As I wrote a few months back, this is no longer about Trump. We know who Trump is. We've known for almost two years, before even "No puppet, no puppet. You're the puppet." Yesterday's debacle of a press conference professing his fealty to Russia and Putin over the United States, along with other "But her email...!!" and "The server! Where is the server?!" meltdowns didn't really surprise anyone. (All that was missing was him crying out, "I knew one of them took the strawberries!" and rolling metal balls in his hand.) It was galling and sick and disturbing to see it so public, standing side-by-side with the despot who had ordered the ongoing attack on the U.S. But it didn't come out of the blue and shock people that, "Oh, my God!! Trump is actually in the pocket of Russia. And he's narcissistic. And awful." We get it. No, instead, as it's been for a long time now, this is about the elected officials of the Republican Party.
The GOP is the party that has been enabling Trump for two years. The party that has backed his plans to build a wall to keep out Mexicans. The party that has backed his bill to keep people of a religious faith from entering the United States. The party that has supported him separating parents from their children, with no plans to unite them, all the while putting babies in cages. The party that passed his tax cuts for the most-wealthy Americans, adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit. The party that watches as he destroys people's health care. The party that was okay with him attacking the legitimacy of "so-called judges." The party that backed him when he railed against all the "sh*thole" countries and the infestation of Mexican animals. The party that supported him while leaving Americans without power and water -- many still without -- in Puerto Rico. The party that supported him through hush money payoffs to a porn actress. The party that has tried to demean the FBI and all U.S. intelligence services who have been investigating an attack by Russia on the United States. The party that has supported (with a little whining because it hurt them, but they still supported) tariffs to start a trade war. The party that sent eight of its own members to Moscow during, of all times, the Fourth of July holiday to meet with Russian officials, without challenging anyone about them attacking the U.S. The party that only last week was near-silent when the U.S. Justice Department indicted 12 Russian GRU military operatives for attacking the United States, and not a word of outrage. The party that didn't offer a word of complaint when Trump said he was going to meet with Putin and give him the honor of being on the world stage together -- after 12 Russians GRU military operatives were indicted for attacking the U.S. The party that watched as he started a fight with Canada -- Canada!! -- and our NATO allies. The party that didn't complain after Trump called the European Union one of America's greatest "foes" -- on his way to meet the Russian dictator.
And then, when Trump acted in a way that we all have known for two years -- indeed, which Republican elected officials even better than us have all known for two years because they deal with him in private, and probably know he's even worse than we do -- finally, some Republicans in Congress have been publicly perturbed with what they saw.
Well, freaking bully for them.
Not only should every single Republican official be perturbed with Trump, they should all be furious at him and shouting out in holy hell. But then, they knew about this and enabled it for the past two years.
Is Trump a danger and a threat to the U.S.? Absolutely. But the reason he is, that's because of the Republican Party. We have a great system of checks-and-balances in the United States Constitution, and it sets up the Congress as one of those checks on the presidency. All it requires is that senators and congressmen live up to their sworn oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. Not the president of their party. If Republicans in Congress actually did their jobs, as a check on the Executive branch, Trump would be a disaster in the White House, but not a threat to the country.
This is all about the Republican Party. Trump, we get. He's a racist, misogynistic, ego-maniacal narcissistic, pathological liar, white supremacist traitor. We know that. But the Republican Party has enabled him. With hugs and kisses, and every possible protection that they, Devin Nunes, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Dana Rohrabacher, Jim Jordan, Louie Gohmert, and Chuck Grassley could provide.
It's not necessary for me to go through the details of yesterday's press conference or explain the outrage. I suspect most people have seen the videos over-and-over, and grasp fully its import. But a few moments from yesterday do bear reference.
"Our relationship has never been worse than it is now" is what Trump tweeted yesterday about U.S.-Russia relations. The thing is, it helps knowing history. Like when in 1956 Nikita Khrushchev said to America, "We will bury you." Or in 1962, when Russia began sending nukes to Cuba, and we were on the brink of nuclear war. Ignorance is no virtue, most especially when you're president of the United States.
A small moment that got overlooked because of all the other head-exploding news also leaped out to me. That was when Putin began maligning Bill Browder -- the American-born financier who is responsible for the Magnitsky Act (the bill named after his murdered Russian attorney Sergei Magnitsky, which basically blocks access to funds kept overseas by 44 Russian government officials and businessmen suspected of murder and human rights abuse), something Putin and Russian oligarchs viscerally hate. Trump stood there silently, not saying a word in defense of Browder being slandered. But then, that silence may have been because repealing the Magnitsky Act was the topic of conversation at the secret conspiratorial meeting in Trump Tower between Russians and high Trump campaign officials.
Needless-to-say, there was a great deal of condemnation of Trump yesterday, by Democrats, military officers, intelligence officials, the press (even remarkably some on "Fox News") and even a handful of Republican officials. Three stood out for me.
The first was from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI). He released a statement which said --
"There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world.
"That is not just the finding of the American intelligence community but also the House Committee on Intelligence. The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals.
"The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy."
It's a good response. It, of course, also lacks the sense of outrage that you would love to see from a Speaker over an action that some in his own party saw as treasonous. But it was at least more than we've come to expect from Ryan. It's worth noting, though, that nothing Trump said or did yesterday that Ryan was contradicting was particularly different from what he'd said or who he'd been the day before. So, Ryan's words would have had a whole lot more substance if he wasn't so complicit in enabling Trump.
There was also a noteworthy statement released by Republican Dan Coats, who not only is the Director of National Intelligence, but someone appointed to his job by Trump. He said -- "We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security."
His words are low-key, to be sure. But coming from the DNI who is Trump's own appointed man in the job, it speaks profoundly loudly.
And then there was the statement released by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). It expressed the outraged fury that should have been said by every Republican in Congress. Let alone in America. You've likely heard passages of it quoted. It's worth seeing the whole thing in its pointed fury --
“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.
“President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world.
“It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout – as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.
“Coming close on the heels of President Trump’s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today’s press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency. That the president was attended in Helsinki by a team of competent and patriotic advisors makes his blunders and capitulations all the more painful and inexplicable.
“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed. Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain.”
That's what they all should have said. Most have said nothing.
It was a wonderful and proper statement. I admire Sen. McCain making it. And I particularly admire it while he has other personal issues on his plate to deal with, and wish him well with his uphill battle on his health. He said precisely what needed to be said, in all its eviscerating rage.
Since this is about the Republican Party at fault, I must also add in full perspective that as critical as Mr. McCain has been of Trump in the past, more than most of his his fellow-GOP senators, I wish even he had not offered so many of his votes in support of a man he knew (more than most) how cruelly reprehensible he was. And wish too that he hadn't opened the door to such pathetically-low standards for demagogues by making Sarah Palin a potential heart-beat from the presidency. But -- one must give proper due when speaking so eloquently and properly as his words were yesterday.
And of course, as noted, for words of well-deserved outrage, Democrats were at the top of the list.
Republicans, for large part, were "shocked." And disappointed. And disturbed. Which at least is an uncommon step in the right direction for them. Some, like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) were so riled up that he went so far as to say that Trump's comments were (buckle yourself...) "inaccurate." Though mostly, Republicans were silent. Of course. And ultimately, what matters most is not what they or anyone says, but how people act. Starting now.
But in the end, this wasn't about Trump. We've long known who he is. This is about the Republican Party. And to see if they're able to finally live up their responsibility and sworn duty. Because for two years, they've knowingly and willingly enabled the traitor who is precisely today what he has been during those past two years.
Oh, and just as a side note: that supposedly-missing DNC server is sitting in DNC headquarters. Right where it's always been. So, too, is the hard drive, which is actually what Trump was ignorantly trying to wrongly complain about. And, yes, the FBI got all the information off of it. (You can read all about it here.) It was fully and properly investigated. Of course. More fun with facts: you remember all that detailed information in the Justice Department indictment of 12 Russian GRU military operatives about (among other things) how and when they specifically attacked the U.S. and broke into DNC computers -- that's where the FBI got the information.
The Republican Party sat through all that silently, too.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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