Edgar Hoover and James Jesus Angleton, where are you, now that we really need you?

Hoover, the long-time FBI Director, and Angleton, the CIA’s legendary Director of Counterintelligence, were they alive today, might be digging at a furious pace to find out if GOP standard bearer Donald Trump could be a mole working in plain view for the Kremlin’s Vladimir Putin.

Sound crazy? Not really.

In a plot twist that would cause fiction writers to scratch their heads, presidential candidate Donald Trump has embraced the Russian dictator, viewing him as a more effective leader than President Barack Obama. During the recent Commander-in-Chief forum, Trump pointed out that Putin has an 82% approval rating, much higher than the American president. Hmm. Is there a Gallup or Quinnipiac organization in that country which conducts statistically valid public opinion polling?

With unprecedented obstruction by a determined Republican opposition that has tested our democracy, compared to a Russian government as authoritarian as in Czarist times, what does the term strong leader mean when equating the performance of the heads of state in Washington and Moscow?

Putin certainly doesn’t have to deal with the likes of Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Trey Gowdy, or the extremists and Tea Party types in the congressional Freedom Caucus. He has shown that any individual who disagrees with him might get poisoned as a result of drinking tea in a London hotel, as the late Alexander Litvinenko did, or wind up being shot on a bridge in Moscow, the fate of Boris Nemtsov, the late former deputy prime minister.

Russians drink their tea with some added sugar or honey and are not known to add polonium to the hot beverage, nor are they likely to be met after dinner by two gunmen lurking in the dark.  Then there is the frightening story about the murders of dozens of journalists in Russia, but that’s a topic by itself.

It seems that the word late is the most common descriptor for those most unfortunate souls who, unlike Trump, were not members of the Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin Fan Club.

Yet after Russian invasions of Georgia and Ukraine, you’d think that such a strong or effective leader like Putin would be even more radioactive to the Republican candidate than a glass of tea with polonium and honey in a London hotel, especially after so many violent events have befallen his critics – and neighbors. But Trump, never to be confused with the facts, remains an ardent admirer of the Kremlin strongman, a former 16-year veteran KGB intelligence agent who is not familiar with or does not accept the concept of due process of law. On Trump’s infatuation with Putin and the Kremlin, even Marco Rubio got it right, saying of the Russian strongman that “He’s a thug. He’s a dangerous and bad guy.” And as a strongman, he’s certainly no democrat – small d, mind you.

But Trump also tells his audiences that he has “great judgment.” If he thinks that Putin is an OK guy, it won’t be the first time that we must question, um, his great judgment.

So maybe we’re back to the mole angle. Have Americans fathomed how far the Republican Party – the party of national security, the party of duty, honor, country, the party of Joe McCarthy and anti-Kremlin rhetoric– has traveled in this election?

The aberration known as the Trump campaign has metastasized so much that the New York Times chimed in on The Donald’s Putin bromance:

“In a fashion that would have been unheard-of for a Republican during or immediately after the Cold War, Mr. Trump has made improved relations with the Kremlin a centerpiece of his candidacy. And Russia has been a subplot of the campaign that Tom Clancy and John le Carre together may have been unable to conjure, complete with the apparent Russian hack of one of America’s political parties, a threat that Russian backers may try to tamper with electronic voting machines, and Mr. Putin’s unsubtle preference for Mr. Trump over Mrs. Clinton.”

But maybe mole hunters Hoover and Angleton can rest easy in their graves. If you are operating as a Kremlin apologist and ally and positioned in clear view, then maybe you don’t fit the classic Cold War definition of a mole, though you would still be undermining our political system.

Nope, mole doesn’t fit. But the Soviets had a better term, useful idiot, to describe those observers who ignored the most brutal aspects of their new worker’s paradise.

That term fits perfectly. Trump has certainly been useful to the Kremlin; he looked the other way as the thuggish Kremlin leader invaded his neighbors and whacked political opponents in a style that Tony Soprano would admire. And anyone who remembers only a fraction of his pronouncements, including the fact that he knows more about ISIS than the generals, also understands statements like that qualify him as an idiot.

Previously, Plunderbund readers learned about Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager. Manafort was an advisor to pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. With Yanukovych’s overthrow in 2014, Putin invaded Eastern Ukraine, annexed Crimea back into the Russian state, and in the process interrupted some of Manafort’s consulting work.  But when many observers thought that Manafort’s recent departure as campaign manager would mean that there would be one less Kremlin-loving sycophant whispering into Trump’s ear, retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn stepped in to fill the breach.

Flynn, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, has been described as having “an odd affection for Russia and its authoritarian government.” Last year, for example, he attended a banquet in Moscow and was seated close to Putin. This former career military intelligence officer is a paid contributor to RT (Russia Today), a global news channel, and appears regularly on this Kremlin-sponsored network controlled by Putin, himself a former KGB intelligence officer. Incredibly, Trump himself appeared on RT, a state-owned outlet, to attack his own government, its policies and leadership.

When you realize that a candidate for President of the United States and the former director of American military intelligence are favored by the Kremlin, it makes you wonder if either or both of these individuals are modern-day versions of The Manchurian Candidate. Richard Condon, author of the classic book, said rather prophetically that “Paranoics make the great leaders. Resenters make their best instruments.” That statement alone might go a long way in describing the present Trump phenomenon as far as characterizing his audience, but Trump himself is a bit more complex, due to other prevailing idiosyncratic factors.

As we approach the home stretch in this election, an even more disturbing element in the Russian connection with Trump is the evidence that hackers have made attempts to penetrate state election databases in Arizona and Illinois. The incursions were so serious that Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, while visiting Europe last week, issued a clear warning when he said that “We will not ignore attempts to interfere with our democratic processes.”  News of the Russian exploration of voting systems followed earlier reports of Russian penetration of the Democratic National Committee website and of the Hillary Clinton campaign operation.

To add insult to these injuries, Trump earlier encouraged the Russians to help find some of Clinton’s emails.  “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he said in July.

Since there have been no comparable reports of the Republican National Committee website being hacked, some might assume that since Putin has so much influence with the GOP campaign, with Russian apologist and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort being the best example, his hackers didn’t need to explore the RNC website.

What were we saying earlier about Tom Clancy and John LeCarre? Indeed, how about J. Edgar Hoover and James Jesus Angleton? Yes, spooks and spycraft beget the very ghosts that haunt us as we try to figure out Trump and the Kremlin Connection.

It is hard to imagine how far the Republican Party has traveled – so far, in fact, that the party of Joe McCarthy could at this moment be seen as, to use a McCarthy-era term, a fellow traveler in cahoots with the Russians. Worse yet, in addition to the zika vaccine that is desperately needed in this country, we may need another new vaccine to help Republicans deal with the challenges of the chronic fever they face, caused by a powerful mutation of the hypocrisy and amnesia virus, as it spreads through the legions of Trump true believers. Since everything seems so unbelievable right now, could it be that the hypocrisy and amnesia virus carried by the Trump legions is the 21st century mutation of the dreaded ….. Legionnaire’s disease?

When we examine the what ifs that have been placed before us with Trump, Manafort and Gen. Flynn, with their very favorable posture toward Russia and Putin, we’ve discounted the mole theory since all are operating in plain sight.  That still leaves two other possibilities.

The first:  is Donald Trump a resurrected Manchurian Candidate? We’ll need to do some more digging (moles, get out of the way) before there is additional information to report.

The second: is the Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin Fan Club member, Donald Trump, a useful idiot?



Denis Smith is a retired school administrator and a former consultant in the Ohio Department of Education’s charter school office. He writes about education issues as well as politics and constitutional reform.