Republicans' Russia Problems May Run Deeper Than Donald Trump

05/14/2017 11:09 am ET Updated May 18, 2017
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Do Republicans just have a Trump problem, or, is the alleged Russian involvement with the Trump Administration the tip of a much larger Putin problem for the Republican Party? Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of the Republic, not the Republican Party.

Is the GOP going to stand in defense of our Democracy, or purely preserve power?

The party of McCarthy and Goldwater and Reagan, rabidly anti-Communist, has been mysteriously mum on the subject of the Russian hacking into the election, and the ratcheting up of erratic and paranoid behavior at the White House. Why?

Many prominent GOP partisans with Trump ties, including Carter Page and Paul Manafort have been discussed at length. Attorney General Jeff Sessions didn’t get fired but his undisclosed meetings with the Russians caused him to recuse himself from the Russian election infiltration investigation and the Trump-Russia connections.

On Wednesday, the House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, affirmed that at least Trump and Rohrabacher were tied to the Russians. On June 15, 2016, the day before the Russian hack of our election was revealed, McCarthy was recorded in a conversation:

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” he said in the recording which The Washington Post, who broke the story, revealed. “Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

“House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.”

So leadership was aware, a year ago, that members of the Republican party and it’s front-running candidate were allegedly on the take with the Kremlin.

This influence may go far deeper than Trump, and a handful of Republican politicians, straight to the Far Right’s core followers, and perhaps many of the big special interests.

Connect the dots of conservative Christianity, which is at the core of support for the ultra-Right both in the United States and Russia. American Evangelicals and Russian Orthodox have similarly regressive views of women, minorities, abortion, and gender issues. American evangelicals had a hand in shaping Russia’s harsh anti-LGBTQ laws.

American and Russian conservatives use similar tactics to motivate their zealously religious, dogmatic base of those prone to believe hard-core propaganda against what they see as cultural degradation by a progressive, socially diverse system that is inclusive of world views other than their own. They both cherry-pick history and political tradition inaccurately to reshape both democracy and communism as reflective of this white Christian world order.

That pro-Putin push into the hardwired core of Right-Wing America has delivered dividends with Republican regulars. A recent Gallup poll shows that the “better dead than Red” crowd has improved its view of Russia’s strongman, up from 12% in 2015 to a 32% favorable rating today.

How did they buy those results? Ask Paul Erikson.

The Daily Beast recently featured Republican party mover Paul Erickson, and his ties to Maria Butina, a former Siberian furniture store owner now a graduate student at American University with ties to both the NRA and Russian politician Alexander Torshin. In 2015, TIME reports that she and Torshin attended a Tennessee fundraiser for then-GOP candidate Governor Scott Walker. In 2016 they met with Donald Trump Jr. at an NRA meeting in Louisville. In April a Torshin-organized group of sixteen Russians, including Kremlin advisers, was at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Butina has extensive ties into Russian banks and their political structure. She has used Republican’s gun lobby connectivity to become tight with Erickson and wine and dine some of the top Republicans in both Congress and the White House, including Republican congressmen like Dana Rohrabacher of California, whom TIME reports as having made half a dozen trips to Russia over the past five years.

Butina has also, oddly, managed to get the National Rifle Association to backstop her Right to Bear Arms, a Russian gun activist group that she founded in Russia in 2011, a country clearly without a Second Amendment.

It’s an odd duality where both Republicans and the Kremlin preach isolationism and, on the back-channel, show growing signs of a globalist order of autocrats working past old labels towards a new world order that revolves around extreme interpretations of religious faith.

Ousting Trump from the oval office is complex. Late last week from preeminent constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe, who says there is a case for impeachment of Trump, became the most notable voice in the chorus of constitutional scholars that have been calling for a Trump impeachment trial for some time.

Republicans, very much concerned with power and survival, know that getting rid of him enters uncharted waters simply at the constitutional level.

The authors of the 25th Amendment really never considered a foreign power’s infiltration into a political party. There is no mechanism for recalling the Vice President, or politicians who might have had Russia’s hands in their pockets. Vice President Pence is not, in the circumstance of treason, the heir apparent to the throne either. The Gorsuch nomination to the Supreme Court was of such extreme urgency because a Trump melt-down would likely throw the future of the Presidency into the hands of the Supreme Court.

  • Is Pence promoted?
  • Is Clinton, the next highest electoral college vote-getter, put in power?
  • Is a special election held?

Their reluctance, though, given how fractious the GOP is these days, runs deeper. What is very clear is that, while evidence allegedly mounts that Trump had involvements with Russia’s oligarchs and banks, he is not alone.

  • How much money have Scott Walker, or other GOP candidates, received from the Russians or their surrogates?
  • Are there connections between Russia and the congressmen who visit Russia?
  • Does the influence of Republican party operatives who are also paid by Russian organizations, banks and oligarchs extend beyond the Trump White House?

The ties that have quietly bound the Republican party and Russia are becoming increasingly more visible as the flailing from Trump’s political drowning continues.

The GOP’s gaffe-fest of awkward cover-ups, resistance to a thorough investigation into the Russian tampering with the election, and Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey suggest that, unlike Watergate, the American government’s entanglement with Putin’s Russia may be far more profound.

Watergate was a botched burglary financed in part by one of the 1% funders of Teahadism, Dickie Mellon Scaife, to reframe America as a white Christian conservative enclave.

What is happening now is far different. Republicans have been acting as if they are complicit. What we are seeing, and the threads of the Russian infiltration suggest, is that the United States Congress may not be fit to investigate the Russian infiltration because the Russians may have compromised far more than the White House.

If the Republican Party has been breached to the point of this level of inaction and silence when the nation and its constitution are under attack, and our chief law enforcement officer may also be implicated, how do you prosecute a treason that may be an epidemic, not a localized political illness?

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