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Herb Rothschild Jr.: Say it: Trump is a Russian agent

It’s time to say it: An agent of a hostile foreign power occupies the White House.

Before I proceed, two things. First, Russia’s hostility to us is almost entirely of our doing. In February 1990, to induce Mikhail Gorbachev to begin talks that led to the reunification of Germany, the U.S. assured him that NATO would not expand “one inch eastward.” We broke that pledge. Not only did the U.S. bring former Warsaw Pact nations into NATO, we also began working to include the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine. We’ve ringed Russia with bases. Imagine if Canada and Mexico joined a Russian-led military alliance. I would have rejoiced had Trump acted openly and skillfully to reset the relationship.

Second, I’m not given to conspiracy theories. Usually they ask us to believe in a less probable set of occurrences than the received explanation posits. But sometimes the received explanation won’t wash. For example, are we really to believe that Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald in the midst of a police escort because Ruby was emotionally attached to the Kennedy family? Isn’t it more likely that Ruby was sent to silence Oswald?

Back to our president. Shortly after Trump was sworn in, he began trying to loosen the economic sanctions imposed on Russia during the Obama years. Congress frustrated him by mandating Congressional review of any executive action to lift sanctions. Trump lobbied hard but unsuccessfully to allow himself a free hand. Later, he lobbied, again without success, for the G-8 to readmit Russia. What had he to gain personally or politically from these efforts?

And why has he insisted that Russia didn’t interfere in the 2016 election on his behalf? One explanation is that his out-sized but fragile ego can’t accept that he didn’t win without help. But if this is so, why then did he press the Ukrainian prime minister to open an investigation to prove that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered? And the congressional investigation into his dealings with Ukraine has produced evidence casting doubt on his commitment to its success against the Russian-backed insurgency in the Donbass.

What finally tipped the scales for me was Trump’s abrupt decision, made without consultation, to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria. That withdrawal was ordered after Turkey’s president requested U.S. permission to assault the Syrian Kurds and occupy the borderlands. What had Trump to gain by betraying our only reliable ally in Syria? Indeed, it upset congressional Republicans at the very time he most needs their unwavering support. For me the answer came when Russia became the main power broker in Syria and its troops occupied abandoned U.S. bases.

Putin must have a hold on Trump. Probably it originated in Trump’s reliance on Russian money to save his sinking real estate business. The best explanation for his fierce resistance to the release of his tax returns is that they may reveal his complicity in the crimes of corrupt oligarchs. That makes more sense than a desire to disguise the true size of his vaunted wealth.

The only way to shake the loyalty of Trump’s base, and thus persuade Senate Republicans to convict him of the articles of impeachment, is to accuse him in the media of treason. In commendable contrast to Trump and other Republicans, Democrats have refrained from making unfounded and vicious allegations. Now, however, they should no longer wait for certainty. Instead, they should publicly allege the probable.

Herb Rothschild’s column appears in the Ashland Tidings every Saturday.

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