Sunday, July 15, 2018

BTRTN: What Does Putin Have on Trump? Duh!

It's time for Donald Trump to Helsinki or swim, and once again we hear pundits wonder what exactly Vladimir Putin has on Trump that causes the President to endlessly supplicate himself before the Russian leader. Steve thinks the answer it is pretty obvious.

If we were all truly mature, objective, and fair-minded people, we’d acknowledge that for the city of London to allow a giant hot-air balloon portraying Donald Trump as a whining infant to float above the city during his official visit was highly inappropriate, utterly undignified, and a gross insult. 

To babies, that is.
Hey, when babies are filled with hot air, they just gently burp or fart. They don’t violently expunge noxious super-heated gas into the global ecosystem in the form of insults, lies, and embarrassing self-aggrandizement. 

Still, you just have to give credit to Donald Trump for one thing: Every single time we think he has hit absolute rock bottom, this guy manages to dig deep and stun us with his creativity in finding new ways to plumb the depths of repulsion and obscenity. We thought his well would have run dry after Charlottesville, Stormy, and Kim Jong-Un-reliable, but then his zero-tolerance immigration policy rips infants from their mothers. But wait, there’s more! Just this week the United States of America comes out against breast milk. Isn’t that kind of like Jeff Bezos coming out against the internet? Perhaps the reason that Trump insisted on separating asylum-seeking mothers from their infants is because he suspected them of feeding their children something other than American-made, Fortune 500 investment-grade infant formula.  Ah, now it all makes sense!

What next? Perhaps Trump will tweet during Sunday’s World Cup final that soccer is a stupid sport played by shithole countries. Like, uh, France and Croatia

But the real issue of the week was the President’s journey through the ass darkly, a bold overseas adventure in which he appeared determined to turn everything backward, inside-out, and upside-down. In rapid sequence he attempted to callously humiliate the women leading our two most powerful NATO allies, all while noting with his ever charming insouciance that his one-on-one with Vladimir Putin on Monday would likely be the easiest of his meetings with global leaders.

Of course that will be the easiest, silly! All you are going to do in that meeting is take orders!

But just as the President was spending literally tens of seconds prepping for Putin, Bob Mueller demonstrated rare showmanship by dropping a 29-page indictment against twelve officials in the Russian government, thereby officially accusing a hostile nation of interfering with our election for the purpose of swaying the outcome toward Donald Trump. For any other president, this would provide rationale for either cancelling the summit entirely, or using the opportunity to brazenly challenge the leader of the accused nation to defend his actions. Not this president. The last time Trump “confronted” Putin on the issue of election meddling, Trump hastily took Putin’s declaration of innocence at face value. And we certainly see no indication that Trump will cancel his long-awaited bromantic interlude. I wish I knew how to quit you, Vlad.

Which brings us to the question of the day: what, exactly does Vladimir Putin hold over Donald Trump that causes our president to insult just about everybody else on earth except the leader of the nation that has become our most dangerous enemy?

What hath Vlad got?

Many, many people seem utterly stumped about the nature of Putin’s Kryptonite. They make the rounds of cable news shows with the sotto voce and smug smirks of beltway cognoscenti. 

Is it the famous pee-pee tape?

Is it evidence of money laundering by Trump’s company?

Is it evidence of massive tax evasion by Trump and his family?

Or is it just so damn obvious that all this meandering speculation is a waste of time?

Robert Mueller’s new round of indictment’s has been referred to by a number of pundits as the second act in a three-act play. The first round of indictments served to establish that a wide variety of criminal activities had been committed by Trump campaign officials, and that Russian nationals were accused of interfering in the U.S. election. In the current “Act II,” Mueller established that the Russian government was directing the election meddling. Act III, the theory goes, is that Mueller will close the final loop and connect the dots between the Russian government and citizens of the United States of America, with the strong possibility being that officials of the Trump campaign will be charged. The sole lingering question will be whether those U.S. citizens were acting with the awareness, understanding, and direction of candidate or President Donald Trump.

In short, Robert Mueller has made official what everyone has long known: the Russian government was purposefully, systematically, and relentlessly attempting to influence the 2016 election in order to help Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.  And now Mueller is on the trail to discovering which – if any – U.S. citizens aided, abetted, or participated in this activity.

The obvious implication of this is that Vladimir Putin therefore already knows exactly what Mueller is trying to find out. Putin knows which U.S citizens were contacted, if U.S. citizens were compromised, and if any of those individuals collaborated. Given that this has been a Russian intelligence operation, it’s actually a pretty safe bet that the Russians have evidence – video, email, text, audio recordings – if any Trump campaign officials were actually working with Russian intelligence. 
If such working relationships were established, it would not be hard to imagine that trained Russian intelligence officers worked their U.S. contacts to establish exactly who in the Trump hierarchy was aware of the cooperation.

So there does not need to be a whole lot of rampant speculation as to what Putin may hold over Trump. If Putin ever found Trump to be no longer of value, all he would need to do is put evidence of collusion in a FedEx box marked “Bob Mueller, D.C., U.S.A.” and watch the Trump presidency teeter. And all it would take is an audio recording of one Trump lieutenant assuring his Russian contact that Trump is “in the loop,” and Trump's presidency would collapse.

If there was collusion, Putin knows about every text, email, phone call, discussion, and agreement. That's what he has on Donald Trump. And that would explain why Donald Trump treats Putin like Darth Vader treats the Emperor.

So far, you’d have to grade Trump as an A+ in delivering the things that make Putin happy. Ruining the NATO alliance and any semblance of trust among its leaders is just a good week’s work. Destroying trust in U.S. institutions of government like the F.B.I. is a big win. Destroying bipartisan cooperation in the U.S. Congress is a huge victory for Putin. Discrediting the free press in the United States is a gigantic triumph for Putin. Inflaming societal polarization in the United States is a titanic accomplishment for Putin. Causing the United States to no longer be viewed as the world’s pinnacle of freedom, democracy, and global citizenship is game, set, and match.

What do you suppose they are going to talk about on Monday?

One guess is that they Vladimir Putin will want to talk about is how to make sure Donald Trump gets re-elected. Why rent the President of the United States for four years when you can leverage that into an option to buy?

Putin’s a shrewd guy. If he wants to make sure that Trump gets re-elected, the first sign would be to see if he throws Trump a bone in Helsinki. Maybe Putin suggests that they announce some grand agreement to do something about the endless mess in Syria. Maybe Putin offers to join Trump in shutting down Kim Jong-un.  It could be a Munich-evoking assurance that Putin will initiate no other Crimea-like annexations in former U.S.S.R. states like Estonia. Perhaps it’s a vague communique promising a dialog on reducing nuclear arsenals. All Putin has to do is make sure that Donald Trump comes out of Helsinki with a win that he can crow about back home and which serves to validate Trump’s emphasis on establishing a positive working relationship with Putin. Donald Trump has a nauseating habit of walking away from every shit storm he creates with a resounding declaration of victory. In the case of this meeting, Putin would seem to have self-interest in helping Trump do so.

But wouldn't it be one too many ironies in the fire if Putin allocated time to counseling his prized asset on how to get re-elected, all so that Putin can continue to shape U.S policy for another four years. Imagine Putin spending the final twenty minutes of their summit lecturing Trump that he cannot win in 2020 by continuing to appeal only to his base, and urging that he develop strategies to recapture the less-extreme Republicans who enabled his victory in 2016. And, turning away from the translators, perhaps Putin provides a quick assurance that the digital hit men that took down Hillary Clinton are ready to re-up.

If none of that is persuasive, maybe Putin just gives Trump a present: a brand new iPhone that has a MP3 recording of Don, Jr. assuring a Russian operative that he has brought his father completely up to date on the June 9 meeting in Trump Tower.  

Who knows? 

Here at BTRTN, we’ve long hypothesized that the only animating belief structure guiding the Trump presidency is a desperate need to retain power so that Donald Trump and his family do not spend the rest of their lives in jail. 

Trump has no specific beliefs about Supreme Court justices other than that he has to pick someone who will undo Roe v. Wade so that Trump can check that box for his base.

Trump may actually personally favor gun legislation, but he would never act on it if it risks the support of the NRA. 

Sometimes I wonder if Trump is actually not a racist, but rather an amoral Machiavellian who simply concluded that appearing to be a racist is great for his polling numbers in his base. 

And that amoral Machiavellian is showing up in Helsinki on Monday, quite possibly to supplicate himself before a man who may be the master puppeteer on the planet Earth. 

Yeah, Donald, it will be an easy meeting. All you have to do is listen to your orders with your mouth plastered shut.

Kind of like a hot air balloon floating over London. 

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