National Security & Intelligence
Evidence Of GOP Complicity In Kremlin Assault On America Is Now Overwhelming

Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin at the G-8 Summit in Helsinki, Finland in 2018

On February 23, a federal judge in California ordered marshals to seize Alexander Smirnov at his lawyers' office only days after he had been released on bail by a different judge, with the clear implication that he might be preparing to flee the country. Smirnov is the much touted prime witness in the House Republican impeachment campaign against Joe Biden, accusing the president of having taken $5 million in bribes from Ukrainian oligarchs. It's all a lie manufactured by Russian intelligence.

Smirnov's initial arrest was ordered by special counsel David Weiss, the Trump-appointed Republican investigating Hunter Biden, who has indicted the star witness for fabricating his entire story and lying to the FBI. In subsequent court filings, the prosecutor charged that the lies transmitted by Smirnov originated with Russian spies.In other words, the number one Republican witness in the public and repeated smearing of President Biden -- on the floor of Congress and in right-wing media -- was a knowing conduit for Kremlin disinformation. The intent is nothing less than to help elect Trump again.

What makes this scandal so much worse -- and so embarrassing to Johnson, if he were capable of shame -- is that Smirnov's deception emanated from the much broader Russian penetration of American politics that began ... when?

Perhaps with that Trump Tower meeting in 2015, when Donald Trump Jr. enthusiastically welcomed the idea of a Russian dossier on Hillary Clinton from a Russian intelligence operative. And then it continued with the Kremlin's cyber assault against Clinton in 2016, and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort's secret cooperation with a Russian spy named Konstantin Kilimnik. After Trump became president, he withheld weapons from Ukraine while demanding a phony probe of Biden. Trump's blackmail attempt triggered his first impeachment.

Along the way, a gang of Trump associates led by Rudy Giuliani worked with various Putin stooges in Ukraine and elsewhere to invent mendacious nonsense about the Bidens. Giuliani worked closely with Putin crony Andriy Derkach and other dubious characters, who were later indicted for attempting to interfere in the 2020 election.

For years, it has been blindingly obvious that the "investigation" of Joe Biden and Ukraine emanated not from any legitimate source but directly from this country's enemies. And yet while those accusers were repeatedly exposed and discredited, congressional Republicans insisted on pursuing the bogus case invented in Moscow.

But Johnson's undermining of American security has gone well beyond the assistance he and Republicans have provided to the Kremlin in subverting American democracy. Now refusing to fund U.S. military assistance to Ukraine in its courageous struggle against Russian invaders, they have helped Putin gain a critical victory in the battle of Avdiivka and jeopardized the Western alliance that is fundamental to European and American security. Johnson has admitted he's taking his orders from Trump, who worships Putin. The cowardice of Johnson and the Republicans has become crucial to Putin and his savage war.

Johnson has his own little Russian secrets. The speaker must still explain the laundered campaign funds from Konstantin Nikolaev, a Russian oligarch and confederate of confessed convicted Kremlin spy agent Maria Butina. She served a prison sentence here after the exposure of her successful scheme to penetrate the National Rifle Association and other right-wing groups, including some of the "Christian nationalist" outfits that Johnson promotes.

What attracts extremists like the House speaker -- and his puppet master Trump -- to the Russian dictator who looms above them is an authoritarian political orientation that smells of fascism. Putin is a threat from without, and they are a threat from within.

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Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump

The lesson to be learned from the latest revelations about former President Donald Trump's misuse of highly sensitive classified documents concerns the character of the former president and his cronies: They constantly accuse their political adversaries of the crimes and misdemeanors they have committed — or will perpetrate — themselves.

And the more information that is uncovered, the less culpable Trump's targets appear to be - while his own guilt, and the guilt of his associates, is established ever more firmly.

Nobody who has read the lengthy Florida indictment of Trump, which alleges more than 30 violations of the Espionage Act, can doubt his narcissistic attitude toward the protection of national security secrets. Nor is there any question that he repeatedly lied and conspired to conceal his violations of the law.

But where his behavior once seemed mysterious, we now can see at least one clear motive behind his bizarre and dangerous conduct: the desire for revenge against everyone who had sought to uncover the truth about Russia's illegal support for his 2016 campaign. The "Crossfire Hurricane" folder that disappeared from the White House during the final days of his administration has never been located, which has raised grave alarm in the intelligence community over the potential exposure of sources and methods to our adversaries in the Kremlin.

It is no exaggeration to say that those concerns include the possibility that Trump himself might expose those sources to his friends in the Putin regime. His loyalty to the West is questionable and his debt to the Russian dictator is undeniable.

Yet as the underlying events of Crossfire Hurricane unfolded, Trump and his campaign were shrieking incessantly about Hillary Clinton's emails — urging federal authorities to "lock her up" for these supposed offenses against national security. The facts that have emerged since then have proved that the number of classified documents jeopardized by her actions amounted to exactly zero.

The same pattern of false accusation and true culpability applies to the Clinton and Trump foundations. In 2015, the far-right "strategist" and publisher Steve Bannon, who then became Trump's campaign manager, launched a multimillion-dollar smear campaign against the Clinton Foundation that succeeded beyond his wildest dreams — including a ludicrously false accusation featured as an "investigation" on the front page of The New York Times. The real achievements of the Clinton Foundation in saving many millions of lives and stemming the AIDS epidemic were submerged beneath a sewage outflow of phony conspiracy claims.

Largely ignored amid Bannon's publicity jihad against the Clinton Foundation were the grotesque abuses of the Trump Foundation, which accomplished no good works and more closely resembled a racketeering conspiracy than a nonprofit charity. Trump's self-serving manipulation of nonprofit tax laws was both comical and shocking. And then a few years later, Bannon himself established an abusive nonprofit — "We Build the Wall" — from which he and his criminal confederates admittedly stole millions donated by naive conservatives. He's an unrepentant crook and may yet go to prison, despite the pardon bestowed on him by Trump.

Making a hollow accusation to conceal suspicious behavior (or actual crimes) remains the modus operandi not only of Trump and Bannon, whose corruption is well established, but of the Republican Party leadership they have suborned. That is why congressional Republicans have mounted a fake impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden, despite the complete absence of any evidence that he profited from his son's foreign business dealings — or that those dealings had any effect on public policy while Biden served in the White House.

There is nothing to those charges, as the Republican investigators have inadvertently proved with their bumbling displays of malice. But several indiscreet politicians have disclosed the Biden impeachment's real purpose: to distract voters from the pending indictments against Trump — not to mention the massive profiteering by Trump, his daughter Ivanka and his son-in-law Jared Kushner during their years in the White House.

Every accusation they utter is an indictment of their own misconduct.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Reprinted with permission from Creators.