A NEWSLETTER FROM DAVID CORN
How Donald Trump Just Helped Putin’s Barbaric and Illegal War
By David Corn April 2, 2022
Donald Trump at a rally in Commerce, Georgia, on March 26, 2022. Hyosub Shin/AP
Two weeks ago, I examined how Donald Trump and his cult have been a prime conduit of Russian disinformation for years. In the past few days, we witnessed a sharp example of Trump-Kremlin propaganda convergence, with each side reinforcing the BS of the other.
It started on March 24, when the Russian defense ministry issued a diagram that purportedly showed Hunter Biden has secretly financed Pentagon biolabs in Ukraine. Here’s how the Daily Beast described the disinformation: “Titled ‘Coordination of Biological Laboratories and Scientific Research Centers of Ukraine and the U.S.,’ the diagram also features an image of a smiling George Soros, as well as a tab representing the Democratic Party, and depicts them all as the masterminds behind what Russian officials claim are American attempts to work on an ‘especially dangerous pathogen of anthrax.’” A few weeks ago, I obtained Kremlin documents that conveyed talking points to Putin-friendly media. One major theme: accuse the United States of engaging in “biogenocide” against Russia and claim it is developing pathogens in Ukrainian labs that can be carried into Russia by birds and bats. With this chart, Vladimir Putin’s imaginative propagandists had expanded the allegation to include Hunter Biden and George Soros.
“The scale of the program is impressive,” lied Igor Kirillov, a Russian official. “In addition to the military department, the US Agency for International Development, the George Soros Foundation, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention are directly involved in its implementation. Scientific curation is carried out by leading research organizations, including the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which develops nuclear weapons under the Manhattan Project.” Soros? Hunter Biden? It was as if the Kremlin’s propaganda shop had thought, How can we get Fox News to cover this?
Part II transpired six days later. During an interview with pro-Trump discredited journalist John Solomon, Trump asked Putin to do him a favor and produce political dirt on the Bidens. He said:
As long as Putin is now not exactly a fan of our country... Why did the mayor of Moscow’s wife give the Bidens—both of them—three and a half million dollars... So now I would think Putin would know the answer to that. I think he should release it... Now you won't get the answer from Ukraine... I think Putin now would be willing to probably give that answer. I’m sure he knows.
The response from pundits and politicians (including a few Republicans, such as Sens. Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham) was swift: Trump was condemned for endeavoring to take advantage of Putin’s illegal and barbarous war to obtain derogatory information on his political enemies. He was suggesting that Putin should do this because Biden was now opposing Putin’s murderous invasion. That is, Trump was telling Putin, Hey, you don’t like Biden, so release bad stuff about him. He was encouraging an evil autocrat to undermine a US president who was leading the world against that tyrant’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. This was traitorous treachery.
Trump’s disinformation came from a report produced by Senate Republicans before the 2020 election that claimed that on February 14, 2014, Elena Baturina, the widow of a man who had been mayor of Moscow until 2010, “wired $3.5 million to a Rosemont Seneca Thornton bank account for a ‘Consultancy Agreement.’ Rosemont Seneca Thornton is an investment firm co-founded by Hunter Biden." In an email to PolitiFact, Hunter Biden’s lawyer said, “Hunter Biden had no interest in and was not a co-founder of Rosemont Seneca Thornton, so the claim that he was paid $3.5 million is false.” PolitiFact reported, “We asked Republican Senate staffers if they could show proof that Biden had a stake in Rosemont Seneca Thornton, and they also declined to respond...[T]he Republican report doesn’t fully support [the] claim, because it never shows that Biden got the full $3.5 million.” PolitiFact concluded the allegation “that Hunter Biden received money through this transaction is unproven.” Factchecks of this accusation from USA Today and CNN reached the same conclusion.
As he did with his blackmail-ish phone call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in 2019 that led to his first impeachment, Trump was urging a foreign government to bolster a bizarre and unsubstantiated conspiracy theory for his own, political benefit. And now he was exploiting a war to do the same thing.
There was another deplorable element to this move. By amplifying an unfounded accusation about Hunter Biden and alleging he had been involved in sleazy doings in Russia, Trump was reinforcing Moscow’s own war propaganda. Surely, the Kremlin’s purveyors of disinformation who are pushing the Hunter-Biden-Soros-Democratic Party bioweapons lab junk were delighted to see a former president of the United States affirming that Joe Biden’s son was involved in shady stuff in Russia. With his request to Putin, Trump was aiding and abetting a Russian disinformation operation, just as in 2016 when he fervently echoed Moscow’s false claims that it had not mounted a covert hack-and-dump operation to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Trump.
By the way, you get extra points if you noticed in the Solomon interview Trump’s dig at Ukraine: Now you won't get the answer from Ukraine. This was a reference to the various conspiracy theories Trump and his cronies have spread that involve Ukraine, such as the debunked allegation that Joe Biden orchestrated the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor to protect his son. One of the Ukraine-starring conspiracy theories that Trump has embraced is that Ukraine, not Russia, intervened in the 2016 election and did so to assist Clinton. This batcrap story claimed the hacked Democratic Party servers had been whisked away to Ukraine and were being hidden in Zelenskyy’s country as part of a cover-up. Trump believed this nonsense, and his recent comment suggests he still harbors a grudge against Ukraine for supposedly conspiring against him. That could explain why he has not forcefully condemned Putin and the invasion of Ukraine, which he initially described as “genius.”
Trump’s plea to Putin for oppo research on Hunter Biden was not just his usual crass, me-first betrayal. With this ask, Trump was casting Putin as a legitimate leader who could help the American public by sharing crucial information. He was not treating Putin as an evil tyrant responsible for killing and maiming tens of thousands and destroying entire cities. That sends a signal to his followers and perhaps to Russians.
The former guy’s remarks were a tremendous propaganda gain for the Kremlin’s war criminals. On the day they emerged, pro-Putin Russian television host Evgeny Popov called on Americans to change “the regime in the U.S.” and “to again help our partner Trump to become president.” Our partner. Putin’s liars and killers know what the Republican Party and Trump’s millions of followers won’t acknowledge: He is for Putin a damn useful idiot.
Got anything to say about this item—or anything else? Email me at email@example.com.
I’ve previously reported on the possibility of Trump becoming speaker of the House if the Republicans gain control of the chamber in the midterm elections. The speaker does not have to be an elected member of the House. The GOP could elect anyone. Even Joe Rogan. Or Trump. And Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and others have proposed Trump as the man for the job. Some MAGA-ites even subscribe to this QAnonish fantasy: Trump is handed the speaker’s gavel, then Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are both impeached and convicted, and you-know-who becomes president. Well, Trump has killed that dream. This week he said he has no interest in succeeding Nancy Pelosi.
Of course, this guy has been known to change his mind—or to forget what he said previously. Still, it’s good news...for now.
Little darling, it’s been a long, cold lonely winter. Covid, war, and more. So the Our Land gang is going on spring break. We’ll do another issue after this one. Then we’re off for the rest of the week and the next. Moxie and I will return fresh and revived. Or that’s the plan. In the meantime, keep those cards and letters coming. I’m glad to see more readers are sending in music recommendations. Thanks for that. And if you’re enjoying the newsletter, please spread the word by forwarding issues to your friends, colleagues, relatives, and social media contacts, and let them know they can sign up at www.davidcorn.com. Speaking of a long, cold lonely winter, I remember watching the below live on television.
Dumbass Comment of the Week
Mike Pence thinks he can be president. Tell me when you’ve stopped laughing... Good, caught your breath? I’ll continue. As part of his pursuit of the presidency, this week the former veep released a policy platform. I know you’ve been anxiously awaiting it. His document notes that “Russia harms American interests by threatening American allies” and that “Putin undermines freedom and democracy at home and abroad.” There’s nothing stupid about that. But Pence leaves out the fact that he got the No. 2 job in part because Putin attacked the 2016 election to help elect Trump. What was even more of an insult to our intelligence was the remark Pence recently made to a GOP donor retreat in New Orleans. He stated there was “no room in this party for apologists for Putin.” Excuse me, but Pence spent four years-minus-two-weeks loyally serving the nation’s top apologist for Putin, a man who repeatedly promoted Putin’s disinformation. Now Pence says there’s no room? If he believes that, he should vow not to support Trump should Trump enter the 2024 race.
The level of despicableness within the Republican House caucus can never be overestimated. I’m guessing Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) is jealous these days that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) receives so much she’s-crazy attention. So Boebert tweeted this: “A well known Democrat megadonor in Maine was arrested on... You guessed it! Child pornography charges! The reason KJB was picked becomes more and more obvious as the days go on.” Indeed, a fellow who had twice run unsuccessfully for governor in Maine was arrested for possession of child pornography. But he had campaigned as an independent. He did work for a Democratic senator...in the 1960s or 1970s. In any event, his partisan affiliation doesn’t matter. Boebert’s attempt to link him to Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson is nonsensical and deplorable. But it is certainly very QAnonish, with the insinuation that this accomplished Black woman is somehow in league with child pornographers. Given Boebert’s previous support of QAnon, it’s no surprise. Why are right-wing wingnuts so obsessed with pedophilia? My colleague Ali Breland has a good explanation.
If there were a contest for lacking self-awareness, Donald Trump Jr. would win every week. After The Slap, he tweeted, “What kind of privilege is it when you can assault someone on national television and then go ahead and win an Oscar rather than go to jail? Asking for millions of supposedly privileged people.” The obvious retort: What kind of privilege is it when you can boast of committing sexual assault and then go ahead and win a presidential election? The Trump clan lives in a universe where shame doesn’t exist. For this comment, Jr. wins this week’s Oscar for dumbassery.
Ginni Thomas—or the piece I did on her and her loony conspiratorial mindset—got readers riled up. Nicolas Sinisi riffed off a sentence from the article:
"Imagine a Supreme Court justice influenced by QAnon. We’re not there yet—as far as we know..." We pretty much ARE there, David, given that [Ginni and Clarence Thomas] have been "best friends" as well as spouses, sharing "pillow talk" for decades. Political operative Ginni Thomas was on George W. Bush's transition team during that lengthy period after the disputed 2000 election, and that fact alone should have led to Clarence Thomas recusing himself from the 5-4 decision that handed the presidency (disastrously, as it turned out) to Bush. But since it's up to the justices themselves to decide whether or not to recuse, he didn't. The fix has been in for over 20 years! There needs to be a code of ethics for the Supreme Court!
Diane Wagner emailed:
Thanks for using words like “bonkers” to describe the thoughts and behavior of Ginni Thomas. I think that kind of language is needed to make the point that many extreme people on the right are emotionally damaged, mentally ill, dysfunctional. It is important for the general population to know that paranoid lunacy and other obvious disorders are not to be admired or followed but need to be treated with therapy and medication. If Donald Trump had not been born rich, he would be dirty and disheveled living on a street corner in Queens. He was born with learning disorders, parented by a narcissistic, absent mother and a cruel bully of a father, and was rewarded for imitating his father’s bullying behavior. Trump functions at the emotional level of a two-year-old on a permanent tantrum. He is mentally and emotionally disordered as are Thomas, Marjorie Taylor Greene, John Eastman, Tucker Carlson and a parade of others who should not have the responsibility of office or public platform. Thanks for speaking the truth about Ginni Thomas.
An interesting question is how much of the aberrant behavior of these folks is pathological. I’m not sure all of it is. Can’t one be an anti-democratic, authoritarian-friendly conniver (Eastman) or a fascistic and racist carnival barker (Carlson) without having a personality disorder? Is MTG an ignorant, hateful, QAnon-loving, neo-Nazi-hugging miscreant but fine by DSM standards? Experts out there, speak up.
Gregory Wozena asked:
How long before Ginni Thomas gets the full Martha Mitchell treatment?
Interesting question. For those who don’t know—or don’t remember—Martha was the wife of John Mitchell, crooked Richard Nixon’s crooked attorney general. During the Watergate scandal, she was drugged and held hostage because she knew too much. Here’s one account. Slate’s excellent Slow Burn podcast on Watergate opened with an episode about her. But I think Gregory is off the mark here. Martha was a threat to the Nixon gang because she saw some of what was going on and was willing to gab about these crimes. Ginni Thomas was a co-conspirator in the Trump cabal that was trying to overturn the 2020 election, and she was an active plotter in other right-wing endeavors going back years, as I revealed in a 2013 scoop. So this is not a fair (to Martha) comparison. Thomas is more Watergate schemer than whistleblower. But thanks for taking us down memory lane. It caused me to discover that a series about Martha called Gaslit, which is based on that podcast, is dropping soon. Julia Roberts is in the starring role, and check out Sean Penn as John Mitchell in this trailer.
Lorraine Kephart sent in a query:
Question about the Supreme Court vote protocol. Are votes cast privately? In other words, do the justices know how the other eight are voting before they cast their vote. Wondering if a justice would have the nerve to cast a dissenting vote if he knew all others were positive?
The justices take a vote amongst themselves during a conference that only they attend. The voting starts with the chief justice and goes in the order of seniority. Then either the chief justice or the most senior justice in the majority designates the justice who will write the majority opinion. Ditto for the dissent. Here’s a good description of the process.
Rob Zeller wrote:
In the recent Our Land you mentioned 2300 deaths/day from covid. Are there any numbers about those deaths and how many were unvaccinated? I don’t know if Biden could have done much more with preventing Covid deaths. Yes, better and widely available masks and testing would have helped. Vaccines are readily available but if you’re a nonbeliever in their effectiveness or you’re living in that alternate Trump/QAnon/conspiratorial reality, then you suffer the consequences.
I have not found a simple data set that shows how many of the recent Covid dead are unvaccinated. The general answer seems to be, most of them. In February, the Centers for Disease Control reported that the vaccinated were 97 percent less likely to die of Covid than those who did not get jabbed. Last month the Texas Health and Human Services released this chart showing the whopping difference and noting that the unvaccinated were 42 times more likely to die of a Covid-related illness.
We shouldn’t blame the Biden administration for those self-preventable deaths. But I noted in my piece that if there is another surge—and it could involve a variant that eludes the vaccines—then the Biden administration could bear a political cost for having not taken every imaginable preventative step, even if Republicans hold up Covid funding.
Caroline Bowdish had a nit to pick:
I enjoy your writing very much, which is why I subscribe to Our Land. Normally I like to relax with Mother Jones publications because they are well-written and do not contain annoying mistakes in grammar or usage. However, in today's post about The Adam Project, on the fifth line you say, "I still lay awake ...." Do you truly want to indicate the past tense? You were writing in the present tense, in which case it should read, "I still lie awake.”... I am wishing you well, and please give that darling Moxie a pat for me!
In her note, Caroline explained the difference between “to lie” and “to lay.” In great detail. She was right. I respect the Grammar Police and plead guilty. On the day that issue was produced, our fastidious copy editor was unavailable. (Don’t worry, he made bail.) I obviously paid the price. Ain’t no lie.
In a recent issue, reader Jerry Peace and I had an exchange about bleakness in these troubling times. He wrote back with a last word:
You're right, Mr. Corn. Bleakness isn't death, pessimism is not despair. I, we, owe our children and, most importantly, our grandchildren, a more inclusive and way-less fearful country and world. Work is requisite; hope is not. Thanks for your words.
Marie Bartolet set in this one-line note:
Just don't leave me here alone.
Hmm. Should we check on her?
“What are you doing up there, Moxie?”
“Getting a different perspective.”
Read Recent Issues of Our Land
March 29, 2022: Why you should worry that Ginni Thomas is bonkers; The Adam Project and movie-world time travel; The Sea The Sea, an indie-pop-folk duo, shimmers; and more.
March 26, 2022: Do Joe Biden and the Democrats have a Covid problem?; Dumbass Comment of the Week (Special Supreme Court Edition); the Mailbag; MoxieCam™; and more.
March 22, 2022: John le Carré’s farewell gift to us; Dumbass Comment of the Week (Emergency Edition); the former Kremlin official who spoke out; a disappointing
Suspicion;“Kyiv Calling”; and more.
March 19, 2022: How Trump and his crew boost Putin’s disinformation; Dumbass Comment of the Week (Candace Owens, Jesse Waters, Lara Logan, Herschel Walker, Elon Musk, and others); the Mailbag; MoxieCam™; and more.
March 15, 2022: Tucker Carlson, Vladimir Putin, and me; why you should watch Severance; and more.
March 12, 2002: Putin, Ukraine, nuclear war, and Trump; Dumbass Comment of the Week (Madison Cawthorn, again!); the Mailbag, MoxieCam™; and more.
March 8, 2022: The progressive dilemma in Ukraine; rehabbing West Side Story; does Inventing Anna target or celebrate Instagram culture?; and more.
March 5, 2022: Once again, Merrick Garland should tell us if the DOJ is investigating Trump for his attempted coup; Dumbass Comment of the Week (winner: Ben Shapiro); masks and freedoms, the Mailbag; MoxieCam™; and more.
March 1, 2022: From CPAC to Ukraine—how the right went from wrong to crazy; rebranding this newsletter; and more.
February 26, 2022: How we let Ukraine—and the world—down; Dumbass Comment of the Week (Special Useful Idiots Edition); the Mailbag; MoxieCam™; and more.
February 23, 2022: Yoko Ono (finally?) gets the credit she deserves; a Trump-Russia fantasy; The Slow Hustle takes on the hard case of a Baltimore cop-killing; and more.
Got suggestions, comments, complaints, tips related to any of the above, or anything else? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.