The political world is abuzz over stories in The Post and elsewhere over allegations that “Russian intelligence services have compromising material and information on Trump’s personal life and finances” In typical fashion, the tweeter in chief, President-elect Donald Trump, blasted the reports as “FAKE NEWS – A TOTAL POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!” The irony here is real thick.
Trump engaged in a multi-year effort to delegitimize a sitting president with demonstrably false allegations about his citizenship. Talk about “fake news.” Not only that, he rode the hatred and anger that gave life to that racist birther lie to the pinnacle of American political prominence. And along the way, far too many Republicans opted to play along to reap the electoral benefits instead of calling it out for the destructive game it was.
So, here we are, days away from Trump taking the oath of office, and he must confront very disturbing real news. The possibility that Russia would have damaging information about Trump would be worthy of Tom Clancy or a James Bond film were it not for Russian interference in November’s election, Trump’s pooh-poohing of intelligence confirming this fact and his consistent and persistent praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump even applauded the autocrat as a better leader than President Obama. I’m old enough to remember a time when the primacy of the U.S. president was always championed abroad and never diminished in contrast to his communist counterpart.
When I interviewed Evan McMullin for my “Cape Up” podcast, the former CIA operative and independent candidate for president declared Trump a Putin agent. Malcolm Nance, author of the timely “The Plot to Hack America: How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election” told me last July, “Trump requesting Russia to specifically conduct a hack on a political opponent, as far as I’m concerned that skirts title 18 of the US code section 2384 seditious speech. But I’m not a lawyer.” Neither am I, but that certainly sounds like a quack.
Just as Trump hounded Obama to release his long-form birth certificate over a lie, Trump must be hounded until he answers questions to the American people’s satisfaction that he is neither an unwitting Russian agent nor a victim (current or prospective) of Kremlin blackmail. Or he could release his tax returns so we can see the extent of his financial entanglements, just to get things rolling. That’s not going to happen given what Trump said at his campaign rally, er, news conference Tuesday in his gilded Fifth Avenue lobby. But that doesn’t mean we should accept it or let him get away with it.
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