Aaron Blake at the Washington Post unsurprisingly joined Morning Joe and other liberal outlets in speculating, with no evidence, that the President is “compromised” because Russian President Vladimir Putin has “dirt” on him. This is the ongoing “kompromat” theory, using a term which is quickly becoming the new favorite Russian word of many in the press these days. It’s defined as, “damaging information about a politician or other public figure used to create negative publicity, for blackmail, or for ensuring loyalty.” In other words, Putin supposedly has some sort of scandalous, if not impeachable material hanging over Donald Trump’s head, resulting in his willingness to treat the Russians with kid gloves.
Now the broader idea that Russia has compromising information, or kompromat, on Trump has moved even more to the forefront. And it’s all thanks to Trump’s decision to hold a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin — and then practically bow to him.
The thing about Trump’s posture toward Putin isn’t just that it’s highly controversial and questionable given Russia’s 2016 election interference; it’s also totally counter to Trump’s brand. This is the guy who wrote the “Art of the Deal” and, just days before his meeting with Putin, was wrecking shop at a NATO summit in hopes of getting fellow members to kick in more for the common defense.
Even as he has oscillated from being extremely tough on and extremely friendly toward North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump has almost always been deferential to Putin. And that was certainly the case Monday.
The obvious failure in this analysis is provided by the author himself. President Trump went from calling Kim Jong-un “Little Rocket Man” to “Chairman” in a matter of weeks. Why? Because Kim “has something on him” that’s hidden? Obviously not. It’s because he felt it was working for him in the negotiations. And if things fall apart with North Korea we shall no doubt see the name Little Rocket Man showing up in Presidential tweetstorms in short order.
Conversely, Trump has always shown an interest in normalizing relations with Russia, even on the campaign trail. He’d toss out the occasional barb when it suited his purposes, but for whatever reasons he may have, the President clearly sees an opportunity in having Putin more on our side (or at least not being quite such an antagonist) than against us. You’re free to debate how wise of a strategy this is and I’ve repeatedly questioned it myself. But it’s a long leap from there to kompromat territory.
Another problem with these accusations is that the Russians have gotten basically nothing from Trump other than some flowery words. What benefit has Putin actually gained from “having something” on Trump? None of the sanctions have been lifted and actually more were added just three months ago, costing Russian executives billions of dollars. America is still fighting the Russian oil pipeline to Germany and vowing to take their market share. Far from backing Russia’s actions with their neighbors, we completed an arms deal selling anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. The missile defense system in Poland and Romania is being resurrected, much to Putin’s dismay. And the Iran Deal, which Russia supoorted, is still dead.
If Trump is a Russian kompromat, he’s a damned poor one.
As I said yesterday when this recurring liberal media theory began flaring up yet again, if you have some evidence of actual blackmail going on, show us the money. (So to speak.) It’s true that the President has been more than kind in his comments about Putin for some time now. Is it a good negotiating tactic? Only history will tell. But continuing to insinuate something about blackmail material while having no proof to back it up is not journalism. It’s activism, which has characterized the WaPo’s coverage of Trump from day one of his presidential campaign.
If you’re going to accuse the President of the United States of treason (which participating in such a blackmail arrangement would surely qualify as) then you’d better come up with some proof. If you do, I’ll be joining you at the head of the parade calling for his impeachment. But until then, this isn’t even close to anything that should pass for journalism.