The Russian connection

Trump and several of his proposed cabinet members have deeply troubling ties to the Kremlin

Donald Trump isn’t president yet, but already he’s managed to alienate the entire American intelligence community. He did so by dismissing the CIA’s careful finding that Russia had hacked Democratic National Committee computers in an effort to help Trump win. It was “ridiculous,” he said.

Vladimir Putin is a murderous thug and a dictator. And yet Trump has sided with him in a dispute with America’s intelligence agencies, all of which agree with the CIA’s assessment that Russia was behind a cyberattack on the American electoral process.

To make matters worse, Trump seems to be rewarding Putin by giving high-level posts to men who have close ties to Moscow, men like Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil and now Trump’s nominee for secretary of state.

Tillerson has known Putin for 20 years and has received, directly from the dictator, an “Order of Friendship” medal. As an oil magnate, he has cut lucrative deals with Russia for Exxon Mobil and opposed U.S. sanctions that get in the way of making more deals. That in itself should disqualify him.

Then there’s Wilbur Ross, Trump’s billionaire nominee for secretary of commerce. He’s been financially close to a Russian oligarch in a banking scheme worth a billion dollars and has shared a board position with a former KGB official close to Putin.

The Trump family also has significant financial ties to Russia, in the form of Russian investment in Trump developments in this country and elsewhere.

This tangled web of conflicts of interest warrants careful scrutiny when Tillerson and Ross come before the Senate for confirmation. Meanwhile, the rest of us—the media, watchdog groups and the public at large—must pay close attention, lest Russia continue to pull Trump’s strings.