A photo of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin speaking at a press conference together.

State of Disunion

It’s Not Collusion With Trump. It’s Treason.

Today we watched an American president trash the nation and people he's supposed to defend, and ally himself with the hostile foreign power that attacked us.

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Today we watched the president of the United States commit treason on live television.  

We watched him, on foreign soil, dump on the United States government, the entire Democratic Party, the former U.S. Secretary of State, and the FBI. We watched him profess to have no idea why Russia would have wanted to attack the U.S. election—the words of an imbecile, or a liar, or both. We watched him choose the word of our country’s attacker over that of the United States’ intelligence agencies, in no uncertain terms. We watched him blame the United States for the current relationship with Russia, totally ignoring Russia’s attack on our country. We watched him “give aid and comfort” to Russia over America.  

It was the most repulsive, unseemly, and terrifying spectacle I have—indeed most of us have—ever witnessed.

I knew enough about Trump’s bottomless corruption to know fear on November 9, 2016. I knew enough about GOP tribalism and rejection of democratic principle to know that the GOP-controlled Congress would do little to act as a check on his corruption. But I never really believed we would witness anything so brazen and sickening as what we witnessed today.

We are in deep, deep, deep danger as a country. If what this irremediably unfit and traitorous demagogue did to our nation today does not draw universal condemnation, this country may be unsalvageable as a democracy. I have not known disorienting, destabilizing fear like I felt watching that press conference since I stood on the street in Brooklyn watching the South Tower fall on September 11, 2001. But that, in perspective, was a single audacious and horrible terrorist attack. It was not, contra the conspiracy theorists, an inside job by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. It was an outside and physical threat; it was not an attack on the very notion of democracy, and there was no question the U.S. would respond. But here, the enemy of America is within, he runs the country, and he does not even bother to hide the fact that he will not defend his own country from attack by Vladmir Putin. He stood on the world stage today condemning his nation and acting, for all intents and purposes, as if he works for Putin, not the American people.

I have to admit, I thought the indictments on Friday of 12 Russian military intelligence operatives, and the extraordinary detail in the indictments—which put to rest even any theoretical argument that Russia was not behind the attacks—would finally box Trump in, force him to stop denying they attacked us and put an end to this outrageous smear campaign against the special counsel, and his absurdist statements that the investigation into the Russian attack is a “hoax.”  Even though I knew he had repeated his nonsense Friday morning before Rosenstein made the announcement, I believed that a combination of the gravity and clarity and detail of the indictments, his own Director of National Intelligence’s warning that Russia is still at it and “[the] lights are blinking red again,”  and the widespread calls for him to cancel the ill-conceived, agendaless, non-prepared-for, private meeting with Putin, would at long last force him to address the attack without lies and denials.

I was obviously very wrong.

And so, at this point, this incredibly dangerous inflection point, there are some things we need to do.

To begin, we must stop talking in terms of “collusion” when we talk about Trump and treason. Whatever did or did not happen in 2016, we are watching treason unfold live in 2018. And the reason for that treason doesn’t materially matter; whatever the reason for it, we have a Russian asset occupying the presidency.

I stopped using “collusion” some time ago precisely because from a results perspective, it does not functionally matter whether Trump was in an active conspiracy with Putin to steal the 2016 election. Wittingly or unwittingly, he was the slavishly gleeful beneficiary of the Russian attack on the election. He had no qualms whatsoever about exploiting that attack for his own benefit; the integrity of the election be damned. Mitch McConnell also need not have been in active conspiracy with Putin to have contributed to the success of Putin’s operation; he refused a bipartisan revelation when Obama requested it and refused to reveal or condemn the attacks, blackmailing Obama into silence in order to tip the scales for Trump—all the while stealing a Supreme Court seat in a reprehensible rejection of democratic principle. McConnell, like Trump, was happy to leverage Putin’s assistance if it meant installing a Republican. Both were fine with Russia’s attack on the U.S. because it installed Donald Trump. And all too many Republicans appear to feel the same way.

But the spectacle we witnessed today should rattle every GOP member who is not a corrupt Trump cultist to his very core. Because we saw a commander in chief side with our enemy and refuse to defend his country.

So let’s scrap “collusion”—which, by the way, is not a word that exists in the criminal statutes—and focus on the behavior here and now, which we have all seen, and which does not require the intermediation of a special counsel, and which no random FBI agent’s texts can distract from.

Let’s also scrap this absurd word, “meddling” when talking about a hostile foreign government’s cyberattacks on our country. Putin was not some nosy neighbor looking into whether your spouse is having an affair. Putin is a ruthless dictator who murders journalists and political rivals, who is wreaking havoc in Syria, who wants to destroy NATO and the EU, and who wants a compliant, corrupt United States president, who is not interested in human rights or civil rights or in anything but lining the pockets of the wealthy.  In Trump, he has a natural ally, with or without a conspiracy; a man who just the other day disparaged the democratic processes underlying the EU while praising the creeping dictator Erdogan.

When we talk about Trump, all we need to talk about—all we MUST talk about—is that Trump stood onstage in front of the whole world and validated the blatant lies of a dictator, who attacked this country and is still doing it, choosing that man over the trusted word of the people of his own government! At this point, while it seems (based on the indictments so far and other documents in the public record) increasingly likely that Mueller will indict additional Trump campaign operatives for conspiring against the United States, Trump’s treason exists independent of whether he actively conspired with Putin in 2016.  The man refuses to defend the United States of America.

That is the narrative. Trump is a traitor, or an imbecile, or both. Only a traitor or an imbecile could stand on that stage next to Putin and state that he cannot understand why Russia would have interfered in the election. (Meanwhile, hours later, the Justice Department indicted a Russian woman who tried to set up secret meetings between Trump and Putin as a foreign agent, for trying to influence the election for Trump.)  

Only a traitor or a man so fucking corrupt, so disgusting, so obsessed with himself that he literally will not put the U.S.’s interests and that of the entire citizenry before his pathetic ego, could stand onstage next to the man who orchestrated the attacks on our country, and, when asked point blank by a reporter whether he believes the attacker’s denial or his own government, grovel like a dog by echoing Putin’s denials and refusing to endorse the conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community. Trump has acted treasonously and betrayed his country with or without Kompromat. He has done so with or without having been part of an actual conspiracy with Putin.  He is denying the very fact of Russia’s attack on our country, refusing to act, and giving aid and comfort to our attacker.  He will not implement sanctions; he attacks the EU and NATO (prompting an unusual bipartisan rebuke by the Senate) and tries to topple the British government, undermine the German one, and elect far-right, white nationalists in France; he is fine with Putin’s murders of journalists and falsely claims the U.S. does it too; he praised Putin slavishly during the election and is still doing it; he is fine with the annexation of Crimea; he obstructs the Russia investigation; he does Russia’s bidding when it comes to items as minor as breastfeeding. Has Trump done all this because he is an imbecile, such a mark that he believes Putin over 17 U.S. intelligence agencies and the very people he appointed to run them?  Is it because he is a pathetic narcissist who cannot bear the thought that he could not get elected without Putin’s and Comey’s (inadvertent) help? Is it because he is a corrupt actor who wants to make money by dividing up the spoils of the world by plundering the public trough and leveraging the presidency for his business interests? Is it because he is beholden to Putin, whether due to kompromat (money laundering? The pee tape?) or as payback for Putin having installed him? It doesn’t matter for our purposes now whether his motivation is one or a combination of these, because the results are the same.

Calls for his resignation/impeachment and possible prosecution for treason are in order.

He threw all of U.S. law enforcement, and specifically the FBI, under the bus in favor of the country that attacked us, on foreign soil and in front of the whole world.

If  we focus on “collusion,” we give him the narrative that might help him, at least for now.

Don’t do it. His conduct is treasonous—period.

I don’t think I can overstate how dangerous this moment is. If there is not bipartisan and widespread condemnation, if there is any attempt to normalize this, I have no idea where we go from here. I suggest that we all get on the phones, not only to our own reps, but to leaders in Congress, and demand they put a stop to his treachery.  And we, as citizens, need to engage in a massive public repudiation of this man’s treachery, which is at bottom a demand for democracy and rejection of his corruption. There are sundown vigils planned for around the country on Wednesday, July 18: You can find one here.  No matter how busy you are, I urge you to treat this situation like the crisis it is, and, if you are physically able to do so, to get yourself to one of these vigils and share the information and bring friends. As the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said, the warning lights are blinking, but now we know that the calls are coming from inside the house. We have to vote like our lives depend on it. They do. And it’s time to act like our country depends on our actions—because it does.

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