It’s hard to know what to say after a day—a week—like the one we’ve just experienced. On one hand, none of it should’ve come as a surprise. The full frontal assault on our closest allies in the EU and NATO, like the assault on the free press and the pointless flattery of Vladimir Putin, stretch back two years to the 2016 campaign. Donald Trump has spent this past week doing exactly what he said he would do before his election, and doubling down on the denials that anything but his own genius helped him win that election. And yet, no matter how many times we’ve heard “NO COLLUSION!,” there’s something about watching it unfold in real time that stuns in a way that—like catching a cheating partner after months of suspicion or seeing a loved one die after a terminal illness—no amount of intellectual knowing, understanding, or expecting can prepare you for.
After Trump and Putin met in Helsinki, many pundits and politicians struggled to understand what it is they saw, to rationalize it, to explain it away, to speculate on what kinds of kompromat the Russians could have on Trump, when the answer—like infidelity or death—was staring them, us, in the face. Yes, Putin has something on Trump: He helped him win. That’s the kompromat.
Facing the press after his meeting with Trump, Putin admitted—openly, arrogantly—that yes, he had wanted Trump to win in 2016. But we had known that as early as…2016. His state-run media didn’t do much to hide their boss’s preference: anyone but Hillary Clinton. I remember constantly explaining that summer why Putin preferred Trump to Clinton. Through the spring of 2016, Kremlin TV was clear that it wasn’t that Putin wanted Trump to win, it was that he wanted Clinton to lose. The propaganda machine—and, as we now know, the covert influence machine—got behind Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Jill Stein—anyone who wasn’t Clinton. [Continue reading…]