Wingnut Week In Review: From Russia, With Love?

Terrance Heath

While Hillary Clinton was shattering that glass ceiling, Donald Trump pulled off a first of his own: the first presidential candidate to invite a cyber attack against the United States.

This presidential election long ago entered the realm of “You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up,” but Donald Trump has once again gone where no presidential candidate has gone before. First, Trump threw the media and pretty much everyone else into a tizzy when he suggested, in an interview with the New York Times on the eve of his formal acceptance of the Republican presidential nomination, that under his leadership the US might not come to the assistance of NATO members if Russia were to invade them, unless they “have fulfilled their obligation to us.” President Obama just swore unwavering support for the new rapid reaction force to protect the most vulnerable North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Trump has previously expressed admiration for autocratic Russian President Vladimir Putin, shrugging off Putin’s invasions of other countries and assassinations of his enemies. “At least he’s a leader,” Trump said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Though at first the Trump/Putin “bromance” seemed to be as much a performance as everyone thought Trump’s candidacy would be, it turned out Trump’s not just a Putin admirer and wannabe autocrat himself. He’s heavily reliant on money from Russian oligarchs close to Putin, who invest in his business ventures, especially after his bankruptcies. Conservative columnist George Will has suggested that Trump won’t release his tax returns because they will show his ties to Russian oligarchs. Trump’s connections to Russia aren’t just monetary, either. Trump’s national campaign manager Paul Manafort spent most of the last ten years working as the top campaign and communications advisor for pro-Russian Ukraine president and close Putin ally Viktor Yanukovych, who was ousted in 2014.

Then came the eerily Watergate-like hacking of Democratic National Committee emails, that led to the ouster of chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz. And on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, no less. It seemed perfectly timed to hurt Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and benefit Donald Trump. The emails were released by WikiLeaks, but the hack appeared to be carried out by someone using a Russia-based virtual private network (VPN) service and displaying other “heavy traces of Russian activity.”

Benjamin Wittes, a security expert at the Brookings Institution said, “I think the most likely explanation is that someone in Russian intelligence, probably very high up, decided to help Donald Trump,” though Wittes added that there’s no solid evidence to back this up. Not yet, anyway. The FBI is now investigating the suspected state-sponsored Russian theft of emails and documents form the DNC’s computer networks, as well as whether Clinton’s aides were hacked. The FBI is also investigating whether the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s computers have been hacked.

Why would Russia hack in to DNC emails in an apparent attempt to help get Trump elected? Why would Putin want to help Trump and/or hurt Clinton? Well, Putin has made no secret that he and party prefer Trump over Clinton. Trump’s position that he would not automatically support NATO allies, appeals to Putin, who has threatened some of them. Likewise Trump’s support for letting Russia fight ISIS in Syria. Trump’s policies would allow an unprecedented expansion of Russia’s power and wealth. Besides, Putin holds a grudge against Clinton, accusing her of encouraging protests with her criticism of Russia’s 2011 elections.

The Kremlin dismissed the hacking claims as ridiculous, and the issue might have fallen out of the news cycle, at least until the FBI finished its investigation. But then Trump, ever unpredictable, did the unthinkable. In one of the most unhinged press conferences ever, Trump first claims that he doesn’t know Putin and never met him..

“I never met Putin, I don’t know who Putin is.” Except that, Trump bragged on the GOP debate stage about chatting with Putin, and said during a National Press Club luncheon that he was in Moscow and that he spoke “directly with President Putin, who could not have been nicer.” Besides, it’s hard to believe that in all Trump’s business trip to Russia to court investors that he never once met or talked to Putin.

And then it happened. Trump proposed the very thing that forced Richard Nixon to resign the office Trump seeks. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump invited Russia to launch a cyberattack against America, and interfere in the presidential election, by hacking into Hillary Clinton’s emails from when she was secretary of state.

And then things got crazy.

Trump later appeared on “Fox & Friends,” to try as pass the whole thing off as a sarcastic joke.

If we believe that, the joke is on us.

A Man You Can Bait With A Tweet

Hillary Clinton showed she knows how to get under Trump’s skin. Her acceptance speech at the Democratic convention included this deadly zinger for Donald Trump: “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”

Trump wasted no time taking the bait, and taking to Twitter.

True to form, he even came up with a nickname for former New York City Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

Here’s the best of the rest in wingnuttery this week.

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