Not in the last 100 years and more have we seen such harsh mainstream attacks on a sitting president.
“Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. [!] Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican patriots: Where are you???” tweeted John Brennan, former CIA director under Obama. He was not alone. “Enemy of the people” commented lifelong Republican Max Boot. “The president essentially capitulated,” said James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence under Obama.
What is going on here?
Some might dismiss such attacks by saying that you can’t trust these types nor can you trust the FBI. Well, of course! But neither can we dismiss this uproar,
this major division, which is a crisis at the top. We have to start with a few basic facts:
- Whatever conflicts he might have with US imperialism, Putin is no friend of workers in Russia, the US or anywhere else. Rumored to be the richest man in the world, his regime represents a most criminal gang of oligarchs. He bases himself on the reactionary Russian Orthodox Church, homophobia, sexism, chauvinism and Islamophobia. His bombing campaigns of Chechnya first and then the Syrian people are nothing short of crimes against humanity. Nope, the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend.See this pamphlet for more background on the Putin regime.
- Trump has long and deep financial ties with the Russian oligarchs. After his funding sources dried up following his bankruptcies, he became a money launderer for these oligarchs/mafiosi.
- The tops of the US capitalist class must be aware of this, but their hesitancy to attack him is due to the fact that money laundering is rampant throughout the US real estate industry. So, revealing Trump’s criminal (by even their own standards) background would open up a whole can of worms that they prefer to leave closed, if they possibly can.
Make no mistake, Putin agents did involve themselves in the 2017 election. This blog site discussed some of these aspects, including how the Russian-controlled “Internet Research Agency” sent out fake news items mainly through Facebook that were ultimately seen by 126 million people in the US. But there is more, as an article in “Wired.com” reveals: It was, in fact, Russian hackers who got into the DNC computers and obtained information that they then passed on to Wikileaks. Another article, this time New York Magazine reveals that then CIA director Brennan knew about the hacking as early as 2015.
Trump’s Russia connection
And Trump’s Russia connection?
As early as 1986, the Russian secret service (of which Putin was the head) had made contact with Trump as the NY Magazine article reveals. A year following this contact, Trump visited Moscow, and when he returned he had suddenly developed an interest in politics, starting with a call for the US to… stop paying for NATO. (This is not saying we should support NATO, but it’s pretty clear why and when Trump suddenly developed this interest.) As NYmag writes (and as we had written about earlier): “From 2003 to 2017, people from the former USSR made 86 all-cash purchases — a red flag of potential money laundering — of Trump properties, totaling $109 million. In 2010, the private-wealth division of Deutsche Bank also loaned him hundreds of millions of dollars during the same period it was laundering billions in Russian money. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” said Donald Jr. in 2008. “We don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia,” boasted Eric Trump in 2014.”
NYMag also documents the connection between the Kremlin-connected Russian bank Alpha Bank and the Trump election campaign committee.
Miss Universe beauty pageant in Moscow
Mother Jones also describes in detail Trump’s visit to Moscow for his Miss Universe pageant in 2013. They detail his communications with Putin and one of Putin’s closest lieutenants. (Putting the lie to Putin’s claim that he didn’t know Trump was in Moscow in 2013 nor did he even know who Trump was at that time!) They describe his plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and his ingratiating himself with Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov in order to cut through the red tape in getting such a project okayed by the Putin government. They also describe his connections with another oligarch and mobster, Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov. They explain that the plans for this project were all good to go… until the Russian takeover of Ukraine and the resulting US economic sanctions on Russia. All of this is put in the context of the June, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower in New York between Trump’s son and a team put together by Agalarov. The purpose of that meeting, Trump and his son were led to believe, was to get derogatory information on Clinton.
As the role of former lobbyist and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort shows, that meeting was just the tip of the iceberg. Interestingly, as far as the Steele dossier, there were a series of suspicious deaths of Russian diplomats shortly after that dossier was revealed. Many of these diplomats were suspected of having leaked the information in the dossier to Steele. That may be the explanation of why Manafort was seemingly so stupid as to try to coach witnesses while he was out on bail. He, too, may fear for his life, partly because of what he knows and partly because of unpaid debts to Russian oligarchs.
So, yes there was Russian intervention in the US elections and, yes, there was collaboration between them and the Trump election committee.
Capitalist mainstream in a bind
This leaves the mainstream of the US capitalist class in a bind.
They have largely lost control over their presidency. It has been lost to a rival of theirs – the Russian capitalists. This is a rivalry based more on geo-politics than economics, but it is a rivalry nevertheless. This is what all the attacks on Trump’s “patriotism” and the concern for the “national interest” are all about. It is the equating of national interests with the interests of the main wings of the US capitalist class, and in normal times the great majority of people in any country accept that equation to some degree or another.
Weakening of US imperialism
This partial loss of control over their presidency is a symptom of the developing crisis of US capitalism. Overseas they no longer are the unchallenged world power. And domestically, they cannot continue to maintain the “American Dream” for any significant sector of US workers. The result has been a dramatic decline in confidence in major US capitalist institutions, the very institutions that the US capitalist class uses to influence “public opinion”. First and foremost of these is the mainstream capitalist media.
Wall St. Journal
Even the editors of the Wall St. Journal are concerned. Since Trump became president, they have
been largely supportive. Aren’t stock prices and profits up? Aren’t perspectives for next month’s financial statements rosy? So, what’s not to like?
But even they have some concern. A WSJ editorial from some months ago, for example, worried about how Trump would be able to sell a US invasion of Iran if he’s so well known to be such a liar. And even they are concerned about Trump’s allegiance to the Russian oligarchs and their leader – Vladimir Putin. That is why they wrote about Trump’s recent trip that they were “navigat(ing) between the critics who predict the end of the world order and the cheerleaders who see only genius.” They preferred to give as they put it a “charitable explanation for [Trump’s] kowtow to the Kremlin”, saying that it was simply a matter of personal pique that he wasn’t given enough credit for his victory over Clinton. They must know the truth about his money-laundering past, but they preferred to be “charitable” for now. This is a warning that even they are willing to expose Trump if he continues down this road.
And how far down the road that he’s embarked on can Trump go? Can he go as far as Putin and crush bourgeois democracy, including the “free” capitalist press? How far can he go as far as unleashing one savagery after another? A column in the Irish Times discusses this. The article is entitled “Trial runs for fascism are in full flow.” While the article is a little one sided, it does make a point. Starting with his Muslim ban and continuing to his imprisoning of little children, Trump has unleashed one barbarity after another. What these represent is similar to “blooding of the hounds” – getting masses of people accustomed to one barbarity after another, making such actions acceptable. Trump’s Helsinki press conference should be seen in this light. Right now, even Republican supporters like Paul Ryan are critical of him, but “this, too, shall pass.”
Welcome to the new normal.
It does seem likely that the Helsinki press conference will cut deeply into Trump’s support among all but the true believers (who are about one third of the voters). It also seems likely that it will add to the motivation of the anti Trump population come November, 2018. What will Trump do then? Will he and his Republican cohorts in effect nullify several of those elections if necessary through outright fraud and voter repression? If so, what sort of outcry will result? Will this be a break in the situation?
Most important, will this lead to the rise of a new political force and the working class getting to its feet and starting to take its independence? We know that the “progressive/liberal Democrats will do everything in their power to short circuit that. Maybe this time they won’t succeed.