By Robert Reich
A dark cloud of illegitimacy hangs over the pending presidency of Donald Trump. Consider:
1. The CIA has concluded that Russia intervened in the election in order to help Trump become president. The secret CIA assessment found that Russian operatives covertly interfered in the election campaign in an attempt to ensure the Republican candidate’s victory.
2. Trump has close business ties to Russian oligarchs, friends of Putin, who have financed his projects and, presumably, also lent billions of dollars to Trump’s enterprises – which may explain why Trump won’t disclose his tax returns, which would show evidence of these deals.
3. Several of Trump’s key campaign aides – including his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort – have close ties to Russia. Manafort was a longtime consultant to Viktor Yanukovich, the Russian-backed president of Ukraine who was overthrown in 2014 and who has done multi-million-dollar business deals with Russian oligarchs. Between 2007 and 2012, Manafort received some $12.7 million in cash payments from a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine. Trump’s foreign policy advisor, Michael Flynn, flew to Moscow last year to attend a gala banquet celebrating Russia Today, the Kremlin’s propaganda channel, and was seated at the head table near Putin.
5. Trump is expected to pick as his Secretary of State ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who is also close to Putin. In 2013, Putin awarded Tillerson the Order of Friendship, one of the highest honors Russia gives to foreign citizens. Tillerson came up through the ranks at Exxon by managing the company’s Russia account. After becoming CEO, Exxon bet billions on Russia’s vast oil resources through a partnership with Russian oil giant Rosneft, owned partly by the Kremlin. Putin himself attended the 2011 signing ceremony for the deal. Russia has already indicated it would welcome Tillerson being named America’s top diplomat.
6. Trump was defeated in the actual voting by a startling—and still growing—2,676,670 votes. Clinton’s popular vote victory margin is now 2 percent, thus handing Trump the largest defeat suffered by a candidate elevated to the presidency by the Electoral College in modern history.
The dark cloud of illegitimacy continues to grow darker.
Before the Electors submit their ballots for president next week, Trump must release his tax returns and the CIA must make public its report on Russia’s intervention in the U.S. elections in support of Trump.