The Trump administration’s relationship with Russia is maybe the most sensitive topic tackled by Wolff’s book and, once again maybe, at the origin of the incumbent American President’s ire at S. Bannon and the things he said and has not recanted (more recently, faced with Trump’s devastating retort, he tried to explain himself, declaring his loyalty to the President and his platform).
In fact, among the repeated tweets that Trump consecrated to the things recounted in this book, there is one that signals Trump’s concern about the evolution of the investigation that an independent U.S. prosecutor appointed by Congress is carrying out into Russia’s links with D. Trump’s presidential campaign of 2016. Thus, on 5 January 2018, D. Trump wrote on Twitter that: “Well, now that collusion with Russia is proving to be a total hoax and the only collusion is with Hillary Clinton and the FBI/Russia, the Fake News Media (Mainstream) and this phony new book are hitting out at every new front imaginable. They should try winning an election. Sad!”, signalling that his campaign team’s illegal contacts with Russia in 2016, already investigated at length, are history and obviously a “total hoax.” The next day, proof that this issue preoccupies him, Trump returned with two tweets: 1. “Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence…” and 2. “Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames.” The signal that Trump issues refers to the failure to identify an impermissible link with Russia, but that the Democrats are pointless trying, he states, to make a rattle by once again clinging to “his mental state.”
As a matter of fact, what worries Trump, regarding his presidential team’s links with Russia, so much so that he is so active on Twitter and pleads for a total lack of evidence in this matter? In the book written by M. Wolff, the former White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon trenchantly states: “They’re going to crack Don Junior like an egg on national TV.” He refers to the ongoing investigation into the meeting that Trump’s son, his son-in-law Jared Kushner – head of the campaign back then –, and Paul Manafort – already under FBI scrutiny –, had with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, a person close to the Kremlin circles of power. Bannon told Wolff: “The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers. /…/ Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.” Moreover, he added he does not doubt that the results of the illegal meeting were relayed to Donald Trump too. According to Bannon, if such a meeting had to take place, hypothetically, it should have taken place “in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people,” and its result could have been sent “down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication.”
Bannon reaches the apex of his criticism when he states, according to Wolff, that “they’re sitting on a beach trying to stop a Category Five,” namely that the Trump team is facing catastrophic failure, not being able to take shelter in the face of such a huge hurricane. How does the Bannon-Trump team, now disbanded, see the relationship with Russia is obvious if one looks at the relevant notes on the Breitbart website, a website Bannon is and was in charge of. He left it in 2016 to bring a decisive contribution to the winning of the 2016 presidential elections, and he returned to it following his recent divorce from Trump. First, a mention. The Breitbart website is the best-known public opinion pulpit of what is dubbed the “alternative-right” (in 2016, it had an audience of more than 20 million people in the U.S.).
The main ideological element of this pulpit is that the future is not defined – as it was during the Cold War, or as it is now – as a confrontation between East and West (with Russia back then, with China now), but as one between the “traditionalist” camp and the “secular” or “multicultural” camp.
From this standpoint, of a confrontation on the horizontal axis of a society or within the international system as a whole, today’s Kremlin (President V. Putin) is an ally of the “alt-right” in its effort to consolidate “traditionalism,” to combat neo-liberalism and “political correctness,” namely the acceptance of mixed marriages or submission to the best-known Biblical precepts (the definition of the family, for instance). In an article published on his blog in 2013, Patrick Buchannan, one of the founders of this ideological orientation, wrote the following: “Peoples all over the world, claims Putin, are supporting Russia’s ‚defense of traditional values’ against a ‚so-called tolerance’ that is ‚genderless and infertile’. While his stance as a defender of traditional values has drawn the mockery of Western media and cultural elites, Putin is not wrong in saying that he can speak for much of mankind.” (http://buchanan.org/blog/putin-one-us-6071)
Hence, the rapprochement with Putin’s Russia is, from this anti-neo-liberal ideological perspective, a certain conclusion. That is probably why the American liberal establishment is attacking Trump’s team so strongly over its illegal ties with Russia. The loud noise that M. Wolff’s book has generated in the American public opinion is a barometer of the strong crisis that has engulfed the American political system in the last year, one that not few commentators are associating with a marked decline in American global power.
As Ian Bremmer wrote on his Twitter account (6 January 2018): “Of course Trump is unfit for the job. We don’t need a new book to tell us that. A protest vote isn’t about fitness. It’s about distrust of the establishment. It’s about erosion of America’s political institutions and legitimacy.”
P.S. – Just yesterday, Tuesday, January 10, S. Bannon was sacked from Breitbart, losing the support of his financial backers (the famous Mercer family of billionaires). However, one must continue to keep an eye on his career.