The “cloud” that is the Russia scandal continues to follow Donald Trump wherever he goes and whatever he does. That is, in large part, due to his own behavior.
As The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin put it in her article from today: “Trump will blame anyone for anything—except Russia for its conduct.”
Even as he signed the Russian sanctions bill that won overwhelming bipartisan support from an increasingly partisan and divided Congress, Donald Trump defied the majority consensus in the country and the government that Russia acted as a malicious foreign adversary during the 2016 election and needs to be punished accordingly. He defied this not by dictatorially refusing to sign the sanctions bill, a veto which would have definitively been overridden by the Congress that passed the bill with almost complete consensus.
He did, however, officially reject the bill in public statements and has yet to adequately condemn Vladimir Putin and the Russian actors who instigated and perpetuated the election interference which contributed to Trump’s election last November, as well as the massive and likely ongoing disinformation attacks that have compounded an already tricky news authentication process.
The sanctions are also leveled at Russia for its other malicious overreaching, including meddling in the elections of European allies, invading its neighbors, supporting the inhumane Syrian government and repressing its own citizens in every way.
Rubin states: “Trump refuses to take issue with all that or to acknowledge that such conduct is contrary to U.S. interests.”
Trump tweeted at 5:18 am Thursday morning: “Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!”
From a president who attacks anyone he disagrees with, including his closest allies and the free press, his attack on Congress isn’t all that surprising. It is a dangerous step, however, and one that could have been made even more dangerous had he decided not to sign the sanctions bill and stepped away from what some are calling “authoritarian curiosity” and into full authoritarian exploration and execution.
Trump continues to deny the validity of Russia’s interference in the US election, a move that is at best questionable considering the immense scrutiny he is under in regards to his and his team’s possible collaboration in that interference. The BBC writes: “The US intelligence community, including the CIA and NSA, has determined that Russia sought to boost Mr. Trump’s chances of victory in November 2016 presidential election.”
It seems that Trump is alone among world leaders in denying that this interference occurred and that it came from Russia; except, of course, when it comes to Russia itself.
Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in early July, just after meeting with Donald Trump fat the G20 Summit in Germany: “Our position is well-known. There is no ground to believe that Russia interfered in the U.S. electoral process.”
Trump and his team have repeatedly and vehemently denied colluding, conspiring or collaborating with the various Russian efforts to get Trump elected and undermine the American electoral process and democracy itself. This even as story after story floods out about various meetings between Trump team members and Russian representatives. The most recent bombshell in that club came when it was revealed that Trump’s oldest son, don Jr. met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton in exchange for discussions about sanctions and adoption. Putin banned the adoption of Russian orphans after sanctions against Russian oligarchs were passed in response to the torture and murder of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Russian prison.
It was also revealed that President Trump personally dictated Don Jr.’s original statement bout that meeting ahead of a New York Times article about it, in which it was falsely called a meeting about adoption and nothing else.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who also has alleged ties to Russian leaders, has stated that “he and the President didn’t believe the new sanctions would ‘be helpful to our efforts’ on Russian diplomacy.”
When he signed the bill, Trump made a non-Twitter statement: “I built a truly great company worth many billions of dollars. That is a big part of the reason I was elected. As President, I can make far better deals with foreign countries than Congress.”
This statement defies the evidence of his now six-month-old Presidency, in which he has gotten little done besides signing Executive Orders a, Tweeting and continually stirring up scandal. His first opportunity to deal-make has died and died again; that was, of course, the effort to repeal and/or replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
In response to the new sanctions being passed officially in Congress, Putin had nearly 800 American diplomats ejected from Russia.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev responded to Trump’s signing of the bill on Facebook. Medvedev, who preceded Putin as President, wrote that “The hope for improving our relations with the new US administration is now over,” and accused the Trump Administration of waging a “full-scale trade war.”
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated Wednesday that “retaliatory measures already have been taken” in response to the sanctions and the Foreign Ministry added that they “naturally reserve the right for other countermeasures.”
Prime Minister Medvedev also wrote in his Facebook post that “Trump’s administration has demonstrated total impotence by surrendering its executive authority to Congress in the most humiliating way.” The statement, which shows a clear lack of understanding for how Democracy works, is also a likely jab at Trump’s preoccupation with size and all the things that connotes.
All of this is compounded by the news that broke Thursday afternoon that Special Counsel Robert Mueller “has issued grand jury subpoenas related to Donald Trump Jrs’s 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower.”
Mueller is seeking documents as well as testimony from those involved with the meeting, according to both The Wall Street Journal and Reuters.
Federal investigators have reportedly been focusing much of their attentions on financial connections between Trump, his associates and Russia, reportedly finding these to be “the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward.”
In May subpoenas were issued to associates of fired-national security adviser Michael Flynn. That grand jury was reportedly sitting in Alexandria, Virginia, but new reports indicate that Mueller will be using a grand jury in D.C. closer to his team’s offices.