Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin answer questions about the 2016 U.S Election collusion during a joint press conference after their summit on July 16, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland. The two leaders met one-on-one and discussed a range of issues including the 2016 U.S Election collusion. (Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Does Putin Actually Have Something on Trump? US Senator Jeff Merkley: 'I Think It's Likely. Yeah.'

Amid fallout over president's performance in Helsinki, the idea of so-called kompromat is feeling increasingly likely to many

Jon Queally

How to explain such behavior? That has become the question for nearly everyone perplexed by President Donald Trump's bizarre performance at Monday'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: "I think it's likely. Yeah."

With a follow-up question in the interview, Buzzfeed's Ben Smith wanted to know if it could actually be the "pee tape"—a reference to an unconfirmed and selacious detail included in the so-called "Steel Dossier." To that specific question, Merkley once again responded calmly: "Something close to that. Something close to that."

Watch:

As Aaron Blake, writing for the Washington Post on Tuesday, notes:

There was a time there when the Steele dossier's alleged, lewd tape of Donald Trump in a Moscow hotel room was Something We Didn't Talk About. Then James B. Comey made it not-so-taboo.

Now the broader idea that Russia has compromising information, or kompromat, on Trump has moved even more to the forefront. And it's all thanks to Trump'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's performance in Helsinki has made it increasingly hard to locate any reasonable explanation for Trump's behaviour and rhetoric when it comes to Russia – specifically towards Putin.

"Despite 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," writes Cooper, "it 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 'foe' before the summit."

No matter how you cut it, he added, this deference of Trump toward Putin is "a terrible development" for numerous reasons. As Robert Kuttner asked in a piece for The American Prospect on Tuesday, "What 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?" 

"What, indeed?" Kuttner continued. "We will soon find out, as the details of Robert Mueller’s investigation continue to unfold."

Could 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.

Strikingly, 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.

"It sounds like it's utter nonsense," Putin said of the idea that Russian operatives collected blackmail material from Trump's hotel room while he was in Moscow years ago.

Yeah. Sure. Maybe.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Despite Housing Crisis, Mississippi May Return Up to Millions in Federal Rent Aid to DC

"For them to suggest people like me aren't working? It's a slap in the face," said one woman affected by the end of the pandemic assistance program. "It's very insulting and degrading."

Brett Wilkins ·


80% of US Voters Across Party Lines Support Expanding Social Security

"With Republicans threatening to cut benefits—and worse, eliminate the program entirely—Dems need to make clear they're fighting to protect and expand benefits."

Jessica Corbett ·


Rich Nations Again Accused of Vaccine Hoarding as UK OKs Moderna Omicron Booster

"While countries like the U.K. buy updated vaccines for their fourth doses, people in low- and middle-income countries are fighting today's variants with yesterday's vaccines."

Brett Wilkins ·


With Trumpian Claims of Cheating, Starbucks Demands Halt to Union Elections

"Unfortunately, it's now in vogue for the losers of some elections nationwide to attempt to reverse elections by any means they think are necessary," said Starbucks Workers United.

Jake Johnson ·


Richest Country on Earth to One of Its Poorest: We're Keeping the Money We Stole From You

A foreign affairs columnist called the move by the Biden administration a "shortsighted, morally unconscionable, and potentially calamitous decision for a country on the cusp of universal poverty."

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo