Is Donald Trump a secret Russian agent?

Lance Dutson: Hillary’s convention, despite a pretty decent array of speeches, has pretty much blown up in her face because of this DNC email leak. But crazier than the obvious rigging of the Dem primary is the conspiracy theory being floated now that Trump and Putin arranged for the leak. It’s classic Clinton deflection, but it’s gaining traction nonetheless. Steven, what do you think — are Hillary’s emails being stored at Area 51 now?

Steven Biel: There is strong evidence, confirmed by U.S. intelligence agencies, that the Russian government is behind the hackers who broke into the Democratic National Committee’s servers. That’s an attack on the sovereignty of the United States. But now Trump not only refuses to condemn it — he’s openly calling for the Russians to keep doing it. This isn’t a joke. This is a serious national security issue. Don’t you agree?

Lance: I’m so confused. You guys have been telling America for more than a year that email security is no big deal. What changed?

Steven: No one has ever said that email security is no big deal. But what’s also a big deal is a presidential candidate for a major political party expressing admiration for an autocrat like Vladimir Putin.

Lance: I’m no fan of Trump, and his remarks about this, as with most things, were foolish. But I don’t think the American voting public is going to forget about the DNC’s obvious election-rigging because of conspiracy theories about foreign governments.

Steven: Election-rigging? A couple DNC staff members were stupidly open about their personal preferences, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz was fired for it. But that’s not election-rigging.

Lance: And Trump’s silly comments don’t mean he’s a secret Manchurian candidate for Putin. Honestly, do you really believe Donald Trump conspired directly with the Russians to leak these emails?

Steven: Trump has the most pro-Kremlin foreign policy we’ve ever seen by far. He says he won’t necessarily support NATO allies if they’re attacked by Russia. He lobbied to change the Republican Party platform — a platform he otherwise ignored — to remove support for arming Ukraine against Putin’s aggression. His campaign director, Paul Manafort, has spent most of the last decade working for Viktor Yanukovych, the deposed pro-Putin president of Ukraine.

Are Trump and Putin directly working together? Probably not. Does Putin want Trump to win, and is he doing things to help him win? Definitely.

Donald Trump waves after a rally in Toledo, Ohio, on Wednesday. Carlo Allegri | Reuters

Donald Trump waves after a rally in Toledo, Ohio, on Wednesday. Carlo Allegri | Reuters

Lance: If that’s the standard, then your candidate is in big trouble. The Clinton Foundation has taken millions from Chinese donors with close ties to the Chinese government. Hillary’s 2008 campaign was plagued by scandals surrounding a Chinese donation-laundering scheme. And Bill Clinton’s political machine was at the center of a scheme that laundered Chinese donations through a Buddhist monastery. Based on your case against Trump, it seems pretty clear Team Clinton conspired with the Chinese to impact U.S. elections.

Steven: Wow you’re really digging deep in your bag of overblown Clinton scandals to change the subject. Trump is openly encouraging a hostile foreign government to commit espionage. This is really dangerous stuff.

Lance: I agree. It’s very dangerous stuff. That’s why a secretary of state who deliberately mishandles State Department documents in order to protect herself politically should be held accountable. Democrats today are finally being honest about the level of damage this kind of hacking can do to our nation. It’s unfortunate that it took Russians hacking their emails for Democrats to finally get the point of Hillary’s email scandal.

Steven: Republicans won’t be satisfied until Clinton has been locked up, tarred and feathered, and then burned at the stake. But she’s said over and over that it was a mistake, and she’s paid a huge political price.

Lance: All I can say is that it’s pretty rich to hear the Clintons of all people expressing outrage about leveraging foreign sources to win campaigns. And I don’t think the American people are going to believe that Trump is in bed with the Russians.

Steven: Perhaps not, but the signs are worrying. Thankfully Republicans have an iron-clad way of resolving this dispute. Donald Trump should hand over every email he’s sent or received for the last four years, and if there’s even one missing, then we know he’s guilty.

Left Brain Right Brain

About Left Brain Right Brain

Lance Dutson, a principal of Red Hill Strategies, is a Republican communications consultant. He has served on the campaign teams of U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Kelly Ayotte, as well as the Maine Republican Party. Steven Biel is a former campaign director for and president of the Portland-based political consulting firm Steven Biel Strategies, which provides digital campaign support to organizations including NARAL Pro-Choice America, Courage Campaign, and Environment America.