Standing beside an approving Donald Trump at a rally in Kentucky on Monday night, Republican Sen. Rand Paul demanded the media unmask the whistleblower whose report about the president’s alleged abuse of power dealing with Ukraine sparked impeachment proceedings.
Shortly after Sen. Paul tweeted out an article that speculated in considerable detail about the identity of the whistleblower—with a photograph, a name, and details about the purported political history of a CIA professional—Russian state media followed suit.
As if on cue, the Kremlin-controlled heavy hitters—TASS, RT, Rossiya-1—disseminated the same information. But unlike Rand Paul, one of the Russian state media outlets didn’t seem to find the source—Real Clear Investigations—to be particularly impressive, and claimed falsely that the material was published originally by The Washington Post.
This was the most egregious, but certainly not the only example of Kremlin-funded media cheerleading for Trump’s fight against impeachment as proceedings against him unfold with growing speed. As a chorus of talking heads on Fox News have picked up on Trump’s talking points, which is predictable—they’ve also been echoed across the pond, albeit with a tinge of irony.
“Have you lost your minds that you want to remove our Donald Ivanovych?” asked Vladimir Soloviev, the host of the television show Evening with Vladimir Soloviev.
Russian experts, government officials, and prominent talking heads often deride the American president for his Twitter clangor, haphazard approach to foreign policy, clownish lack of decorum, and unfiltered stream of verbalized consciousness. But all the reasons they believe Trump “isn’t a very good president” for America are precisely their reasons for thinking he is so great for Russia.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Russian client whose regime teetered on the brink of collapse only to be saved definitively by Trump’s chaotic approach to the Middle East, recently said that “President Trump is the best type of president for a foe.” The Russians heartily agree. The Trump presidency has been wildly successful for Russia, which is eagerly stepping into every vacuum created by the retreat of the United States on the world stage.
“They say Trump is making Russia great. That’s basically accurate,” pointed out Karen Shakhnazarov, CEO of Mosfilm Studio and a prominent fixture on Russian state television. “The chaos brought by Trump into the American system of government is weakening the United States. America is getting weaker and now Russia is taking its place in the Middle East. Suddenly, Russia is starting to seriously penetrate Africa... So when they say that Trump is weakening the United States—yes, he is. And that’s why we love him... The more problems they have, the better it is for us.”
Since the current administration is proving to be beneficial for the Kremlin, the Russians are openly contemplating various strategies and conspiracy theories, designed to undermine President Trump’s political opponents. Russian state TV host Dmitry Kiselyov named Joe Biden as “Trump’s most dangerous rival" and urged Trump to “keep digging in Ukraine for the sweetest kompromat of all: Proving that Ukraine—not Russia—interfered in the U.S. elections."
Russian conspiracy theories have been reverberating throughout the Trump administration, boosted by Konstantin Kilimnik and Paul Manafort, repeated by President Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. The Russians anticipated an easy victory and the Kremlin-controlled state media pre-emptively rejoiced back in May 2019 when state TV host Evgeny Popov boisterously declared that “Trump already won” and “Ukraine buried Biden as a candidate.”
But what was contemplated as a winning strategy backfired spectacularly when Trump bought into that Russian theory. Through Giuliani, Trump pressured Ukraine’s newly elected President Volodymyr Zelensky for dirt on Biden, and—thanks to a whistleblower’s initial report on a highly problematic phone call Trump made to Zelensky in July—a formal impeachment inquiry began.
As the evidence of abuse of power continues to mount, the beleaguered commander in chief is reduced to attacking the messenger. Trump repeatedly demanded that lawmakers and the media reveal the identity of the whistleblower, even though congressional testimony from multiple witnesses now being made public repeatedly and consistently supports the original allegations.
Russian experts and analysts are openly hoping that the impeachment proceedings will have a side effect that would greatly benefit the Kremlin: “Impeachment will turn into the hunt for Ukrainians” and cause a serious rift between Kyiv and Washington.
RIA Novosti columnist Ivan Danilov writes:
“Some witnesses and sources of information, on which the charges against Donald Trump are based (and for which he, in fact, faces impeachment) are ‘Americans of Ukrainian descent’... At the same time, supporters of the current president are already demonstrating a clear willingness to use their background as the proof that they are ‘traitors to America.’ It isn’t as evident now, but after several months of actively promoting the thesis ‘Ukrainians are Clinton’s agents and the enemies of the United States, who are trying to overthrow Trump,’ a significant part of American society and the political elite will want nothing to do with Ukraine or the Ukrainian leadership, nor will they harbor any warm feelings toward the Ukrainian diaspora.”
Danilov quotes Fox News, Glenn Beck, and The Federalist to demonstrate that a case against Trump is ultimately going to turn into a case against Ukraine.
The possibility of undermining bipartisan support for Ukraine’s fledgling democracy and its ongoing fight against Russian aggression sounds like a wonderful bonus for the Kremlin, especially since—for a change—anti-Ukrainian agitprop is now being made in America.
Although rattled by the prospect of Trump’s impeachment, Russian state media remains optimistic. Olga Skabeeva, the host of 60 Minutes, the most popular news talk show in Russia, predicted: “A Republican majority in the Senate won’t allow the president whom we elected, wonderful Donald Trump, to be sent off. It’s impossible. He has 90 percent support in the Republican Party.”
Russian news reports are assuring their audiences that while impeachment is likely, it won’t result in Trump’s removal from office and will have no effect on the presidential elections in 2020. Russian media outlets are forecasting that swing states and the Electoral College will assure yet another victory for Donald Trump, which suits the Kremlin to a “T.”