Vladimir Putin has had enough of the investigations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and their possible coordination with the Trump campaign in that effort.
Unhappy with the very negative direction those investigations took this week for President Trump, the Russian dictator has ordered the Kremlin to intervene on Trump’s behalf.
Putin’s Foreign Ministry issued a thinly-veiled threat on its Foreign Ministry’s website Sunday – in English no less – warning members of the United States intelligence community to stop leaking information about Russians and their ties to Trump associates under investigation by the FBI and congressional intelligence committees.
Buried at the end of a long answer to a broad question about U.S. – Russia relations, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in an extensive Q&A:
“I would like to say that if the practice of leaking information that concerns not just the United States but also Russia, which has become a tradition in Washington in the past few years, continues, there will come a day when the media will publish leaks about the things that Washington asked us to keep secret, for example, things that happened during President Obama’s terms in office. Believe me, this could be very interesting information.”
The explicit reference to “leaking” is significant because it’s in lock-step with the P.R. defensive that President Trump and his allies are mounting in both the media and in congress. And by holding President Obama’s reputation hostage, it’s clear that this shot across the bow from the Kremlin is aimed squarely at President Trump’s perceived enemies within the U.S. government.
For weeks now, the strategy employed by Team Trump and the GOP in has been to shame leakers within the intelligence community – what the right wing media refers to as the ‘Deep State.’ The goal appears to be to distract supporters from the damning substance of the near daily drip of devastating revelations that continue to link Trump’s associates to Russia’s campaign to undermine the 2016 presidential election.
In other words, the President and his backers want you to believe that the real scandal here is not the substance of the leaks that connect Trump associates to Russia, but that the leaks are taking place at all.
The real criminals, their defense goes, are the leakers, not the people who’ve been implicated by the leaks. The real traitors, therefore, are the men and women in the American intelligence community, not the potentially treasons actions of Trump’s associates that are being revealed.
We saw this defense play-out in real time on Monday, when several GOP congressman grilled FBI Director James Comey, not on his statement that confirmed that President Trump was indeed under FBI investigation for collusion with Russia, but on the leakers of those revelations. Never mind that such leaks have already led to the disgraceful firing of Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
With the Kremlin now wading into the debate directly, and doing so in harmony with the defense the President and the Republican Party have already mounted, it begs the question: did the extensive collusion that the FBI thinks may have existed between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign end after Donald Trump won the election, or is it still ongoing?
These new threats by the Russian Foreign Ministry make clear that Vladimir Putin is ready and willing to escalate already high levels of tension between our two countries to defend President Trump.
For the dwindling band of diehard Trump supporters still unwilling or unable to accept that the President is under FBI investigation for his links to Russia, they should heed a popular Japanese proverb as they process the latest revelations in this tragic soap opera:
“When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.”
Peter Mellado is a writer, producer, and a branding and messaging specialist with over 15 years experience. He studied history at San Jose State University, and resides in Los Angeles.