Manafort at RNC

Did Trump become a Republican because of his Russia troubles?

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Remember when you might have thought that Donald Trump was a Democrat at heart? We know that he was once pro-choice, that he had little to do with “Republican values” and that doing business in New York required closer relationships with Democrats than Republicans.

When Ted Cruz accused Trump during the 2016 Republican presidential debates of not truly being a conservative because of his “New York values,” was Cruz on to something?

When Trump supported Hillary Clinton’s senatorial races in 2000 and 2006, did he not have a flirting interest in the Democratic Party?

According to Ballotpedia, prior to 2011, Trump donated more money to Democrats than Republicans. But after 2011, Trump contributed only $8,500 to Democrats and $630,150 to Republicans.

His switch to giving primarily to Republicans came four years prior to his announcing his own candidacy for president in June 2015. Was there something that occurred around 2011 that gave Trump cause to distance himself from Democrats and solidify his affiliation with Republicans? And whatever the reason might have been for his switch in political loyalties, did it have anything to do with his personal and financial ties to Russia?

Ah, how much easier it would be to investigate what happened after the first decade of the 21st century if we had access to Trump’s tax returns. But we don’t, and as we all know, that has nothing to do with any decision or non-decision made by the Internal Revenue Service.

What we do know about 2011, is that two years earlier, Democrat Hillary Clinton really angered Russian President Vladimir Putin. On March 6, 2009, she presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a red button with the English word “reset” on it. She and the Obama Administration were concerned by the Russo-Georgian diplomatic crisis and then the Russo-Georgian war. If the U.S. was going to disapprove of Russia’s behavior, it was offensive to Putin, especially when he interpreted the U.S. as scolding Russia like a little child.

CNN reports,

Back in 2011, Putin faced the biggest protests the country had seen since the collapse of the Soviet Union. He had served two terms as president, the maximum allowed, and in 2008 had become prime minister, in a maneuver that allowed him to effectively hold power while his ally, Dmitry Medvedev, was president. Then he announced — to much anger, but little surprise — that he would seek a third term as president. Three months later, the opposition erupted in fury when his party won a landslide victory in legislative elections amid allegations of fraud.
Then-Secretary of State Clinton openly sided with the protesters. “The Russian people, like people everywhere,” she said, “…deserve free, fair, transparent elections.”

Putin knew that Clinton would likely run for president of the United States in 2016. He was angry with her and feared possible interference on her part in Russian affairs. It should be no surprise that he would want someone other than Hillary Clinton to be the new U.S. president. Russia had already been actively involved in trying to influence elections in other countries. Specifically, with the Ukraine, they had maneuvered to have American political operative Paul Manafort become a top aide to pro-Russian Victor Yanukovych, who was running to become president of Ukraine.

Manafort succeeded in that task, but he had never been involved in a U.S. presidential race. Why did Donald Trump choose Manafort to be his campaign chairman? This is one of dozens of questions that can mildly be called oddities in the tangled web of close connections between Donald Trump and Russia.

The central question remains. Did Donald Trump’s movement away from the Democratic Party and into the Republican Party have anything to do with his relations with Russia? Did Russia make its financial help to him contingent upon him walking on the other side of the street from Hillary Clinton?

Did Russia make its financial help to him contingent upon him walking on the other side of the street from Hillary Clinton?

In 2017, we know that in terms of temperament and thinking, he is much closer to Republicans than Democrats. We also know that Barack Obama’s skewering of Trump at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner put Trump in a mood for revenge. But is it possible that he never would have landed in the Republican camp had it not been for his relations with Russia and Putin’s desire to manipulate him? These might be questions that investigative reporters with resources might want to study. Where did Trump’s “New York values,” go and why did they seem to disappear?

Arthur Lieber Arthur Lieber (462 Posts)

Since 1969, Arthur Lieber has been teaching and working in non-profit educational organizations. His focus has been on promoting critical, creative, and enjoyable learning for students in informal settings. In the 2010 mid-term elections, he was the Democratic nominee for US Congress from Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District.


  • Stacy Mergenthal

    Great questions for an investigative reporter. Though I suspect his political donations had more to do with which candidates benefit his business/financial interests, the fact that he refuses to release his tax returns makes his behavior even more suspect. I am willing to bet our intelligence agencies know a lot more about his ties to Russia than they’re willing to let on, perhaps due to the ethical and constitutional ambiguity of the data collection. The Republicans have smart and effective political strategies but they don’t seem good at vetting candidates, do they?