hardly delegitimizing. It is said that Trump’s tax returns, if revealed, would expose nefarious Russian influence. Perhaps, but considering the financial documents of ownership he has made public, that seems unlikely. Regardless, this remains an allegation, not a fact.