Trump and Putin are collaborating to tear America apart. And Trump and his allies in Congress and across the spectrum of rightwing hate media aren’t even trying to hide it.
Americans aren’t used to thinking of our country as a battleground. We haven’t been invaded by another country’s military since the War of 1812 and haven’t seen blood shed on our soil in formal armed conflict since the Civil War.
But the United States is very much a battlefield today; instead of bullets and bombs, the weapons being used are digital, psychological, and social.
And increasingly Americans are being forced to choose sides: are we with democracy, or will we elect Trump and join Russia, China, and North Korea in making the world safe for dictators?
In South Carolina last week Trump came right out and said that if he became president again he’d refuse to enforce Article 5 of the NATO treaty and let Putin take Poland or any other part of Europe he wants.
“I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want,” Trump said of Russian troops and their leader President Putin.
His comments drew an immediate rebuke from Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO, who laid it out clearly:
“Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the US, and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk.”
Yesterday, European Council President Charles Michel said Trump’s taking that position on NATO was “reckless,” and “serve[s] only Putin’s interest.”
This was clarified by useful idiot Tucker Carlson’s “interview” with Putin, who rambled on for two hours about how Ukraine isn’t really a country, but merely a breakaway part of Russia that must be reclaimed.
He didn’t even seem particularly passionate about the talking point American Putin supporters love to promote, that Putin was “forced” to invade Ukraine to stop the further expansion of NATO: most of his rant was about the founding of the Russian state in 862, a time when Moscow didn’t even yet exist.
Meanwhile, Trump’s and Putin’s war against democracy goes on here. David Gilbert reports in Wired magazine that Russian social media trolls, imitating Americans, played a major role in the recent truck “convoy” to the southern border:
“A Russian disinformation campaign is deploying everything from high-ranking lawmakers and government officials to lifestyle influencers, bloggers, and powerful state-run media outlets to stoke divisions in the United States around the Texas border crisis.
“WIRED has also obtained exclusive access to data from two separate disinformation research groups that demonstrate a coordinated Russian effort on Telegram and X (formerly Twitter) to sow discord by pushing the narrative that the US is heading for civil war.”
Just a few months ago, the US intelligence community released a report to 100 countries letting them know that Russia is attacking democracies by trying to sow dissent and mistrust among their people, largely through social media and sympathetic influencers.
The cable said:
“Russia is pursuing operations to degrade public confidence in the integrity of elections themselves. For Russia, the benefits of these operations are twofold: to sow instability within democratic societies, and to portray democratic elections as dysfunctional and the resulting governments as illegitimate.”
One senior intelligence official involved in the analysis told CBS News:
“[W]e are seeing them look at their perceived success in 2016 and their perceived success in 2020 in gumming up outcomes to be something that should be continued moving forward, and even maybe expanded.”
Donald Trump has been hit with 31 charges under the Espionage Act of 1917, a law that was last used in an internationally high profile case to execute Julius and Ethel Rosenberg with the electric chair at Sing Sing prison in 1953. He’s charged with stealing hundreds of top-secret documents, taking them to Florida, sharing them with people who have no security clearance, and lying to the FBI and the National Archives about it.
Of greatest concern, a 10-inch-thick binder of raw intelligence from our spies and sources in Russia has gone missing. This is the sort of thing that Putin would pay billions for, and maybe has.
This should surprise nobody: during his presidency, Donald Trump was having regular secret phone conversations with Russia’s President Putin (over 20 have been identified, including one just days before the 2020 election).
There are, after all, credible assertions that when Trump was elected, members of Russian intelligence and Putin’s inner circle were literally partying in Moscow, explicitly celebrating a victory they truly believed they helped make happen.
In his first months in office, Trump outed an Israeli spy to the Russian Ambassador, resulting in MOSSAD having to “burn” (relocate, change identity of) that spy. That, in turn, prompted the CIA to worry that a longtime US spy buried deep in the Kremlin was similarly vulnerable to Trump handing him over to Putin.
As CNN noted when the story leaked two years later:
“The source was considered the highest level source for the US inside the Kremlin, high up in the national security infrastructure, according to the source familiar with the matter and a former senior intelligence official.
“According to CNN’s sources, the spy had access to Putin and could even provide images of documents on the Russian leader’s desk.”
The CIA concluded that the risk Trump would out the spy was so great that, at massive loss to US intelligence abilities that may have helped forestall the invasion of Ukraine, we pulled the spy out of Russia in 2017.
Similarly, when they met in Helsinki, Trump and Putin talked in private for several hours and Trump ordered his translators’ notes destroyed; there is also concern that much of their conversation was done out of the hearing of the US’s translator (Putin is also fluent in English and German) who may have been relegated to a distant part of the rather large room in which they met.
Things were picking up in 2019, as Putin was planning his invasion of Ukraine while Trump was preparing for the 2020 election:
— On July 31, 2019 Trump had another private conversation with Putin. The White House told Congress and the press that they discussed “wildfires” and “trade between the nations.” No droids in this car…
— The following week, on August 2nd, The Daily Beast’s Betsy Swan reported that Trump had just asked the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for a list of all its employees (including all our “spies”) who had worked there more than 90 days, and the request had intelligence officials experiencing “disquiet.”
— Within a year, The New York Times ran a story with the headline: “Captured, Killed or Compromised: C.I.A. Admits to Losing Dozens of Informants.” The CIA then alerted American spies around the world that their identities had probably been compromised by then-President Trump himself.
Also in 2019, when the international press verified that Putin was paying the Taliban a bounty to kill American service members in Afghanistan (and 4 of our soldiers died as a result), Trump refused to demand the practice stop, another sign that Putin runs him, not the other way around.
As The New York Times noted at the time:
“Mr. Trump defended himself by denying the Times report that he had been briefed on the intelligence... But leading congressional Democrats and some Republicans demanded a response to Russia that, according to officials, the administration has yet to authorize.”
Instead of stopping Putin from putting a bounty on American troops, Trump shut down every US airbase in Afghanistan except one (there were about a dozen), crippling incoming President Biden’s ability to extract US assets from the country in an orderly fashion.
In July 2019, Trump had conversations with five foreign leaders during and just before a visit to Mar-a-Lago; they included Putin and the Emir of Qatar. In one of those conversations, according to a high-level US Intelligence source, Trump made “promises” to a “world leader” that were so alarming it provoked a national security scramble across multiple agencies.
As The Washington Post noted in an article titled “Trump’s communications with foreign leader are part of whistleblower complaint that spurred standoff between spy chief and Congress”:
“Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson determined that the complaint [against Trump] was credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of ‘urgent concern,’ a legal threshold that requires notification of congressional oversight committees.”
Along his journey toward converting America into a full-blown Russian-style oligarchy, Trump has picked up quite a few democracy-skeptical allies.
As early as 2018, for example, Senator Rand Paul made a solo trip to Moscow to personally hand-deliver a package of secret documents from Trump to Putin.
Its contents are still unknown.
Senator Paul has also consistently taken Trump’s side with regard to the 2020 election and, when the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago two years ago, responded with a call for the repeal of the Espionage Act.
When Trump was busted for stealing US secrets and hiding them in Florida, Paul suggested the FBI may have “planted” Secret documents at Mar-a-Lago. Last week he launched a filibuster-style attack on a new senate proposal to give military aid to Ukraine.
These traitors to democracy and American ideals have become shockingly brazen. And they’re gaining more followers every day, as Putin uses his internet troll army to convince the GOP base to demand their politicians abandon Ukraine and NATO.
America is now a battlefield in an epochal war between the forces of democracy and fascist autocracy. Much of the warfare is happening in cyberspace, and in some cases is even being assisted by the rightwing billionaires who own our largest social media companies.
What we once called the Cold War is now something Putin believes he can win — and, if Trump or somebody like him is re-elected president this November, he will have won.