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“All Roads Lead to Putin”

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There’s something really wrong going on here.

President Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine for information he could use against political rivals came as he was being urged to adopt a hostile view of that country by its regional adversaries, including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, current and former U.S. officials said.

Trump’s conversations with Putin, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and others reinforced his perception of Ukraine as a hopelessly corrupt country — one that Trump now also appears to believe sought to undermine him in the 2016 U.S. election, the officials said.

Neither of those foreign leaders specifically encouraged Trump to see Ukraine as a potential source of damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, nor did they describe Kyiv as complicit in an unsubstantiated 2016 election conspiracy theory, officials said.

But their disparaging depictions of Ukraine reinforced Trump’s perceptions of the country and fed a dysfunctional dynamic in which White House officials struggled to persuade Trump to support the fledgling government in Kyiv instead of exploiting it for political purposes, officials said.

It remains unclear why Trump places so much stock in the information he gets from Putin (and Orbán, apparently). Possibilities include:

  • His personal predilection toward dictators;
  • Trump is naturally chummy with those he wants to do business with;
  • Putin’s just generally good at playing people like Trump; and
  • The more extreme Trump-Russia theories.

Speaking of knowing how to play Trump, I wonder if foreign governments are still listening in on Trump’s private calls? That would certainly make it easier to manipulate the man.

Well, anyway, it would be a really good thing to know what Trump and Putin talked about in Helsinki. Just saying.

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