Donald Trump’s seventeen day vacation, at a time when his grasp on the presidency is already tenuous at best and the Special Counsel has empaneled grand juries in his Russia scandal, has raised a number of red flags. Throw in the arrival of a Russian oligarch’s private plane on the same day Trump arrived in New Jersey, and a Putin-connected private yacht off spotted off the coast, and it’s led many on social media to ask whether Trump may be preparing to flee the country.
The popular buzz about Trump fleeing began to grow across social media after we first reported that a private plane belonging to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich – who has close ties to Vladimir Putin and whose wife attended Trump’s inauguration – had landed at Newark Airport within hours of Trump’s own arrival at that same airport on Friday (link). Trump is also engaging in increasingly secretive behavior, such as stranding reporters in a windowless room over the weekend (link) It’s led some to ask if this is all part of some sort of secret escape plan.
Those questions were heightened amid reports that Le Grand Bleu, a private yacht previously owned by Abramovich and thought to currently be owned or controlled by Vladimir Putin himself, was spotted off the coast of New Jersey. However, those reports are at least two weeks old. As of today, according to vesselfinder.com, the ship in question has sailed further north and is currently off the coast of Maine (link). So while the Russian plane is in a physical position to be used as part of a potential escape plan, the ship is not, at least not as of now.
Then there is the logical question of why Donald Trump would be preparing to flee the country at this particular time. Special Counsel Robert Mueller recently empaneled a Trump-Russia grand jury in Washington DC to go along with a holdover grand jury in Virginia. Subpoenas have been issued by the grand jury in DC, but it’s not known to whom they were issued. Most commonly, investigations of this type would begin by subpoenaing and then later indicting and prosecuting Trump’s underlings and associates for their crimes, in order to get them to flip on Trump himself. But there is no publicly available evidence, as well as no logical reason to believe, that any of the subpoenas issued up to this point have been against Trump himself.
And that’s why we’re left to conclude that there’s little if any real evidence – either tangible or logical – that Donald Trump might be planning to flee the country during his current vacation. From his point of view, it’s still fairly early in the game, and he has to believe there’s a chance he could end up getting himself off the hook in the Russia investigation. For him to be planning to flee now, the Russia investigation would have to be much further along than is publicly known, and Trump would have to believe that he’s mere weeks or days away from being past the point of no return – and that’s a difficult notion to get behind at this time.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report