From Russia with Love?

Trump/Kremlin - Source: CNN
Source: CNN – http://money.cnn.com/2016/07/27/pf/taxes/trump-russia-tax-returns/

I’m naturally inclined to distrust conspiracy theories, so I’ve brushed aside the Russia-Trump connection. After all, his lack of basic qualifications to be President has always been enough for me.

But this article in Newsweek–which isn’t being covered as widely as I’d expect on conventional media–suggests there genuinely could be something legitimate to it.

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump has been reporting a “smoking gun” email in which Sidney Blumenthal acknowledges Hillary Clinton is fully responsible for Benghazi.

But it turns out the email being referenced from Blumenthal is really just a forwarded Newsweek article (here’s the actual email for reference). But a state-controlled Russian news agency (almost immediately after the leak went public) wildly fabricated a story that presents the journalist’s quotes as actually from Blumenthal.  As you can see from the original, there is no way anyone could read that email and not realize it was a forwarded article, so it is an obvious manipulation.

Most interesting, the same day, Donald Trump has a copy of the article, and tells a crowd it is the evidence that Clinton was to blame.

To be clear, it is certainly possible Trump or his people just happened to see an article only posted on an obscure state-controlled Russian news agency, then didn’t fact check the story at all (despite the fact that I was able to find the original email on WikiLeaks in <5 seconds), then handed it to their candidate to speak to the public.  It’s possible I suppose. But here’s the deal:

(A) Best case scenario: this flap would add to the giant raft of evidence that Trump and the people around him are wildly incompetent and lack the basic skills and judgement to be involved in government at any level.

(B) Worse case scenario: what I’ve always thought was Clinton’s crazy political smear is legitimate–state-tied hackers for Russia are working to manipulate information to ensure Donald Trump wins the election. When you consider that he’s refused to criticize Russia, contradicted Pence on opposing Russia, and often held Putin up for praise, it gets me as close to buying a conspiracy theory as I’ve ever been.

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