But, not so fast. Because there is one thing that can save Trump from the dark realities of legal accountability—and it happens to also be the only thing that is likely to turn the tide in Putin’s disastrous war in Ukraine. That is the reelection of Donald Trump.
Once again the interests of Trump and Putin are aligned, but this time the stakes for both are much higher than they were in 2016. That should worry us all. It should worry us a lot.
Worse still, there are others for whom the 2024 election is of existential importance. It includes Trump’s close allies—who may face jail unless Trump is reelected and can pardon them. It includes extremists and their allies—who also see a Trump victory as a get out of jail (or avoid jail) free card. It includes advocates of MAGA wingnut policy views, for whom four more years of Joe Biden appointing rational jurists could undo many of their initiatives subjugating women, criminalizing love and identity within the LGBTQ community, and impeding the ability of voters to participate in a democracy they would like to see weakened or done away with altogether.
There are still others for whom the stakes are high, if not quite existential. These include countries that have thrown in their lot with Trump. (The disgraced former president’s business ties to these are now reportedly an investigative target of special counsel Jack Smith.)
It also, of course, includes politicians in the U.S. who have declared their loyalty to His Roiled MAGAsty himself and whose political fates are likely to mirror his.
Taken together they will be an unholy alliance that poses a real threat to next year’s elections being fair, while also increasing the likelihood that the results of next year’s elections will be contested in ways that may make the Jan. 6 insurrection (and Trump’s nationwide false electors campaign) seem mild by comparison.
You can see the situations of both Trump and Putin’s fiasco in Ukraine getting more dire daily.
His New York hush money trial now has a start date, March 25, 2024. Smith is reportedly putting the finishing touches on his conclusion regarding the former president’s alleged mishandling of classified documents. He’s also looking into Trump’s involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection and has expanded the ambit of their inquiry to look at possible wrong-doing associated with Trump fund-raising. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has signaled that any charges in the case she might bring regarding election interference by Trump and/or his allies are just around the corner, due in the first three weeks of August. More charges may come from other states on election fraud. And the verdict against Trump in the defamation case brought by E. Jean Carroll may be compounded as she expands her claims in a second, related case.
As for Putin, while he has declared “victory” in the battle for Bakhmut, it has come at an enormous cost to his military. It is unlikely that his forces will be able to hold the smoldering remnants of the devastated city for much longer. What is more, the U.S. and allies have agreed to provide Ukraine with advanced F-16 fighters and the training needed to fly them. Ukrainian “militia” have also launched attacks across Russia’s border.
Russia’s military is depleted. Putin has effectively committed his entire conventional force to Ukraine… where it is getting pummeled. A major Ukrainian offensive is expected to commence soon. Even one of his former buddies, Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin, has said that Putin could face a revolution at home and defeat in Ukraine if Putin doesn’t turn things around—which seems unlikely.
Prigozhin, of course, played a central role in helping Putin in his efforts to compromise U.S. elections in 2016. He even admitted it publicly. Whatever reasons Putin may have had for trying to help get Trump elected in 2016, they are clearly much greater today. And whatever reasons Trump may have had for running, they too are transcended by those he has right now.
With so many trials and such serious crimes being discussed, the odds that Trump faces not only conviction but possible jail time, may make delaying the trials and verdicts until he can win the election his only defense. And it is clear he will try anything in that regard, from whining on social media that the New York case has been brought to interfere with his campaigning, to revealing himself to be MAGA’s true Karen-in-chief with a letter whining about his mistreatment and asking for an audience with U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland so he could make his feelings known to “the manager.”
As for Putin, his last chance to turn his epic blunder in Ukraine into something he can claim is a success is also a Trump victory. Trump, during his CNN pep rally, made it clear he does not see Ukraine as a special ally of the U.S. and he won’t condemn Putin war crimes.
Putin critics have already demonstrated they view Trump as Putin’s “best hope.” (During the CNN event, Trump also refused to say he would accept 2024 election results.)
Once again the interests of Trump and Putin are aligned, but this time the stakes for both are much higher than they were in 2016.
So here we are again, only more so. Trump needs Putin. Putin needs Trump. They have plenty of cronies and bad actors and fellow travelers who need them both. Which is why this is a moment to prepare for the shape their collaboration might take.
Unfortunately, dangerously, this is also the moment that Trump’s GOP is once again promoting the lie that Trump never colluded with Russia. This time, they are seizing upon the recent report by Special Counsel John Durham to say that it “proves” that the whole Trump-Russia affair was, as Trump so often asserted, “a hoax.”
Of course, it said nothing of the sort. In fact, it was a big nothing burger that offered a mild critique of the FBI… without actually even saying the FBI shouldn’t have investigated Trump and Russia.
And we know that every investigation conducted in the past—including those by the intelligence community, the U.S. Senate, and special counsel Robert Mueller—indicated that Russia actively intervened in 2016 to help Trump. In fact, the intelligence community also concluded Russia tried to help Trump in 2020.
Putin has proven he will stop at nothing to achieve his goals. Trump has done the same.
Given the intersection of their interests in 2024, and the profound urgency with which both see a Trump election as essential, now is the time to mobilize to anticipate, identify, and stop both foreign and domestic interference in our upcoming election—and potential initiatives to undo the results of those elections.
That is why it is so essential not to shrug off the misinformation about the Durham report as just more spin. It is precisely the kind of effort to convince us to drop our guard that serves the interests of the enemies of our democracy. It is also why efforts to hold Trump accountable must proceed unimpeded by the elections that Trump sees as his best legal strategy.
Finally, it is why the administration needs to make it clear that it is preparing for whatever may come and that whenever threats are seen, they are stopped as early as possible.
No election in our history has been either more important or more imperiled. We have plenty of evidence to support that view. Now, we must act on that evidence with unwavering resolve.