Hooray for James Risen in The Intercept, for clearly stating the stakes in the still-unfolding Trump-Russia story: is Donald Trump guilty of treason?
Treason seems to be on President Trump’s mind these days. He said treason was the proper word for booing the President, at least if it’s done by Democrats in Congress at his State of the Union speech.
The gratuity and overkill of that statement was noted, but as just another eruption from a serial bloviator.
Here’s another way to think about it. As one of my teachers at Tuckahoe Elementary School used to say, “A guilty conscience needs no accuser.”
World history is full of examples of people gratuitously blurting accusations of the very crimes they themselves have committed.
In this case, the crime, treason, is defined in the US Criminal Code as follows: “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.“
The key words for our President are “adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”
Let’s take ‘em in reverse order. “Aid and comfort?” What was it that got Gen. Michael Flynn is deep trouble? What was it he tried to hide, first, from Vice President Mike Pence and then from the FBI? That he was talking to the Russians about President Trump’s intentions to relieve, reduce or remove the sanctions President Barack Obama had just slapped on them.
If there were to be a quid pro quo, no one has heard of it.
No, sanctions relief was to be simply a free-handed gesture from the new President. Who keeps on giving, by the way. To this day, Mr. Trump refuses to enact further sanctions voted by Congress. Can you call this short-term aid and comfort?
As for Vladimir Putin’s long game, how aid-full the Trump-GOP tax law must be, emphasizing as it does, what his Soviet predecessors and models would have called “the contradictions” in American democracy: economic inequality and social injustice.
And ask the qui bono question about Trump’s abdication from global leadership.
Vladimir Putin lives to play zero-sum games, in which every adversary must be defeated. The record shows that this is also the way Donald Trump does business, always looking for an edge, because, the men would agree, it all comes down to winners and losers. And bottom line: every reduction in reputation Donald Trump inflicts on America, redounds to Russia’s benefit. Aid and comfort, indeed.
OK, so what about adherence to our enemies. Some will note that in 2016, Russia could not be legally described as an enemy. Oh no? Well, maybe we didn’t realize it at the time, but the criminal conspiracy laid out in the Mueller “troll factory” indictments show Russians breaking laws against foreign influence and foreign money being applied to American elections, with the malign intent of defaming an American political leader and discrediting our process of democracy.
That would seem to qualify them as America’s enemies, and the central role alleged played by the oligarch Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, a.k.a. “Putin’s chef,” would imply that, yes, the Kremlin itself, was involved in this enemy activity.
Now, the hard parts, proving “adherence,” and proving obstruction of justice to hide said adherence.
If the “turned” Mike Flynn can tell what was on offer with regard to sanctions relief or other benefits from the Trump Administration to the Russians, the “friendly witness” George Papadapoulos can talk about what the Russians were offering to the Trump campaign.
And, one suspects, Carter Page, too, will eventually be squeezed to reveal what value he saw in the Russian contacts he triumphantly presented to the Trump campaign. What aid and comfort could the campaign expect from these Russians? And what, beyond a Trump Presidency, did they want in return?
Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort seem to have expected to reap significant benefits, even if no more than Russian “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, sufficient to interrupt their busy days to troop over to Trump Tower. Emails suggest they knew that their interlocutors were foreigners who clearly intended to disrupt the ongoing political process. This is why Steve Bannon called their actions “traitorous.”
Were these “useful idiots”, who were so indiscreet as to take a meeting predicated on illegal activity, equally indiscreet in the meeting itself? How exactly did Junior put the money question to the Russians—“Whatcha got on Hillary?”
And how did he, or any of the other members of the Trump team, respond to whatever answer they got from the Russians? Whatever that was, it seems to have encouraged Donald Trump himself to Tweet enthusiastically, just days later, about revelations to come, from the Russians or somewhere, that would undermine the Clinton candidacy.
Were promises made by representatives of a Trump Presidency that might be construed as adhering to a foreign power? Whatever the Americans in the meeting have told the FBI about what they said can be checked against the memories of a slew of other witnesses, Russian witnesses who were also in the room.
Whatever happened at Trump Tower disturbed Donald Trump enough that he dictated a cover story that falsely described it. His lies were repeated to journalists by young Don Jr.
If Junior or either of the other 2 campaign bigwigs, Jared and Manafort, followed Trump’s instructions, and repeated his fictions to the FBI, that’s not only criminal in itself, it’s evidence that long before he fired FBI Director James Comey, Trump had launched a conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Special Prosecutor Mueller’s 13 indictments are just another step along the path to Judgment Day. But it has already accomplished something important: it has demonstrated the magnitude of the crimes against America and democracy that Trump and his enablers are trying to deny or denigrate.
Interesting, isn’t it, that the 2 major themes the Russian trolls wanted to communicate to Americans were the two main themes of the Trump campaign: that Hillary Clinton wasn’t just a bad candidate but a dangerous criminal, and that the election itself, and all American politics, were “rigged.”
Oh, then there’s that “fake news” thing, in which the label is placed on legitimate, fact-based, accountable journalism (when it’s critical), while not a word is spoken about or against the Russian-financed and directed digital agitprop that invaded the 2016 American election, whose worst examples were what begat the “fake news” label in the first place.
This could just be a coincidence, or it could be adherence to the goals and propaganda of America’s most implacable enemy.