Trump’s Russian stance carries risks for 2024

Donald Trump’s overtures to Moscow reveal what Democrats and some Republicans believe will be a major vulnerability for the former president if he mounts another White House bid in 2024.

Since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine in February, Trump has faced repeated criticism, first over his insistence that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been ‘savvy’ in his maneuvers in Ukraine. and, more recently, on his calls for Moscow to dump dirt on the president. Biden’s family.

The plea to Putin echoes a similar call made during the 2016 presidential race, when Trump publicly called on Russia to release the emails of his then-opponent Hillary Clinton. This time, however, even some Republicans admit that Trump could face more serious political ramifications.

“He’s taking a position on this, intentionally or unintentionally, that no one really wants to take,” a GOP donor said, noting that even some of Trump’s allies, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), sought to distance themselves from his remarks.

After Trump suggested Putin was a “genius” for declaring two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine autonomous, Graham, who remains close to Trump in his post-presidency, said the former’s remarks President were “a mistake”.

“[Republicans] know this is something that is going to be used against him, and they don’t want to be dragged into the mud either,” the donor said.

While Trump’s posture toward Putin and Russia has been the subject of multiple controversies over his political career, his latest remarks come at a time when his influence within the Republican Party is showing new signs of strain.

He is still considered the overwhelming front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination if he chooses to run again, but other potential candidates such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) have begun to close the gap in the first polls.

At the same time, most Republican lawmakers sought to take tougher stances on Russia after the invasion.

Speaking to reporters between sessions at the annual House GOP retreat in Florida late last month, House Republican Conference President Elise Stefanik (RN.Y.) described Putin as a “war criminal.” and accused him of “committing genocide”.

Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist, said Trump’s posture toward Putin and the Russian government made him even more of an “anomaly” among Republicans, most of whom have strongly backed Washington’s efforts to counter Russia and support its NATO allies.

“First of all, it further weakens Donald Trump himself, and it also gives Republicans more of a lifeline to isolate him, downplay him, and run from him,” Reinish said. “He makes it easier for them to continue this process of moving away from him.”

Reinish also said Trump’s signals to Russia could provide an opening for his potential 2024 top challengers. prospects began to show interest in a potential White House campaign.

“If I am [Sen.] Tom Cotton [R-Ark.], [Sen.] Ted Cruz [R-Texas], [South Dakota Gov.] Kristi Noem [R], [former United Nations Ambassador] Nikki Haley or anyone else who wants to race in 2024, I just have a lifeline here because there’s a huge point of differentiation now,” Reinish said. “They will have to thread the needle with the base, but I think less now.”

Trump’s call for Putin to release some dirt on Biden’s family also threatens to resurface one of the most trying chapters of his presidency. Trump was first impeached in 2020 for trying to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate both President Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

While Trump’s tactic – openly appealing to a dictator as he invades a sovereign country – has made many Republicans uncomfortable, some of his allies believe the former president is right to push the issue on Hunter Biden.

A former Trump official, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, argued that the conflict of interest issue involving Hunter Biden was dismissed too quickly by the media in 2020. While the source said appeal directly at Putin was a bad look, they suggested Hunter Biden could be a recurring issue again if Trump faces President Biden in a rematch in 2024.

The president’s son was back in the news this week after a Washington Post report detailed his dealings with a Chinese energy conglomerate, adding fuel to claims by Trump and others during the 2020 campaign that the Biden family reportedly benefited from President Biden’s government work.

The Post found no evidence that President Biden personally benefited from or knew details of his son’s business dealings, and the White House has repeatedly said the president had no business dealings. abroad.

Instead, the White House attacked Trump for his awareness of Putin.

“What kind of American, let alone an ex-president, thinks now is a good time to get into a scheme with Vladimir Putin and brag about his ties to Vladimir Putin?” White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said during a press briefing this week. “There’s only one, and that’s Donald Trump.”

The statement came days after Biden told reporters in Brussels he would be “very lucky” to face Trump again in the 2024 election when asked about the prospect of his foreign policy changes being made. canceled by the next administration.

Admittedly, it’s not clear whether voters are all concerned with Trump’s rhetoric on Russia. A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday found that a plurality of Americans – 30% – view rising inflation as the most pressing challenge facing the country. This is more than double those who named the war in Ukraine as the main problem.

At the same time, Trump oscillated between praising Putin and condemning Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which he called “appalling” during a speech at the annual conference of Conservative political action in February.

In a statement this week, Trump insisted he never called Putin a “genius” for his invasion of Ukraine, arguing he was only referring to the Russian troop buildup there. the Ukrainian border before the invasion.

“I assumed [Putin] would easily be able to negotiate a lot for Russia,” Trump said. “The United States and NATO would agree to give Russia what they wanted. Unfortunately, and tragically, Putin went too far, acting on the Biden administration’s WEAK foreign policy.

The Hill has removed its comments section, as there are many other forums for readers to join in the conversation. We invite you to join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.