Throwback Thursday: When Steve King aligned himself with Vladimir Putin before Donald Trump did

Representative Steve King said last week he might leave Congress if offered the right position in Donald Trump’s administration. I’m for that, because King stepping down is the only realistic path to electing someone less hateful and embarrassing to represent Iowa’s fourth Congressional district.

King has worked with Kellyanne Conway, a key figure in Trump’s campaign. He’s on good terms with Trump’s chief White House strategist, the racist demagogue Steve Bannon.

But by all accounts, loyalty is very important to Trump. Would the president-elect give an important Homeland Security post to Ted Cruz’s leading Iowa surrogate before the caucuses?

How about this to sweeten the deal: King was a fan of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s leadership style way before Trump was running for president.

In fact, King was being briefed by Russian security officials while Trump’s national security adviser-to-be, the Putin-friendly retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, was still working for President Barack Obama as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

King was one of six members of Congress to visit Moscow in late spring 2013, accompanied by action movie star Steven Seagal. The Boston Marathon bombing earlier that year had inspired the trip, because prime suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev had previously spent time in a southern Russian region that borders Chechnya. Max Seddon and Lynn Berry reported for the Associated Press,

Rep. Steve King said Russian security officials told the delegation they believed that Tsarnaev and his mother had been radicalized before moving to the United States in 2003. “I suspect he was raised to do what he did,” said King, a Republican from Iowa.

His account of the meeting at the FSB, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB, was disputed by Rep. Steven Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, who said he understood that the radicalization took place much later, when the family was living in Boston.

Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher–by some accounts on Trump’s short list for secretary of state–called for the U.S. and Russia to increase cooperation in the battle against “radical Islam” and “repeatedly thanked Seagal […] for arranging the congressmen’s meeting at the FSB,” to “avoid the experience of past foreign trips when all of the meetings had been arranged by the U.S. Embassy.”

King wasn’t content with bashing alleged terrorists from the Caucasus region. He also had a go at Russians prosecuted for non-violent acts of dissent.

Rohrabacher and King were full of praise for Russian Orthodox Christian traditions after attending a service at Moscow’s main cathedral on Sunday morning. The cathedral became a rallying point for Putin supporters and the opposition alike last year when punk group Pussy Riot staged an impromptu protest against Putin’s merging of church and state, earning them worldwide notoriety and a two-year prison sentence for “hooliganism.”

“It’s hard to find sympathy for people who would do that to people’s faith,” King said.

The United States and European Union have condemned the jailing of the Pussy Riot members.

Read Masha Lipman or Michael Idov on the July 2012 Pussy Riot trial and then tell me how any patriotic American, let alone a self-styled “leading Constitutional Conservative” like King, could endorse Putin’s use of police power against political opponents.

Seth Mandel denounced the “GOP Congressmen’s Moscow Disgrace” in Commentary magazine:

But the desire to place blame for a security lapse can also lead political leaders astray, especially those who want to be seen by their constituents at home to be part of the solution. And that is the most generous explanation for the behavior of Republican Congressmen Steve King and Dana Rohrabacher in Russia this week to investigate the North Caucasus connection to the Boston Marathon bombing. But that explanation is incomplete, for King and Rohrabacher haven’t earned such generosity but instead indicated they possess a cynicism and gullibility unbecoming of their status as representatives of their fellow citizens in Washington and of the American Congress abroad. […]

And more importantly, the brutality employed by Putin and Kadyrov in the Caucasus is not a case of random “people who overstep the bounds of legality” in the fog of war. It is a strategy of mass violence employed by the state that goes beyond any semblance of the laws of war. And what about the harassment of aid workers and the murder of journalists? Does the congressman consider Anna Politkovskaya to be collateral damage?

Both Rohrabacher and King also seemed to defend, or at least dismiss, the prison sentences of the female “punk rock” trio jailed for stomping around a Moscow church, with Rohrabacher adding that he wishes his colleagues back home would appreciate that the churches are at least open again–a comment that reveals a startling unawareness of the Putin government’s manipulation of the church and its public image.

As I have said in the past, the Caucasus conflict presents a dilemma for Western observers because both sides’ behavior is out of bounds and there are no clear “good guys” (aside from the human rights workers and journalists who risk their lives to expose the abuses in the region). It is just as wrong to pretend Russia faces no terror threat as it is to paint Putin’s regime as well-meaning defenders of peace and order. If Rohrabacher and King can’t visit Russia without doing so, they should stay home.

King’s comfort level with authoritarian rule in Russia should be a good match for the Trump administration. Flynn sat at Putin’s table during a Moscow gala last December to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Russia Today television network.

As a bonus, King is open to Trump’s “interesting proposal” to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. and believes in maintaining a government database to track Muslims. And unlike some Congressional Republicans, King has been a loud and proud advocate of a fortified wall along the Mexican border for many years.

Maybe President-elect Trump will find a way to overlook King’s past support for “lyin’ Ted.”

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  • Steve King might go down w/ the Trump ship

    If I were Steve King I’d stay right (alt-right) where I am, in rural NW Iowa. Sen. John McCain said that Bob Mueller’s first three indictments are just the caterpillar. More shoes are soon to drop and may end up destroying the Trump administration.

    As a Democrat though, I’d love for Steve King to leave Iowa. A more informed, decent Congressperson might take his place in Iowa’s fourth district if King leaves.