President Donald Trump may withhold $250 million in military aid to Ukraine, money meant to confront Russian aggression. It comes on the heels of Trump’s recent, lonely campaign to get Russia invited back into the G-7, and his many earlier displays of slavishness toward the Kremlin.
What will it take for Missouri Sens. Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley and other congressional Republicans to ask the obvious questions about the president’s stubborn, mysterious obeisance to America’s greatest geopolitical foe?
For a president who on most topics is unpredictable to the point of instability, Trump’s instinct toward coddling Moscow has been remarkably consistent since before his 2016 election.
At that year’s Republican National Convention, Trump’s camp moved to prevent the party’s platform from supporting the arming of Ukraine against Russia. Trump’s campaign members met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer — in Manhattan’s Trump Tower — in hopes of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. And the whole world watched Trump himself call on Russia to hack Clinton’s email.
In office, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey because — as he admitted in a nationally televised interview — he hoped to thwart Comey’s investigation into Russian election meddling. Around that time, Trump also improperly revealed classified information on terrorism to Russia’s foreign minister.
Then, in what still qualifies as a horrific low-point of this presidency, Trump stood on stage in Helsinki, right next to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and told the world he takes the word of that dangerous autocrat over the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies.
“I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia that hacked into American election systems, Trump said — as if the unified conclusion of America’s own experts wasn’t reason enough.
Early this year, Trump confiscated his translator’s notes of private conversations he’d had with Putin and ordered the contents not be disclosed even to members of the administration. Could those conversations have had anything to do with Trump’s subsequent announcement he was pulling the U.S. out of Syria (which he later reversed after outcry from his own party)? Or his ongoing undermining of NATO? Both moves, after all, have long been on Putin’s wish list.
Is Trump just grateful about the possibility that he won in 2016 with Russia’s help? Or is he anxious to get that kind of help again next year? Chillingly, those are the least bad possible explanations, the others having to do with Trump’s overseas business interests or the possibility that Putin “has something” on him.
Congressional Republicans used to melt down every time President Barack Obama showed the slightest deference to even friendly world leaders. Now we have a president who consistently acts so much like a Russian asset that it almost looks like satire. What, finally, is it going to take for the president’s party to start demanding answers?