David Frum has explained that Donald Trump
has repeatedly and emphatically rejected criticism of Vladimir Putin’s methods of rule, including his murders of journalists.
He has called NATO obsolete because it is too focused on the threat from Russia. At his own convention, he told The New York Times he would not defend small NATO countries like Estonia against a Russian attack.
Trump’s convention team, largely indifferent to the work of the party-platform committee, acted decisively to strike pro-Ukraine language. Trump himself has urged decreased U.S. support for Ukraine as it resists Russian invasion.
And at this most recent press conference, he indicated openness to recognizing Russia’s conquest and annexation of Crimea—and expressed opposition to maintaining sanctions against Russia. That statement would have topped the news on any day except one in which a candidate for United States president openly invited foreign espionage against his political opponent.
That's a pretty good summary- or was a good summary, when Frum wrote it on July 27, 2016. The latest is The New York Times' discovery that
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.
And Frum's bill of particulars came more than two months before the office of National Intelligence, after months of speculation about Russian involvement in the USA election, stated the DNC emails "thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.”
(For extra credit: what other election campaign news hit on the same day, on October 7?)
Ten days ago- or two days before the current Michael Flynn saga began- the NYT reported
President Trump cast doubt on whether Moscow is backing separatists engaged in the recent escalation of fighting in eastern Ukraine, appearing to side with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who has long denied involvement in the conflict despite evidence to the contrary.
Mr. Trump said he did not take offense at the outbreak of a lethal bout of fighting in Ukraine that came within a day of a phone conversation he had with Mr. Putin, saying of the recent clashes, “we don’t really know exactly what that is.”
They’re pro-forces,” Mr. Trump said of the Ukrainian separatists in an interview that aired on Monday on “The O’Reilly Factor,” on Fox News. “We don’t know, are they uncontrollable? Are they uncontrolled? That happens also. We’re going to find out; I would be surprised, but we’ll see.”
The report unavoidably suggested "Mr. Trump’s comments were the latest indication that his desire for warmer relations with Russia may be coloring his view of the conflict in Ukraine..."
Of course, "warmer relations with Russia" mat be a euphemism for "toady" (video below from late September). And yet, President Trump has tweeted (capitalization his) "Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?" Politico notes
Trump’s tweet follows comments from White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who said on Tuesday that the president will take a harder line against Russia and expects the country to withdraw from Crimea in the future.
Everyone is a comedian. And Donald Trump is a comedian whose stock in trade is diversion and dishonesty. Still, nothing should be assumed. When he tweets "was Obama too soft on Russia?" we should ask " what is your answer, Mr. President?"