This may be Trump’s most twisted call to Putin yet

Trump’s call for the Kremlin strongman to dig up the dirt on President Joe Biden comes as no surprise. He has previously called on Russia and China to interfere in US elections to boost his chances and was impeached for trying to blackmail Ukraine into doing the same.

But this may be the ex-president’s most twisted and pathological attempt to advance his own political career through bribery ahead of an eventual White House bid in 2024. His thinking seems clear. Putin could rain atrocities on Ukrainian citizens, bombing hospitals, apartment buildings, razing entire cities and sending 4 million refugees west into Europe. But Trump seems willing to ignore all of this in the service of his own perceived interests.

Not only is Trump looking to concoct a self-serving conspiracy with a Russian president whom much of the world now views as a war criminal. It also asks an enemy of the United States, who has threatened nuclear war, to harm the American Commander-in-Chief who rules the West in an effort to help an innocent invaded nation and to save democracy.

Trump’s latest appeal offers a window into his twisted morality as he once again aligns himself with Putin, whom he called a “genius” earlier in the Ukraine crisis, even as much of his own party condemned the invasion. And it raises fundamental questions about the patriotism of an ex-president who sometimes kisses the stars and stripes at his rallies but has often shown during his tenure that he only cares about his own interests.

Trump made his public appeal to Putin in an interview with sympathetic conservative news network Just the News. He pushed an unproven claim about Hunter Biden’s potential business dealings in Russia and demanded Putin release any information he might have about the situation. “I think Putin would know the answer to that,” Trump said. “I think he should release him. I think we should know that answer.”

It is not clear that any material exists, or if the Kremlin has access to it.

A Justice Department investigation into the president’s son is gaining momentum, CNN reported Wednesday citing multiple sources. Investigators are looking into whether Hunter Biden and some of his associates violated money laundering, tax and foreign lobbying laws, as well as gun and other regulations, multiple sources said. But Hunter Biden has not been charged with any crime and has denied any wrongdoing. His father is not under investigation as part of the investigation into his son’s business activities, according to informed sources.

Some would argue that Trump’s latest outrageous comments should be ignored, to deprive him of the political oxygen he needs. Republicans will no doubt accuse Trump’s critics of taking his remarks too literally.

But the words of an ex-president, especially in times of war, carry weight. Trump remains the effective leader of the Republican Party. He is a strong frontrunner for the GOP nomination in 2024, won nearly 47% of the popular vote in 2020 and could have a reasonable chance in a presidential rematch against Biden. Therefore, the ex-president wields enormous political power, and his behavior and rhetoric must be scrutinized by voters when considering sending him back to the Oval Office.

There is every reason, especially in light of his latest comments, to assume that a second Trump term would turn into an even greater quest for personal power and enrichment than the first. After all, he was ready to destroy American democracy by instigating an insurrection against a free and fair election to stay in power. The ex-president is also playing a huge role in November’s midterm elections, endorsing candidates who back his claims of democracy-threatening voter fraud.

Trump was emboldened by impeachment acquittals

Trump’s latest call to Putin also offers another possible glimpse into the future. It shows he still thinks he can gain political advantage by siding with the Russian leader, who has been assessed by US intelligence as meddling in the 2016 election in a bid to help him. to win. There is no sense that the Russian leader’s brutality would make him radioactive for Trump.

This episode also serves as a reminder that while much of the world was transfixed by Volodymyr Zelensky’s fight for his country, Trump chose to try to extort from the Ukrainian President the kind of military aid Ukraine is using. now to repel the Russian offensive. Trump had hoped to force Zelensky to announce an investigation into the Bidens before the 2020 election. Trump’s latest comments will also fuel concerns among European leaders alongside the United States in support of Ukraine that a return to power by the former president could cause NATO to fail. Republican Senator Mitt Romney of Utah voiced exactly those fears in a Tuesday interview on CNN+ with Kasie Hunt.

When Trump was impeached for the second time, for inciting a coup attempt based on his lies about a stolen election, most Senate Republicans backed down from convicting him. Their reasoning was that as a former president, disempowered, Trump could do no more harm. His latest appeal to Putin reveals the cowardice of this decision. It also suggests that Trump has realized that there is no cost to bringing in America’s most sworn enemies to help his own political career. His bet on impunity is so brazen that, as usual, he practices corruption out loud.

An interesting question is whether Trump is making a political mistake by asking Putin for help despite his recent atrocities. Only 6% of Republicans in a February Quinnipiac University poll had a favorable impression of the Russian leader. Since the invasion, Trump has struggled to balance his fixation on Putin with American outrage over the plight of Ukraine. He began to insist that Putin would never have dared to invade if he were still president, despite his long experience promoting Russia’s foreign policy goals while in the White House. House Republicans, who have lost the last two elections due to Trump’s unpopularity in the suburbs, will hardly welcome the ex-president’s pro-Putin tilt as the midterms approach. , though Democrats discovered in last year’s Virginia gubernatorial race that running an anti-Trump campaign at a time when gas prices were high and inflation was not working.

One of the ironies of Trump’s latest attempt to enlist Putin’s help was that it would have been easy for him to take a swipe at his successor on Hunter Biden without summoning a Russian leader he has always revered as a hero.

Republican procrastination

As usual, Trump’s call for Putin led to some uncomfortable moments for Republican senators when they confronted reporters on Capitol Hill this week. And as is often the case, some of their reactions suggested that much of the party would once again follow him in order to secure power, or at least not actively thwart his dangerous impulses.

North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer appeared to approve of Trump’s suggestion that Putin release any information he has that could be detrimental to the current president.

“I don’t know if he’s got dirt on Biden. If he does, he should come clean, but he’s a war criminal so I don’t expect him to be in the process. to think of ways to reveal other information,” Cramer told CNN’s Manu Raju.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who called on the Russians to assassinate Putin, has also been offered the chance to convict Trump of seeking to conspire with an American enemy.

“My message to Putin is he has to go,” Graham told Raju. Asked about Trump’s comments, he replied, “That’s not something I would do.”

Senate Republican Whip John Thune, against whom Trump unsuccessfully encouraged the governor of South Dakota to run in a primary, lamented that “we have very little control over what the former president says.”

But the question Republicans will face in the event of Trump’s likely presidential election is whether the things he says and does will make him an unacceptable choice to become the GOP nominee again. On the past form, the answer will clearly be no.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, Republicans were in the mood for accountability. But not to Trump. GOP leaders were furious with Rep. Madison Cawthorn, the North Carolina Republican who embarrassed colleagues by bizarrely claiming he had been invited to an orgy and witnessed leaders struggling to fight drug addiction using cocaine.

“I’m very disappointed. I told him he lost my trust,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said. “He didn’t tell the truth, it’s unacceptable.”

But the California Republican rarely stood for truth as the standard of public life when dealing with Trump. As he seeks to become the next speaker at a House GOP conference that is the ex-president’s most powerful power base in Washington, McCarthy has sought to whitewash Trump’s conduct during the insurgency. Capitol, although he said at the time that the ex-president “bears responsibility” for the riot.

And though he harshly criticized Cawthorn, McCarthy has also been reluctant to discipline other pro-Trump members of the party like Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona, whose recent attendance at a white supremacist conference adds to their long list of extremist outbursts. And he backs a primary challenge to Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who lost her leadership position in the House GOP for speaking the truth about Trump’s lies about a stolen election and threats to democratic institutions.

Cheney’s fate shows why Trump will continue to pay no price to curry favor with America’s enemies, even Putin.

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