A combo picture made reissued on 07 April 2017 shows US President Donald J. Trump (L) at the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 09 February 2017, and Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) in St. Petersburg, Russia, 03 April 2017.
JIM LO SCALZO/SPUTNIK POOL

Trump puts ‘another victory on the scoreboard’ for Russia

On ABC’s “This Week,” George Stephanopoulos asked James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, if Russia has “succeeded in their basic goal of undermining public faith in the U.S. democratic process?” Clapper said Russians “have to be celebrating with a minimal expenditure of resources and what they have accomplished.”

But the guest specifically pointed to Donald Trump firing FBI Director James Comey as a key development, not just in the scandal and its effect on U.S. institutions, but also because Comey was overseeing the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to its allies in Moscow. “The Russians have to consider this as another victory on the scoreboard for them,” Clapper added.
It’s part of an under-appreciated dynamic. Indeed, the Washington Post had a good piece today on Vladimir Putin’s government reaping unexpected rewards from the new Republican administration.
Russia has yet to collect much of what it hoped for from the Trump administration, including the lifting of U.S. sanctions and recognition of its annexation of Crimea.

But the Kremlin has collected a different return on its effort to help elect Trump in last year’s election: chaos in Washington.
Consider recent developments from Moscow’s perspective. Russia wants strained relations between the United States and its Western allies, and Trump is making that happen. Russia wants to see a marginalized U.S. State Department, and Trump is happy to oblige. Russia wants to see political chaos grip the U.S. capital, and Trump is delivering in a big way.

Russia didn’t like the counter-espionage investigation Jim Comey was overseeing (and escalating), and soon after Trump fired Comey. Putin asked Trump to welcome Russian officials into the White House last week – including a photographer for a state-run Russian outlet – and Trump did exactly that.

Russia wants U.S. leaders to raise doubts about the country’s role in attacking the American presidential election last year, and Trump, even now, continues to suggest there’s ambiguity about which country was responsible for the 2016 intervention.

The Rachel Maddow Show, 3/31/17, 9:51 PM ET

FBI's Trump investigation proceeds despite political headwind

Clinton Watts, former FBI special agent and counterintelligence expert, talks with Rachel Maddow about his confidence in the various investigative bodies probing the links between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia.
Clinton Watts, former FBI special agent and counterintelligence expert, talks with Rachel Maddow about his confidence in the various investigative bodies probing the links between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia.
And, of course, there were Russia’s active measures in 2016, which as Clinton Watts, a former FBI special agent, explained to the Senate two months ago, Trump and his team amplified at every opportunity, to Moscow’s delight.

Eugene Rumer, a former State Department official who served as the top intelligence officer on Russia issues from 2010 to 2014, told the Washington Post, “They feel pretty good overall because that’s a further sign that our political system is in a real crisis. The firing of Comey only aggravates this crisis. It’s now certain to be more protracted and more painful, and that’s okay with them.”

It’s a dynamic Putin and his cohorts probably couldn’t have even imagined when they launched their espionage operation.