Donald Trump either has nothing to hide about his relationship with Russia — or he is hiding in plain sight, as all good con artists do. What you believe will depend on your political prejudices and how you feel about Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin.
The Washington Post‘s report yesterday that Trump shared ‘highly classified information’ about Isis with the Russian foreign minister last week has triggered the usual consternation in Washington. The most potentially damaging allegation is that what Trump told Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak has compromised an intelligence source, or broken the rule that intelligence-sharing countries do not pass on classified information without obtaining consent from or informing the country who passed on the intelligence in confidence. Disclosing such state secrets — codeword information, according to the Post, the highest level of confidential information — would be illegal for almost anyone in the US government, yet the President has the authority to do so. Nonetheless, H R McMaster, the national security adviser, has called the Post’s report false.
For Donald-loathers, the story fits: Trump, the Russian agent of influence, uses his position as Commander-in-Chief to spill state secrets that compromise American security. And for those who just think Trump is a bungling idiot who cannot be trusted in the Oval Office, it works, too.
One intelligence official whispered to the Post that Trump had ‘revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies’ — and that, perhaps, is the root of the story. Most of Washington considers Moscow an enemy, while Trump sees Russia as an ally in the war against Islamic terrorism.
The timing of the meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak is what has driven the media wild – coming as it did the day after Trump fired FBI director James Comey, who was overseeing the investigation into Trump’s links to Russia. Add to that the fact that American media were not allowed to attend any part of the meeting, whereas a Russian news agency was, and you have a suspected conspiracy.
Yet if Trump really does have a dark relationship with Moscow, surely he would not be so brazen. Maybe he would, say his critics; it’s in his nature. Or perhaps his administration is trying to wind up the ‘opposition party’ media into a state of such apoplexy about Russia that it ignores everything else his government is or is not doing?