“So perhaps we should just admit what our own eyes cannot deny: We have now witnessed the very worst humiliation of a president of the United States ever, and one of the lowest points in the history of the American presidency…the president, the commander in chief of our armed forces, the man whose oath requires him to defend us, has taken sides. He has taken Putin’s side. We are in significant peril, and it will not abate soon.”
– Tom Nichols, “Trump has taken Putin's side. His stability and America's safety are now in question”, USA Today
The past week the collusion and abject surrender that Donald Trump keeps protesting was on flagrant display. Meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki without an agenda and with no one present except for a translator, Trump emerged for a press conference with Putin in which he prostrated himself, while throwing the United States and our intelligence services under the bus.
Given the opportunity to confront Putin about Russia’s attack on Trump’s behalf in our 2016 election, Trump instead chose to deny that any attack had taken place (despite the fact that he had been presented with conclusive evidence prior to his inauguration that Putin had ordered the attack) . Although the following day, following a firestorm of angry responses, he tried to walk back his comments – in perhaps the most transparently false and ridiculous manner in presidential history – but by the end of the week, Trump was back to braying “witch hunt”.
Let’s be clear about what’s going on here: Trump has, for whatever reason, given himself over completely to Vladimir Putin. We still don’t know why or how this came about (and, yes, we still need to find out), but we don’t need to wait for those answers to conclude that Trump is betraying his oath of office and our country in order to serve the Russian president. We don’t need to wait to know that he presents a clear and present danger to our democracy. Several commentators have used the analogy of scientists discovering black holes: they can’t collect evidence of the holes themselves, but all of the data about what surrounds them confirms their existence. That’s where we are with Trump. Although we don’t know exactly how he got to this point, we know just where he is. And it’s treasonous.
Some will insist on the legal meaning of the word: that treason must take place during wartime. What is an attack on our election to install their choice of president but an act of war? And when that act is successful, the remedy for the attack has been undermined, since the president* is working for the enemy. We see clearly now that he won’t defend us, won’t even acknowledge the attack. How should this not be treason?
The public hasn’t fully awoken to the danger of Russia’s installing a puppet as our president*. The story is complex and the press has been afraid to tell it forcefully and to say out loud the obvious conclusions – including that Russian interference clearly won Trump the election – making Trump an illegitimate president*. (One could say that Comey made the difference, or Hillary’s missteps, but the point is this: Russia’s attack, extensive and as targeted as it was, would have been sufficient to generate the 80,000 votes in three states that won Trump the election. Without it, he would have lost. One might also protest that the election can’t be invalidated and the accusation can’t be conclusively proven. True enough, but the outlines are clear and the probability high enough to be highly likely. That should be enough to support the conclusion.)
So, this is where we are. We have a treasonous president*, illegitimately elected and in thrall to our enemy. While Republicans began by protesting, as the week went on they largely became supine and docile – perhaps complicit. It is up to us to save our country, as they clearly never will.
In Other News
- Hours after the Putin/Trump press conference, alleged Russian spy Mariia Butina was arrested and held without bail. Butina, who was living in the United States, has close ties to the NRA and the National Prayer Breakfast. She seems to have penetrated swathes of the Republican Party, working to set up “backchannels of communication” with Russia and, in at least one case, to have provided Russian aid for a GOP congressional candidate. She reports to Alexander Torshin, who is closely connected to Putin. Keep an eye on this story as it unfolds; it has the potential to be huge.
- Through the week, Trump continued to show his allegiance to Putin. Coming out of the summit, he apparently agreed to hand over former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and others, including Bill Browder, who was instrumental in getting sanctions imposed on Russian in the wake of their murder of Sergei Magnitsky, to Putin for questioning – in exchange for Mueller being able to question the eleven indicted GRU hackers. This would have sent the message that if you’re our ambassador, we won’t protect you. Fortunately the Senate condemned the move 98-0 and Trump backed down.
- Later in the week, Trump announced that he would invite Putin to another summit at the White House in the fall. Guess he didn’t hand over the keys in Helsinki.
- Speaking of spies, the FBI tracked Trump campaign associate Carter Page for years, concerned that he was being recruited by the Russians. Devin Nunes seized on this earlier in the year to concoct the false accusation that Page had been singled out unfairly. This past week a Freedom of Information Act request made the underlying FISA applications (which authorized the government to surveil Page), heavily redacted. Surprise, surprise. The additional information makes the already-debunked Nunes memo look even worse (and Democratic rebuttals truthful). And another surprise – that’s not stopping Trump from lying about the FISA applications, claiming vindication. Self-serving lies. It’s all he knows.
- The large majority of the ~2,000 children separated from their parents still haven’t been reunited and are being treated horribly. There are only a handful of days left. It’s clear that the Trump regime is acting only under pressure and is doing the job as poorly as it can, while the children suffer. We need to keep that pressure up.
- Trump’s still all-in on his trade wars. Look for pain to come.
- Past documents of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh suggested that he disagreed with the key decisions that led to the Watergate resignation of Richard Nixon. Why would anyone believe he would act as a check on Trump’s dictatorial desires?
The story of the successful Russian attack on our democracy needs to be told, over and over, until it’s receiving the attention it deserves. And we need our representatives to fight, every day, as if our nation depends on it. Because it does.
– Tom Benthin
A reminder: a key resource for tracking all the abnormal events from the past week of the Trump presidency is Amy Siskind’s Weekly List: theweeklylist.org .
Before the disaster of the 2016 election we could follow the events that affected our lives by checking the news or seeing occasional posts on Facebook. Since then, with Trump’s erratic, aggressive and autocratic behavior and the Republicans’ unceasing attacks on our government and their efforts to transfer ever more money from working Americans to the rich, it has become much more difficult – and more important – to find our way through the weekly onslaught of news. To get ourselves grounded in the facts and to prepare for the week of action ahead, we provide this weekly summary of critical events to help us cut through the distractions and stay focused and informed as we fight to preserve our democracy.