Donald Trump is not a Russian agent in the sense that Philip and Elizabeth from The Americans are Russian agents. There’s no hidden radio in his laundry room where he transmits secrets to the Kremlin. But his relationship with Russia is disturbing and lends itself to frightening interpretations.
Franklin Foer has detailed the connections between the Republican nominee and the Kremlin. In short, it includes a long series of economic and social ties, which fit the pattern Vladimir Putin has used to infiltrate and undermine governments elsewhere — including in Ukraine, a coup Putin pulled off through Paul Manafort, who is now Trump’s campaign manager. Michael Crowley and Julia Ioffe have both described how the Russian propaganda apparatus has thrown itself behind Trump’s campaign. As Foer notes, Trump’s lack of creditworthiness makes him unusually reliant on unconventional sources of financing. This makes him vulnerable to financial leverage by an unscrupulous foreign entity.
The evidence of Trump’s unseemly affinity for Putin is extensive but circumstantial. Yet the most disturbing explanation for the evidence continues to get more plausible. Today, Josh Rogin reports, the Republican Party officially altered its platform on Ukraine and Russia. The previous platform advocated “providing lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine, reflecting the virtually unanimous position of the Republican Party Establishment. Trump staffers prevailed on the Platform Committee to replace that language with a milder endorsement of “appropriate assistance.”
Given how little attention Trump has paid to the substance of the platform, the intervention is striking. At the very least, it suggests that the candidate’s extensive, fulsome praise for the Russian dictator is more than a passing fancy. Reporters who investigate these ties are being very careful about their conclusions, but this looks really bad.