How did Donald Trump apparently end up in the pocket of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin?
On Thursday night, CNN’s Don Lemon had a panel discussion of this question featuring former Homeland Security official Juliette Kayyem and former CIA operative Robert Baer.
“As a candidate, he clearly wanted his dealings with Russian real estate to go through—that meant the Russians had something on him,” Kayyem said. “Then, he lies about it—which meant the Russians had something on him…. so the amount of leverage that the Russians had on Trump, whether it was exposed or not, is something that we didn’t know before which has now been exposed by Michael Cohen.”
Baer said that Russians first identified Trump as an easy mark in 1985.
“They could see right away that he was biddable—in 1985 he started taking Russian money, it was dirty Russian money, mobster money from Brighton Beach,” he said. “He was the perfect dupe for the Russians.”
The Russians had no intention of letting Trump build a hotel in the 80s, Baer said. But they got to know him “really well.”
Kayyem said that we are now deep in the weeds on the financial matters, but that it’s important to not forget the election side.
“This only works for Putin—all this blackmail and leverage—if Trump wins,” she said. “That is why these two pieces of the investigation, the election hacking, the fake news, whether there’s meetings about Wikileaks, and the financial stuff are related. Putin’s leverage only works if Trump’s in charge.”