Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, was ousted by President Trump after one of his aides told members of Congress that Russia is intervening in the U.S. elections again in an effort to reelect the president. This finding was met with skepticism from Republican House members who are credulous enough to believe Trump’s boasts that he has been “FAR tougher on Russia than Obama, Bush or Clinton. Maybe tougher than any other President.”

Trump’s claims of being tough on Russia are belied by the fact that he has a fit whenever any U.S. officials confirm that Russia attacked the 2016 election or tryto safeguard future elections. It’s no coincidence that the previous director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, left office in August 2019, shortly after appointing a senior intelligence officer, Shelby Pierson, to take charge of election security. Now Coats’s successor has been fired because Pierson was doing her job. Maguire’s replacement by Trump propagandist Richard Grenell sends a loud and clear signal that Trump does not want to do anything to impede Russian attacks on the U.S. political system — which he sees as beneficial to his own campaign. In case there was any doubt, Trump on Friday dismissed the findings of the U.S. intelligence community about Russia’s desire to aid his reelection campaign as a “hoax” and “misinformation campaign.”

It’s true, as Republicans say, that Trump sent anti-tank missiles to Ukraine — but only under conditions that make them useless against Russia. Trump has made clear that Russia’s enemy, Ukraine, is no friend of his. Indeed he promulgates a Russian disinformation campaign blaming Ukraine, rather than Russia, for interfering in the U.S. election. Kurt Volker, Trump’s former envoy to Ukraine, testified that Trump said of the Ukrainians: “They are all corrupt, they are all terrible people. They tried to take me down.” Trump only released military aid to Ukraine once Congress started asking questions about why he was holding it up, and he still refuses to grant Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky the White House meeting he desperately craves to buttress his standing in negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The House impeached Trump, but it was a victory for alternative facts, Russian disinformation and Fox News, says columnist Dana Milbank. (The Washington Post)

Putin doesn’t care about Trump’s sanctions on Iran, which indirectly help Russia by boosting the price of oil. But he does care that Trump has strengthened Russia’s longtime ally in Syria, Bashar al-Assad. In July 2017, Trump ended a covert program of training and supplying moderate Syrian rebels — “a move long sought by Russia,” as The Post noted. More recently, in October, Trump did Putin another solid by moving U.S. forces out of northern Syria, allowing Assad’s troops and their Russian allies to move in. Pictures of Russian troops occupying abandoned U.S. bases show the changing of the guard in the Middle East.

Trump has facilitated Russian designs not only in Syria but also in Libya, where the Russian-backed strongman Khalifa Hifter is trying to overthrow a United Nations-backed government in Tripoli. The U.S. government ostensibly supports the regime in Tripoli, but Trump called Hifter and gave him a green light for his offensive. Trump is making Russia great again in the Middle East for the first time since Egypt expelled Russian advisers in 1972.

What about the fact that the United States has tightened sanctions on Russia since Trump came to office? True but irrelevant. It happened over Trump’s opposition. To this day, the administration is fighting efforts in Congress to strengthen sanctions, even while lifting sanctions on companies linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who worked with Trump’s crooked former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Far from strengthening NATO, as he now boasts, Trump has weakened it by relentlessly criticizing the alliance and portraying it as a bunch of deadbeats. A European parliamentarian told me that Trump had a huge impact on European public opinion when he raised doubts in 2018 about whether the United States would fight to defend a small nation like Montenegro. That undermines the whole basis of collective security.

Finally, Trump helps Russia simply by spreading chaos in the U.S. government and division in U.S. politics. It is Putin’s dream to have an American president who denigrates dedicated FBI agents, intelligence officers and diplomats — all on the front lines of combating Russian aggression — as “deep state,” “traitors” and “human scum.”

Note that Trump, who vilifies everyone else, never has a negative word to say about Putin. He never calls Putin “mini Vlad” or any other derogatory nickname — even though the Russian president is actually shorter than former New York mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg.

Republicans should hardly be surprised to learn that the Russians are working in secret to reelect Trump. They are openly rooting for him to win. As media analyst Julia Davis notes in the Daily Beast, a commentator on a popular Russian television show gushed last October: “I look at Trump and think: ‘May God grant him good health — and another term.’ This is a great situation for Russia.”

What makes this situation all the sweeter for Russia is that the Republican Party, which stood on the front lines of fighting Russia from 1917 to 2017, blindly backs Trump as he pursues pro-Russia policies at odds with U.S. interests.

President Trump's news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin was a disastrous capitulation, says Democracy Post editor Christian Caryl. (Gillian Brockell/The Washington Post)

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