Russian state media have joined President Vladimir Putin in delivering a full-throated defense of impeached U.S. President Donald J. Trump.
Such support would have been implausible for any other U.S. leader, much less one who claims to be “tough on Russia.” But bluster aside, Trump has been reluctant to sign off on additional Russian sanctions. Pro-Kremlin experts, lawmakers and talking heads believe President Trump would do away with most of the sanctions in record time if not for the U.S. Congress.
Bolstering these assumptions is the case of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project between Russia and Germany. On Friday, Trump signed the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contains a provision sanctioning Nord Stream 2. But the project is just weeks away from completion and analysts doubt the imposition of sanctions at this late stage can be effective, much less halt the project.
The Trump administration meanwhile is opposing the bipartisan Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act, or “DASKA,” meant to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 election and deter it from such actions in the future. The administration called the bill “unnecessary” in a 22-page letter to Congress. “The Trump administration stood up in defense of Russia against DASKA sanctions,” Russian media concluded.
The Kremlin is likewise continuing to stand up for President Trump. During President Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference in Moscow, he claimed that the impeachment was based on “absolutely made up” allegations. Echoing the GOP, the Russian president said, “The party that lost the  election, the Democratic Party, is trying to achieve results by other methods, other means." On Friday, Trump touted Vladimir Putin’s endorsement on his Twitter feed.
The chairman of the Russian State Duma (the lower house of parliament) foreign affairs committee Leonid Slutsky called impeachment “the revenge of the Democrats for the defeat in the 2016 presidential election.”
Supporting Trump, Russian state media attacked the Democrats, but saw pure comedy in the GOP making ill-conceived comparisons between Donald Trump and Jesus Christ while likening the impact of the impeachment to the attack on Pearl Harbor.
(Novaya Gazeta, which is not part of the state media, concluded that Trump is obviously guilty and many Republicans realize he’s been deserving of impeachment for quite some time. Nonetheless, the GOP defends the president in order to preserve the party, while many of the Democrats are “honest people who are ready to sacrifice themselves in the name of the ideas of the founding fathers.” Novaya Gazeta opined that re-election in 2020 “is in Trump’s pocket,” but the moral victory belongs to the Democrats.)
One of the Kremlin’s top propagandists, Vladimir Soloviev, heaped praise upon Trump and rattled off a list of bogus defenses in his coverage of the impeachment proceedings. During his show, The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev, the host favorably mentioned a “documentary film” based on the Ukrainian exploits of the U.S. president’s private lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani. The show was quickly slapped together in order to defend Trump’s pursuit of fictitious “dirt” against Joe Biden, along with the allegations that Ukraine—not Russia—interfered in the U.S. elections.
Soloviev proceeded to accuse the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of “conspiring” with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European leaders to remove Viktor Shokin—the corrupt former Prosecutor General of Ukraine. Defending President Trump by echoing his talking points, Soloviev exclaimed: “There was no quid pro quo!”
The claim that Ukraine and not Russia interfered in U.S. elections is a Kremlin-spawned conspiracy theory that reportedly was conveyed to President Trump personally by Vladimir Putin during their secretive meeting at the G-20 summit in 2017. Trump was so impressed by the tale of the Russian president (whom he calls “my friend”), he would say: “The Russians didn’t do anything. The Ukrainians tried to do something,” according to The Washington Post. The Kremlin’s fable further blossomed, when it started to be widely accepted and frequently reiterated by the GOP.
Vladimir Soloviev praised Trump’s letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling the U.S. president a “highly educated” writer of “multiple bestsellers,” who wrote the letter “for future generations.” Soloviev surmised that when it comes to the upcoming presidential race of 2020, “Trump is defeating all potential candidates.”
Soloviev theatrically complained: “Here’s what I can’t understand. Why do they hate Trump so much?” The Atlantic Council’s expert appearing on the show, Ariel Cohen, explained that Trump is a political outlier, who boasted about grabbing women by their private parts. The Russian state TV host immediately jumped in to defend President Trump as an alleged proponent of “free love.”
Throughout the segment, pro-Kremlin propagandists criticized Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Greta Thunberg, but found no fault in Trump.
During one of his previous shows, Soloviev said he was troubled, saddened by “insulting” anti-Trump ads, featuring prominent actors and celebrities. He urged respect towards the American president, although he’s shown very little in the past.
On his earlier shows, Soloviev described President Trump as “Donald Ivanovich” and “Trumpushka,” joked about the U.S. president sending the Republicans to Moscow in order to make deals with Russian hackers, questioned which “Motherland”—the U.S. or Russia—“geriatric” Trump would serve and pondered whether Trump would end up fleeing to Russia like the former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych.
With respect to President Trump’s Democratic opponents in the upcoming presidential race, the Russian state media have only one clear favorite: Tulsi Gabbard. Vladimir Soloviev asked: “Who would be the ideal candidate from the Democrats?” “John F. Kennedy,” replied Andrey Sidorov, deputy dean of World Politics at Moscow’s State University. “Kamala Harris,” suggested the Atlantic Council’s expert Ariel Cohen. Soloviev disagreed: “No, it should be Gabbard.”
Pro-Kremlin TV pundit and Rossiya Segodnya state news agency CEO Dmitry Kiselyov shares Soloviev’s affinity for Tulsi Gabbard, having aired a “getting to know her” profile on his weekly show, Vesti Nedeli.
Notably, Tulsi Gabbard refused to take a principled stand in the vote on two articles of impeachment against Trump, merely voting “present.” Gabbard’s failure to condemn the atrocities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and non-fulfillment of her Congressional duties with respect to entering a meaningful impeachment vote demonstrate the absence of moral clarity, a quality that is highly prized by the Kremlin.
Russia’s state media outlet, RT, aired President Trump’s speech at his Michigan rally, wherein the American president claimed that by proceeding with the impeachment, “House Democrats have branded themselves with an eternal mark of shame.” Meanwhile, Russian state television branded the American president as the Kremlin’s “agent”—an “eternal mark of shame” indeed.