Will “Putin-gate” derail progressive resistance?


Craig Collins Ph.D.,
CSUEB Lecturer

Craig Collins, Ph.D. teaches political science and environmental law at California State University East Bay and was a founding member of the Green Party of California.

If events in Washington (and Moscow) continue to unfold as they have over the last few months, it appears that the groundswell of popular opposition to Trump’s crackpot, right-wing, authoritarian agenda may soon become upstaged and sidelined by a Republican-led impeachment circus.

It appears that Vladimir Putin has discovered CIA moles planted within the highest levels of his security apparatus. They were caught leaking information to the Western press about Putin’s clandestine efforts to skew the elections and help Trump win the presidency. Putin has accused these high-ranking intelligence officers of the FSB (Russia’s renamed KGB) of high treason and they have disappeared into Russian prisons.

If these were indeed CIA moles inside the Kremlin, this new turn of events reveals how far the CIA has committed itself to removing Trump from power. Double agents within the Putin regime are extremely valuable. The CIA would not compromise or sacrifice them without a very crucial overriding objective. The decision to order these double agents to leak Putin’s scheme to the Western press exposed them to discovery and great danger. At some point the CIA must have decided that revealing Trump’s covert affair with Putin was worth the risk of provoking a mole hunt and losing its valuable spy network within the Kremlin.

Throughout Trump’s campaign, the corporate media and the intelligence establishment were constant targets of his bombastic vitriol. His attacks only escalated after the election, putting his presidency on a collision course with these prevailing bastions of institutional power.

One major source of conflict between the National Security Establishment and Trump has been his cozy relationship with Putin and his dismissal of NATO as an effective alliance for containing Russian power in Eurasia. This position directly conflicts with the prevailing position of the National Security State which seeks to maintain and even escalate tensions between the US and Russia to justify continued American military hegemony over Europe and the oil rich Middle East.

Once Trump assumed office his conflict with the intelligence community intensified when he chose former Exxon CEO, Rex Tillerson, as Secretary of State. Because Tillerson is a well-known friend of the Putin regime, Trump appeared to be repaying Putin for his covert assistance to defeat Clinton. Tillerson’s appointment was quickly followed by the removal of high-level state department officials opposed to Tillerson’s appointment. This has provoked further push back in the intelligence establishment.

But there may be even greater reasons why the National Security State has decided that Trump must go and the Republicans must do the job of removing him from office. Trump’s repugnant form of “alt-charisma” has managed to accomplish something that hasn’t been done for generations—galvanize and energize an outraged progressive populism to oppose his demagogic, Right-wing agenda. This grassroots populism gained popularity during Bernie Sander’s challenge to Clinton’s corporate liberalism. It lost some steam after Clinton took the primaries, but has rebounded dramatically since Trump’s election.

Unlike Trump’s xenophobic populism, this movement is serious about challenging corporate power over Washington and taking America in a new democratic direction. To those at the highest levels of the American power elite, this is a movement that cannot continue to gain steam.

A Republican-led impeachment of Donald Trump might divert and diffuse it before it grows ever larger in the coming years.

If the decision to remove Trump has been made at the highest levels of the National Security State, the next step should be a full-scale media campaign to isolate and discredit him. This will probably take the form of a constant and escalating series of calculated intelligence leaks that reveal Trump’s clandestine collaboration with the Kremlin to win the White House. Once this series of scandals becomes a full-scale “Putin-gate” the pressure on Republicans in Congress to embark on impeachment proceedings will become irresistible. Faced with believable evidence—either real or manufactured— that Trump conspired with the Kremlin to tilt the election in his favor, Republicans would be compelled to save themselves by impeaching their own president.

This maneuver would allow the Republicans to oust Trump while holding on to their power over Congress and the White House. It would give them— and not the mounting progressive resistance—all the credit for dumping Trump.

Republicans could portray themselves as staunch American patriots who found it necessary to remove a president who conspired with a rival power to game the electoral the process, thus delegitimizing his presidency and compromising national security.

A media-hyped impeachment circus could easily sideline and overshadow grassroots resistance to the threat the Republican agenda poses to environmental, economic and social justice. It’s time to start thinking about how to prevent this.