Gwen Moritz

Now That We All Agree …

Gwen Moritz Editor's Note

Now That We All Agree …
Russian matryoshka toys with portraits of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump for sale at a Moscow souvenir kiosk (dimbar76 /

Last Monday was one of the most depressing days of my life, up there with watching Gov. Asa Hutchinson declare that Donald Trump was “the right leader for our time” and the night that a confessed sexual predator who ran a scam university and belittled POWs won enough Electoral College votes to become president.

Monday, of course, was the day President Trump stood beside Vladimir Putin, the shorter but clearly dominant player on the platform in Helsinki, and was as disloyal to sworn defenders of the Constitution of the United States as he has been to all three of his wives.

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After subsequently giving a couple of interviews in which he deferred to Putin’s denials of election interference, he suddenly realized that he had misspoken one word back in Finland. When he said, “I don’t see any reason why [the source of the interference] would be Russia,” he really meant to say wouldn’t. And he went even further, assuring Americans and the intelligence community that he really does have faith in their work.

Presumably that means that he now agrees that Putin — whose status as a murderous dictator Trump has excused by suggesting a moral equivalency with the United States — orchestrated a vast and sophisticated cyberattack to help Trump’s candidacy and to weaken Hillary Clinton’s. I trust that he’ll never again refer to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s remarkably productive investigation of Russian cybercrimes as a “witch hunt,” since that would mean that he has again turned on the intelligence community.

We may never know whether Putin’s efforts swung enough voters in the targeted swing states to allow Trump to win the presidency. But there is now no longer any dispute that the GOP passed over a dozen experienced candidates of proven conservatism and character to nominate the candidate that Putin personally believed would be best for Russian interests.

Now, none of this means that President Trump knew that Putin was lavishing him with the gift of military and private sector (such as it is in Russia) assistance. That might be considered collusion, and President Trump declares that there was none of that so often that someone who didn’t trust his veracity completely might think he protests a little too much.

But, absent any evidence to the contrary, I’m going to assume that he did not know what Putin was doing. I’m going to assume that he just didn’t notice that, within a few short weeks in February and March 2016, four people who were already financially entangled with Russian and pro-Russian interests “volunteered” for his campaign.

Young George Papadopoulos, the comic relief of the Russia investigation, also joined the campaign during that time as an unpaid (of course) foreign policy expert. Unlike Carter Page, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and Michael Flynn, Papadopoulos doesn’t seem to have had any Russian conflicts before he came over from the dynamic Ben Carson campaign. But before his role in the Trump campaign was even made public, he happened to meet a Maltese professor who happened to have very high-level Russian contacts who were very eager to share secrets with this 20-something.

After joining the campaign, Manafort promptly wrested control from Corey Lewandowski (“womp womp”) in time for the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where the Republican Party weirdly changed its platform so that it no longer supported Ukrainian resistance to the Russian occupation of the Crimean Peninsula. Perhaps Trump didn’t even wonder about that curious inside baseball, since he was so focused on building a wall and locking up Hillary Clinton. A few days later, the AP and The New York Times reported on huge payments to Manafort and Gates by Ukrainian interests who were pro-Russia — the stuff of their later indictments and Gates’ guilty plea.

The best-case explanation (albeit unflattering to his skills as a manager) is that Trump was oblivious to the Russian infiltration of his campaign as well as to its cyberattack on our democracy. Papadopoulos, Gates and Flynn have already pleaded guilty to federal crimes in the Mueller investigation — the very best deals they could get in exchange for full cooperation. And Manafort is awaiting trial from a jail cell after a judge was convinced that he was trying to coach witnesses.

Page has not been charged with anything, but — whether Trump knew this or not when he welcomed him into the campaign — Page had been on the FBI’s radar as a potential Russian operative since 2013.

Now that we all agree that the intelligence community is right about Russia’s interference on behalf of Trump’s candidacy, perhaps we can ask ourselves whether all this could be coincidental.

Email Gwen Moritz, editor of Arkansas Business, at and follow her on Twitter at @gwenmoritz.