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Trump Fell Into Scarborough's Trap over Putin

The controversy surrounding Trump's comments on Putin highlights the ignorant and probably malicious Russophobic bias that unites the political spectrum in the US

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Early morning TV host Joe Scarborough laid it on the line to Donald Trump: How could Trump accept the recent accolades of Vladimir Putin? "He kills journalists that don't agree with him," Scarborough cautioned during a December 18 MSNBC interview.

Scarborough pressed Trump to repudiate that practice of Putin's. "You obviously condemn [it], right?"

Trump answered, "Oh sure, absolutely." 

And with those words, Trump fell plop into Scarborough's trap.

How was it a trap? It's widely known that Putin murders opposition journalists, isn't it? That's because Putin's ruthless approach has been a long-running media theme in the US. I often hear TV commentators mention this when they discuss Russia.

The only problem is that the criticism voiced by them all, including Scarborough, isn't grounded in known fact. So Scarborough trapped Trump into seemingly agreeing with the mainstream albeit unsubstantiated allegations.

Around the end of Putin's first two presidential terms I did an analysis of the journalist murder pattern in Russia. Here's what I found: According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 15 journalists were murdered during Putin's stint in the presidency. That's what had been fueling the alarmist media coverage about him. But what the "murdered journalist" stories always fail to report is that in the previous presidential period, the Yeltsin era, there were 31 murders! In other words, under Putin, the number of journalists killed was more than cut in half. Perhaps Scarborough owes Putin some accolades for that accomplishment!

Today I checked on what's happened since Putin's return to the presidency in 2012. There were 3 journalists murdered according to CPJ. What about the other BRIC countries during the same time? How do they compare? Brazil had 16 journalist murders, India 7, and China 0. Except for China, Russia had the safest record. Sixteen murders in Brazil? Why isn't Scarborough all over Brazil about that, and why isn't he singing the praises of China for its perfect record in protecting journalists?

Indeed, since 1992 China has had only 2 journalist murders. That even beats the US record. America had twice the number of journalist murders in that period. And what about Russia? Since 1992 the Philippines has had more than twice as many murdered journalists as Russia. Where's the outrage over that? 

I don't think we're talking about human rights principles here. This has been no more than an outright slime job on Putin, and now it's an attempt to denigrate Trump by association. 

Trump wasn't stuck in Scarborough's trap for long. ABC's George Stephanopoulos apparently didn't realize that, however. In the December 20 edition of his Sunday morning political affairs program, he seemed to pick up where Scarborough left off on the issue of Putin's killing journalists. Stephanopoulos confronted Trump with a tweet from Mitt Romney of all people:

"Important distinction: thug Putin kills journalists and opponents; our presidents kill terrorists and enemy combatants."

To that Trump responded,

"Does he know for a fact that he kills? I don't think anybody knows that. It's possible that he does, but I don't think it's been proven. Has anybody proven that he's killed reporters?" 

Stephanopoulos looked flustered but replied: "

There've been many allegations that he was behind the killing of Anna Politskaya [sic]." Trump snapped back, "Yeah sure there are allegations. I've read those allegations over the years. But nobody's proven that he's killed anybody as far as I'm concerned."

Trump added,

"When you say a man has killed reporters, I'd like you to prove it." Stephanopoulos offered no proof. And by the way, Stephanopoulos misspoke the name of the journalist he referred to. It is "Anna Politkovskaya." 

Trump seems to be standing bravely alone among all his opponents in the presidential race on the Russia question. His insistence that allegations be proved before they are used to tar and feather Putin runs counter to the mainstream approach. Some chalk up his position simply to Trump's penchant for being controversial. But I think there's more to it than that.

In mid-2006 correspondence with an insightful Russia expert I observed how curious it is that Democrats and Republicans think alike when it comes to denigrating Russia and its leaders. We discussed how economic interests and considerable campaign assistance might be biasing the American political process. But when I suggested this should be looked into, the expert responded, "That would mean stepping on some very big feet."

Is that what's going on here? Is big money from somewhere the force that unifies Democrats and Republican's against Putin? Trump claims to be the only candidate who is not dependent on big money coming in. Others absolutely rely upon it to support their campaigns. Is that why Trump is free to repudiate the specious US political storyline that Putin is bad and Russia is an enemy? 

I know quite well how pervasive the fabricated US storyline in fact is. My book The Phony Litvinenko Murder documents how the entire Western explanation of Alexander Litvinenko's polonium death is a malicious fabrication aimed at humiliating Putin. In Litvinenko Murder Case Solved I detail the corrupt path the UK has followed in accusing Putin of murderous culpability. And in Ukraine in the Crosshairs I analyze how Americans have been hoodwinked over what's really happening in Ukraine. I disclose the methodology used in the deception and poke holes in the lies. 

Trump's brash, iconoclastic approach to campaigning may or may not win him the presidency. But it certainly has the potential for exposing the dirty political business that is likely behind the bipartisan drive to challenge Putin and Russia. I hope that Trump will step up to that challenge and hold his ground.

Given the dangerously mounting tensions between the world's two nuclear superpowers, many experts think we're at risk of things getting out of hand. That seriously could mean facing an existential threat to human civilization as we know it.

If financial interests and power brokers are indeed corrupting our political process and pushing the world to the brink, I think we need to step on those big feet now. Right now. 

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