I will reiterate what I said in an earlier post:
Donald Trump is pushing the conspiracy theories of his pal Vladimir Putin. Democrats Say Trump’s Ukraine Conspiracy Theories Parallel Putin’s. During Friday’s questioning of Marie Yovanovitch, the former US ambassador to Ukraine, Daniel Goldman, a top Democratic aide on the House Intelligence Committee, cited a February 2, 2017, joint press conference held by Putin and the far-right leader of Hungary, Viktor Orban. In it, Putin pushed the view that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 US election.
“We all know, during the presidential campaign in the United States, the Ukrainian government adopted a unilateral position in favor of one candidate,” Putin said. “More than that, certain oligarchs, certainly with the approval of the political leadership, funded this candidate, or female candidate, to be more precise.”
Asked about Putin’s statement, Yovanovitch said that amid intense concern in the United States about Russian meddling, it was “classic” for Putin, a former KGB officer, “to try to throw off the scent and create an alternative narrative that maybe might get picked up and get some credence.”
Conspiracy theories about Ukraine interfering in the 2016 election have been seized upon by Trump defenders and by Trump himself.
The Washington Post reported that, Surprise: Trump allegedly got his Ukraine conspiracy theory from the Russia-tied criminals on his campaign.
Trump’s Ukraine conspiracy theory appears to have been propagated by two top aides who were central figures in the special counsel’s investigation: Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn. The conspiracy theory also was apparently fertilized by Manafort associate Konstantin Kilimnik.
The assertion that Kilimnik has ties to Russian intelligence agencies, or is a Russian intelligence operative, was a central part of the theory in the Mueller Report.
The three of them appear to have played a role in convincing Trump that Russia did not actually interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, despite what both Mueller and the U.S. intelligence community have concluded, and that it was actually Ukraine.
Now the entire Republican Party and its conservative media propaganda machine are all-in on this Russian intelligence conspiracy theory as well. They are doing the Kremlin’s work for them.
Julia Davis writes atThe Daily Beast, Russia Loves the Impeachment Hearings Because GOP Is Parroting Kremlin Propaganda:
As Russia’s state media watch impeachment proceedings against U.S. President Donald J. Trump they’re loving what they see. They don’t think the man they brag about getting elected is in much danger. They listen in delight as Republicans parrot conspiracy theories first launched by Russians. And they gloat about the way Trump removed U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, because they blame her for promoting democratic “color revolutions” that weakened Moscow’s hold on the former Soviet empire. Best of all, from the Kremlin’s point of view, they see Trump pushing Ukraine back into the Russian fold.
So while the historical impeachment inquiry, after two days of public hearings, has been deemed by some pundits to lack “pizzazz,” the Kremlin is having a ball. Instead of disseminating their usual conspiracy theories, the Russians watch gleefully as the Republicans do that for them. From the long-debunked “Crowdstrike” cyber plot positioning Ukraine as the fall guy for what undoubtedly was Russian interference in the 2016 elections, to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories centering around Jewish financier and philanthropist George Soros, rivers of Russian dezinformatsiya are flowing down from the President of the United States and the GOP, through the impeachment hearings, to Trump’s cult-like devotees.
The Kremlin also enjoys the Trump-GOP treatment of the Mueller report as a colossal hoax, or even a joke, letting Russian President Vladimir Putin off the hook, and putting him in a position to make light of the whole matter.
During a public appearance for Russian Energy Week, Putin “jokingly”promised to interfere in the upcoming presidential elections in the United States. Speaking at the Paris Peace Forum, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pledged to “solve the problem” of the American elections in 2020.
When President Trump pulled a news report out of his pocket at his Louisiana rally featuring the picture of Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko denying there was a quid pro quo of security assistance for an investigation of Joe Biden and his son, Olga Skabeeva, the host of Russian state television news show 60 Minutes, complained with sharp irony: “When we—here in Russia—were electing Trump, we were certain that to express his gratitude, he would carry a picture of Putin in his pocket.”
This desensitizing mirth mirrors Trump’s infamous public dare: “Russia, if you’re listening,” but treating a serious matter as a joke does not diminish its real gravity.
Russian experts and state media propagandists constantly reiterate that President Trump cannot and will not be impeached, because the Republicans are controlling the Senate. On 60 Minutes, Skabeeva mockingly told some sacrificial Ukrainian panelists: “We appointed Trump and you can’t unseat him.”
Leading Russian state media outlets repeatedly publicize the name of the alleged whistleblower. [As did Donald Trump, Jr.] State TV channel Rossiya-1 smeared Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as a Soros-linked architect of post-Soviet color revolutions. The co-host of 60 Minutes, Evgeny Popov, warned Ukraine of the threat if faces if it does not cooperate with Trump’s demands: “If Trump gets re-elected, and you don’t investigate Biden… [Ukraine] won’t get anything from America. Not a thing.”
The Kremlin is eager to help Trump, in fact, because his presidency has proven to be exceedingly beneficial for the Kremlin—having brought chaos into American politics, undermined trust in democratic institutions, weakened transatlantic alliances, delivered Syria into the hands of Putin, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, thereby elevating the international image of Russia as a global force to be reckoned with.
The ongoing impeachment inquiry is a twofold gift for the Kremlin. On the one hand, President Trump and the Republican Party are doing Putin’s work by assailing U.S. intelligence agencies, career diplomats and institutions. On the other hand, the impeachment inquiry revealed an unprecedented rift between the United States and Ukraine—America’s strategic partner that enjoyed decades of strong bipartisan support.
Witnesses in the impeachment inquiry laid bare President Trump’s reported indifference toward Ukraine’s plight of deterring Russian aggression—treating this fledgling democracy as a mere tool for his personal needs, while disregarding national interests of the United States.
The statement of State Department aide David Holmes revealed a candid assessment by Gordon D. Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, who surmised that President Trump couldn’t care less about Ukraine or its war with Russia. Holmes wrote in his opening statement that—according to Ambassador Sondland—President Trump “did not give a s–t about Ukraine,” concerning himself instead with “big stuff” that could benefit him personally, “like the Biden investigation.”
In stark contrast to Trump’s ambivalence, Putin hungers after the restoration of Russia’s control and influence over Ukraine. As the late Zbigniew Brzezinski once said, “Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.” During National Security Council staffer Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s deposition in the ongoing impeachment probe, he reaffirmed a geopolitical reality that none of Russia’s post-Soviet neighbors are of greater significance than Ukraine.
Putin could not possibly envision a sweeter gift than Ukraine falling away from the West into the welcoming—albeit bloodied—hands of the Kremlin. Popov on 60 Minutes urged all Ukrainians to “finally sober up and understand that the only country willing to lovingly cover Ukraine with its nuclear shield is Russia.”
(Note that when the Soviet empire collapsed, Ukraine was left with a substantial nuclear arsenal which it gave up in exchange for an agreement with Russia that its territorial integrity would remain inviolable—an agreement Putin trampled on when he annexed Crimea and launched the war in eastern Ukraine.)
During a press conference at the BRICS Summit (an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) on Thursday, Putin told Ukrainians: “Don’t look for happiness overseas, don’t look across the oceans… but make deals with your neighbors.”
Using the treasure trove of documents released during the impeachment inquiry, Russia’s master propagandists are weaponizing the information to demoralize the Ukrainians. State TV hosts, experts and talking heads are browbeating visiting Ukrainian guests and audiences by painting a picture where the West is merely using Ukraine for its own ends—predicting Trump will soon abandon the country just as he did America’s Kurdish allies in Syria. There is a common thread permeating the Russian media blitz: Ukraine is all alone and has nowhere left to turn, except to Russia.
“Everyone is laughing at you,” scoffed Skabeeva, addressing a Ukrainian panelist on 60 Minutes. Maksim Yusin, the editor of international politics at the leading Russian business daily Kommersant exclaimed, “Ukraine is toxic, everyone will want to avoid it now.”
When Ukrainian panelist Alexander Goncharov said that his country is relying on the support of Republicans, the hosts and other panelists broke out in uproarious laughter. “Listen to Rand Paul,” said the co-host of 60 Minutes, playing the clip of the Kentucky senator bluntly stating: “I wouldn’t give them anything.” The Kremlin is poised to reap more rewards from the presidency of Donald Trump—and suddenly, Ukraine seems to be within reach.
Appearing on the Russian state TV program, The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev, analyst Dmitry Drobnitsky said that Trump is fulfilling the dreams of anti-American strategists by withdrawing U.S. forces from the Middle East and retreating to domestic affairs. Drobnitsky predicted: “If Trump manages “to defeat his enemies and gets re-elected, he will start doing whatever he wants—and the world will see ‘Trump unchained.’ He will fulfill all of his promises.” The host, Vladimir Soloviev, threw in another prediction: “And after that, his daughter will become the next president.” The Kremlin sees another trump card in its future.
This recalls to mind what was considered a controversial opinion by The Washington Post’s Catherine Rampell at the time in January of this year. Rampell appears prescient now. The GOP has become the Soviet party:
Once upon a time, Ayn Rand-reading, red-baiting Republicans denounced Soviet Russia as an evil superpower intent on destroying the American way of life.
My, how things have changed.
The Grand Old Party has quietly become the pro-Russia party — and not only because the party’s standard-bearer seems peculiarly enamored of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Under Republican leadership, the United States is starting to look an awful lot like the failed Soviet system the party once stood unified against.
Supposedly middle-class workers — people who have government jobs that are supposed to be stable and secure — are waiting in bread lines. Thanks to government dysfunction and mismanagement, those employed in the private sector may also be going hungry, since 2,500 vendors nationwide are unable to participate in the food stamp program while the government is shuttered and unable to renew licenses for the Electronic Benefit Transfer debit card program.
Why? Because of the whims of a would-be autocrat who cares more about erecting an expensive monument to his own campaign rhetoric than about the pain and suffering of the little people he claims to champion.
And for now, at least, most of those little people are too frightened of the government’s wrath to fight back overtly. Instead, desperate to keep jobs that might someday offer them a paycheck again, the proletariat protest in more passive ways: by calling in sick in higher numbers.
The would-be autocrat surrounds himself with toadies who spend more time scheming against one another — sometimes to comic effect — than trying to offer their boss sound guidance or thoughtful policy solutions. In his presence, and perhaps especially when the cameras are on, they praise him relentlessly: his brains, his leadership, his “perfect genes.”
Apparent corruption among these kowtowing aides — including improper use of public funds or private favors for fancy travel and other pampering — remains rampant. Unlike in true socialist states, it seems, our leaders haven’t run out of other people’s money.
Meanwhile, federal law enforcement is publicly directed to pursue the would-be autocrat’s political enemies, as well as the family members of those enemies, such as former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s father-in-law — and Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Purges of law enforcement or other members of the “deep state” are also demanded, and sometimes acted upon. Such actions, when taken by thugs abroad, were once denounced by Republicans.
State-run media, or something closely approximating it [FOX News aka “Trump TV”], feeds the public a steady diet of pro-leader propaganda and shields viewers from news that might embarrass the head of state. Independent sources of information or accountability, or those who deviate from the party line, are branded “enemies of the people.”
On the macroeconomic front, leadership may be touting “deregulation” but in many ways is moving toward a more centrally planned economy, which includes the shielding of pet industries from the whims of the market or technological change.
That means propping up coal plants, which fracking has made less competitive. And slapping tariffs across thousands of foreign products, to subsidize struggling domestic competitors or sometimes to protect “national security.” And granting more price supports for farmers.
Just as government has inserted itself into more markets, though, it has abruptly stopped functioning, holding up the processing of those farmer subsidies or tariff exemptions. It’s the old Soviet model in a nutshell: promising much, interfering a lot, failing to deliver.
Perhaps providing proof of concept to President Dwight Eisenhower’s domino theory, our government has simultaneously encouraged more central planning by other economies, too.
This includes greater government-directed management of bilateral trade balances by China, the European Union and other countries, regardless of what individual businesses within those countries need or where they’d prefer to source from. While the Trump administration claims it wants China to move in a more market-oriented direction, it also wants it to promise that theoretically private Chinese companies will buy soybeans from the United States, and not Brazil, regardless of quality or price.
Needless to say, “picking winners and losers” was once a thing Republicans abhorred, a practice embraced only by failed socialist states; today the Republican standard-bearer picks winners and losers even within the government itself. The government may be officially shuttered, but President Trump decided to do an end run around the constitutionally mandated, democratic appropriations process. He is picking and choosing which government functions are allowed to function: yes to his offshore drilling plan and tax refunds; no to the Smithsonian museums.
All branches of government may be equal — but some, it seems, are more equal than others.
The Party of Trump’s embrace of Vladimir Putin and Russia gives a whole new connotation to “red states.” These fellow travelers are Putin’s fifth column in America. Who would have ever thought this possible? And to what end?
Americans must choose between a future of authoritarian Trumpism or preserving our democracy. The time for choosing is now.