The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser is one of my favorite guests and this morning we got quickly to the key question of the weekend:
HH: Joined by one of my very favorite guests, Susan Glasser, staff writer for The New Yorker. She writes a weekly column for The New Yorker. She’s one of the best at observing what’s going on inside of Washington, D.C. Good morning, Susan. I hope you are safe from the snow.
SG: Good morning, Hugh. I’m looking out my backyard at a winter wonderland here.
HH: Yeah, that’s what some people will call it. Other people will call it a nightmare. Susan, I want to begin, because this is an important conversation. Your new piece in The New Yorker, The International Crises Of Donald Trump, should be must-reading for everyone. But I think I’ve asked you before. I just want to ask you again. Do you think Alger Hiss was a Soviet spy?
SG: You know, I’m not an expert on the case by any means. It seems to me that the evidence that has subsequently turned up has tended to confirm that.
HH: Yes, it is. It has, and that’s where I now go to the big blockbuster story of the weekend in the New York Times.
HH: Do you, Susan Glasser, think that Donald Trump is a Russian mole?
SG: You know, it’s a great question. I’m going to quote my husband on this one, Peter Baker, for the New York Times. He wrote I think a lead that captured the moment over the weekend. He wrote so it has come to this. People are asking the question of whether the president of the United States is a Russian mole. Hugh, if you told me the evidence that is public now two years ago, I would have been really blown away. I never expected to be in the place that we’re in. The amount, an overwhelming number of questionable contacts, actions, unexplained moments, and of course, the overall inexplicable affection between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin is something that has blown my mind. I went to Helsinki last summer. I watched the press conference, and not only was out talking, but as I’ve been saying for months, and now we’ve returned to the spotlight, the fact that we do not know what was said between the president and President Putin in the two hour meeting that his senior officials, that the Secretary of State testified under oath on Capitol Hill that he himself did not know fully what had happened, this is not something that has ever been anywhere in American public life but spy novels.
HH: Susan, do you think he’s a mole?
SG: I don’t know.
HH: I think it’s absurd that anyone thinks that, and I’ll tell you why. It’s a hell of a mole who gets the sequester rolled back so that DOD can rebuild, demands NATO increase its defense spending to 2%, provide lethal weapons to the Ukraine, has American military forces wipe out a Russian force of irregulars in Syria, urges Russia pipeline to Germany to be cancelled. And if he is a mole, he has successfully fooled not only former Secretary of Defense Mattis, but Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, who are, I mean, that’s a hell of a mole. He’s better than Philby if he’s a mole.
SG: Again, I don’t know. I don’t know what to tell you, but I’m glad that it’s being investigated.
HH: I am not, because the FBI undertook to itself. The one thing that wasn’t in the Times story, and Peter didn’t write this. I couldn’t ask Peter this, is whether or not the FBI ever approached Rosenstein for the authority to begin an investigation into the presidency, because they’re not Stasi. They don’t have that authority. They’re a branch of the Department of Justice which answers to the president, and I think they went rogue, Susan. I’m deeply upset that the FBI would do this if they did not get the DAG’s approval. What do you think?
SG: You know, I’m going to resist the urge to opine whether it’s good or bad, and I’m frankly surprised, Hugh, that so many intelligent people like you would leap to conclusions, I mean, you know, rather than looking at the seriousness, potentially, of what is being alleged here. You know, the FBI obviously doesn’t just decide to open counterintelligence investigations into the president of the United States on a whim.
HH: I think it, I don’t think it was a whim. I think they were angry over Comey. I’ll tell you, Susan, we are not Stasi. We do not have this in this country. I’m a veteran of the DOJ, and I’m going to have Andrew McCarthy on the next hour. He had the same reaction, another veteran of the DOJ. The FBI doesn’t get to make this call. They are not an independent police the policemen force. It’s chilling, actually, that they did this. Let me go to your story where you write American power has rarely looked so vulnerable, dysfunctional, contradictory, and outright confusing. Here’s my take. The move from the Obama era appeasement policies back to Reagan strength through massive military ability, peace through strength, was bound to be stressful, and that the Obama era people are never going to admit that they were wrong about Iran. That’s my response to what you often hear from people critical of Donald Trump.
SG: You know, you’ve just summed up a foreign policy motto for the Trump administration, the return of Reagan era peace through strength, that is more cogent than anything I’ve ever heard from Donald Trump or from his administration. You know, it strikes me that Russia actually is kind of a good example of the contradictions and the confusions of this foreign policy. There are elements of it that are extremely hawkish, that as you said are about the military buildup and spending more on defense, are about confronting people and countries like bad actors like Iran or Russia, and then there’s Donald Trump’s foreign policy, which often contradicts and undermines that, not to mention undermines the people charged with carrying it out as we have seen just in the last few weeks when the Secretary of Defense quit over this.
HH: He did, but I just spent five days with John Bolton in the land you used to make your home with Peter when you were correspondents from Jerusalem. And Israel and Bolton and Pompeo and our allies in the Gulf, they’re all together again. The band is back together again against Iran and against Russia and against China. I just think elites have trouble recognizing Reagan is back, the Reagan doctrine is back. Susan Glasser, thank you. Follow her on Twitter, @SBG1.
End of interview.