What exactly is the Trump/Russia connection?

Just a Friendly Handshake?

One of the most important issues of today is the debate whether Russia worked to bring Donald Trump into the White House. It is certainly plausible, but far from concluded. Because of this, we must ask; Is there any truth behind the matter? How could it have happened? And above all, what are the implications of this? Is there outrage because Russia did an unthinkable act against a fellow nation, or is the outrage over the fact that America’s tactics are being used against it? This article will explore the many possible ways that this could have happened by looking at the many dimensions of the scandal. It will look at domestic US politics, but with a focus on the international components of the situation.

 

On November 8th, 2016 Donald Trump won the US elections, which came as a surprise to most because Hillary Clinton was shown as having a major lead in most of the mainstream media’s predictions. However, this turned out to not be the case and this is where the narrative splits over what the connection between Trump and Russia is.

 

The first side is that championed by Trump. He claims that the Democratic Party, which Hillary campaigned under, needed to find an excuse for the major upset in the election, and so they decided to use the Russian theory. This would let Hillary, and the rest of the democrats, absolve themselves of the blame for the catastrophic defeat. This claim ignores the fact that intelligence agencies within the US accused Russia of meddling before the elections took place; it was not an excuse concocted after Hillary’s loss but instead something the US intelligence community has studied in detail. This, however, does not mean that it was not a convenient excuse for Hillary, especially after she has worked hard to absolve herself of the blame for her loss.

 

However, Trump is also very happy to look for excuses himself. When the accusations of Russian interference came out, he was in complete denial. However, his stance changed as more information came out. Shortly after he entered office, he accused former president Barak Obama of spying on him, a major accusation. The only other comparable election scandal in US history would be Watergate, in which then President Richard Nixon spied on his opponents. If Obama was spying on Trump and working against him to help elect Hillary, that would be a big deal.

 

However, Trump did not provide any evidence that Obama spied on him. Instead, the evidence came from the press. It turned out that Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was the actual target of Obama’s wiretapping because of his connections to the pro-Russian Party of Regions in Ukraine. Exactly how far these connections go is still unknown, but they are deep and go back years. He profited from both the party itself and various oligarchs connected to it while working as a political consultant in Ukraine for over a decade. While still being wiretapped, and working for the Trump campaign, Manafort lived in Trump Towers alongside Trump. After the election, when Donald Trump became president and had access to state intelligence, he saw that his building was under surveillance and assumed he was the target, and not his associate. However, Trump and his supporters still see the wiretappings as part of a campaign against Trump from the ‘Deep State’, a term practically unheard of within modern US politics until now that suggests that a parallel government is trying to run Washington contrary to Trump’s interest.

 

This theory is a part of Trump’s own excuses for the many issues plaguing his administration. His main problem has been the leaking of state secrets because the information released makes him appear incompetent or connected with Russia. One such example would be when it was leaked that Trump provided top secret information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador. Trump, as president, has the right to give out such information when he deems necessary. However, the intelligence was not gathered by US agencies and Trump, by giving it out, risked both friendly ties to foreign intelligence agencies and their sources.

 

But this particular example is only an example. The important detail is that his private conversation was leaked to the press. Trump claims that individuals left over from the Obama administration are working to stop his administration from working towards its goals. This is not necessarily wrong, but it is inaccurate to call it a deep state. America’s three branches of government are structured to be as removed from one another as possible. The many agencies work together as part of the federal government but they work on very different tasks. Aside from the highest ranks of the federal government, they mostly comprise of individuals that do not communicate with one another. Individuals in the National Parks Service or National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are not power players interested in influencing national politics. Instead, they are environmentalists and scientists unhappy with how their particular field is going and so they take whatever means they have to show disapproval. A different complaint is that old hires from the Obama administration are “not loyal” to Trump. This is a more accurate description of the issue, but there is great distance between individuals not being loyal to a regime and a wide and unified effort to work against it.  For a great read on the ‘Deep State’, see this piece.

 

Leakers in higher levels of the government exist as well. Reality Winner is one such example. She leaked classified information that supported the claim that Russia was meddling in the US elections and will be in jail for a long time because she was caught. There is no evidence tying her to a greater conspiracy to leak information to undermine the regime, which would bolster Trump’s claim. Instead, it appears that she acted out of her own convictions to provide information to the public about what she saw as a government cover up.

 

Accusations of leaking also come up against members of Trump’s administration, the people he hand picked. Some in this group accuse others of leaking to the press, possibly because of individual power politics or because it is possible that Trump’s closest allies are also using extraordinary means of controlling the President. Some claim that Trump doesn’t listen to suggestions and instead prefers to surround himself with yes-men that will support him no matter what. If this is the case, and he appears to be taking a course of action that his allies see as a mistake that could cost him dearly in the long run, why wouldn’t they resort to media pressure in order to sway the president’s decisions? If this is not the case, why is Trump’s A-team so disorganized that it is eating itself alive with accusations of leaking?

 

This leads to the next Trump defense, that the media is collaborating against him. ‘Fake News’ has been thrown around by both sides over the past year. The Russian pro-Trump news will be discussed later. But first, Trump’s defense against the ‘fake news media’ must be considered. Trump has accused the media of  lying in order to make him look bad. There is truth to this. For example, Trump attacked the media for stating that 17 of the nation’s intelligence agencies support the claim that Russia worked to elect Trump during the elections. However, the truth is that only 4 of the agencies support that claim. The other 13, such as Coastal Intelligence, have no formal opinion because that is outside their jurisdiction. The question is if this is fake or inaccurate news.

 

Another such example would be the first ‘fake news’ scandal to hit Trump after the election. The administration bragged that it was the most attended inauguration in history, while the facts show that this is completely incorrect. However, Trump doubled down and the administration was ridiculed for what U.S. Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway claimed was “alternative facts”. The former Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, who argued in support of the claim has since taken it back. Other cases of the Fake News centered around the idea of anonymous sources. Many leakers, or simply individuals that talk to the press without leaking documents, maintain anonymity because not doing so would result in their firing or prison time. The anonymous claims in the media have been ridiculed by Trump and his supporters, and many  turned out to be true. That is because anonymous sources are a common tactic used by journalists who fact check and verify such information from as many possible sources as possible before publishing it.

 

There has been one incident in which anonymous sources about the Trump Administration proved to be incorrect, and the three journalists resigned. Though this fed the Fake News narrative of the Trump administration, the fact is that overwhelmingly more anonymous sources have proven correct then not, and few have been proven wrong.

 

Another interesting defense of Trump has been to turn the accusations of Russian meddling around to attack Hillary. He accused her, and the Democratic Party, of colluding with Ukraine against him. This, again, has truth to it. The Democratic Party did send an operative to Ukraine to try to find information regarding Paul Manafort’s previously mentioned ties to pro-Russian oligarchs. This is, in and of itself, collusion with a foreign entity. It is not being disputed by the Democratic Party in the way that Trump is vehemently disputing his supposed ties to Russia.

 

However, the details complicate the narrative. For one, this talking point only appeared after Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr. was revealed to have held a meeting with a Russian lawyer (among others) to collect information on Hillary, which was organized with an explicit warning that it could be part of the Russian effort to get Trump elected. The meeting, as far as public knowledge goes so far, did not produce any results and the official Trump Jr. defense was that he was interested in meeting with the Russian lawyer to see what information they had on Hillary to determine if she was ‘fit for office’, which admits a failed collusion attempt. Also, Trump’s son, son-in-law, and campaign manager were all involved in the meeting as opposed to a lower level democratic staffer. Another important factor to note is that Ukraine was at that point ruled by a party that is geared towards Europe and the US while Russia has butted heads with the US on the world stage for years. The two are unequal comparisons, but turning the narrative around and accusing Hillary of collusion was step one in both defending his son’s meeting and attacking the investigation into his son’s collusion. After all, if Hillary’s collusion is ignored, how is it fair?

 

Another major talking point is that Trump wants peace with Russia. According to this, the Democrat’s attempt at blaming Russia for their loss is destroying relations between Russia and the US, which is far from what any peace-loving American would want. However, this is not something that should be accepted simply as that. Accepting the ‘pro-peace argument’ without critically analyzing the rest of the issue means not considering whether or not the leader of the US has ties to Russia that can be manipulated by the Russians in a negative way.

 

Trump even claimed that Putin would have wanted Hillary to win the election  because he is a “big military person” who would have worked to strengthen America’s military capabilities while “if Hillary had won, our military would be decimated.” But this again ignores the reality. As the right and moreso, the left media have pointed out, she has a track record of supporting America’s wars, most recently in Libya. Even more so damning is that Trump campaigned under the idea of America First, going away from being the world police and focusing on building up America. Now that he is president, Trump has shifted back into the previous administration’s policies of waging war, which has resulted in criticisms from even his more loyal supporters. There is one truth to this Trump’s claim though: Trump’s energy policies are not in Russia’s interests. With much of Russia’s income coming from selling gas, a revived US coal industry, as well as fracking and other forms of energy that the US has large amounts of is a threat to Russia’s purse strings. Reviving coal jobs is crucial for Trump who campaigned on returning middle class jobs to America.

 

The rest of the defense is focused on attacking the supposed lack of evidence of the investigation against Trump. He and his supporters claim that there is no evidence of collusion. When evidence was shown via the media, for example the meeting previously mentioned with Trump Jr. and the Russian Lawyer, the defensive narrative moved to “even if there was collusion, is it a crime” and even “even if he is guilty, do you care?”. Trump has even blamed Obama for not stopping collusion, while denying collusion.

 

The investigation into the alleged collusion is still ongoing. What we do know is due to individuals that have leaked information to the press. The investigation is being done by Robert Mueller, former director of the FBI. Even though he has a strong unbiased track record of working under both parties, the Trump wing of the Republican Party is now working hard to discredit him. However, he has stayed out of the spotlight and brought many high profile lawyers to his side to assist in the investigation. These lawyers are a diverse group, but many of them are experts in financial crimes, which speaks to the nature of their investigation.

 

So what do we know about the Trump/Russia connection so far?

 

What we do know is due to leaks to the press. Much of the media reports are denied by the Trump team, but the press has learned the art of dealing with them. For example, when the meeting between Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer was revealed, the press leaked little bits of information at a time to elicit an excuse from Jr., then leaking more the next day to show that the excuse is a lie. Donald Jr. changed his story four different times, each one conveniently ignoring damning information. While this is the best example, it is not the only. The press is working hard to show the American people what is going on, and that has turned it into the enemy of the Trump partisans.

 

The first important thing to note is the many ties between Trump, his allies, and Russia. There are many gaps between the links that don’t yet explain exactly what happened, but the links are there and they are indisputable. And as time passes, more information will be revealed and more will make sense.

 

Before, during, and after the elections, Trump denied any links to Russia, be they political or business. This was done in no unclear fashion, such as one tweet that states “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”. However, during the campaign Trump’s lawyer (in cooperation with Trump) was working to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. To build a tower as a private individual is completely legal. To do so while president of a country whose policies can make or break such a deal, however, is not. As president, Trump (or whoever is in his shoes) is not supposed to be connected in any way to his former businesses to make sure his actions are done for the interests of his country, not his bank account. However, his family has so many ties to the business world that this is nearly impossible. His son-in-law, for example, has not revealed information regarding business holdings or meetings with foreign nationals or private emails he can communicate privately on in his security clearance form even though he has revised it many times (including what has already been revealed in the press), while his son, the same one who was caught meeting a Russian lawyer to collect dirt on Hillary, is now in charge of the Trump Organization. Having a president with such strong business ties is a first for modern America. The leader of the federal government’s ethics office, who is supposed to fight against conflicts of interest resigned because he believed that his position and efforts were ignored.

 

What other business connections are there? Trump held his 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Russia. This is before he entered politics, and is of course completely legal. However, the issue builds up from there. In 2013, Trump was not a president but a globally respected businessman. He entertained the thought of running for president many times, however, and all this made him a valuable target for Russia in the sense that they could have started collecting kompromat, or compromising material on him just in case. While this is all speculative, it is not unreasonable. In the early days of the USSR, the Soviet Union used whatever it could to get information, even going to the point where they set up special plumbing in rooms visited by foreign leaders to collect their feces in order to study it and pinpoint biological weaknesses that could be exploited. Russia, America, China, and many of the other great powers go through great lengths and have become very creative in the pursuit of intelligence. Why wouldn’t Russian intelligence take advantage of such a visit?

 

So does Russia have Kompromat on Trump? Who knows. The leading theory for this is found in the Steele Dossier, a private intelligence firm hired by the Democratic Party to see if they can find any information on Trump. Is this collusion? Trump certainly thinks so, especially since the firm was originally hired by Republicans looking to prevent Trump from becoming their presidential nominee. A former British M.I.6 Russia expert wrote it, and while many of the claims in it were found out to be true, at least one appears to be decisively false. However, the US intelligence community is taking the dossier seriously, at least to the point where it is working to verify the claims. So what’s the alleged Kompromat? It’s well known Trump has a very negative opinion of Obama. In his own words, “I don’t hate Obama at all, I just think he is an absolutely terrible president, maybe the worst in our history!”. The dossier claims that this dislike fueled Trump’s decision to rent the room that Obama and his wife slept in during his stay at Moscow, and hire underage prostitutes to urinate on the bed that they slept in. And as per Russian interests in acquiring Kompromat, the act was apparently caught on tape. Trump and company, of course, deny this. Trump’s main defense is that a) he is a germophobe that would never do such a thing and b) he was on alert while in Russia and would never have let himself be in such a position.

 

We have no idea whether this is true or not, but maybe we will find out. However, until we do, this is just a fantasy for those interested in impeaching him. If nothing else, it is hilarious defamation in the form of ‘strategic denial’ which Trump perfected when he forced a republican rival to deny being a serial killer or that his father helped assassinate President Kennedy.
While this possible Kompromat is interesting, it proves nothing. So what else can connect Trump to Russia? For the sake of brevity, here are the most damning news that have yet discussed. Read them with Trump’s denial in mind.  Much of this information would not be so important, if Trump and his team did not put in much effort denying or covering up any such links. Trump’s first national security advisor Michael Flynn resigned 24 days into his job for hiding his conversations with the Russian ambassador. It was later revealed that he was working for Turkish interests during the campaign and kept it a secret, as well as lobbying to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East, which would have included American, Chinese, and Russian companies. Trump’s son in law, along with Flynn, attempted to set up a private channel for Trump and his allies in Russia to talk (using Russian equipment) without being intercepted by US intelligence agencies. Trump’s Attorney General (the head of the Department of Justice, which the FBI falls under) denied any connections to Russia under oath, then was found out to have talked to the Russian ambassador. Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, was found to be 17 million USD in debt to pro-Russian interests from his time working in Ukraine. He also offered private briefings regarding the campaign to a Russian oligarch. And all this is only what we know. The investigation into Trump and his associates is likely to bring more information to the public in the coming months. One such lead is that Manafort is possibly connected to violent protests against US troops in Crimea in 2006, organized by the party that paid him millions, which resulted in the cancelling of NATO exercises.

Mueller, who knows how to build up a case, appears to be targeting Flynn and Manafort, both of which may go to prison for a long time for what is already open information. Their options are to trust in Trump’s pardon abilities (which Mueller has already proven to be weak) or cooperate with the investigation, receiving reduced prison sentences in exchange for information on Donald Trump. This tactic works. It’s how international prosecutors went after low level Serbian officials and use them to build up a solid case against Slobodan Milošević, Yugoslavian president during the Balkan wars.

 

With all this in mind, it is undeniable that there is a connection between Trump and Russia. If it was strictly legal, Trump would have not worked hard to prevent the investigation from going forward (which will be explained soon) nor would he have been talking about how his pardoning powers are absolute, signaling to his allies that they should remain loyal and that he will keep them safe. While the links between all of this are still being investigated, the overwhelming evidence proving that there is a connection between Trump and Russia is not up for debate.

 

So did Russia meddle into the US elections? Possibly. There are multiple ways that it could have happened and none are mutually exclusive. The early theory was that they literally hacked their way into the election. The Department of Homeland Security has officially informed 21 states that there were efforts to hack their election systems though concrete information is still not publicly revealed. Russia was also accused of hacking both the Democratic Party and Republican Party before the elections and then only releasing damning information about the Democrats. This is possible too, but the Trump defense is that the information stolen and then released by WikiLeaks was actually given by a patriotic Democratic Party staffer who saw misconduct he wished to reveal, who was then killed for exposing negative information about Hillary.  This has become a recurring theory in the right, and the story does have unusual circumstance. But even Fox News, the main right wing media in America, has retracted its story about this staffer, while those that still champion this theory cling to the claim, believing that it proves the entire Russia connection to be false. However, even if Russia was not involved through this, many more links can be drawn, regardless of this particular case.

 

The National Security Agency believed that Russia attempted to spear-phish (tricking an individual to sign into a fake website to gain their login information) various individuals and companies connected to the US election. This is not damning because there is no evidence that a single vote was switched from Hillary to Trump.  However, there are many other ways the election could have been compromised that do not involve hacking. The strongest contender now appears to be using Russia’s ability to manipulate social media.

 

And this is where the other side of the fake news argument comes from. There is no denial that we, humans as a whole, are in a period of social tension. The refugee crisis, wave of Islamist global terrorism, a rise in nationalism that is clashing with liberalism, and a host of others factors have created issues that are highly divisive. Along with that, new information technology has created means for people to communicate and share ideas. The problem is that many of these ideas do not have to be true for them to affect the real world. Once an article with inaccurate or outright false information is released, it can change the minds of many people to the point where even proving the news to be wrong becomes impossible. This is only worse when you bring in blogs and vlogs that have no fact checkers and use over the top stories to compete with one another over who can bring in the most readers.

 

And so fake news spread, specifically designed to divide the public with stories such as claiming that Obama was a Muslim born in Kenya. This is untrue, but there are still many people that believe it. It hits a deep nerve within traditional, conservative, republican voters in America, many of whom were unhappy with the first black president so they were willing to believe that he was Muslim (which for the pro-Trump, far right voting block, means he is ideologically connected to the enemy) and happy to believe that he was not born in the US, thus is an illegitimate president. Fake news became so prevalent that it even became an industry in which tech suave individuals who would read the political climate were able to bring in large revenue, just by republishing fake news.

 

And of course, it was recently revealed that large amounts of Russian money was spent on US ads during the campaign season. Rallies on American soil were planned from Russia, focusing on issues that inflame racial tension in the US. This tactic was not used only in the US, but also in Germany, France, and probably many other countries. Though we do not know exactly what each of the ads looks like, we have enough information for it to be obvious what the purpose was.

Secured Borders, a recently deactivated facebook group, that was supportive of anti-immigration policies in the US was actually run by Russians in who posted inflammatory ads and organized rallies. Over time, other groups and ads will be publically revealed. For now we only have leaked information from what Facebook gave congress, but these ads supported Black Lives Matter, Jill Stein, and Bernie Sanders in specific voting districts where they had strong support in order to convince likely democratic voters that Hillary does not deserve their vote. The fact that the Democratic Party was working to help Hillary beat Sanders in the primary election upset many Bernie voters, and Russia had an opportunity to promote the “Never Hillary” movement and deny her certain votes. This scandal was brushed under the rug and is a perfect example of why Trump’s victory cannot be explained simply through blaming Russia; the Democratic Party has plenty of its own problems that disenfranchised many voters on its own.

 

When all of the data is released by Facebook, as Facebook promises to do, chances are that they will have targeted highly specific parts of the US, in what are called Swing States. By targeting particular states or parts of states that are undecided, a few well places ads are able to secretly feed the population with misinformation and have them decide which party wins the state. For some states, it wouldn’t make a difference. For others such as Michigan, Trump won the entire state with just a little over 10,000 votes. In the end, the voting results could be drastically changed not by targeting the whole country (an attempt that would surely raise suspicion) but by targeting a very small group of people as covertly as possible. This intense knowledge of the American voting public is one possible link to collusion. It would explain how the Russians know American society well enough to know who to target and how to target them.

 

This social network engineering wasn’t limited to facebook. The American right had its messages amplified with twitter robots that made sure its views were trending on twitter and other social media. This makes its messages appear stronger and more popular on social media, resulting in even more views. This problem is so serious that Trump himself has retweeted robots that speak highly of him on various occasions. Many similar accounts are not robots, but are believed to be paid online instigators that work for the Kremlin to promote its views across the internet. This is not a new strategy, and it is done by countries and companies all across the world. Twitter has been reluctant to tackle these issues because it is accused of limiting free speech, but more importantly, because removing all of the robots would result in a significant loss of twitter ‘users’ which would hurt its ability to profit off advertising.

 

It is also possible that this was all not the case. Maybe Russia did nothing to interfere with the elections. However, this does not explain its strong connections with the Trump team. That’s why Flynn resigned 21 days into his term and it is why he and Manafort are now under close scrutiny by the special investigation. Russia may have kompromat on certain individuals in the elections, and based off certain facts listed previously, it is quite possible. This can be used to force certain individuals to act how Russia wants them to, under the threat of releasing information that can result in them losing their positions or even going to prison. This blackmail, be it against Trump or one of his close associates, can be used to alter the entire administration’s position.

 

The question still remains, what is Russia looking to gain out of this? There are countless possibilities, and we may never know the full truth. One simplified answer is that Putin preferred Trump to Hillary. Putin and Hillary are not friends. Trump admires Putin. But this does not justify the great risks involved in meddling into the US elections on its own. Certain things that Trump advocated for in the US elections, however, were issues that would benefit Russia’s geopolitical position.

 

Trump has called NATO obsolete and criticized how much US money has gone into the alliance, accusing the other nations of freeloading. This sentiment goes both ways. It can be seen as a call on other allies to spend more on NATO, or interest in pulling back support from the US. Either argument can be made, but as Trump campaigned on anti-interventionism and focusing on building up America and not Afghanistan (an issue that earned Trump much criticism from his base when he went back on it). But to make a parallel in this case to provide context, the notion of focusing on America and pulling back from international politics, or “America First” was popularized by nazi sympathizers during WWII who wanted the US to stay out of foreign wars. Russia’s support for the war in Ukraine is much easier if the US does not assist Ukraine in its war efforts against its separatists.

 

However, the most likely theory comes from the Magnitsky Act. Long story short, a Russian Lawyer by the name of Sergei Magnitsky who was arrested after $230 million of Russian taxes went missing. He was accused of stealing it by the Russian state, who then held him until his health complications and poor living conditions led to a slow and painful death. After his client in this case brought the issue to Washington, the act was passed in his name. It sanctioned many individual associated with this incident in Russia . For the entire story, told by his client before the US Senate, see here.

 

And why is this so important? This can be seen within Russia’s elite as the US working to take down Putin’s power. These sanctions target Russians whose corruption is only felt within Russia. If the Russian government is not the supreme authority they have to answer to, if the US can take away their money without concern who they are loyal to in Russia, then they lose a large part of what keeps them  both loyal to Putin and in power within Russian society; their ability to enrich themselves through corruption at the expense of Russia’s people.

 

Then there are the real world implications of the act. Multiple individuals in Russia had their ability to travel into the US or use US banking system taken away. As the US banking system is tied to the global banking system, this also leads to frozen assets of individuals with power within the Russian system. Exactly how much is frozen is not public knowledge, but considering $230 million was missing in the first place, the total could be similar to this, along with other money, legally or illegally obtained, throughout their careers. That is a lot of money taken out of Russia’s elites, and it is enough to justify drastic action. Whether it on its own is enough is the question. With this possible motive, it is very possible that Trump and his team were not actively working with the Russians. Instead, the Russians were just pushing his campaign along to help ensure that the candidate most favorable to Russia wins. However, they are unlikely to invest such work without knowing that the efforts would be worth it.

 

But in the end, the question that the international community must ask, is whether this is exceptional. Much like the criticism of media terrorist coverage, the world only seems to care when the misdeed harms the global north. If a terrorist attack is done on the bottom, such as in Iraq, the rest of the world doesn’t seem to care, even if dozens die. Meanwhile if there is a comparatively minor attack in France, the media fixates on it for days and Facebook creates a feature to let users around the world show ‘solidarity’ by adding a French flag to their profile picture.

 

The same rules apply to politics. The US can force regime change in Iraq and Libya (among many others) through force. It can use its economic tools to push a country in the direction it wants, such as it did to Yugoslavia when it made economic aid to the multi-ethnic state dependent on the behaviour of nationalistic leaders in each of its republics who were trying to undermine that same multi-ethnic state, thus merely strengthening their position. It can sanction whole countries until their leaders change. It even used social media for this purpose as well, creating a Twitter alternative in Cuba so that it can control the narrative, instead of simply affecting it. This all occurs with little scrutiny and the US has used such tactics unopposed since the end of the Cold War. But now that America has quite possibly been successfully targeted, we see how vulnerable today’s world order really is. If America supports liberal, democratic color revolutions around the former Soviet Union, is Russia supporting anti-liberal, ‘counter-color revolutions’ in America or elsewhere an act of war, realpolitik, or simply America’s eggs coming home to roost?

 

The pro-Trump approach is uncritical analysis, ignoring the smoke and claiming there is no fire. At the scandal, the narrative has been that there is no evidence. As evidence comes up, it is supposedly fake and planted by the Deep State or its Fake News partners. These supposed America First patriots are blindly following Trump, ignoring the fact that their genuine concerns turned them into “useful idiots” and enabled them to be used by Putin. They also ignore history. Richard Nixon’s impeachment took two years to process, and the accusations against him were a fraction of what we see now. This is not a simple case that can be solved in a few months or maybe even a year.

 

The other approach is to challenge the results. This is a complicated task, as it can further polarize an already highly polarized country. Trump has held many rallies after his election victory, and these rallies have seen him make claims that the attack on him and his presidency is an attack on his supporters. Instead of an unbiased investigation and impeaching a president whose electoral victory is in question and whose power may be corrupted, the Deep State is removing Trump because it sees him as a risk to its entrenched power. This is dangerous and it sets the tone for the future; Trump may not leave office willingly, even if he is forced to do so through a legal impeachment process.

 

However, this is all far down the line. We are still in the infancy stages of this scandal, and there are many twists and turns ahead. Regardless of where this ends, the global resurgence of nationalists who hate liberalism and admire Putin for being a strong man that takes care of his state is not likely to end anytime soon. Neither are the issues that helped divide the US and the world, such as the refugee crisis or global Islamist terrorism. The same goes for new technology that is yet unregulated and vulnerable to political manipulation. For now, however, there is not much we can do besides hope that the investigation being done now finds enough facts so that hard truth is established, so that alternative facts are revealed for what they are, and that lessons are learned so that the mistakes need not be repeated.

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