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Author Masha Gessen Warns Against Falling Into Russia-Trump 'Conspiracy Trap'09:39Download

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Masha Gessen (left) and other Russian gay rights activists protest outside the lower house of Russia's parliament, the State Duma, in Moscow in 2013. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)MoreCloseclosemore
Masha Gessen (left) and other Russian gay rights activists protest outside the lower house of Russia's parliament, the State Duma, in Moscow in 2013. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump told The New York Times in an interview this week that "The Russia story is a total hoax. There has been absolutely nothing coming out of that."

There are currently three investigations looking into Russian election interference, and possible Trump campaign ties to it. And so far there's been lots of smoke, but no fire.

Author and journalist Masha Gessen is a Russian-born New Yorker who's made a name for herself as a critic of Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Gessen (@mashagessen) joins Here & Now's Robin Young to discuss the two presidents, and what she thinks of the Russia investigation.

Interview Highlights

On her warning against “conspiracy thinking” when it comes to Trump and Russia

"Well, first of all, I think that reality is probably much messier than what we imagine. And what we imagine every time we engage in conspiracy thinking is something neat and simple that solves all of our problems — problems of the imagination and also problems of our life. The thing about this conspiracy theory about the Russian interference in the election is that the way we imagine it, it solves both the past, which is how we got Trump, and the future, which is how we get rid of Trump.

"In fact, even if we find out that there was an actual measurable impact on the outcome of the election — which is virtually impossible to prove. Even if we find out that there was active collusion between the campaign and Russia, which is extremely unlikely to be established definitively. Even that is not going to take care of the simple problem that Americans elected Trump. The current intelligence theory as to how Russia ultimately influenced the outcome of the election was that Russia did it through open sources, through using RT — the television network — and other media as propaganda tools. That may be disgusting, but it's not illegal."

"The thing about this conspiracy theory about the Russian interference in the election is that the way we imagine it, it solves both the past, which is how we got Trump, and the future, which is how we get rid of Trump."

Masha Gessen

On why she thinks Trump poses a threat to American politics

"That I think is the key problem, is that Trump poses an actual threat to politics as it is constituted in the United States. He actually poses a threat to our ability to act meaningfully in the political space. To give you an example, there was a moment last week when Senate hearings on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee were like the No. 4 or 5 news story of the day. That's not normal. And that is actual, measurable damage to public politics."

On whether Trump associates with possible ties to Russia are being played by Putin

"As someone who's covered Russia for a quarter century, I'm not surprised. The Russian modus operandi, and before that the Soviet modus operandi, was to cast a wide recruiting net, to try to go after people whose ambitions exceeded their abilities, to try to go after people who were greedy, to try to capture outliers. It so happens that Trump's campaign was almost by accident constituted in a similar principle. Trump's campaign drew outliers from political circles. Even someone like Jeff Sessions, who’s probably one of the most establishment people in the campaign, was, for a senator, an outlier. So there's a confluence here. For that reason, I don't think that an investigation into possible links of the campaign to Russia is baseless. The investigation should be happening. We just shouldn't be obsessed with it, and we shouldn't be pinning all our hopes on it."

This segment aired on April 6, 2017.

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