In 2018, I became either famous or notorious — depending on your point of view — for writing a story speculating that Russia had secret leverage over Trump (which turned out to be correct). The story’s most controversial suggestion was that it was plausible, though hardly certain, that Russia’s influence over Trump might even date back as far as 1987.
If I had to guess today, I’d put the odds higher, perhaps over 50 percent. One reason for my higher confidence is that Trump has continued to fuel suspicion by taking anomalously pro-Russian positions. He met with Putin in Helsinki, appearing strangely submissive, and spouted Putin’s propaganda on a number of topics including the ridiculous possibility of a joint Russian-American cybersecurity unit. (Russia, of course, committed the gravest cyber-hack in American history not long ago, making Trump’s idea even more self-defeating in retrospect than it was at the time.) He seemed to go out of his way to alienate American allies and blow up cooperation every time they met during his tenure.
He would either refuse to admit Russian wrongdoing — Trump refused even to concede that the regime poisoned Alexei Navalny — or repeat bizarre snippets of Russian propaganda: NATO was a bad deal for America because Montenegro might launch an attack on Russia; the Soviets had to invade Afghanistan in the 1970s to defend against terrorism. These weren’t talking points he would pick up in his normal routine of watching Fox News and calling Republican sycophants.