Is President Trump Vulnerable To Russian Blackmail?

03/28/2017 03:38 pm ET Updated Mar 29, 2017
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

There has been a lot of speculation about whether Russia has compromising information about President Trump. Certainly, there is evidence of ties between high level members of his campaign staff and the Russian ambassador and other Russian agents. We now know that the FBI has an active on-going investigation of these ties as a counter-intelligence operation, and that both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are looking into the matter. One unknown in all this is the extent to which President Trump himself instigated or was aware of these contacts. Was there a deal between the Trump campaign and the Russian government under which Trump would campaign as friendly to Russia, and in return Russia would dump hacked emails through WikiLeaks at times most convenient to the Trump campaign? Perhaps the investigations will shed light on these questions.

What seems to have been overlooked is that, whether President Trump was or was not compromised in the past, he certainly is now. We know that the Russian government is entirely capable of lying when it finds it convenient to do so (remember all those denials about its activity in Ukraine and Crimea?). If the Russian government now chose to weaken President Trump further, they could allow some of their operatives and friends to claim coordination with the Trump campaign, whether or not it was true. Consequently, the Russian government can now blackmail President Trump if it chooses to.

President Trump has had a disastrous start to his term. His two executive orders on Muslim immigration have been blocked by the courts. His repeal of Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) failed. His prospects of getting tax reform, infrastructure spending, a Mexican-financed border wall, and new tariffs are dim. His foreign policy initiatives (“NATO is obsolete”) are now contradicted by his cabinet spokesmen. Perhaps it suits the Russian government better to have a weak and derided President Trump than it would to pull the plug.

But make no mistake about it, President Trump is indeed vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

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