By all means read the entirety of Jonathan Chait’s 7.8.18 New York article, “Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart Or His Handler?: A plausible theory of mind-boggling collusion.” But consider the final six paragraphs:
“The logic of Russia’s role in helping Trump has not changed since the election. If Trump’s campaign hired hackers to penetrate his opponent’s communications or voting machines, they would risk arrest. But Putin can hire hackers with impunity. Mueller can indict Russians, and he has, but he can’t arrest them unless they decide to leave Russia. Outsourcing Trump’s hacking work to Putin made perfect sense for both men in 2016, and still does.
“And if you’re Putin, embarking upon a coveted summit with the most Russophilic president since World War II, who is taking a crowbar to the alliance of your enemies, why wouldn’t you help him in 2018 and 2020?
“Ever since the fall of 2016, when Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell privately turned down an Obama-administration proposal for a bipartisan warning to Russia not to interfere in the election, the underlying dynamic has been set: Most Republicans would rather win an election with Putin’s help than lose one without it. The Democrats, brimming with rage, threaten to investigate Russian activity if they win a chamber of Congress this November. For Putin to redouble his attack — by hacking into voting machines or some other method — would be both strategic and in keeping with his personality. Why stop now?
“Meanwhile, the White House has eliminated its top cybersecurity position. That might simply reflect a Republican bias against bureaucratic expertise. But it might also be just what it looks like: The cop on the beat is being fired because his boss is in cahoots with the crooks.
“Shortly before Trump’s inauguration, according to Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman, Israeli intelligence officials gathered at CIA headquarters, where they were told something astonishing: Russia, the agency believed, had ‘leverages of pressure’ over the incoming president. Therefore, the agency advised the Israelis to consider the possibility that Trump might pass their secrets on to Russia. The Israelis dismissed the warning as outlandish. Who could believe that the world’s most powerful country was about to hand its presidency to a Russian dupe? That the United States government had, essentially, fallen?
“A few months later, Trump invited Russian diplomats into the Oval Office. He boasted to them that he had fired ‘nut job’ James Comey. ‘I faced great pressure because of Russia…that’s taken off.’ At the same meeting, Trump passed on to the Russians a highly sensitive intelligence secret Israel had captured from a valuable source inside ISIS. It was the precise danger Israel had been cautioned about.
“Like many of the suspicious facts surrounding Trump’s relations with Russia, it was possible to construct a semi-innocent defense. Maybe he just likes to brag about what he knows. Maybe he’s just too doddering to remember what’s a secret. And as often happens, these unwieldy explanations gained general acceptance. It seemed just too crazy to consider the alternative: It was all exactly what it appeared to be.”‘
Twitter comment from Tom Nichols (@radiofreetom): “[Chait’s] story is two stories. (1) the facts (which are not, or should not, be in dispute) about Trump, the Trump family, the Trump campaign and their staggering amount of points of contact with Russia, and (2) what those facts mean.
“ People want to trash the story because of Chait’s interpretations of those facts as pointing to something more sinister and purposeful than they’d like to believe. I’ll get to that, but it’s important to say it again: [there’s] a staggering amount of connection to Russia.
“It’s not illegal to have contacts with Russia. But this many contacts with Russia — and with the Putin government — is astonishing. And until now, because it’s dribbled out over months, it’s not looked as crazy as it does when you assemble them all in one place as Chait did.
“As long as you look at any small number of those points of contact, you can brush it off (or try to), but when you compile them all together, as most of us who follow Russia did, it’s damning.
“Two things, in my opinion, are undeniable and unremarkable, even though Chait saying them has people going nuts: First, the Russians invested in Trump early. Second, that Trump’s dealings with Russia provide leverage over a man whose finances won’t bear scrutiny.
“Even without Manafort and Flynn, Trump’s finances are evidence enough of multiple problems. The Russian mob, the Russian intel services, the Russian business community, the Russian govt…are basically overlapping structures.
“You can’t say ‘Well, it was just some real estate deals.’ Because you can’t deal with just one arm of that octopus. If you’re in deep with the mob, or oligarchs, or the Russian state, you’re in deep with all of them. That’s just how it is.
“It was just a freak accident that a rich New York doofus ended up being president, but what luck for the Russians: Trump was just a junk stock in 1987. Today, he’s a blue chip. But does that mean he’s a Red President? No.
“It could well be that Trump does what he anticipates the Russians would want, because he’s afraid of them. Or the Russians indicate what would be the act of a friend, via conversation, and Trump just goes with it. That doesn’t mean he’s an agent taking orders.
“There is no way, in my view — no way — that Russia does not have damaging personal and financial information about the President. Whether it’s as bad as Chait argues, or whether Trump is directly responding to it, is arguable.
“Trump defenders are preemptively shelling the whole piece because they know that even if you took Chait’s assertions out of it, and boiled it down to the facts of the case, it’s undeniably awful.
“Because Donald Trump, in my opinion, never had any serious intention of winning the presidency. I think he, and others like Manafort and Flynn, didn’t see a problem with their Russia contacts because they assumed that Hillary would win and were just as happy with that outcome.
“I think when Trump won, the existence of everything Russia knows about Trump, his family, and his business, became salient, and protecting all that became Job One for a big part of the administration. Chait just catalogued all that.”