Someone on Twitter imagined a 2003 version of this story: “Gore asks Saddam to provide dirt on Bush’s daughters as war rages.” Not a perfect analogy, but close enough.
This makes three straight election cycles in which Trump has appealed to a foreign leader to release information that could damage one of his political opponents. In 2016 he half-joked that he hoped the Kremlin would “find” HIllary Clinton’s missing emails. In 2019 he leaned on Zelensky during a conversation about military aid for Ukraine to help Rudy Giuliani look into Hunter Biden and Burisma.
Now he’s back to asking Putin for dirt that would damage the Biden White House at a moment when the U.S. and Russia are antagonists on the brink of war in Ukraine.
I was struck by the same thing in the clip that Charlie Sykes was: “Trump explicitly frames his request to Putin as an act of retaliation not just against Biden, but against the United States itself.” The bit at the beginning (“as long as Putin now is not exactly a fan of our country”) is Trump suggesting a target for the Kremlin in a cold war against the U.S. If you want to hurt America, you should want to weaken its commander-in-chief, no?
The one thing I’ll always give this guy is his absolute consistency in prioritizing his own personal interests above other concerns. “America First” has a giant loophole for Trump himself, as even some of his own flunkies now admit.
Extended clip is worth watching: “As long as Putin is not exactly a fan of our country… I would think Putin would know the answer to that. I think he should release it… you won’t get the answer from Ukraine… I think Putin now would be willing to probably give that answer.” pic.twitter.com/JFGcBk4Kxd
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 30, 2022
You never know with a figure as sleazy as Hunter Biden whether there might be something to Trump’s allegation. Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. But either way, I like Trump’s supposition that an operator as cutthroat as Putin wouldn’t have thought to damage a hostile U.S. president, particularly after Biden called him a “war criminal” and urged his ouster, until Trump himself suggested the idea. A guy who’s spent most of his life taking revenge on his enemies by poisoning them probably doesn’t need advice on ruthlessness from a guy who spent most of his own life taking revenge on enemies by leaking to the National Enquirer.
A more disciplined narcissist would sit back, pipe down, and quietly *hope* that Russia has dirt on Biden that’ll be revealed in due course which he can then leverage in his next presidential run. Trump isn’t that narcissist. Aaron Blake makes two good points in this column about the clip above. First, although Putin is now an international pariah whose army is killing Ukrainians by the thousands, Trump seems to feel no more compunction about aligning with him on their mutual interests now than he did with the “Russia, if you’re listening” request about Hillary’s emails six years ago. There’s no sense of moral repugnance at all. Then and now, the question for Trump is purely “Would it benefit me if Putin did this?”
Second, there’s a reason why he feels no obligation to feign such repugnance. He’s paid no price in the past for declining to do so, so why would he start now? A sense of shame? C’mon.
When Trump in 2020 used the presidency to leverage Ukraine for an investigation into his next opponent, a number of Republicans admitted it was unseemly, but said it wasn’t impeachable. They moved on and stood by him. One of them even ventured that Trump had learned a “pretty big lesson” about asking a foreign country to investigate a political rival, and predicted he would “be much more cautious in the future.”
Trump wasn’t joking. He will not be more cautious in the future. And if anything, the big lesson he learned seems to have been that he has so effectively demolished this norm that it no longer encumbers him whatsoever.
He’ll say and do stuff like this day after day as GOP nominee in 2024 because he lacks the moral sense not to and because there’s no authority on his own side willing to penalize him if he does. Swing voters will penalize him, though, just as they did in 2020.
I’ll leave you with this clip from Russian TV that shows the Kremlin knows where its bread is buttered politically. Here too, their interests are aligned with Trump’s.
Meanwhile on Russian state TV:
Host Evgeny Popov says it's time for the Russian people to call on Americans to change "the regime in the U.S." before its term expires "and to again help our partner Trump to become President."https://t.co/orPMoKoxwG pic.twitter.com/sPVDhVWm6Q
— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) March 29, 2022