Republican complicity in Kremlin espionage against the US is now overwhelming

Gun Rights

If you believed that the Republicans in Congress couldn’t sink any lower, recent events have proved you sadly mistaken. House Speaker Mike Johnson, in his latest displays of subservience to Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, has made his most wretched predecessors seem like statesmen and patriots. For the first time ever in America, a branch of the government, the House of Representatives, appears to be decisively influenced, if not controlled by a hostile foreign power.

These are not accusations to be made lightly, but the evidence of Republican complicity in purveying Kremlin espionage against the United States is now overwhelming.

On Feb. 23, a federal judge in California ordered marshals to seize Alexander Smirnov at his lawyers’ office only days after he had been released on bail by a different judge, with the clear implication that he might be preparing to flee the country. Smirnov is the much touted prime witness in the House Republican impeachment campaign against Joe Biden, accusing the president of having taken $5 million in bribes from Ukrainian oligarchs. It’s all a lie manufactured by Russian intelligence.

READ: How Putin seized control of the GOP

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Smirnov’s initial arrest was ordered by special counsel David Weiss, the Trump-appointed Republican investigating Hunter Biden, who has indicted the star witness for fabricating his entire story and lying to the FBI. In subsequent court filings, the prosecutor charged that the lies transmitted by Smirnov originated with Russian spies.

In other words, the No. 1 Republican witness in the public and repeated smearing of President Biden — on the floor of Congress and in right-wing media — was a knowing conduit for Kremlin disinformation. The intent is nothing less than to help elect Trump.

What makes this scandal so much worse — and so embarrassing to Johnson, if he were capable of shame — is that Smirnov’s deception emanated from the much broader Russian penetration of American politics that began … when?

Perhaps with that Trump Tower meeting in 2015, when Donald Trump Jr. enthusiastically welcomed the idea of a Russian dossier on Hillary Clinton from a Russian intelligence operative. And then it continued with the Kremlin’s cyber assault against Clinton in 2016, and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s secret cooperation with a Russian spy named Konstantin Kilimnik. After Trump became president, he withheld weapons from Ukraine while demanding a phony probe of Biden. Trump’s blackmail attempt triggered his first impeachment.

Along the way, a gang of Trump associates led by Rudy Giuliani worked with various Putin stooges in Ukraine and elsewhere to invent mendacious nonsense about the Bidens. Giuliani worked closely with Putin crony Andriy Derkach and other dubious characters, who were later indicted for attempting to interfere in the 2020 election.

For years, it has been blindingly obvious that the “investigation” of Joe Biden and Ukraine emanated not from any legitimate source but directly from this country’s enemies. And yet while those accusers were repeatedly exposed and discredited, congressional Republicans insisted on pursuing the bogus case invented in Moscow.

But Johnson’s undermining of American security has gone well beyond the assistance he and Republicans have provided to the Kremlin in subverting American democracy. Now refusing to fund U.S. military assistance to Ukraine in its courageous struggle against Russian invaders, they have helped Putin gain a critical victory in the battle of Avdiivka and jeopardized the Western alliance that is fundamental to European and American security. Johnson has admitted he’s taking his orders from Trump, who worships Putin. The cowardice of Johnson and the Republicans has become crucial to Putin and his savage war.

Johnson has his own little Russian secrets. The speaker must still explain the laundered campaign funds from Konstantin Nikolaev, a Russian oligarch and confederate of confessed convicted Kremlin spy agent Maria Butina. She served a prison sentence here after the exposure of her successful scheme to penetrate the National Rifle Association and other right-wing groups, including some of the “Christian nationalist” outfits that Johnson promotes.

What attracts extremists like the House speaker — and his puppet master Trump — to the Russian dictator who looms above them is an authoritarian political orientation that smells of fascism. Putin is a threat from without, and they are a threat from within.

NOW READ: Exposure of Kremlin lies won’t alter course of impeachment

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