In a disaster entirely of his own making, the President of the United States stood alongside Vladamir Putin at a press conference in Helsinki, Finland on July 16, 2018 and confirmed to the entire world what so many of us already knew: Donald John Trump has betrayed his duty to America, and acts as though he is beholden to and under undue influence of Putin in ways that constitute an extraordinary betrayal of his oath of office.
And that’s just what we know from Trump’s public statement with Putin. Because Trump has been silent on the matter, we still have virtually no specifics about what Trump discussed and promised to Putin in their private meeting. There are reports coming out of Russia that agreements were in fact reached, and given that Trump won’t say anything about them, it seems likely that they could very well constitute an even vastly greater betrayal of American interests. See: US offers no details as Russia claims Trump and Putin reached military agreements.
In addition to Trump’s apparent universal adulation of murderous dictators in general, Putin’s specific leverage and influence over Trump seems to also stem from a variety of financial, sexual, and criminal factors. My previous column: The Man in the High Castle: Trump has committed high treason provides elaboration on each of these issues. A new column in The New Yorker this week,
A Theory of Trump Kompromat also provides further insight.
I’ve received considerable correspondence since Trump’s spectacle in Helsinki, all centered on three key questions:
- How can anyone still support him?;
- Given how apparent it is that Trump’s loyalties are to Russia, why won’t Congress do anything about it… RIGHT NOW?; and
- What can each of us do about it… RIGHT NOW?
Why People Still Support Him
The entire spectacle of Trump’s capitulation to Putin in Helsinki made it essentially impossible for anyone to claim to be pro-Trump and to love America and the values for which it has historically stood, and not seem, in the very best possible light, a complete and utter fool, and in the very worst possible light, a traitor to America as well. As John Pavlovitz’s noted in Don’t Say You Love This President and America. One of Those Things Isn’t True:
“when you refuse to name it all as treasonous, when you choose to remain silent, when you pretend you don’t see it—you declare who you are. We see it. The world sees it.””
So one must face some grim realities to explain Trump’s continued support:
- There really are Americans who truly want America to move away from democracy towards authoritarianism, particularly if an authoritarian leader pretends to support their political and social agenda and remove it from possible change via democratic processes.
- There are Americans who support Trump because they profit greatly from his policies and agenda, and some of them are extremely wealthy… and their wealth can and does buy political influence.
- There are Americans who truly want to see the subjugation of America to Russia.
- There are Americans who simply don’t have the intelligence to understand the issues involved (remember, half the population has an IQ of under 100) — they are easily persuaded by the gaslighting distortions and distractions of Trump and his enablers, and/or they blindly support anyone who identifies as Republican because it is their cultural heritage to do so. The Dunning–Kruger effect is real.
- There is also a considerable segment of Americans who are attached to Trump in such a cultish fashion that they essentially see him as being anointed by a higher power to lead us… these people don’t care if he is a traitor… they will follow him anywhere.
- And there is a segment of Americans who will refuse to back away from Trump because it would mean admitting that they were wrong about something that they were once passionate about, so they will just keep digging in no matter what he does.
If you want to learn more, my column from a year ago, The 10 Reasons People Still Support Donald Trump still holds up pretty well.
So in total, the evidence is that these factors combined explain the behavior of about 30% of the American electorate. We are forced to conclude that even if Trump should publicly come out and claim that he wants to make the United States a republic in the Russian Federation, a sizable portion of his supporters would applaud him for having another brilliant idea, while repeating the gaslighting distortions he manufactures to justify it. That’s the America we live in, and only by recognizing this scary reality can we find a constructive path to move forward.
Why Congress Won’t Do Anything RIGHT NOW
After the Helsinki summit, Former CIA Director John O. Brennan noted:
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018
While Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Select Intelligence Committee, stated:
After his summit with Putin, Republicans can no longer ignore the fact that, whether he is or not, Trump acts like he’s compromised.
Why else would he side with Putin, a former KGB officer, over his own intelligence agencies, bash Europe and favor the Kremlin over NATO allies? pic.twitter.com/7WTJ7e4hb6
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) July 22, 2018
So why won’t the Republicans do anything? Dave Wasserman, House Editor for The Cook Political Report provides a clue:
Most Republican members are willing to admit POTUS doesn't operate in reality, but know they're doomed in their next primary if they say so publicly. As long as that's true, we're headed for a world w/ zero accountability.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) July 16, 2018
While there are some exceptions, many members of Congress seem to be motivated by three primary and sometimes interrelated factors… 1) their desire to raise money; 2) their desire to be re-elected; and 3) their desire to not go to jail. Their political agenda and the best interests of America tend to be rather less important than any of these three factors. Again, this is the world we live in, and the priority on raising funds will remain until America enacts significant campaign finance reform.
On the Republican side, big money donors are putting great pressure on Congressional representatives to maintain their support of Trump, because they financially benefit from his presidency in a variety of both obvious and nefarious ways. There also appears to be a self-preservation factor at play for some of the Republican representatives… if Trump falls, they know that they will fall as well. It is becoming clearer with each passing day that some segment of the Republican representatives in Congress have legal and ethical entanglements that concern them, and that will likely be uncovered if Mueller is allowed to continue his investigation, or if Democrats gain control of key House committees.
Some, like Devin Nunes, appear to have potentially engaged in obstruction of justice and other crimes and ethical violations in trying to protect Trump. Evidence is also emerging that Russia was using the NRA, and perhaps others, to funnel money to Trump and others in ways that could entangle many in campaign financing violations and could dry up a source of money they have relied upon. (See: Are Republicans Covering for Trump, or for Themselves?)
Members of Congress who are not planning to run for reelection are under less influence from these factors, but even those members, unless they are terminally ill, look to a potential post-Congress future earning money as lobbyists, board members, law firm members, judges or running for other political office. Their connections for enabling their post-Congress life all lie within their political party, and they know whom they have to please to meet such objectives. This likely explains why someone like Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, who is willing to speak out against Trump’s reprehensible conduct, fails to use his vote to do anything to stop him.
While Trump’s core base is only 30% of the total electorate, it is actually a majority of the Republican electorate. So Congressional candidates know that if they oppose Trump in the primary season, they will lose their primary to other Republican candidates who support Trump. But in the final election, being a Trump supporter is going to be a liability in most of America. Incumbent Republicans up for reelection in November feel that if they show any disloyalty to Trump they will immediately lose the support of the gaslighted, and they need those votes, both in the primaries and in November. Trump has pretty much put them into a no win situation and they know it, but they still feel supporting him is their best option.
But next year is not an election year. If the Republicans get beat badly this November, it will send a strong message that supporting Trump does not lead to re-election. Democrats will have the majority in the House and they will use their subpoena power to investigate and make public the administration’s criminal and unethical conduct on a vastly larger scale. And they will vote to impeach Trump, and initiate a trial in the Senate to convict and remove him from office. The votes of 67 Senators will be necessary to remove Trump from office. That will require all the Democrat and Independent votes, along with something on the order of 18 Republican votes, depending on the outcome of this November’s election.
If you think that the Senate vote on Trump’s removal from office will depend on the facts of the case and what Mueller uncovers, you are living in a fantasy land. Mueller’s investigation is important, because it will lead to criminal charges against those who have committed crimes against the United States, and eventually against Trump himself once he is out of office. But ever since Trump fired James Comey and then told the Russians and America that he did it to stop the Russia investigation, there has been more than enough information in plain sight to impeach Trump for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Trump is a clear and present danger to America, and the grounds for impeachment have since multiplied a hundredfold. Trump’s impeachment and subsequent removal from office hinges entirely on political factors at this point, not on waiting for Mueller to establish sufficient cause.
So for that to happen, approximately 18 Republicans in the Senate will need to come to believe their chances of getting re-elected in 2020 or later are better under a Pence presidency than under a Trump presidency. Without the pressures of a re-election year in 2019, it is feasible, but by no means guaranteed, that it could happen. It will depend in large part on how badly Republicans lose elections this coming November. If they get beat badly enough, Republican incumbents in the Senate will come to realize that supporting Trump is a possible death sentence when they next come up for re-election. I think the Senate race in Texas is going to be critical. If Ted Cruz loses, which is still a long shot but feasible, we will have a good chance of seeing enough Republicans in the US Senate willing to vote for Trump’s removal from office.
What Each Of Us Can Do, RIGHT NOW
Why has the media mostly ignored Lafayette Park? This protest has literally driven POTUS out of town. It should be THE story, all day every day. But the media want you to feel helpless and angry so you'll click the links but not take action. TAKE ACTION. #resist #persist
— Rogue POTUS Staff (@RoguePOTUSStaff) July 22, 2018
These Midterms could be the last election of our lifetime. VOTE
— David Hogg (@davidhogg111) July 22, 2018
Through the collective action of millions, there is a real chance we can bring many aspects of this sad chapter of American history to an end in 2019. Each one of us, with our individual contribution to the effort, can help make a positive difference now in six key ways:
- Take to the streets in mass protest. It scares the crap out of most politicians to see hundreds of thousands of people so mad at them that they are willing to take the streets and turn their anger into hope. Remember that the most effective protests are both peaceful and visibly patriotic. In this context, dancing, singing, laughing and refusing to be silenced in the face of your adversary is more effective than throwing rocks at them. An estimated 250,000 Brits cared enough to protest Trump’s visit to London. They did so with both passion and humour. Will Americans take to the streets in a serious way if Vladamir Putin sets foot in the US at the behest of our traitorous president? If Trump or his enablers should try to shut down the Special Council’s Russia investigation and fire Rod Rosenstein or Robert Mueller, or if Putin should arrive in America for Treason Summit #2, it will be critical for not just hundreds of thousands, but millions of Americans to take to the streets and hold them, peacefully, until our Congressional leaders pledge and enact real positive changes. Sign in NOW with MarchForTruth and MoveOn.org to be notified of how you can join and contribute to the protests in your area once they are scheduled. Also be sure to read David Frum’s excellent article: What Effective Protest Could Look Like.
- Get out and canvas for and provide other assistance to Democratic Congressional candidates in this November’s election;
- Help get people registered to vote and then out to vote in November;
- Contact your representatives, particularly if they are Republicans, and let them know when you object to Trump’s actions and political agenda. See: https://resist.bot.
- Use your voice on social media and in face-to-face conversations with others to not allow Trump’s actions to become normalized, to laugh at and refute his gaslighting propaganda and messaging, and to speak in a constructive fashion about the better future that can be enabled if we band together to defeat him and move America forward in a positive manner.
- Join other groups that focus on providing you additional ways to make a difference:
Sister District Project: https://www.sisterdistrict.com
Your local #Resist group on Meetup: https://www.meetup.com/pro/resist/
Need To Impeach: https://www.needtoimpeach.com
The challenges that American democracy faces today are palpable, pervasive and utterly perverse. “We the People” may soon face the ultimate test of whether we are willing to rise to the challenge of finding our collective voice in order to speak truth to power, and to save our most imperfect union.
Desmond Tutu once said that “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.” Domino Principle #3, Dance Passionately, tells us to never stop dreaming of a better world, working to bring our dreams to fruition, and celebrating the gifts we already have in our life today. Sometime this summer or fall, the chances are good that Americans everywhere will hear the call to take to the streets, to dance passionately for freedom and democracy, and to let the world know that we refuse to go quietly into the night.
🎶Callin’ out around the world
Are you ready for a brand new beat?
Summer’s here and the time is right
For dancing in the street!🎶
The Atlantic: The Worst Russia Blunder in 70 Years
The Atlantic: The Worst Security Risk in U.S. History
The Atlantic: Trump’s Biggest Gift to Putin
Robert Reich: Is Trump a Traitor?
The Atlantic: There’s No Defending Trump Anymore
The Atlantic: Trump’s Crisis of Legitimacy
The Washington Post: This sad, embarrassing wreck of a man
Dame Magazine: It’s Not Collusion With Trump. It’s Treason
The Washington Post: Trump just colluded with Russia. Openly.
The New Yorker: How Putin and Trump Each Lied in Helsinki
New York Times: Trump and Putin vs. America
The Atlantic: The Crisis Facing America
The Atlantic: This Is the Moment of Truth for Republicans
The New Yorker: The G.O.P. Stands By as Trump Upends American Security
New York Magazine: Trump’s Plot Against America