Donald Trump’s tweets have gotten increasingly unhinged lately, even by his admittedly low standards. The scuttlebutt on Twitter is that Trump is running scared at how close special counsel Robert Mueller is getting to his inner circle. There’s another reason for Trump to worry–what his former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, may do. All indications are that Cohen is about to flip, if he hasn’t done so already. According to numerous reports, Trump believes Cohen could pose a greater threat to him than Mueller.
But a former intelligence agent thinks that Trump has a really big reason to worry. And that reason isn’t named Mueller or Cohen–it’s Vladimir Putin.
Veteran national security strategist and former National Security Agency analyst John Schindler has been one of Trump’s most intractable critics on the Republican side. For the better part of two years, he has been using his perspective as a former counterintelligence officer to warn the nation about the growing evidence that the Trump campaign crawled into bed with the Kremlin. And he’s done so from his perch as national security columnist for The Observer–which is owned by a trust in the name of First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner.
After Trump spent much of the first month of his term needling the intelligence community, Schindler and a number of active and retired agents declared all-out war–and vowed to ensure Trump dies behind bars.
Since then, Schindler has fired a number of salvos. Among other things, he has revealed that his former employers at the NSA not only have evidence that the Trump campaign indeed conspired with Russia, but are “pulling out all the stops” to find any evidence to prove that said conspiracy existed. But on Friday, Schindler suggested that Trump may have a bigger concern than the prospect of the NSA or Mueller opening the trap door under him.
Like most of the nation, Schindler’s spidey senses went off when Trump tweeted last Sunday that the infamous meeting at Trump Tower was indeed intended to get Russian-flavored “opposition research” on Hillary Clinton. He believes that Putin saw this meeting as “a clandestine intelligence operation.” After all, there were at least two Russian spies at that meeting–the lawyer on hand for that gathering, Natalia Veselnitskaya, and Russian-born lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin.
We already know that Veselnitskaya admitted that she was a Kremlin informant back in April. But in January, Schindler noticed that Veselnitskaya was entangled in an attempt to recruit a Swiss corruption investigator as a Russian asset–as Schindler put it then, “typical Russian espionage tradecraft.” Akmetshin long worked for the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency–but Putin has long been on record as saying that there is no such thing as a former Russian intelligence officer.
These factors led Schindler to draw the same conclusion that just about everyone who isn’t a Trump diehard drew–“that fateful meeting certainly represented collusion with Moscow.” He also believes Trump almost certainly knew about that meeting, given “his well-honed micromanagement and his lack of confidence in Don Jr.,” who was at that meeting along with Kushner and Paul Manafort. In a colossal understatement, Schindler believes that “it’s difficult to portray the president’s legal situation as anything but grim.”
But Schindler then argues that Trump may have a bigger worry than the prospect of being in an orange jumpsuit. He notes that Putin has made no secret that he is very displeased with Trump. Apparently Putin believed that if Trump won, he “could shift American policy more to Russia’s liking.” But Putin apparently forgot that unlike in Russia, the United States has institutional safeguards against a president unilaterally imposing his will.
That disappointment grew when Trump’s State Department was all but forced to implement sanctions on Russia for nearly killing two former Russian spies living in the United Kingdom. As we already know, Putin warned Trump through his puppets on Russian state TV that Trump had better “do what we say” if he wants any help to stem a potential blue tsunami in November.
But Schindler believes Putin could do a lot more than just wag his finger at Trump. He notes that the attack on the former spies was part of a wave of assassinations “not seen in the Kremlin since Stalin’s time,” and indeed was “more brazen than anything Stalin’s killer spies ever did,” given that they used a nerve agent with no regard for potential collateral damage. Moreover, just three years ago, Putin’s minions killed a Russian defector less than a mile from the White House.
All things considered, Schindler believes Trump should have a lot of reasons to worry that Putin could do a lot more to him than release a pee-pee tape or roll out other kompromat.
Robert Mueller can open the door to Donald Trump’s impeachment and prosecution. Vladimir Putin can do worse and does not need to play by any legal rules.
In light of this, Mark Levin’s suggestion that Mueller is a bigger threat than Putin looks downright laughable. News flash, Mark. If prosecutor who can end your presidency for criminal activity is a bigger threat than a tinpot dictator who has no qualms about meddling in other countries’ affairs and killing those standing in his way, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn up for sale.
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