Donald Trump has hired an attractive young woman to spin the news in his favor. But it’s a difficult job, especially when a cold-blooded killer endorses your candidate. On CNN on Thursday night, Katrina Pierson attempted to soften the impact of the Russian president’s endorsement of – or high praise for – Trump for U.S. president.
“This wasn’t an endorsement,” she said. “This was simply just a powerful man recognizing someone in the United States running for president who is also a powerful man. It was not an endorsement.”
That “powerful man” in Russia is a former KGB spy whose regime is murdering innocent people in Ukraine and Syria. It is the same regime whose terrorists in Eastern Ukraine shot down a Malaysian airplane and killed almost 300 people.
Putin said about Trump, “He is a very flamboyant man, very talented, no doubt about that…. He is the absolute leader of the presidential race, as we see it today. He says that he wants to move to another level of relations, to a deeper level of relations with Russia. How can we not welcome that? Of course we welcome it.”
It certainly sounded like something approaching an endorsement.
Trump provided a statement to ABC News saying, “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.” Trump went on: “I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect.”
Highly respected? Does Trump not understand how the Kremlin manipulates the media and eliminates opposition political figures and independent journalists?
Trump’s reaction was more embarrassing than the news that “Bolshevik Bernie” Sanders, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, had honeymooned in the old Soviet Union. Based on his praise for Putin, who ran one of the successor agencies to the KGB before he became Russian president, Trump may turn out to be another billionaire more comfortable with the policies of the Democratic Party.
During the 2012 campaign, in the final presidential debate, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney called Russia “a geopolitical foe.” President Obama mocked him, saying Romney was stuck in the past. The Obama/Hillary Clinton policy was the Russian “re-set,” which was supposed to increase trade and political cooperation with the Putin regime. Instead, it set the stage for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Before that, in 2008, Russia had invaded its former Republic of Georgia.
Trump seems not to understand how the Obama/Clinton Russian policy failed.
In the current campaign, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has been strongly critical of Putin, calling him a “gangster” and “an organized crime figure who controls the government and a large territory.”
That territory is growing.
As a businessman himself, Trump should know that property rights are not respected in Russia and that most of the important business is concentrated in the hands of Putin’s former KGB associates and cronies. That makes his comments about developing a trade relationship with Putin even more incomprehensible.
Businessman Bill Browder, who ran an investment fund in Russia called Hermitage Capital Management, was forced to flee Russia after his assets were stolen. His lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was tortured and murdered, and his death has become an international symbol of human rights violations in Russia.
The evidence shows that Putin and his group of former KGB officers are looting Russia, consolidating their power, and eliminating through torture and murder anyone who gets in their way. Browder’s book, Red Notice, tells the story in detail. His website, Russian Untouchables, names the names of the Russian officials involved in the case.
A film that was shown on December 15 at the Newseum, “From Russia with Cash,” explains how Russian government figures seek to steal and launder their money abroad through real estate transactions involving shell companies.
Trump spokesperson Pierson told CNN that Trump’s acceptance of the Putin endorsement was made “in the context of fighting terrorism, fighting ISIS in the Middle East.” She said, “Vladimir Putin has stepped up. Many people do respect him for that, including Americans who may not like Vladimir Putin but they like the fact that he’s stepping up and taking action against ISIS.”
Pierson is a victim of the Russian propaganda operations being waged in the U.S. and other countries by such Kremlin outlets as Russia Today (RT).
Putin has “stepped up” to save the long-time Soviet/Russian client state of Syria. The other guest on the show, radio host Ben Ferguson, pointed out, “Putin is propping up Assad. You should understand that, so should Donald Trump.” But Trump apparently does not.
What’s more, the evidence indicates that Putin’s military has been targeting anti-Assad pro-Western rebel groups, not ISIS. In fact, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says pro-Assad military strikes have allowed ISIS “to seek advantage on the ground.” He said, “The majority of Russian air strikes continue to target Syrian opposition forces.”
ISIS itself has confirmed in one of its own publications that Russia is mainly targeting other groups, declaring that Russia is bombing “the allies of America” and that its intervention in Syria has “confused American analysts, think tanks, intelligence, and policy-makers.”
Trump has to be considered in the ranks of the “confused.”
In the wake of Trump’s gaffe during the recent debate, when he demonstrated ignorance about the nuclear triad, his acceptance of Putin’s endorsement may put this businessman in the ranks of official Russian dupes. In effect, the leading GOP presidential candidate has become captive to Moscow’s propaganda.
Once the voters understand how Trump has emerged as a stooge of Putin in the presidential race, his days as a serious candidate will be numbered.
“I’m like a really smart person,” Trump has said. This is the candidate who accepts praise from Vladimir Putin and returns the compliment, but says he doesn’t want Jeb Bush’s endorsement “because he is a low energy person and he does not represent strength, power, and stamina, which are qualities our country desperately needs.”
It may be too late, considering the damage his comments have caused to his campaign and reputation, but Trump ought to devote some of his own energy to understanding how the Kremlin is waging a war of propaganda and disinformation regarding subjects like the wars in Ukraine and Syria. He should also read businessman Bill Browder’s book on corruption in Russia.
© Cliff Kincaid