How Far Will Trump Go to Save Himself?

Natalia Veselnitskaya, the woman who famously met with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner in Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign has closer ties to the Kremlin than was previously known. This was revealed in new indictment filed on Tuesday by prosecutors from the Southern District of New York. As for Manafort, thanks to his lawyers’ sloppy efforts at redaction, we now know that he shared polling data with Russian intelligence officer Konstantin Kilimnik in the same time period, and then he conveniently forget to mention this to the Office of Special Counsel during his time of supposed cooperation. He also forgot to mention that he had surreptitiously met with the same Russian intelligence officer in Madrid, Spain. It’s actually far worse than this implies, because Mr. Kilimnik was a key partner and employee of Manafort’s during his time working in Ukraine for the pro-Russia Party of Regions, and he’s also someone who Manafort met with in person during August 2016 to receive instructions from Putin-connected oligarch Oleg Derispaska. In fact, Manafort told Kilimnik to offer of private briefings on the status of Trump’s campaign to Deripaska as a way of satisfying nearly $20 million in debt.

President Trump has obviously understood for some time that news like this would eventually begin dogging him with increased intensity and frequency. That’s one reason why he’s going on television tonight to tell the nation about an imagined crisis at the Mexican border that justifies the current partial shutdown of the federal government.

With his polling down sharply across the board, Trump is entering into desperate territory, and we should probably expect him to act in ways that are hard to imagine. Having worked alongside Ed Kilgore for several years, I’ve come to see him as level-headed and cautiously thoughtful, so I take notice when he raises major alarm bells about President Trump possibly using emergency powers to do things like invoking “Section 706 of the Communications Act to assume government control over internet traffic inside the United States.”

I certainly hope this type of fear is unwarranted but it’s hard to argue against anyone who wants to bet that Trump will at some point take us into true uncharted territory. Things are coming to a head and we’ll be lucky if we don’t capsize before the true crisis in this country gets resolved.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at ProgressPond.com