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Posted by on Dec 17, 2016 in 2016 Elections, 2016 Presidential Election, Politics, Russia | 11 comments

Six Things We Need to Know About the Trump-Russia Connection


The latest intelligence revelations about Russia’s cyberpush for Donald Trump are so persuasive that even congressional Republican leaders have been compelled to take notice. There will indeed be investigations and hearings, in both chambers. It appears, for now anyway, that they actually view this unprecedented national security breach as nearly as important as Hillary’s private server.

Assuming that Republicans don’t try to spin the whole thing into oblivion, assuming that they really intend to demonstrate that they’re not being played for saps, and assuming that they do intend to fully probe the relationship between Trump and the ex-KGB thug, here are the big questions they might want to ask:

1. What did Trump know and when did he know it?

Prior to the election, intelligence briefers told Trump that Russia was interfering in our election, but he rejected the intel, claiming publicly that it might just be some 400-pound hacker somewhere. On what rational basis did he have reason to disbelieve the intelligence warnings? In other words, what did Trump know and why did he choose not to know it?

2. What are the full extent of Trump’s financial ties to Russia?

As his son Donald Jr. said in 2008, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” But we still don’t know the full extent —- there have long been suspicions that he owes money to Russian oligarchs —- because Trump never provided a full accounting of his business interests. Will the Republicans finally demand that he fork over all his tax returns?

3. Why was Russia so motivated, via its hail of propaganda, to help get Trump elected?

Did Trump start echoing Russia’s positions —- soften our NATO commitments; soften or end our economic sanctions —- because he sincerely believes those positions, or because he has been steered by the Russian apologists in his circle?

4. And what about those apologists?

They include:

-Michael Flynn, the incoming national security adviser, a regular contributor to Vladimir Putin’s RT propaganda network, and a paid speechmaking attendee at RT’s 10th anniversary dinner last December

-Carter Page, a backstage foreign policy adviser who has business dealings in Russia

-Paul Manafort, the campaign manager who was jettisoned after he was outed as a paid advisor to a pro-Putin leader in Ukraine

-Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state nominee, a foe of our anti-Putin sanctions, and winner of a Putin “friendship” award. What’s the current full extent of their financial ties to Russia? Will the Republicans subpoena their records?

5. Is there any evidence of pre-election collusion between Trump advisors and Kremlin officials

If not, what’s the substance of their post-election communications? Are major shifts in American policy in the works – stuff that’s detrimental to American interests? Stuff we don’t know about?

The latter questions may be the most important of all. Even if Russian’s pro-Trump cyberpush wasn’t pivotal in getting Trump elected, Russia got the president it wanted. A president who (for all we know) may be financially or otherwise compromised to act in Russia’s interests at the expense of ours. As Eric Edelmen and David J. Kramer, two George W. Bush foreign policy officials, warn:

“Without U.S. leadership keeping the Europeans united against Putin, Western resolve in the face of Russian aggression will crumble. Before even moving to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and gaining the authority to lift U.S. sanctions on Russia, Trump could produce a radical change in policy toward Moscow. Such a change, however, would not make America, the West or the world great again. But it could trigger the unraveling of the alliances and institutional structures that made the U.S. and its European partners great in the past.”

All told, the pro-Republican columnist Jennifer Rubin said it best yesterday: “You would think it would be obvious that Russian efforts to select America’s president through cyber-weaponized revelations may be the most important election story —- ever. This is warfare of an entirely different sort, one aimed at the heart of democracy.”

Which prompts my biggest question of all:

6. Do congressional Republicans have the fortitude and patriotism to take this probe wherever it leads?

Copyright 2016 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia ( and a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Pennsylvania. Email him at [email protected]

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Copyright 2016 The Moderate Voice
  • Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist

    Those are all very valid, cogent and pertinent questions.

    Sadly, answers to some of them may never be forthcoming.

    Shame on all of us for even having to ask these questions..

    • JSpencer

      “Shame on all of us for even having to ask these questions..”

      Amen to that.

  • Robert P. Coutinho

    I asked the questions BEFORE the election. Now, I find them pertinent, but unlikely to be pursued. This is what the people voted for. They were told. There is no getting around the fact that we told them.

    • JSpencer

      And this is why I’ll never let a Trump voter off the hook. They were warned constantly.

  • Robin K Mullins

    … they actually view this unprecedented national security breach as nearly as important as Hillary‚Äôs private server.

    For me, that says it all. Until the R’s decide to put the best interests of the nation ahead of their own demonic hatred of Hillary et al, our democracy is at risk.
    Look at what is happening in Poland right now. A “populist” government is attacking freedom of the press. Will the same happen here? I give it 6 months.
    R’s approval rating of Putin has skyrocketed over the past couple of months. God help us.

  • dduck

    Good points, DP.

  • KP

    Solid questions. Some of them look interdependent on others.

  • Ballard Burgher

    Similar piece on the Plumline blog in the WaPo

    Main difference there is Waldman answers #6 with a firm “no” and demands an independent bi-partisan investigation. Thinks GOP majority House and Senate committees will whitewash it to protect Trump.

    • KP

      Probably do a job similar to the FBI’s, meaning somebody is going to like it and somebody is not going to like it.

  • JSpencer

    Number 6. Absolutely fricking not. Only the motions needed to cover collective asses. Imagining they care in the least about right and wrong, much less the country they live in, is to live in a world of delusion.

    • KP

      Looks like we agree.

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