July 17, 2018

Typically lurking just below the surface, the question of whether Vladimir Putin has anything on Donald Trump has dominated public discourse since the Helsinki summit and the American president's declaration that he believes a former KGB agent over his own government. It is a fair question--one that we have every reason to think Robert Mueller and his team are investigating. But from a policy perspective, the relevant point is that Trump is behaving exactly as we would expect if Putin were in possession of kompromat. From the denigration of American institutions to attacks on American allies to his behavior toward Putin himself, Trump's policy reads like Putin's marching orders. There is remarkable consistency in this approach, such that reasonable people can be forgiven for thinking that some ulterior motive is at work. That may or may not be the case, but we don't need to be certain that Trump is compromised. We should simply stop being surprised that he is acting as if he is.1