By Ethan Griffiths
Donald Trump. Most don’t know much about him, other than the fact he’s the US President, pretty controversial, and has extremely luscious “not fake” locks of beautiful blonde hair. He’s been all over the news within the last 24 hours, after having a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, where he came out and said that he trusts Russia when they say they didn’t interfere in the US election. Without the jargon and political dilly-dally, what the hell is going on?
To understand what’s happening, you need to take yourself back to 2016. The world of politics was absolutely shocked at the very real possibility that Donald Trump would beat Hilary Clinton in the US election in November. Polls had Clinton ahead, and most predicted her to win the presidency, whereas Trump was behind, but certainly not by far. Scandals occurred on both sides, the most known was Clinton’s email scandal, where she illegally set up an email server from her home. The other well known scandal was Trump’s admission that because he’s famous, he can sexually assault anyone he likes and “grab ‘em by the pussy” (yes, that is an actual quote by Donald Trump caught on tape). Both sides experienced the usual scandalous turmoil, normal in most election campaigns, but questions were being raised on who was behind the scandals, particularly, the ones involving Hillary Clinton.
Exactly a month before the election, it became crystal clear that Russia had something to do with the scandals, and was planning to interfere in the election. They’d already hacked some emails to get some dirt on Hillary, and were caught out pretty quick smart. The Russians purchased the online domain dcleaks.com, paid for it with Bitcoin, and soon began uploading emails that they’d illegally hacked and stolen copies of. They were quickly caught out by the FBI, which soon after came out and said that Russia was attempting to undermine Clinton’s campaign and make Trump look squeaky clean.
Then came the warnings of hacking into voter systems, which began to turn things really freaky. In the States, almost every voting centre uses an electronic screen to vote on, similar to ATMs or the self service screen at Macca’s. The FBI had warned about potential hacks of these computers and the database these computers use, as early as June, but it then came out shortly before the election that Russia had attempted to hack these machines, some successfully, in over 20 states.
Throughout all of this, people, including high ranking members of the FBI and the government, started suspecting that Donald Trump and his campaign was working alongside Russia to undermine Clinton and meddle in the election. Russia denied any involvement and they said the allegations that they interfered in the election were false and lies. In the end, as we all well know, Trump won the election, but in the States, you don’t immediately take office. It was about two months after the election when Trump took over, meaning for a short time prior to that, Barack Obama was still the President. Only a few days before Trump took over, Obama banned or ‘expelled’ 35 Russian diplomats and increased the sanctions (trade tariffs) on Russia, as a consequence of their interference.
Trump took over in January last year, and things looked to settle down, that was until March, when FBI director James Comey came out and publicly confirmed that the FBI was investigating links between the Trump campaign and Russia. This was the moment things really started to heat up politically. If the investigation proved that Trump did indeed work alongside Russia, there would be grounds to impeach Trump and for him to become the first President to be charged and removed from office. If things weren’t bad enough already, it turned absolutely nuclear. Within a month, Trump fired James Comey, calling him a “nut-job” and saying he [Trump] “faced great pressure because of Russia”. In response to the firing, which some, including staff at the FBI, saw as Trump obstructing justice and preventing himself from being charged, the Deputy Attorney General appointed a guy named Robert Mueller to conduct a “special investigation” into Trump. Trump can’t fire Mueller, meaning there is no way he can obstruct justice, and the investigation process must take its course.
Trump immediately lawyered himself to the core, employing a huge legal team to fight for him in case anything arose from the investigation. Trump has continuously called the investigation a “witch hunt” and says it was “complete waste of time”, but from a legal and investigative stand point, its been pretty successful so far.
By October, Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort surrendered to the FBI on four charges to do with money laundering and “conspiracy against the United States”, relating to their work for a Russian group based in Ukraine. The charges didn’t directly relate to Trump, but it clearly showed that his own campaign manager had significantly strong ties. The investigation continued to dig deeper, and then found that members of Trump’s campaign team, including Manafort, and Trumps son-in-law had even met with a Russian lawyer and counterintelligence officer at Trump Tower during the election campaign, raising more questions and indeed suspicion. The Russian lawyer had offered damning evidence against Hillary Clinton, of which the Trump campaign was interested in.
This leads us to right now, and the events of the last 48 hours, which have really blown everything up to it’s highest point yet. Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland yesterday, and the two had a “very productive” meeting. Directly after the meeting, the two held a joint press conference, where in typical Trump style, he dropped some bombshells.
Trump said during the press conference that him and Putin are “friends” and that he trusts Putin just as much as his own advisors, which sent the US into a frenzy. They both further reinforced that Russia had absolutely no involvement in the 2016 election, and that there is nothing else the Mueller investigation will find. He even said that Russian aggression is even partly the fault of the United States, which was so controversial, it even infuriated members of Trump’s own party.
One of the biggest and most well known faces of Trump’s own party, John McCain, came out and said “the damage inflicted by President Trump’s naïveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate”. He even went as far as to call the meeting and press conference a “tragic mistake”.
The behaviour of Trump over the last 48 hours is absolutely crazy for a few reasons. The first; the United States and Russia are far from allies, certainly historically they have been each other’s biggest enemies, and it’s sort of been like that for the last ten years. This dramatic shift has seen Trump call the leader of an enemy nation his “friend” and say that he trusts him just as much as he trusts his own people. What’s becoming increasingly clear, however, is that the trust of the people of his country is slowly slipping away.
Almost half way through his first term in office, it’s becoming clear that Trump simply can’t keep away from controversy, criticism and what now looks to be dissension. Its scary and troubling, yet at the same time, it provokes a ton of political excitement. Never has any President been this deep in scandal since Watergate in 1972. It’s set to be a polarising, controversial and tumultuous next few months.
Young, passionate and a wannabe babysitter for Jacinda’s baby, Ethan won’t stop talking about politics. Likes a bit of cricket, wearing trendy ties and is in love with Jeff the purple wiggle.