At this point, Il Trumpe’s best defense against corruption is that he’s so obvious about his pro-Russia sentiments, he couldn’t possibly be in the bag for Putin–an operative would try to be more subtle (boldface mine):
Over the course of 16+ months, President Trump has acted consistently and with some success to destabilize and break up the western alliance (both its formal manifestation in NATO) but also its less formal dimensions in trade and other partnerships. He has also worked consistently on really every front to advance the interests of Russia…
The last twenty four hours of attacks on our closest allies capped by President Trump’s seemingly out of the blue demand to bring Russia back into the G-7 (making it again the G-8 which it was for most of the post-Cold War era until Russia was expelled over the annexation of Crimea) simply brings the matter into a newly sharp relief. If candidate Trump and President Putin had made a corrupt bargain which obligated President Trump to destabilize all U.S. security and trade alliances (especially NATO, which has been Russia’s primary strategic goal for 70 years) and advance the strategic interests of Russia, there’s really nothing more remotely realistic he could have done to accomplish that than what he has in fact done.
Take a moment to let that sink in. I need to take a moment to let it sink in. It’s shocking to me. It’s shocking to me what’s happening. Now I said above “remotely realistic.” A critic of what I wrote above might note that Trump could, in fact, have taken steps to abrogate the NATO treaty commitments. He might have said publicly that the U.S. would not aid the Baltic states or Poland against a Russian invasion. We can also note that he has approved very limited sale of weaponry to Ukraine, which is of course still battling Russian proxy forces in the eastern part of the country. But the things he could have done but has not done really to me fall into the category of things that are unnecessary and probably still beyond what the President could remotely get away with.
Sanctions are an instructive example. The administration did finally impose a limited version of the sanctions Congress authorized early in Trump’s presidency. But on every sanctions front, it has been always absolutely as little as possible and always kicking and screaming. He has also been surrounded by people like H.R. McMaster and many others of a similar outlook, who clearly aren’t friendly to the strategic interests of Russia. So Trump has been operating to a degree within the constraints of U.S. public opinion and the heavy remonstrations of his top advisors. And yet … at every opportunity, he did everything he could realistically do to advance that agenda.
…He’s doing all the stuff he’d have been asked to do if such a corrupt bargain had been made. At a certain point – and I’d say we’re clearly at or past that point – it really doesn’t matter whether we can prove such a bargain was made. I’m not even sure it matters whether it was explicit or even happened. The bank robber helped the teller get the job and now the teller just won’t seem to lock the safe or even turn on the alarm.
When self-described NOT RACIST people devise policies that just happen to have the same outcomes that would be desired by racists, we call that racist, even if the architects of those policies ‘know they’re good people’*. So too with Il Trumpe’s Russian policy: it is indistinguishable from someone who is actively pursuing Russian interests (and at this point, his narcissism means he himself can’t really tell what actually happened).
*Here’s the formula: 1) I am a good person; 2) racists are bad people; 3) ergo, I am not a racist.