Family history underscores why we should beware Russia coziness

Henry Reikert
Henry Reikert

When news broke that Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign associates and Russian intelligence in the 2016 election, I breathed a heavy sigh of relief.

I had been depressed over the past weeks as both Trump and Republicans in Congress have stymied attempts to investigate possible unsavory connections between Trump and the Kremlin.

I have no doubt that many Trump associates worked with Russian intelligence and WikiLeaks to discredit Hillary Clinton and sow distrust of the news media. I believe Mueller’s investigation will expose the underbelly of this sordid affair and help rescue our democracy, in spite of the 80 percent of Republicans who would follow Trump over Niagara Falls.

But I also sincerely believe there could be another facet of this story that would make this America’s biggest political scandal, dwarfing Watergate, Iran-Contra and Teapot Dome: What if Trump ran for president on orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin?

Full disclosure: My ancestors emigrated to Russia from Germany on the invitation of Russia’s Catherine the Great, herself a German princess who had married Tsar Peter III, and invited German artisans to move to Russia.

The Communist Revolution occurred in 1917 and Joseph Stalin came to power. In 1938 he rounded up and imprisoned hundreds of ethnic German men and killed them, out of mistrust. My maternal grandfather and great-grandfather were among them.

My mother and a few relatives escaped the Soviets but two of her brothers didn’t. They and their families remained in Russia all their lives.

Naturally, I don’t trust the Russians. Individual Russians who’ve fled the oppressive system are another matter, of course. Welcome to America, I’m glad you’re here. But you have to remember that after hundreds of years of authoritarian indoctrination, Russia is not our friend and still blames the United States for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Remember also that blackmail is to Russian espionage what Kellogg’s is to corn flakes. The Soviets perfected it as a tool to turn anyone who might prove useful to them over to their side. Putin is a former KGB colonel. One of his specialties was blackmail.

Russian operatives working for the West told former British M16 agent Christopher Steele that Russian intelligence set up Donald Trump in a hotel room with prostitutes on one of his trips to Russia in the 1990s. Though that has not yet been corroborated by American intelligence, many parts of the larger dossier have been.

Reliable reports have said that when Trump was on the verge of personal bankruptcy in the mid 1990s, Russian oligarchs loaned him millions. Donald Trump, Jr. has said publicly that the Trump organization doesn’t use American banks; they use Russian banks.

Though there is no evidence that Putin personally chose Trump to be part of a Russian conspiracy to attack the United States, Trump has behaved from day one like someone who’s compromised in the worst possible ways.

Inviting the Russian foreign minister and ambassador into the Oval Office at Putin’s request, allowing the Russian news agency to cover the meeting but barring the American press and then divulging the highest possible intelligence to them, is only the latest in a string of deeply troubling and suspicious events.

We need to ask ourselves some really serious questions. How did the American public allow itself to become enmeshed in the worst possible outcome of an election, Russian operatives in the White House? Why do Republicans, Kentucky’s Rep. Andy Barr and Sen. Mitch McConnell among them, continue to support a man who is either incompetent or a Russian agent? Are they that intoxicated by power? Why do we allow stalwart institutions such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, the CIA and the FBI to be trashed by someone who bragged about sexually harassing women?

God save the republic, if we can.

Henry Riekert, a former community columnist, mows pastures and repairs fences on his Serenity Hill Farm in Jessamine County.