He's right -- there will be many pro-Putin voices in Trump's administration. But a more calculating traitor than Trump would have had Tillerson at the top of his secretary of state short list from the beginning, and that seems not to have been the case.
You'll say that the floating of all those other names was a massive head fake, an attempt to turn a personnel decision into a reality-TV show. But Trump really hasn't done that with other positions. And if that's the case, why not toy with us a little longer? Trump won't be president for nearly six weeks. Stretch it out a little longer. Make secretary of state the last announced Cabinet pick.
It's widely believed that Trump's outreach to Mitt Romney was especially phony. Trump confidant Roger Stone said on Alex Jones's radio show over the weekend that Trump had repeated discussions with Romney "in order to torture him." But a couple of people who really might know better say it's not true:
I'm getting pushback on this from Trump's transition team. "False", says one adviser. https://t.co/NaxfSJmu9V— McKay Coppins (@mckaycoppins) December 13, 2016
Not true. Trump would have picked a Romney but for incredible pushback from his entire team. The two liked each other in the end. https://t.co/nf4ZD0xOvY— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) December 13, 2016
I think Trump really might have believed that he could make Romney his poodle by appointing him. Trump likes the idea that he's powerful enough to disarm enemies and turn them into allies -- recall that he hired Tony Schwartz to write The Art of the Deal after Schwartz wrote a very negative story about him for New York magazine. Trump has talked to Carly Fiorina about becoming director of national intelligence. Trump loves the idea of ending conflicts in this way -- on his terms.
If this is true, it means that Trump has now named a Putin ally as secretary of state -- but he might just as easily have picked the guy who said Putin's Russia was "our number one geopolitical foe" four years ago. I'm sure Trump's administration still would have had a decided pro-Russia slant under those circumstances, and Romney would have been faced with the choice of defending policies he disagreed with or resigning. But Trump seems to have been willing to pick him anyway.
To me, Trump doesn't appear to be larding his administration with the maximum number of Putin allies he thinks he can get away with. Instead, he's internalized a pro-Putin bias, and he thinks that's an excellent attribute for appointees to share. He's going to do Putin's bidding, but he might just as easily have gone with Romney (or Petraeus or Giuliani or Corker) for secretary of state. It's not calculated -- it's based on his inklings. But he's developed some very dangerous inklings.