Tom Nichols is a national security professor at the Naval War College and a Russia expert, and he just said out loud that Trump is way, way compromised by Putin’s Russia. Then again, Nichols is a Russia expert and my Russia expertise is pretty much limited to whatever Yakov Smirnoff says — and he’s not talking these days unless you pay to see him Branson, Missouri. And there’s a hard limit to what I’m willing to do for my country, so …
Nichols, of course, mentions the recent bombshell report about the counterintelligence investigation the FBI launched against the pr*sident, and notes the high evidentiary bar required to initiate such an investigation. Then he goes on to discuss the other weekend bombshell — that Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to hide the details of his discussions with Putin from his own senior staff. And then there’s the fresh fusillade of panic-tweeting from the much-whoremongering candidate.
But then Nichols adds some context:
Trump’s behavior regarding Russia has always presented a serious security concern. But when Trump fires the director of the FBI, and then brags about it to actual Russians, only the most stupid or craven law enforcement agency would decline to investigate what to any counterintelligence officer would be the brightest of dozens of flashing red lights. The White House communications shop can throw invective at James Comey and other Justice Department officials, but the FBI had no choice. It was doing the job Americans count on it to do.
Second, the president’s attempts to hide the content of his conversations with Putin are not only abnormal but also deeply suspect. The intelligence community, members of Congress and the public should always be anxious whenever any American official talks to a top Russian leader and then tries to seize the notes. This kind of behavior violates practices of sensible diplomacy and intelligence analysis, and no one acts this way for innocent reasons.
Nor are conversations between the president and Putin merely some personal matter. Such discussions might in fact need to be confidential; sensitive diplomacy often requires a close hold on the informal back-and-forth between top leaders. But their content should be known at the very least to the administration’s own top intelligence and foreign policy advisers.
At best this is an aperitif for us all to sip on before Mueller rolls out the seven-course meal, but it’s interesting to see how people with unusual insight into Russia view all this.
Safe to say, they’re not seeing it through red state-colored glasses.