The longer the savagery of Russian President Vladimir Putin drags on in Ukraine, the more the conflict calls into question Donald Trump's relentless fealty to a man who is increasingly viewed as perpetrating genocide against the Ukrainian people.
The headline of one of Wednesday's lead stories on Politico read, "As Ukraine war intensifies, questions from first Trump impeachment linger."
The story notes that Trump withholding military assistance from Ukraine in exchange for a political favor from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy may seem distant, but it has "a direct tie-in to today’s war."
In the piece, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump summarily ousted from the position, says she still harbors many unanswered questions about the entire episode.
But with so many books being written by key Trump administration figures, Yovanovitch expects the truth will out eventually.
“I expect ... that there will be more details forthcoming,” she says.
Indeed, keep 'em coming.
But the basic fact that Trump tried to kneecap Ukraine and Zelenskyy must remain top of mind as Republicans try to blame some fallout from Putin's war, such as higher gas prices, on President Joe Biden. In fact, by acquitting Trump during his first impeachment trial, Republicans blessed Trump's role in weakening Ukraine and emboldening Putin.
But Trump's first impeachment scandal is just one discrete part of an entire “litany of Trump-Russia intersections," as The New York Times put it in a remarkable piece featuring Russia expert and former Trump national security aide Fiona Hill. In a single paragraph, the Times connected these dots:
1. Trump's decades-long pursuit of business opportunities in Moscow.
2. Trump's persistent Putin worship.
3. Trump campaign aide J.D. Gordon weakening support for Ukraine in the GOP's 2016 platform.
4. Gordon dining with Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak that same week.
5. Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone asking WikiLeaks through a third party to send along forthcoming Clinton campaign emails stolen by Russian hackers.
6. Trump announcing: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
7. The Seychelles islands getaway in which military contractor and Betsy DeVos sibling Erik Prince huddled with the head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund to establish a pre-inaugural backchannel to Russia.
8. Former Trump 2016 Campaign Chief Paul Manafort sharing internal polling with Russian intelligence operative Konstantin V. Kilimnik.
9. Trump’s mysteriously undocumented two-hour meeting with Putin in Helsinki in 2018, after which Trump publicly sided with Putin over the U.S. intelligence assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
10. Trump & Co. spreading Russian disinformation in 2019 asserting that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election to help Clinton.
11. Trump’s pardoning of both Manafort and Stone in December 2020.
12. Trump more recently calling Putin a "genius" and soliciting him to release dirt on President Biden's son, Hunter Biden.
That's a succinct dirty dozen, and it's still just the tip of the iceberg. But all of these threads teased out over the course of the last handful of years is exactly why the phrase "Trump-Putin axis" is so resonant, particularly in light of Russia's corrupt war and the unconscionable war crimes Putin is committing in Ukraine.