'Collusion with Russia Is Hiding in Plain Sight': Conservative Writer George Will Denounces Trump's 'Play Date' with Putin
Ever since President Donald Trump stood at a lectern next to Russia President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday, American politics has shifted.
The biggest change is that now a wide range of pundits and commentators feel emboldened to muse openly about collusion between Trump and the Russians — many more than just before, as such speculation has largely been confined to the president's circle of liberal and left-leaning critics. Republican lawmakers haven't abandoned Trump or seriously entertained the idea that Trump might be compromised — even as they did sternly rebuke his praise of Putin — but many of those who are usually quick to scold the excesses of Trump's detractors have changed their tunes.
A case in point is George Will, a conservative commentator who left the Republican Party because of its fealty toward Trump.
In a Washington Post column Tuesday, Will denounced the president's "play date" with Putin.
"[It] is usually difficult to sift meanings from Trump’s word salads," he wrote. "But in Helsinki he was, for him, crystal clear about feeling no allegiance to the intelligence institutions that work at his direction and under leaders he chose."
He continued: "Like the purloined letter in Edgar Allan Poe’s short story with that title, collusion with Russia is hiding in plain sight. ... The collusion is in what Trump says (refusing to back the United States’ intelligence agencies) and in what evidently went unsaid (such as: You ought to stop disrupting Ukraine, downing civilian airliners, attempting to assassinate people abroad using poisons, and so on, and on)."
Will notes that one of the foundational lies and central mysteries of Trump's presidency is about his tax returns. He promised to release them, but he never did. Will writes:
Americans elected a president who — this is a safe surmise — knew that he had more to fear from making his tax returns public than from keeping them secret. The most innocent inference is that for decades he has depended on an American weakness, susceptibility to the tacky charisma of wealth, which would evaporate when his tax returns revealed that he has always lied about his wealth, too. A more ominous explanation might be that his redundantly demonstrated incompetence as a businessman tumbled him into unsavory financial dependencies on Russians. A still more sinister explanation might be that the Russians have something else, something worse, to keep him compliant.
The conservative columnist lays his hopes on special counsel Robert Mueller to work out why Trump is behaving the way he is, even as the collusion itself is already clear. But whatever Mueller's answer is, there's still the most pertinent question: What are Republicans going to do about it?
And the answer, it seems so far, is nothing at all.