Part 3. Trump Will Refuse to Leave Office

Clinical Perspective: Bounties and Blackmail

“My people came to me…and said they think it’s Russia…Putin just said it’s not Russia…I don’t see any reason why it would be…I will tell you President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” — Donald Trump, Helsinki Summit, July 2018, defying the unanimous conclusion of all US intelligence services regarding Russian 2016 election interference.


On June 30, 2020 reports were leaked to the press that Russia had been paying bounties of $100,000 to the Taliban in Afghanistan for each American soldier killed. Although the March briefing documented what the CIA had been collecting over the previous year with “moderate confidence,” Trump insisted, “Nobody ever told me!” He is notorious for never reading anything, so it’s likely he didn’t read the report. And yet, how is it possible that his national security team didn’t storm into his office and drill this into Trump’s head as a matter of utmost urgency?

The Administration then made the utterly ridiculous claim that the report lacked sufficient credibility to bother the president. Amidst the volcanic bipartisan response, several GOP senators have expressed alarm, if not outrage: Sens. Cheney, Thornberry, Young, Tillis, Gardner, Scott, Sasse, and others. Congress itself was furious that it had not been briefed in March as is protocol.

In the interim, Trump has done nothing to marshal all intelligence resources to run this report to ground. Instead, he has done everything to delay any such efforts by Congress, while fiendishly investigating who did the leaking.

It also needs to be underscored that since the March briefing, Trump has had at least 7–8 private phone calls with Putin shrouded in extraordinary secrecy. Simultaneously Trump has furiously pushed against a European brick wall for Russia’s re-admittance to the G7. They were booted out when they invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea in 2014. Why would he continue to push for readmission, knowing his chance of success is nil while making a fool of himself?

Although his refusal to investigate Russian bounties may be the most shocking display of Trump’s subservience to Putin, it follows in an endless line of suspicious and bewildering actions that predate his election. Taken together, his abject servility to Putin, from a man who listens to no one else on the planet, points forcefully to a single overriding explanation.


The terrifying possibility that Putin does not just play Trump, but controls him, must be distinguished from mere collusion or obstruction of justice. Though all three are related, blackmail — based on personal dirt, treason, or financial crimes by Trump — is a distinct and unimaginable threat that far exceeds collusion or obstruction.

In chronological order, this list is by no means exhaustive of Trump’s bizarre fealty to Putin. Taken together, these actions are fully explained by blackmail, with no other plausible explanation for the totality.

*Hero worship. In 2013, Trump began his continuous praise of how “nice” and “strong” Putin is, coinciding with Trump’s Miss Universe contest in Moscow. Entirely aside from the alleged “pee tape,” given Trump’s voracious lust for beautiful women, famously including teenagers, were there other deeply compromising tapes? If true, classic KGB (GRU) dirt from Putin, its former director

*Campaign interference. In Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, every time a rock was turned over, a Russian slithered out. Putin notoriously hated Hillary Clinton. Far more importantly, did he just want Hillary to lose? Or was he strategizing for Trump to win, knowing he had deeply incriminating dirt which could be leveraged?

*Sanctions. Since before his inauguration, Trump has inexplicably striven to lift the punishing sanctions President Obama imposed on Russia for the Magnistky Act, the annexation of Crimea, and their egregious election interference. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn admitted to the FBI that he had urged Russian Ambassador Kislyak to be patient, assuring him that all sanctions against Russia would soon go away.

Destabilizing allies. Along with the desire for lifting US sanctions that froze billions of dollars belonging to Putin and his oligarchs, equally high on Putin’s wish list was undermining NATO and the G7 in order to gain military advantage. Trump has done his level best to accomplish this since before his election with ongoing, blistering verbal assaults on our allies and pulling the US out of vital accords.

*During three consecutive days in 2017, Trump engaged in a series of bewilderingly suspicious actions. On May 9th, he fired FBI Director James Comey to end the “Russia thing.”

*On May 10th, Trump secretly hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the White House. No staff. No press. No Americans. No knowledge it was happening until the gloating Russians circulated a picture of the three chortling like old college buddies, with Trump reportedly bragging about ending the Russia investigation.

*On May 11th, in Trump’s infamous interview with NBC’s Lester Holt in which he admitted firing Comey to end the Russia investigation, Trump was asked why on earth he would have secretly invited the Russians into the White House one day later. Trump bizarrely replied, “…Putin asked me whether or not I would see Lavrov. Now what do I…should I say, ‘No, I’m not going to see him?’”

What’s the problem with saying no to Vladimir Putin, Mr. President? Has any American president ever (!) had a problem with saying no to Russia?

*Congressional defiance. Despite Trump bullying Congress to lift heavy US sanctions on Russia, in June 2017, in an unprecedented and singularly unified display of defiance, the House voted 419–3 and the Senate 98–2 to add new sanctions against Russia, while sustaining those already in place. An enraged Trump had no choice but to sign the veto-proof legislation, furiously attacking it as flawed and unconstitutional.

*Teaming with Russia. One month later at the July 2017 G20 Summit in Hamburg, despite the Russia investigation heating up, Trump and Putin privately discussed a joint US-Russia cyber-security team to investigate who meddled in the 2016 election. The jaw-dropping proposal was instantly incinerated by a bipartisan blow torch. Why would Trump, even with his tenuous grip on reality, have pushed such a blatantly preposterous notion?

*Kompromot. The following year, in the surreal Trump-Putin Helsinki Summit in July 2018, Trump maneuvered a shocking and unprecedented two-hour private meeting with Putin, having only interpreters present. Trump then confiscated his interpreter’s notes and insisted nothing ever be said. His bizarre and deeply troubling subservience to Putin during the subsequent press conference elevated suspicions that Trump is the victim of classic KGB blackmail: Kompromot. Not only did he reject unanimous US intelligence reports in refusing to confront Putin for undermining the 2016 election — accepting yet again Putin’s “strong and powerful” denial of meddling — Trump blamed America for “stupid and foolish mistakes” in exacerbating the rift with Russia.

*A mind-bogglingly meek and deferential Trump went on to compliment Putin on his “incredible offer” for a reciprocal arrangement allowing Russians to extradite and interrogate specific Americans (whom Putin despises) in return for granting permission for Robert Mueller to come to Russia to sit and watch Russians interrogate the 12 recently indicted oligarchs from Putin’s inner circle. Even more staggering, Trump continued to mull for three entire days Putin’s insistence on handing over American citizens to Russian interrogators, before relenting to the flash-flood of bipartisan outrage and disbelief. And as he had done the previous year, he again proposed a joint cyber-security team with Putin to an astonished and ballistic bipartisan response.

*Despite the tidal wave of outrage from both parties over the frightening Helsinki theatrics, on his return to the USA, Trump immediately invited Putin to the White House for a December follow-up summit, triggering additional massive bipartisan opposition, to an astonished president. Head-spinning.

*Ukraine. In July, 2019, Trump’s phone call attempting to extort newly elected President Zelensky was at the heart of his impeachment. Many are unaware that Trump’s intentions were not only to gin up a bogus investigation against Hunter Biden, but equally to investigate and legitimize Russia’s fringe conspiracy theory that Ukraine had stolen Hillary Clinton’s missing server and was responsible for interference in the 2016 election, not Russia.

*Betrayal. Recep Erdogan, the self-imposed dictator of formerly democratic Turkey, has increasingly allied with Putin since his 2014 election. In Trump’s notorious October 2019 phone call with Erdogan, he stunned the entire world by announcing the abrupt endangering and withdrawal of American troops from Syria, leaving the Kurdish troops — who heroically did virtually all our bloody ground-fighting with Syria for four years — nakedly exposed to genocidal slaughter by Turkish troops who considered them terrorists. Although Turkey benefitted from the US betrayal, Russia benefitted far more by being able to expand its Middle East presence into the power vacuum created by the US withdrawal. No forewarning, no collaboration with military experts (“I know more than the generals”). An inexplicable, impulsive, horrific betrayal, to the immense pleasure of Vladimir Putin.

It is unnerving beyond words to consider Trump is not merely being conned by Putin, but being given his marching orders. Beyond token gestures easily attributable to Trump camouflaging his evil servitude to Putin, there is no persuasive evidence to the contrary.

At the core of our problems with the monster in the White House is an understandable American failure to imagine the unimaginable. “He can’t possibly mean that;” “Oh, of course he’s just joking;” “Surely he’ll make a ‘soft pivot’ after winning the nomination;” “It’s obvious that he’ll become more ‘presidential’ after being elected.”

“It’s preposterous to suggest our president has been blackmailed by Putin.”

And just how, we might ask, will Putin feel about Trump quietly leaving office when he has the opportunity to foment violence and mayhem prior to Biden’s inauguration. We must all begin to imagine the unimaginable.

Chicago, IL

Chicago psychologist, author, professor, psychotherapist. Co-author of NYT bestseller, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump and 16 Huffposts on Trump’s fragility