Some Trump-style spec­u­la­tion on the GOP, Putin

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Dana Mil­bank

— Don­ald Trump never met a con­spir­acy the­ory he didn’t like — un­til now.

He has dab­bled in, among other things, the no­tion that Pres­i­dent Obama is a Mus­lim born in Kenya, that Supreme Court Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia was mur­dered and that Ted Cruz’s fa­ther was in­volved in the JFK as­sas­si­na­tion.

But on one topic, Trump is con­spic­u­ously in­cu­ri­ous: the sug­ges­tion that he is com­plicit in a plan by Vladimir Putin to in­flu­ence the U.S. elec­tion. Con­sider how Trump might re­act to the fol­low­ing fact pat­tern if the can­di­date in­volved weren’t “Don­ald Trump” but — let’s pick a name at ran­dom here — “Hil­lary Clin­ton”:

The can­di­date’s real es­tate em­pire, un­able to bor­row from most U.S. banks, gets cap­i­tal from Rus­sian sources. Such trans­fers couldn’t oc­cur with­out Putin’s bless­ing.

The can­di­date’s cam­paign man­ager, Paul Manafort, has worked ex­ten­sively for pro-Putin oli­garchs.

One of the can­di­date’s for­eign pol­icy ad­vis­ers, Michael Flynn, was filmed sit­ting with Putin at a Moscow ban­quet cel­e­brat­ing a Rus­sian pro­pa­ganda net­work.

An­other ad­viser, Carter Page, has close ties to Gazprom, the Rus­sian en­ergy com­pany un­der Putin’s thumb.

One of the only in­ter­fer­ences the cam­paign made in the Repub­li­can plat­form was to re­move lan­guage call­ing for “pro­vid­ing lethal de­fen­sive weapons” to Ukraine in its fight against Rus­sian-backed sep­a­ratists.

The can­di­date cast doubt on the util­ity of NATO and said he might not come to the aid of Baltic mem­bers of the al­liance at­tacked by Rus­sia.

Putin has aimed to desta­bi­lize ri­val pow­ers by sup­port­ing ex­trem­ist par­ties in sev­eral Euro­pean coun­tries. His state news out­lets have been heav­ily sup­port­ive of the can­di­date.

The Rus­sian am­bas­sador to the United States at­tended a cam­paign speech by the can­di­date, and Putin de­scribed the can­di­date as “tal­ented.” The can­di­date said he was hon­ored.

Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence hacked the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and, ex­perts say, handed the emails to Wik­iLeaks for re­lease on the eve of the Demo­cratic con­ven­tion.

If the Clin­ton cam­paign were so ex­ten­sively in­ter­wo­ven with Putin’s Rus­sia, it’s a safe bet that Trump would be de­mand­ing that Clin­ton re­lease her tax re­turns to prove that she’s not be­holden to Putin — just as he de­manded that Obama re­lease his birth cer­tifi­cate.

PHILADEL­PHIA

He would also very likely float al­le­ga­tions mas­querad­ing as ques­tions by us­ing the phrases “a lot of peo­ple have said” or “I’m hear­ing,” or “there’s some­thing we don’t know about.” But Trump, I’m hear­ing, won’t be do­ing that in this case. So let’s help him. The fol­low­ing are all phrases Trump has used to float con­spir­acy the­o­ries — but this time ap­plied to his Putin ties — com­bined with wild Trump­style spec­u­la­tion.

A lot of peo­ple have said Putin is try­ing to get Trump elected so he can black­mail the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent. Some­body told me Trump would com­pletely go out of busi­ness if Putin took back all the Rus­sian money he let Trump have. I don’t know ex­actly what’s go­ing on, but I just heard Trump’s air­plane would be grounded im­me­di­ately.

Manafort help­ing the oli­garchs? Flynn hav­ing din­ner with Putin? Page get­ting money from Gazprom? No co­in­ci­dence! Now it’s com­ing out that Putin wants to desta­bi­lize Amer­ica. There’s some­thing fishy about the whole thing.

And why did Trump pro­pose chang­ing NATO and Ukraine pol­icy in ways that would ben­e­fit Putin? Ob­vi­ously some peo­ple think it’s evil in­ten­tions. I think it’s in­com­pe­tence. Re­gard­less, a lot of peo­ple think it’s evil in­ten­tions.

I don’t bring up the pos­si­bil­ity that Trump has al­ready been bribed or black­mailed by Putin be­cause I don’t know enough to re­ally dis­cuss it. I will say there are peo­ple who con­tinue to bring it up be­cause they think it was ab­so­lutely bribery and black­mail. I don’t do that be­cause I don’t think it’s fair.

I’m hear­ing it’s a big topic, the ques­tion of whether Trump is guilty of trea­son. I’m not sure. I mean, let peo­ple make their own de­ter­mi­na­tion. Trump never de­nied that Putin was his pa­tron.

He can­not give us his tax re­turns. He didn’t pay his taxes, or, if he did, there’s some­thing in those re­turns that is very bad for him. Now, some­body told me — and I have no idea whether this is bad for him or not, but per­haps it would be — that he owes bil­lions to Putin. Some­body said, ‘ Maybe that’s the rea­son he doesn’t want to show his re­turns.’ I don’t think so. I just don’t think he paid his taxes.

Why is Trump so em­phatic about not talk­ing about his Putin con­nec­tions? He gets it bet­ter than any­body un­der­stands. There’s some­thing go­ing on. There’s some­thing we don’t know about. I don’t know. All I know is what’s on the In­ter­net. Wow!

Dana Mil­bank is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact him at danamil­bank@wash­post.com.

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