Jim Crawford: The continuing trend of a Republican embrace of Russia

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 5, 2024

In 2015, when Donald Trump began his campaign for the presidency, virtually all Republican politicians saw Russia as an enemy of the United States. 

Today, many of the new MAGA Republicans have embraced and adopted Russian priorities.

This is how it happened.

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In the 2016 election, Russia interfered to help Trump win the election. Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, shared campaign marketing strategies with a Russian agent. The Trump campaign met at Trump Towers with Russian operatives offering their support for Trump. Trump first denied Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee, then acknowledged in 2017 (Jan. 11, 201717), “I think it was Russia” only to deny the same in 2018 in Helsinki, supporting Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies and the FBI.

The Mueller investigation found at least 10 instances of Trump obstructing justice, but the report was shelved by Trump’s attorney general, William Barr.

Later, a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Special Committee investigated the 2016 election concluding, “Numerous contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow posed a grave counterintelligence threat…”

In the 2020 election Russia again interfered to aid Trump in his losing re-election bid, by “undermining confidence in the electoral process” (NPR March 16, 2021). CNN reported on Russian efforts to denigrate Joe Biden with the use of misinformation while supporting Trump with misinformation and the aid of Trump’s political allies.

After the 2020 election, not only Trump, but other Republican candidates who lost their elections joined the ex-president in election denial, as did 147 elected members of Congress by refusing to certify the election results. 

Their actions were successful in undermining trust in our elections as today nearly 40 percent of Republicans believe the 2020 election falsely declared Biden the winner.

Now, in the 2024 election campaign, numerous Republicans have embraced various Russian objectives including failing to support NATO, with Trump leading by suggesting Russia should feel free to attack NATO countries that do not meet financial commitments.

Trump’s congressional supporters, led by House Speaker Mike Johnson have refused to allow a floor vote on funding Ukraine, undermining the defense of that nation under Russian attack.

Additionally, Trump and his MAGA supporters continue to advance misinformation and disinformation about President Biden in their baseless impeachment attempt, informed by a Russian-connected individual now jailed.

Perhaps most egregious, Trump and his MAGA base continually attack the foundations of democracy, undermining the courts and jury system by declaring rulings that go against Trump as “illegitimate” (U.S. Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio and others), while claiming the legal challenges the ex-president faces as, in true Trumpian terms, “witch hunts.”

Russia has long sought to undermine Western democracies and has always used disinformation as its primary tool. 

In a free society, where free speech protects false claims most often, the Russian method finds an effective medium when supported by U.S. interests and political operatives. Consider the two cases before the Supreme Court this week from new laws passed in Florida and Texas. 

The two states argue that conservative voices have been unfairly denied access to social media sites. 

Their reference is to sites like Facebook restricting false claims like dangerous vaccine threats, discredited voting schemes and, most notably, Donald Trump’s post-Jan. 6 social media prohibition from advancing false election claims.

These Republican-led states want and demand the right to advance false narratives before the American people in a true Russian fashion, as X under Elon Musk has willfully provided in the site that was once Twitter. Under Musk’s ownership, he has welcomed back hate speech, division and chaos with unlimited access, decisions the Russians might blush at in false modesty.

Once upon a time, Republicans distrusted Russia. Today, their leading presidential candidate, and many of the MAGA-elected Americans, have embraced far too many Russian goals and strategies against American interests. They pose a most serious threat to the nation.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.