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Trump and ‘The Purloined Letter’

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Donald Trump Jr was approached last summer by a publicist, Rob Goldstone, acting on behalf of a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, who offered the Trump campaign ‘very high level and sensitive information’ about Hillary Clinton’s dealings with Russia. The response by Donald Jr was not high-minded: ‘If it’s what you say, I love it.’ Apparently the offer of information turned out to be an empty pretext. The instigator of the meeting was a pop musician, Emin Agalarov, the son of a businessman, Aras Agalarov – a name that also came up in the ‘dodgy dossier’ on Trump collected by the ex-MI6 agent Christopher Steele. Trump Senior had taken money from Agalarov, and in return provided Miss Universe contestants for use in a music video by Emin. American billionaires and Russian oligarchs may be supposed to share an elective affinity. They are members of an international tribe, and snap their fingers at sovereignties.

How does the mass of circumstantial evidence now add up? Steele’s dossier claimed that leaks from the Democratic National Committee were made with the knowledge and consent of the Trump campaign. In August, Trump’s associate Roger Stone predicted the release by Wikileaks of emails from Clinton’s adviser John Podesta – ‘it will soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel’ – and the assurance proved to be justified. More arresting, as one thinks back on it, was the assertion by Trump himself when questioned at a press briefing on 27 July about the troubled security of the DNC. He refused to pull a long face: ‘Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing’ (from Clinton’s private server). He was joking of course. Or was he signalling? That July ‘hope’ could have been a legible instruction to real collaborators, following the plot of Poe’s story ‘The Purloined Letter’. The master thief casually deposits his prize on a surface so conspicuous nobody would look for it there.

The email from Donald Jr may be only the latest candidate for ‘the smoking gun’ or the ‘fire where there’s smoke’ – pet clichés that jostle for priority in the 24/7 news captions – but it leaves no doubt that the morale of the Trump campaign was such as to permit collaboration with Russians against American citizens and institutions. And yet, even if materials on Clinton were received directly and used, it isn’t clear this would have violated the law. Like the contacts with Iran by the Reagan campaign in 1980, or with South Vietnam by associates of Nixon in 1968, the Trump-Russia connection is shocking mostly as an instance of shabby intrigue for political gain. Three Republican presidential campaigns have acted on the belief that winning an election was really worth that much. The non-stop fever pitch of the establishment press would seem less misjudged if Trump were the anomaly they take him to be.

Mainstream media are using their peck of Trump a day to keep ratings high while making it impossible for him to govern: just the thing Fox did for 16 years to Bill Clinton and Obama. The retaliation is symmetrical and warranted, but it does nothing to advance the cause of a political opposition. The Democrats, still looking to retrieve the stolen election but uncertain what opening to pursue, seem almost united in pushing for confrontation with Russia; guided, in this, by the unvaried diet of the media and the mythology of the Cold War – an epoch whose non-mythological terrors few of them experienced as adults. By keeping Trump in the news as both enemy and a source of scandal, they prevent their own fresh talents from ever appearing on the front page. Well advised as they may be about Russia’s intervention and Trump’s depravity, they are looking for a police-detective solution to a political problem.

Comments on “Trump and ‘The Purloined Letter’”

  1. IPFreely says:

    The Democrats are part of the problem, not part of the solution. I began to think that Trump would last 6 months or a year at most. Now I suspect that he will last for 4 years and run again. America! Stop pretending! You get the leaders you deserve.

  2. norman ravitch says:

    There have been so many criticism from the Left of the opposition in America from intellectuals and political people to Donald Trump. The usual complaint is that resistance and criticism are not enough. Granted. Also always mentioned is the need for the Democratic Party to offer a meaningful platform which is more than resistance and opposition to Trump. Yes, but I suspect this suggestion is nothing more than a Leftist attempt to seize control of the Democratic Party in the interests of a more radical social and economic program. This is believed to be necessary but it seems to me that this is self-defeating. Americans opposed to Trump do not want some form of Bernie Sanders Trotskyism or Elizabeth Warren identity politics. What we want is a middle of the road policy which objects to the criminal venality of the extreme Right and the unpatriotic intentions and unconstituional intentions of the Trumpites. We need someone like Bill Clinton again, not Sanders or Warren or even the divisive Obama. Had it not been for Obama and before him for George W. Bush we would not have Trump in the White House. Here the Left is being its usual suicidal self.

  3. Joshua K says:

    Which fresh talents are you alluding to?

  4. IPFreely says:

    Trump is going to hold on for along as he can before Pence becomes the new president. The dilemma of the left and the democrats is that as he holds all of the reins in his hands and so nobody can start to institute proceedings against him. I think we all can guess what that famous meeting in July 16 was really about. Trump needs some cash and also plans to build hotels in Russia so he cosies up to Putin and wanted to promise that he would get the restrictions dropped a.s.a.p.
    Before the G20, the opposition was wondering what Trump and Putin would have to talk about. “Young Turks” speculated that Trump would be briefed with bullet points and little pictures on the things to hit on. What did they talk about for 2 1/2 hours? Golf? The size of the crowd outside?

  5. Delaide says:

    “The retaliation is symmetrical …”. Yeah, I hear what you are saying but it strays in the arena of false equivalence. The attacks on Obama and Clinton (country of birth, Benghazi, emails …) were nonsense, the attacks on Trump are not fabrications. How can you not be outraged by this misogenist, racist, ignorant buffoon?

    • JamesBaldwin says:

      He is outraged by the buffoon. He just doubts that pursuing confrontation with the other nuclear superpower, while failing to come up with any interesting policies, is the best way to defeat the buffoon.

  6. Graucho says:

    All this aside, it is now very obvious that Putin wanted Trump in the White House and the cosying up is indicating why. Watch this space for Kremlin friendly decisions.

    • piffin says:

      So what? The US has Russia completely surrounded with 180 military bases and the trajectory has been inexorably towards WWIII. What we ought to be concerned about are not Kremlin-friendly decisions but the Riyadh and Tel Aviv-friendly ones, which are all pointing towards another unnecessary, apocalyptic war with Iran.

  7. Stu Bry says:

    “American billionaires and Russian oligarchs may be supposed to share an elective affinity. They are members of an international tribe, and snap their fingers at sovereignties.”

    Why not American oligarchs?

  8. Peterson_the man with no name says:

    The battle between Trump and the media will run and run, because it suits both sides to keep it going. Trump gets to show his supporters that he is the plucky little guy fighting for his freedom of speech against an arrogant and bullying liberal media; journalists get to show their own egos that they are the plucky little guys fighting for freedom of the press against an arrogant and bullying president. And since stopping the fight would force both sides to reveal the fact that they have no constructive ideas about anything, it would be cruel not to let them carry on with it.

  9. Bob Beck says:

    I fail to see how the “mainstream media” can, or ever could, make it “impossible for [Trump] to govern”. But in any case, Trump couldn’t govern a village in upstate New York. And if the Republicans can’t govern, with majorities in Congress and on the Supreme Court, and the proverbial useful idiot in the White House, that’s on them.

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