...Trump continues to avoid (directly) saying almost ANYTHING bad about Vladimir Putin is because Putin has leverage over Trump.
I'm becoming less convinced it's leverage and moreso that it's an active partnership. It appears more and more as if Trump has made a business of money laundering for the Russian mafia since at least the early 90s. Trump Taj Mahal was repeatedly cited for violating anti-money laundering laws at Taj Mahal (but not his other casinos, interestingly), and one of the biggest launderers was a well known Russian gangster who oh so coincidentally happened to live in Trump Tower. Since 2000 all Russian mafia has run through Putin, so there's almost no doubt that Trump has been laundering money for him probably via condo sales. All this is to say I sort of no longer buy the narrative that Putin just has leverage. I think a simpler explanation (and thus a better one) is that all Trump really cars about is money, and the Russians (and therefore Putin directly or indirectly) provide him more money than anyone else. He is literally selling out the USA.