Our Opinion: Trump and Russia: 'There's something going on'

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"There's something going on. It's inconceivable. There's something going on."

So said Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, of President Obama's reaction to the horrific nightclub shooting in Orlando in June. Trump said something similar this month after the killing of three police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The implication of Mr. Trump — formerly the lead proponent of the "birther" contention that the president was not born in the United States — is that the president is somehow not loyal, somehow not supportive of law enforcement, somehow "other." He followed up with no evidence because he has no evidence.

Indeed, the time has come in this campaign where the tables can be turned. Astonishing observers, Mr. Trump on Wednesday said he hoped Russia had hacked Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's email when she was secretary of state, in the words of the New York Times, "essentially encouraging an adversarial foreign power to cyberspy on a secretary of state's correspondence."

Here is what the Republican nominee said during a news conference in Florida: "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."

As the Times article reporting this notes, "Russia is being accused of meddling in the United States' presidential election. His comments came amid questions about the hacking of the Democratic National Committee's computer servers, which American intelligence agencies have told the White House they have 'high confidence' was the work of the Russian government."

On the face of it, this is unprecedented: a candidate for president of the United States hoping that a foreign adversary has breached the email account of our highest highest-ranking cabinet member. But this is more than the flippancy of a deliberately ignorant reality television star.

There's something going on.

That Mr. Trump has a cozy relationship with Russia has become increasingly evident over time. He likes and has praised Putin's autocratic style. Trump rarely, if ever, lists Russia in his long list of countries supposedly taking advantage of the U.S. He welcomed the Russian invasion of Syria. Just last week, Trump indicated that he would not necessarily defend our NATO allies in the Baltic states — adjacent to Russia — from an attack. He has indicated a willingness to recognize Russia's forcible annexation of the Crimea section of the Ukraine.

And not only this, as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote in his July 23 column, "The Siberian Candidate," Trump's campaign manager, Paul Manafort, "has worked as a consultant for various dictators, and was for years on the payroll of Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president and a Putin ally." Yanukovych is in exile in Russian and has reportedly been given Russian citizenship by Putin.

In its platform the Republican Party has taken — for reasons which aren't clear — a new position on Ukraine, that the United States should not provide it military assistance. In a July 23 letter to the Times, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, the ranking Democratic member of the senate Foreign Relations Committee, writes that "there is broad, bipartisan support for standing steadfast with Ukraine through political, economic, and military support after Russia's invasion two years ago."

He adds, "Russia's aggression violated international law, robbed Ukraine of its sovereign territory, and killed or wounded thousands of people."

Mr. Putin reportedly loathes Hillary Clinton, because as secretary of state she forcefully opposed his expansionism and correctly labeled him as a ruthless autocrat. A President Trump clearly would be a pushover, and perhaps a willing partner, for the former KGB agent. The question is why, what financial ties does Mr. Trump have with Russia? Are there connections with Russian organized crime? Would Mr. Putin somehow have "the goods" on an American president?

There's something going on.

As a start, Mr. Trump needs to release his federal tax returns immediately. These questions must be answered.


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