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Trump’s Canary in Putin’s Coal Mine

President Trump is giving in to bullying from Vladimir Putin, and it's a pungent stench in John Bolton's nostrils. Forget about the campaign. If Bolton calls it quits, Democrats can go for the collusion while Trump is the sitting president. And if that's not impeachable, I don't know what is.

On Friday, at the same time National Security Adviser John Bolton tweeted the Monroe Doctrine, President Trump was on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump was yucking it up with his pal Putin over various topics, including the Mueller Report, which, amid an orgy of intelligence evidence, concluded that the Russians had interfered in the 2016 election. I’m sure Putin needed no briefing on what Mueller found, though it might help expose American counterintelligence efforts, so for that he’s thankful.

Between celebratory “no collusion” verbal fist-bumps, Trump got around to talking about Venezuela. Somehow, Bolton’s strong defense of the Western Hemisphere rang empty in the president’s remarks following the call with Putin.

“I had a very good talk with President Putin — probably over an hour,” Trump began. “And we talked about many things. Venezuela was one of the topics. And he is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela, other than he’d like to see something positive happen for Venezuela. And I feel the same way. We want to get some humanitarian aid.”

Washington Post, May 3, 2019

It’s worth repeating: Russia “is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela,” Trump said. Then, explain this:

“He had an airplane on the tarmac, he was ready to leave this morning as we understand it, and the Russians indicated he should stay,” Pompeo said on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called Pompeo’s statement “fake” in comments to various media outlets, and accused the U.S. of waging an “information war.”

CBS News, May 1, 2019

And this:

The Russian statement said Guaido had attempted to seize power with “the clear support of the United States” and that the U.S. threat to Maduro was “a gross violation of international law.” It added that Lavrov had warned Pompeo that “the continuation of aggressive steps is fraught with the most serious consequences.”

Military Times, May 3, 2019

And this, from just over a month ago:

Russia acknowledged Thursday that it has military personnel in Venezuela, which is facing political turmoil and a humanitarian crisis, saying the deployment is legal and does not alter the delicate balance of power in the region. 

In a briefing Thursday in Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said “Russian specialists” were on Venezuelan soil but declared their deployment to be “in accordance with the provisions of the bilateral intergovernmental agreement on military-technical cooperation” between Moscow and Caracas.

Asked at the briefing by CNN how long they would be deployed, she replied that the personnel would remain in Venezuela “for as long as needed, and as long as the government of Venezuela needs them.”

CNN, March 29, 2019

The Russians are in Venezuela. They are there to prop up the dictator Maduro. They are there for as long as Vladimir Putin wants them there. They are there whether Maduro wants to leave or not (and I’m not 100% convinced that Maduro’s failed departure wasn’t–uhm–dissuaded by the presence of certain Spetsnaz personnel).

The presence of Russian troops in South America, contrary to the will of the people in Venezuela, is directly in conflict with America’s role in the Western Hemisphere. It challenges us on our own turf, and dares America to do something about it.

President Trump is giving in to bullying from Vladimir Putin, and it’s a pungent stench in John Bolton’s nostrils. The best retort for this betrayal Bolton could manage was a weak tweet of Trump’s remarks this morning.

Meanwhile, Trump parroted exactly what Putin said for him to say. That Russian troops in Venezuela are nothing to be concerned about. But that’s as wrong as it could possibly be.

If Bolton cannot persuade Trump to change his tune, and actually do something about Russian influence in our back yard, and in the lives of millions of starving Venezuelans, then I expect him to quit in protest.

If Bolton quits, consider that the singing of the canary in the coal mine. It would be as close to proof positive that our president is incapable of standing up to the murderous strongmen who have had their way on his watch, as he glad-hands and preens over them.

In fact, if Bolton quits, added to former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, and Gen. James Mattis (who was wrong about Syria but quit in protest of more than just Syria), it could be a compelling case for Democrats to pick up in their impeachment efforts.

I’d even say that if Trump can be shown to have kowtowed to Putin in Venezuela, even as Maduro kept power; it would open the door to claim he has kowtowed to Putin in Syria, where Assad is firmly in control. Or Crimea, or Ukraine (where his jailed campaign manager got fat paychecks from the pro-Russian stooge in power). Or anywhere in the world where Russia’s interests (criminal or otherwise) come into conflict with America’s.

Forget about the campaign. If Bolton calls it quits, Democrats can go for the collusion while Trump is the sitting president. And if that’s not impeachable, I don’t know what is.

For Trump’s sake, and the sake of his presidency, and for the sake of America’s national security, I hope that Trump will listen to John Bolton. This particular canary should not be singing in Putin’s coal mine.

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