What do you assume Putin’s motive here is? I can see two possibilities, (yes, its a Venn Diagram between the two) but depending on which is proximate, changes the response rather markedly:
- To install Trump as a person he can control into the White House, OR
- To delegitimize the election in general, under the notion that if America is at each other’s throats and divided, that clears the road for another action, such as a takeover in the Baltics.
I lean towards the latter, personally. If Trump was “controllable”, either because of a quid pro quo or a threat of blackmail, then appointing a man such as Mattis makes no sense. Russia would quite obviously prefer a dovish Sect of Defense who would take the position, expressed by Trump at times during the campaign, that the US should reduce its NATO investment until Europe stepped up theirs.
Further (and this requires you to psychoanalyze a bit) do you think it’s even POSSIBLE for a person like Trump to be blackmailed? :-). His wife knows exactly what she married, and if she doesn’t like what came out, he’d just go find another model to marry. And at this point, I think his children have come to grips with who their father is as well.
Blackmail only works if there’s something to lose. He doesn’t need his wife, he ‘s probably comfortable with his kids, and he’s so rich that it’s hard to imagine losses from anything being high enough to interest him.