Shortly before his first press conference as president-elect, a story broke that Donald Trump was being blackmailed by Russia with financial data and a sex tape filmed in a Moscow hotel. It was only the latest unverified scandal in the ongoing saga of Trump’s Russia connection which, despite scant evidence for many of the claims, has dominated mainstream coverage of our post-Trump world. Often the reports have come at the expense of adequately exposing greater evils being perpetrated in plain sight.
Of course, a US president who is compromised by a foreign entity is a major story. And there is plenty of reason to believe Trump is, at some level, compromised by Russia. But the angle the media focuses on is suspect. Because Trump is so secretive with his finances, it’s impossible to know how indebted he may be to foreign investors, but there is still plenty of evidence in the public record.
Decades of business ties exist between Trump, his inner circle, and Russian oligarchs. In 2008 Trump’s son admitted that Russian investors make up a “disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets” and the organization sees “a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” Trump’s Secretary of State pick, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, received an Order of Friendship medal from Russian President Vladimir Putin and brokered an Arctic drilling deal with him worth an estimated $300 billion.
If proven, the hacking story could be huge. The strongest credible claims so far are that Putin released information stolen from Democrats in such a way as to have maximum benefit for Trump. New reports suggest Trump’s campaign may have colluded with the cyber attackers, and that Russia built a file on Trump over several years to manipulate him. It’s all fishy, and worth investigating, but until something conclusive is presented it’s hard to know how seriously to take each story.
The wildest allegation so far is that Trump paid prostitutes to pee in a bed, formerly used by the Obamas on their visits to Moscow, and that the Russians are blackmailing him with the proof. Given Trump’s well-documented sexual deviancy – he told Howard Stern he ogled underage pageant contestants, repeatedly remarks on his own daughter’s hotness, and bragged about committing sexual assault – it’s not farfetched. But even if true, one man’s gross perversion has nothing on the truly diabolical agenda of congressional Republicans.
In the wee hours of January 12, Senate Republicans began the process of repealing Obamacare. Without a replacement, repeal of the law means tens of millions of Americans will lose their health insurance. Other benefits, including Social Security and Medicare, are also on the GOP chopping block. Republicans in state legislatures are moving swiftly to enact anti-union right-to-work laws. All of this is to save rich people money and none of it has support among the American people. Majorities are pro-union, pro-Social Security and Medicare, and overwhelmingly against repealing Obamacare without a replacement.
Rather than paying close scrutiny to these developments, which have direct bearing on the lives of millions of Americans, mainstream media is devoting its most precious headline space to playing out a spy novel. Such scandal-heavy reporting helped Trump win the election in the first place and reveals how out of touch the establishment is.
Why Putin would want Trump is obvious. Trump has heaped praise on Putin for years, sometimes fawning over him like a love-struck schoolboy, and his friendly attitude has improved the Russian leader’s standing among Republicans. Putin supports other ultra-right nationalists in Europe and elsewhere, including France’s Marine le Pen, who recently showed up at Trump Tower. All of it builds toward a network of reactionary authoritarians, opposed to peacekeeping international alliances, propped up in their homelands by base bigotry but in truth motivated by cold-blooded plunder.
As dangerous as all these developments are, they must be resisted not by military forces or establishment backlash, but by ordinary Americans protecting their own best interests. Nothing could be worse than war with Russia. Whether he’s in Putin’s pocket or not, Trump’s agenda clearly does not have the interests of ordinary Americans at heart. His cabinet picks and the inhuman GOP platform attest to this far better than any sex tape ever could.