How to explain such behavior? That has become the question for nearly everyone perplexed by President Donald Trump\u0026#039;s bizarre performance at Monday\u0026#039;s joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.And when put to Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Or.) directly this week—Do you think Putin has something on Trump?—the senator responded calmly and simply: \u0022I think it\u0026#039;s likely. Yeah.\u0022With a follow-up question in the interview, Buzzfeed\u0026#039;s Ben Smith wanted to know if it could actually be the \u0022pee tape\u0022—a reference to an unconfirmed and selacious detail included in the so-called \u0022Steel Dossier.\u0022 To that specific question, Merkley once again responded calmly: \u0022Something close to that. Something close to that.\u0022Watch:.@BuzzFeedBen: \u0022Do you think Vladimir Putin has anything on him?\u0022@SenJeffMerkley: \u0022I think it\u0026#039;s likely.\u0022...Smith: \u0022Your view is that the pee tape is real?\u0022Merkley: \u0022Something close to that. Something close to that.\u0022From @AM2DM: pic.twitter.com/KX0LjRy04s— Tom Namako (@TomNamako) July 16, 2018As Aaron Blake, writing for the Washington Post on Tuesday, notes:There was a time there when the Steele dossier\u0026#039;s alleged, lewd tape of Donald Trump in a Moscow hotel room was Something We Didn\u0026#039;t Talk About. Then James B. Comey made it not-so-taboo.Now the broader idea that Russia has compromising information, or kompromat,\u0026nbsp;on Trump has moved even more to the forefront. And it\u0026#039;s all thanks to Trump\u0026#039;s decision to hold a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin — and then practically bow to him.Writing for The Week, columnist Ryan Cooper says Trump\u0026#039;s performance in Helsinki has made it increasingly hard to locate any reasonable explanation for Trump\u0026#039;s behaviour and rhetoric when it comes to Russia – specifically towards Putin.\u0022Despite the fact that much of the rest of the American security apparatus is still bitterly hostile to Russia, and the rest of the government has not taken many concrete pro-Russian actions,\u0022 writes Cooper, \u0022it is simply beyond question that Trump is really deferential to the Russian president. It could be blackmail, it could be ideological alignment, it could be payback for helping win the election, or it could just be the fact that Trump has had a giant crush on Putin for years and years (or some combination thereof). I suspect this is largely why Trump is being so disruptive towards NATO and the European Union — the latter of which he called a \u0026#039;foe\u0026#039; before the summit.\u0022No matter how you cut it, he added, this deference of Trump toward Putin is \u0022a terrible development\u0022 for numerous reasons. As Robert Kuttner asked in a piece for The American Prospect on Tuesday, \u0022What could possibly motivate an American president, who lashes out at Canada (Canada!) for a minor slight, to display such credulity when it comes to Russia?\u0022\u0026nbsp;\u0022What, indeed?\u0022 Kuttner continued. \u0022We will soon find out, as the details of Robert Mueller’s investigation continue to unfold.\u0022Could it be financial? On Tuesday, new demands went up for Trump to release his tax returns, a call that even some Republican lawmakers have joined.Did @realDonaldTrump also forgot to say \u0026quot;NOT\u0026quot; when he promised to release his tax returns? https://t.co/EQWTzitMLT\u0026mdash; Tax March (@taxmarch) July 17, 2018\r\n\r\nStrikingly, when Putin was asked rather directly if his government had any incriminating dirt of Trump, the Russian president gave an elaborate answer but ultimately did not deny it.\u0022It sounds like it\u0026#039;s utter nonsense,\u0022 Putin said of the idea that Russian operatives collected blackmail material from Trump\u0026#039;s hotel room while he was in Moscow years ago.Yeah. Sure. Maybe.