Why You Shouldn’t Take Donald Trump’s Love Affair With Russia Lightly

Republican nominee Donald Trump has an uncomfortably cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation and noted enabler of extreme homophobia and cultural repression. He took that relationship to new heights Wednesday when Trump called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, as Russia may or may not have already done to Democratic National Committee officials over the weekend.

Altogether, this response from Trump isn’t particularly surprising. Trump has milked the scandal surrounding Clinton’s private email server as secretary of state from the very beginning, literally calling for her to go to prison and attacking the DNC for corruption rather than considering the national security threat. It’s no surprise he’s using very real national security threats to advance himself and attack Clinton, just as it’s no surprise he’s aligning himself with Russia. Putin, after all, endorsed Trump last year, and Trump has not been shy about singing the authoritarian leader’s praises — the love story has even inspired beautiful street art, so you know it’s real.

Trump and Putin’s close relationship may inspire mostly humorous reactions, but his latest dangerous, and arguably treasonous request of Russia is just the most recent example of why the relationship really shouldn’t be taken too lightly.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said of emails deleted from Clinton’s server at a Wednesday press conference. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. They probably have them. I’d like to have them released.” Additionally, Trump tweeted for “any other country or person” with Clinton’s emails to share them, too.

The request is a dangerous one for a number of obvious reasons. Trump is literally encouraging Russia to hack and obtain classified information — the same classified information that he called on Clinton to be jailed for potentially exposing. National security risk, aside, this is probably one of Trump’s most bizarre moves yet: when was the last time you recall a presidential nominee from a major party urging Russia to spy on his opponent and fellow American?

As one Twitter user pointed out, espionage and “treason” might be strong words for Trump’s actions, but soliciting, inducing, and trying to persuade Russian hackers to violate not only Clinton’s but the nation’s privacy and security is a substantial and punishable offense. And by a major American presidential candidate no less.

This latest request by Trump, highlighting his subtle-but-not-so-subtle alliance with Putin, follows a report published by Talking Points Memo (TPM) over the weekend, tracing staggering amounts of Trump’s finances to Russian “oligarchs” close to Putin. For all his hot air about just how rich he is, the report notes Trump’s bankruptcy, with debts soaring from $350 million to $630 million over the past year alone, has led to him being frequently rejected by American banks, rendering him reliant on money from Russia.

Trump’s son conceded that since the 1980s, their family has consistently sought business opportunities and investors in Russia. Meanwhile, Trump’s advisers, campaign managers, and staff also boast disturbingly close relations with powerful Russian investors and reliance on their money.

So, what exactly does this all mean?As TPM’s Josh Marshall wrote:

“To put this all into perspective, if Vladimir Putin were simply the CEO of a major American corporation and there was this much money flowing in Trump’s direction, combined with this much solicitousness of Putin’s policy agenda, it would set off alarm bells galore … And yet Putin is not the CEO of an American corporation. He’s the autocrat who rules a foreign state, with an increasingly hostile posture towards the United States and a substantial stockpile of nuclear weapons. The stakes involved in finding out ‘what’s going on’ as Trump might put it are quite a bit higher.”

Oddly enough, as if to quell suspicions about Trump’s loyalty, the Republican nominee’s just-as-crazy-but-slightly-more-subtle-about-it running mate, Mike Pence, opted for some damage control, calling for consequences for hackers and, of course, taking a sharp jab at corruption among DNC officials.

Meanwhile, a senior policy adviser from Clinton’s campaign released a statement calling Trump’s actions no longer just “a matter of curiosity” or “politics,” but an all-out “national security issue.”

In other Twitter news, some pointed out the bizarre double standard and hypocrisy of Trump’s request, and one Twitter user offered an alternate suggestion for any global hackers out there:

Trump and his campaign staff have yet to clarify just how serious his request for Russia to target Clinton is or answer for his financial ties to Russian investors close to Putin. For all the gorgeous, LGBT-friendly murals and erotic fan fiction the Trump-Putin ship has inspired, it could have some serious, high-stakes implications worth seriously looking into.