In the not so distant past, the GOP was known as the party that was the toughest on the USSR and then Russia. Conservative icon Ronald Reagan labeled the USSR an “evil empire” and demanded that Gorbachev tear down the Berlin Wall. Republicans like to give credit to Reagan for ending the Cold War.
Recently, though, the GOP has taken a radically different stance on Russia largely due to their bitter hatred for President Obama. After Obama and NATO imposed painful sanctions on Russia after the 2014 invasion of the Crimean Peninsula, many prominent Republicans rushed to the defense of Vladimir Putin.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani lavished praise on the Russian strongman saying this about his aggression in Ukraine: “Now there’s a leader.” Giuliani went on to say: “Putin decides what he wants to do, and he does it in half a day, right? He decided he had to go to their parliament — he went to their parliament, he got permission in 15 minutes.” Former GOP Presidential nominee Sarah Palin swooned over Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and stated: “Look it, people are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates.”
Donald Trump and Mike Pence both share the radical right’s new found love and admiration for Russia and Putin. During the recent campaign, both of them contended that Putin was a stronger leader than President Obama. Trump was genuinely flattered by Putin’s praise for him saying: “Well, I think when he calls me brilliant, I think I’ll take the compliment, okay?”
Trump doesn’t only admire Putin, he is also heavily dependent upon Russian credit to hold his flimsy business empire together. According to Josh Marshall, Trump owes Russian banks with close ties to Putin approximately $630 million. As Donald Trump, 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.”
Trump’s dependence upon Russian capital to finance his investments has translated into a pro-Russia tilt in Trump’s platform. The former TV reality star alarmed our allies during the campaign when he talked about ending NATO’s guarantee of mutual defense to countries in Eastern Europe like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In addition, it was the Trump campaign that intervened at the Republican National Convention to re-write the platform plank on aide to Ukraine to adopt a position that benefited Russia.
During the campaign, Trump didn’t only adopt a pro-Russia platform, he also initiated numerous contacts between his team and the Russians. In September, Carter Page, a Trump foreign policy adviser, held talks with senior Russian officials about the possible lifting of economic sanctions if Trump were elected President. Moreover, shortly before the election, Donald Trump, Jr. held talks with Russian representatives in Paris.
All of these meetings between the Trump team and the Russians were confirmed after the election by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov who said “there were contacts” between the Russian government and Trump’s emissaries before the election. Ryabkov added that “quite a few” members of Trump’s team “have been staying in touch with Russian representatives” ahead of the American election.
The recent explosive revelations from the CIA and the FBI that Putin and the Russians intervened in the recent election to help Trump makes perfect sense in light of Trump’s support for that country as well as his extensive ties and contacts with Russia. Even though the Russians stole emails from both the DNC and the RNC, it was only Democratic emails that were leaked to the press and the GOP. And the GOP and the press were more than happy to act as useful idiots for a hostile foreign power by widely publicizing them.
Putin’s assistance to Trump is already paying off for Russia. Trump’s new National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, made a paid speech for Putin’s television network and sat next to the Russian strongman himself at a banquet celebrating that network’s anniversary. Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, has extensive business ties with Russia and received Russia’s most prestigious award from Putin himself. As CEO, Tillerson lobbied extensively for the lifting of U.S. sanctions against Russia.
These revelations that Russia helped Trump get elected have raised a cloud of controversy over his prospective Presidency and challenge the very legitimacy of his narrow victory in the electoral college. Trump could clear up many of these questions by keeping his promise to release his tax returns, setting up a blind trust for his businesses and agreeing to the appointment of a special prosecutor. If Trump truly has nothing to hide, there is no reason why he couldn’t agree to these simple steps.
The Nebraska Congressional delegation has said nothing about this brewing scandal. Fischer, Sasse, Fortenberry, Bacon and Smith owe Nebraska voters answers. Are they troubled in any way by these close ties between Trump and one of America’s foremost adversaries? Do Nebraska’s most prominent Republicans stand with Vladimir Putin or the U.S.?
At the very least, Nebraska’s Congressional Republicans should demand the steps I’ve outlined in this piece. Their continued silence is cowardly and unacceptable. Fischer, Sasse, Fortenberry, Bacon and Smith should support legislation that would require Trump to release his tax returns, the establishment of a blind trust and the appointment of a special prosecutor. This isn’t a partisan issue. This is about U.S. national security.
As Nebraska Democrats, we must continue to speak out about Trump’s alliance with Russia and his radical agenda. We must closely monitor our Congressional delegation and make sure they hear from us. Please call them before crucial votes. Please attend their town hall meetings. Encourage your relatives and friends to get involved. We must apply relentless pressure. The very safety of our country depends upon our efforts. We can do it. Let’s get it done!
By: Dennis Crawford, Lincoln, Nebraska
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