Agent Orange: Our Adversaries' Man in the White House

By Jeff Robbins

October 27, 2020 5 min read

When the Donald Trump era comes mercifully to a close, and after the national chore of fumigating the White House is well underway, Americans will need to address this question: Just how many foreign governments had our president in their pocket, and how did he land there?

First up will, of course, be Russia, which appears to have owned The Donald since before the 2016 election. It is established that President Vladimir Putin's government directed the hacking of Democratic Party computers and orchestrated the release of stolen emails to elect Trump. It is equally clear that Trump and his closest aides actively sought Russian help. Trump has refused to criticize Russia's assault on our country, just as he has refused to criticize Russia for its offers to pay for the murder of American troops.

Unless it is just a fondness for borscht, the most compelling explanation for Trump's servility is that Russia has something on him. It may simply be that Trump knows that Putin knows that Trump owes his election to Putin.

But with Trump $421 million in hock to unidentified creditors in unidentified countries, the answer may lie in his financial entanglements with Russia and his hope for future ones. At a 2008 conference, Donald Trump Jr. gave a shoutout to his family's financial relationship with Russia. "Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets," Junior told attendees. A 2018 investigation by Reuters found that individuals with Russian passports or addresses owned almost $100 million worth of units in seven Trump properties alone. After Trump earned several million dollars from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, he proclaimed, "I have plans for the establishment of business in Russia."

Last week's disclosure that Trump has a secret bank account in China should by rights convince all but those ready to buy swamp land that the reason Trump has refused to show us his tax returns is not because of any "audit." The disclosure did not exactly allay concerns that Trump is subject to foreign influence, and his characteristically flagrant dishonesty about the account raises those concerns to DEFCON 1 levels. "The bank account you're referring to," he stammered when asked about it at last week's debate, "everybody knows about it; it's listed. It was open, and it was closed in 2015, I believe."

Ordinarily, the president is a one-falsehood-per-sentence-fragment kind of a guy, but on this occasion, he doubled his quotient. Contrary to Trump's claim, nobody knew about his Chinese bank account because he kept it secret; his financial disclosure forms do not identify it. And the account was not closed in 2015, or ever: a lawyer for his company confirms that it remains open to this day. As for what the monies that run through that Chinese account have paid for, Trump isn't saying.

A hidden financial relationship with China is not a good look for Trump, who licked China's boots over and over earlier this year when he waved aside the deadly virus originating in China and covered up by the Chinese government, causing horrific consequences for the American people. "China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus," Trump asserted on Jan. 24. "The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In particular, on behalf of the American people, I want to thank President Xi." Trump continued to heap praise on the Chinese government on Feb. 7, Feb. 10 and Feb. 13, and did so for weeks as the pandemic that that government had kept hidden took root here.

So much that has been unthinkable has come to pass in the time of Trump that it is sometimes difficult to keep it all straight. The indications that our commander in chief has been beholden to foreign interests is far too real to ignore. It will have to be part of our national self-reckoning if the upcoming election gives Americans a chance at a fresh start.

Jeff Robbins, a former assistant United States attorney and United States delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, was chief counsel for the minority of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. An attorney specializing in the First Amendment, he is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing on politics, national security, human rights and the Mideast.

Photo credit: kschneider2991 at Pixabay

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