A counterterrorism expert believes that Donald Trump's current worldview was "manufactured" by Russia -- and the damage the president is doing to the global standing of the United States could last for decades.
Malcolm Nance spent 20 years at the NSA and worked as a United States Navy senior chief petty officer, specializing in naval cryptology. Now an author and political commentator on MSNBC, he spoke with Raw Story about his new book, The Plot to Betray America.
The third and final installment of his series hit shelves Tuesday -- with a forward written by former fake President Josiah Bartlett (actor Martin Sheen).
Nance, a Raw Story fan since the Bush years, explained how his approach to The Plot to Betray America was different from what a journalist would do with the same subject matter.
"I can [look at a situation] and based on decades of intelligence experience and say, 'Oh, I've seen this type of operation before. This is how it works. This is how it flows.' And that information is not something that the average journalist will have,” Nance said.
What follows is part of our exclusive interview with Nance, which has been edited for length and clarity:
"This book, The Plot to Betray America, is the third leg of this story, which is, The Plot to Destroy Democracy was about Putin; his is about Team Trump and how the Americans who were involved in this -- how they were doing their business. How they were going about engineering their own enrichment. And that is what is destroying the United States and our national security," Nance began.
You mention Trump, but one of the things you also talk about in the book is Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions (R-AL) role in all of this. I think it was Joe Biden who had made the comment about former President Obama trying to get McConnell to sign on to a letter, something public to be released, saying the Russians are hacking the election. And McConnell wouldn't do it. I'd always known the McConnell stuff was sketchy, and now we have his state profiting off of a massive Russian oligarch's aluminum company. But I didn't know about the Jeff Sessions part.
"You know, in my world, we have the 'who, what, when, where, why, how,' right? And we call that 'Whisky Five Hotel.' The five W's and an H. All of those components are irrelevant with the exception of the important question and that's 'why.' I can watch all of your activities. I can predict your activities based on your pattern, where you are, what you're saying. But 'why,' the motivation behind you is the most important component. So, with Sessions, it just struck me, there had to have been a ginormous pool of money that supersedes loyalty to everything and Trump was offering to let him in on it.
"But [Sessions] made that one mistake of being ethical. By recusing himself. And that was it. Now he's out. And he thinks he's going to salvage himself. Did you see his video praising, essentially ass-kissing Trump? It was beyond embarrassing and Trump had already stabbed him in the back 100 times. It's amazing that he would even try this, but it just goes to show these people are schmucks. They understand the meanness, and the anger, and the hatred of the base. And, in fact, they were only decent and compliant and cooperative because commonsense and decency required that. But now they've been unshackled and they can be as mean and as ruthless and dirty and as nasty as they want, so long as they sign onto Trump and Trump has the support of those people."
And then people just tune it out and don't want to participate in the process because it's too mean spirited and they want nothing to do with it?
"Well, that's why 50 percent of the population, that is eligible to vote, don't vote. They won't vote. It was like that great reporting by MSNBC where they went to the University of Orange County or USC-Orange or something. And they asked the students waiting at the bus stop if they were going to vote. And only two out of 12 of them said ‘yes.’ And one guy actually had the nerve to say 'I'm working on my school. This doesn't really impact me.' …It was a shocking day.
“I was at PolitiCon in Los Angeles [at the time] and I thought, ‘Holy cow, we’ re in trouble.’ You know, if this is the way kids think … But you know, Republicans don't have that problem. They vote. It's a small narrow body of people, but they vote and Democrats have to motivate. It's like they say, ‘Democrats have to fall in love, Republicans fall in line.’"
We talk about the political consequences of the way that Trump and the GOP have cozied up to Russia, but are there diplomatic consequences? How are our allies viewing us and how have our relationships with our allies changed?
"Well, I think the word 'diplomatic' is inoperative these days. Remember when Emmanuel Macron made that statement the other day when he called us 'the ultimate guarantor'? --which, by the way, was the terminology used when we established NATO, that the United States would be 'the ultimate guarantor.' He said, apparently, essentially, that we can no longer rely on the United States. The United States may no longer be the ultimate guarantor. Europe may have to defend themselves.”
"And what you're looking at is the first step of what Putin has always wanted. Putin has always wanted Russia and the Soviet Union, of which Putin is just an extension …he's just doing a capitalistic extension of the Soviet Union. To these guys, it's the greatest thing that's ever happened.”
“You nullify the United States' strengths so that if there is an invasion of the Ukraine, or there is an invasion of another country, the question mark is will the United States be there? I think our allies think that information warfare and propaganda and Fox News has so tainted the country that the commonsense of the United States can no longer be relied on. And we're going to find out in one year if that's true or not.”
"I say this in my speeches all the time – and in the book: Trump’s goal is to establish a Constitutional autocracy. Where you have a Constitution, but it's run and dictated by an autocrat. And that the Bill of Rights is whatever Trump says the Bill of Rights is through his interpretation.”
“You know, Nazi Germany had reams of laws. So, it's not like this couldn't happen."
One of the things my parents and grandparents still remember is hiding under their desks in schools, afraid of an impending Soviet nuclear attack. So, it's weird for me to see these Republicans -- these people who were strident anti-Soviet -- and how they have changed. Now Republicans fully embrace the former Soviet Union and I wonder: “Is this real? Is it just something that they're doing to placate Trump or have Republicans really changed?”
(Nance encouraged me to read Plot to Destroy Democracy because he said it outlines the Russia strategy targeting the GOP.)
"The last chapter in the book discusses how Russia created a meta-narrative around Donald Trump, to where, he sees the world through Moscow's glasses. And I think the metaphor I used in there is that ‘if Donald Trump sees the world through rose-colored glasses, they're glasses that were created, tinted, framed, and put on his face by Moscow.’”
“His entire worldview comes from the perspective of the money he's always wanted. And whatever has been promised him, whatever he thinks he can get. And whether he adopted what he thinks is the faux toughness of the Russian Bear.”
"I say it really happened when he had that dinner at the restaurant with the 12 richest men in Russia and a personal representative of Putin's. And whenever he came out of that, he was spouting the party line. The first thing he said was he's getting Trump Tower Moscow. So, they probably all promised him that it would happen and that Putin would let it happen. And then he started spouting the Crimea party line and all the rest …and how Obama was weak and Putin was strong. The man is essentially a manufactured item from a state KGB officer whose job it was to learn to manipulate humans."
“Now Putin leads Donald Trump around on a leash."
Do you think that the Republican senators have gotten fully on board or are they just pretending?
"No, I think they believe and they've now bought into how Donald Trump is the natural component of their version of mean-spirited, autocratic Republicanism. Every once in a while I run into these right-wingers and they say, 'We're not a democracy we're a Republic!' And I have to say, 'Clearly, you didn't read Plato. Because a Republic is a democracy with safeguards and protects the rights of the political minority.' And then they go, 'Uh, no. We're a republic!' And it's just mind-boggling.”
“And when team Trump took over, they decided, 'We govern for ourselves. Screw the rest of the country.’ They have no problem compromising their principles. The word ‘hypocrisy” means nothing anymore. So, if the word ‘hypocrisy’ means nothing, you're never accountable to your base. Because you never have to show them that you care at all about anyone in the world or America."
Because you’re counterterrorism guy, I wonder what keeps you up at night and what are we not thinking about for the future?
"The thing that keeps me up most at night is the president of the United States is an asset to a foreign power. We have no idea the level of damage it's done until he's out of office. And what we're going to find out is all of his sycophants were all out to enrich themselves and probably did decades of damage to the country. Especially to the State Department, it's non-existent. It can barely issue visas.”
"To be quite honest, what we're not preparing for is that there are American citizens that won't cede the fact that this exists and may be willing to take up arms against their own country. And they believe they're the true patriots."