Are We There Yet?


Let’s just do a quick recap.

Trump goes to the NATO conference.

He gives an interview to the Sun in which he blasts PM May, his host. Then he denies that he said it even though the Sun has the whole interview on tape. He blasts NATO, lies about how much of the burden the US is bearing, takes credit for spending increases that were underway before he was elected, and then suggests that the mutual defense pact that is at the heart of NATO may be dangerous. Then he claims that the meeting was wonderful and everyone is better off as a result

Trump has a summit with Putin.

He ignores the advice of his staff, the diplomatic corps, and the intelligence community.

He has a private 2 hour meeting where only interpreters are present. No details of that meeting have been made public by him. The Russian government has suggested some agreements were made regarding military deployments.

In the press conference following the meeting he says that he finds Putin more trustworthy than his own intelligence services regarding the issue of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. He also celebrates the Russian offer to allow the justice department to work with the Russian government to interview the 12 Russians recently indicted for election tampering. In exchange Russians asked to interview some people whom Putin considers political enemies including former Ambassador Michael McFaul and former US citizen Bill Browder.

He comes back to this country and is furious to discover that his Russian meeting isn’t being celebrated as the triumph that he thought it was. His own staff say that he is confuses Russian meddling in our election with collusion.  He feels that the whole thing is an effort to undermine the legitimacy of his election rather than a reasonable response to an attack by country that seeks to do us harm.  He immediately pushed Pompeo and Bolton to schedule a follow-up meeting in Washington with Putin which blindsided National Intelligence director Dan Coates among others.

Trump lies about what he said in Russia suggesting that changing one word would alter the whole fawning exhibition that he put on. When asked about the “incredible offer”, his press secretary could only say that Trump was planning to “work with his team”. It took almost a week for them to reject that offer.

The press asked Trump whether or not he believed that Russia was still attempting to disrupt our election process. This was after security officials had said that Russians have stepped up their hacking attempts. Trump said no. Later his press secretary made another clumsy attempt to rewrite history by suggesting that Trump was answering a different question than the one that the video shows he was clearly answering.

Former Trump staffer Michael Anton has been an advocate for populist policies in the Trump administration. He recently published a very controversial opinion piece in the Washington Post suggesting Trump could change the 14th amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship with an executive order. Even he couldn’t bring himself to defend the recent actions of this administration. He joined the chorus of conservative thought leaders encouraging all those who care about the future of this country to vote out the Republican party this fall.  They all suggest that this is the only viable strategy to curb a president whom appears to be a threat to our security.

Trump ran on the promise to improve relations with Russia. That begs the basic question, however, of whether or not Russia is interested in having improved relations and can be trusted to treat us as a friend rather than an enemy. Putin was asked that question during the Helsinki press conference. His response was that he was going to do whatever he feels is in the best interests of Russia and he would expect that Trump will act in the best interests of the United States. There has been no question that past presidents could be trusted to act in the best interests of the United States when they spoke with leaders from Russia or the USSR . In the opinion of security experts and experienced diplomats across the political spectrum, Trump’s actions and statements do not meet that standard.

Our intelligence services and the justice department have told us that Russia is actively engaged in attempts to destabilize our democracy. It is no longer a question of who or how. We know the people who were involved. We know what they did and we know why they did it. There is no question that all of this was orchestrated by Putin’s government. We also know that Putin continues to deny any responsibility and Trump has said he is willing to accept that denial.

Trump’s son admitted to being eager to obtain “dirt” on Clinton from Russians. He was only one of multiple members of the Trump campaign who had contacts with Russians during and after the campaign and then lied about it.

We know that a Russian hacking effort started the day after Trump publically asked Russians to try to locate “missing” Clinton emails.

We know that Russians shared stolen DNC information with the public which the Trump campaign then used. We also know that some of the stolen information was passed by Russians to Republicans who used it to win House seats.

We know that the Russians are continuing their efforts to disrupt our elections, but Republicans recently killed an effort to fund increased state level election security.

A Russian spy was recently arrested after infiltrating the NRA. The NRA was one of the biggest contributors to the Trump campaign. The FBI is currently investigating whether some of that money was illegally funneled from Russian sources.

The Trump administration recently changed campaign rules to make is virtually impossible to trace future political contribution like the NRA ones currently under investigation.

Trump partisans have recently been suggesting that even if it could be proved that the Russians were successful in helping get Trump elected, it was still better for the country than if Hillary Clinton had won.

Whether or not those efforts were successful, the question remains that we have a president who appears unwilling to take these risks seriously. Whether it is by design, incompetence, or dementia the result is the same. The president’s own behavior poses a risk to our country’s security.

What roles are Pompeo and Bolton playing in this strategy? If they support Trump’s strategy, then they should also be held accountable. If not, they should resign and share what they know with the American people so our representatives can decide how to respond.

The majority party in the Senate and House has a constitutional responsibility to act when the president betrays the interests of the country. While some leaders of the Republican Party have spoken out, the only action that has been taken so far has been a nonbinding resolution objecting to making any US citizens available for questioning by Russian authorities.

Partisans trotted out past actions by other administration suggesting that Trump’s actions are no worse in comparison. This is a common tactic suggesting that it is all just politics and media bias. A careful analysis of this argument, however, leads to a deeper question. If it is all just politics, then what would THIS president have to do in order to cause his supporters to take the warnings of conservative thought leaders seriously.

That’s why it is the responsibility of the leaders in the Republican Party to help Republicans understand the great risks we face as a country when our president doesn’t appear to be acting in the country’s best interests.  The fact that we can’t even have the discussion because Republican elected officials fear the repercussions of perceived disloyalty indicates the grave danger we may be facing.

This is also why an authoritarian leader is so dangerous in our democratic system. If the Republican Party took their constitutional responsibilities seriously and began a sincere debate regarding the president’s actions, Trump would likely abandon that party and try to convince his supporters that HE is the only one that matters. If he was successful in convincing enough people to support him, there would be no effective limit to his power. He could declare war. He could enlist the military to solidify his domestic power. He could fire everyone in the justice department that opposed him. He could begin jailing his critics as he has already suggested. He could appoint new judges whose loyalty is to him rather than the constitution.  This is the well worn path that many autocrats from Hitler to Pinochet have followed.

That’s why it is important to start the conversation now, before Trump takes any further steps to either erode our democracy or consolidate his power.

While all this is going on, Trump’s legal troubles are only getting worse. We now have tapes that prove that Trump lied about his relationship with Karen McDougal. It is highly likely that the National Enquirer’s payment to her to spike her story before the 2016 election will be found to be an illegal campaign contribution which Trump was aware of.  Trump’s response was to claim that “your favorite President” did nothing wrong.  How will he respond as Cohen continues to cooperate with the Mueller investigation?

It is time for this country to have an honest and open debate about whether or not this president is acting in the best interests of the country.

If not now, when?

8 Responses to “Are We There Yet?”

  1. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Recent Trump Tweets

    Regarding FISA request data recently published

    “confirm with little doubt that the Department of ‘Justice’ and FBI misled the courts.”

    Nope. It confirmed that the Justice Department and the FBI had reasonable cause because someone with deep ties to Russia was part of the Trump campaign and another person associated with the Trump campaign was bragging about how the Russians were going to help the campaign.

    “Looking more & more like the Trump Campaign for President was illegally being spied upon (surveillance) for the political gain of Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC,”

    Another lie. The DOJ and the FBI did what they were supposed to do. They got approval from the FISA court and kept that court advised on the progress of the investigation. It ultimately resulted in an indictment for Carter Page. Nothing illegal there.

    “An illegal Scam! … Witch Hunt Rigged, a Scam! … ILLEGAL!”

    This is a deliberate attempt to undermine the confidence of the public in the courts and the DOJ. This is what autocrats do.

    What we have instead is proof that Nunes is a political hack in the pocket of the Trump administration. His memo questioning the FBI’s honesty was disproved in the FISA documents where CLEARLY both the Steele memo and it’s potential political bias are detailed. The FISA court had ALL of the information that the Nunes memo suggested the FBI withheld and STILL authorized surveillance of Carter Page.

    To make a finer point, by the time that the FISA court authorized surveillance of Page, Page was no longer associated with the Trump campaign. So Trump’s claim that this represented spying on his campaign is a lie. Also FISA court authorizations don’t require presidential approval. Obama was not involved in authorizing this surveillance. Suggesting that he was, is another attempt to undermine one of the norms of our democracy. Sitting presidents don’t use their power to influence elections.

    On this last point, Trump on one hand was criticizing the Obama administration for spying on his campaign because of potential Russian involvement, then in another tweet he criticizes the Obama administration for not being more aggressive in combating Russian meddling in the 2016 election. You can’t have it both ways.

    Finally in a Sunday Tweet, Trump suggests that the judges on the FISA court should be investigated. This continues a very dangerous attitude that Trump has exhibited which questions the authority AND the ability of judges to be unbiased. Turns out that ll four judges on this court were appointed by Republican presidents. Those same FISA requests were also approved by Trump appointees to the DOJ.

    What is most troubling about all of this is that, despite evidence to the contrary, a majority of Trump supporters believe that the Obama administration DID illegally spy on the Trump campaign.

    That’s how propaganda works. Keep repeating the same lie over and over and eventually people start believing it. That lie today is that the Obama administration illegally spied on the Trump campaign. The lie tomorrow could be that Trump did nothing wrong even though the Mueller investigation finds otherwise. The lie after that is could be that the DOJ and the courts are just out to get Trump, so Trump had to fire, dismiss, or replace them. Eroding the public’s trust in a free press is an autocrats first step toward eliminating them altogether.

    Taking security clearances away from past officials because of they are critical of the current president is another example of autocracy. These people haven’t breached any confidence. They aren’t a security risk because they aren’t currently working for the government. The only thing they have done is exercise their First Amendment right to express their opinion. Trump is seeking to punish them for that and also discourage others from also saying anything critical of Trump.

  2. Keith says:

    Are we there yet?

  3. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Are we there yet?

    You still haven’t answered my question regarding what if anything Trump COULD do that would justify a conversation about his fitness for office.

    By your comment, I can only assume that as long as the economy continues to grow at a rate above 4%, Trump can do anything else that he wants to do.

    If that is not how you feel, please provide where you feel the boundaries are regarding unacceptable behavior by a sitting president.

  4. Keith says:

    Trump could do many things MANY things that lose my support. Amoung them are not things we knew about him prior to his election. Remember Ms Bagalia calling him a carnival barker and I really took hold of that? HE IS and that’s exactly how he behaves. Exaggeration, hyperbole, stretching the truth, confusing the truth, stretching the truth, all things that a carnival barker does and I EXPECT from him. That’s who we elected. If President Obama or W had turned into a carnival barker I would have been concerned because that’s not who we elected. The left simply can not get their arms around this.

    A note, Trump in my opinion had no idea on many things what to do, right or wrong, on many this as nominee and as president elect. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he stepped in it a few times.

    Trump has nominated to judges to the Supreme Court I approve of, many to the federal bench, the regulatory reforms that I’m aware of I like. He eliminated the manidtory enrollment in the ACA, lowered taxes and spurred the economy and unemployment is really low and the participation rate just keeps going up. All things that are good in my book. Many problems remain however.

    So as long as Trump acts like the Trump we elected then i have no problems. I’m more interest in what he does then says. (I believe his poll numbers are raising) As a side note I would rather Nikki Haley.

  5. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Trump could do many things MANY things that lose my support.

    Please pick one so we can move on from this discussion.

  6. Keith says:

    I would not support him if he cheated on his wife since he’s been president. I would not support him if he acted in his own personal interest while negotiating with forgein governments ahead of the country. I would not support him if he proved to be a thief while in office. I would not support him if he used his position for the sole purpose of enriching himself. I would not support him if he proves incompetent to manage his agenda, or mine. I could type forever.

    The left wanted Trump out and you even wrote about his mental capacity. Do you support Maxine Waters? Have you seen and heard Nancy Polosi recently?

  7. Jeff Beamsley says:

    I would not support him if he cheated on his wife since he’s been president. I would not support him if he acted in his own personal interest while negotiating with forgein governments ahead of the country. I would not support him if he proved to be a thief while in office. I would not support him if he used his position for the sole purpose of enriching himself. I would not support him if he proves incompetent to manage his agenda, or mine. I could type forever.

    Thanks for the list. We’ll see if any of these turn up.

    The left wanted Trump out and you even wrote about his mental capacity.

    Lot’s of people across the political spectrum have publicly advocated for Trump’s removal – not just liberals or progressives. Russian Communists (supposedly as far left as you can get), seem to be just fine with him.

    I was concerned because he was slurring his speech (aphasia) and losing his train of thought in mid sentence (memory lapse). Both of these things are indications of disease (e.g. Alzheimer) or injury (e.g. concussion or stroke). He hasn’t had one of those episodes in public since. So either he is being treated for whatever condition caused those things or they were the result of some temporary condition and it has passed.

    Do you support Maxine Waters?

    She doesn’t represent me. She represents the voters in Southern California. She regularly gets 70% of the votes, so they seem happy with her.

    Have you seen and heard Nancy Polosi recently?

    Same story. She represents voters in San Francisco. She also represents the Democratic Party in the House as minority leader. I haven’t seen any evidence that she is somehow impaired. She also gets 70+% of the votes in her district, so they must feel she is doing a good job.

  8. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Are we there yet?

    Trade reports came out a couple of days ago. One of the data points buried in that report was that 1% of the GDP growth for the quarter was the result of Trump tariffs. Overseas buyers rushed to purchase US goods before the price went up.

    Net exports, for instance, added a full percentage point to GDP in the second quarter — an unusually high addition from that source.

    That is going to be tough to duplicate in the next quarter. The real growth rate is probably closer to 3%.

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