‘Conspiracy that Trump, Putin & everybody in universe in cahoots starts to fall apart’
Earlier this week, the FBI confirmed it’s investigating alleged collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign team and the Russian government to influence the outcome of the US presidential election.
Jim Jatras joined RT America’s Simone Del Rosario to discuss what is known about the investigation so far and how to interpret Americans’ changing attitudes towards Russia.
RT: Is it getting hotter for Russia or are things starting to cool off?
Jim Jatras: I think things are starting to cool off. Look, if you watch that House Intelligence Committee hearing, there were two completely different hearings going on. The Republicans wanted to know what was going on with the leaks – these are criminal activities and the FBI is supposed to investigate when they have evidence that a crime has been committed. And we know the crime was committed. The FBI refused to confirm they were investigating this. Meanwhile, they did confirm they are looking into collusion which, if it occurred, might be a crime, might not be a crime. They do not have evidence that a crime has taken place. So I think they are chasing something that very well may not be there. And I think people are starting to catch on to that.
RT: How do you see public opinion changing in the US?
JJ: I think something rather strange is going on, that a lot of Americans – especially those who did support Trump – see what somebody has called “Trump derangement syndrome beginning to merge with Putin derangement syndrome” – this whole fantastic conspiracy that Trump and Putin and Marine Le Pen and everybody else in the universe are in some kind of cahoots with each other. And as that falls apart, I think people are beginning to say – especially on the conservative side of the American political spectrum – “there’s nothing to this here. Maybe the stuff they are saying about Russia and about Putin is a bunch of lies too.”
RT: An annual poll by Gallup, which was released in February, showed that Americans’ unfavorability of Russia is 70 percent – that’s the highest since 1989. Around 28 percent of the respondents said their overall opinion about Russia was “favorable,” while two percent had no opinion. What do you make of those results?
JJ: It’s interesting to break down those results into parties and terms. The bulk of the negative opinion is on the left of the American political spectrum; on the right it’s much more balanced, it’s virtually 50/50. [It’s] even more positive towards Russia among younger conservatives. It’s hard to say what accounts for all of this. Part of this I think is skepticism about all this conspiracy blather about Trump, but I think part is that some people are starting to figure out that Russia is not communist any more, that in many respects it’s a very traditional, very conservative country. I can remember when I was at the State Department years and years ago, the only thing that my progressive colleagues liked about Russia was its progressive ideology. Ever since Russia dropped communism, they don’t like it any more. There is something going on in American opinion, and we don’t know fully what it is.
RT: Collusion allegations aside, have you seen the Trump administration act favorably toward Moscow?
JJ: No. But I think part of the reason is because there’s this whole witch-hunt mentality going on here and especially in the MSM. There has been no movement toward any kind of grand deal... On the other hand, what we have seen are some practical steps, military steps on the ground in Syria. And that’s really a good place to start with. General [Joseph] Dunford met with his Russian and Turkish counterparts earlier this month. It looks like the Russians and the Americans are beginning to coordinate airstrikes on Al-Qaeda in Idlib, Syria. So maybe there are some moves in that direction, especially as the offensive [against ISIS in Raqqa] builds up. But it’s being kept relatively quiet.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.