The spectacle today of President Trump's shameful news conference with Russia's dictator Vladimir Putin, in which he gave more credence to Putin's denial of interference with the 2016 presidential election than the findings of his own government, was shocking to the core.
In fact, former US intelligence chiefs expressed astonishment and condemnation in response to Trump's comments, with former CIA Director John Brennan calling the US President's performance "nothing short of treasonous."
Tweeted Brennan, ""Donald Trump's press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of 'high crimes & misdemeanors.' It was nothing short of treasonous," Brennan served as CIA chief from 2013 through January 2017. "Not only were Trump's comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???"
We will find out.
As James Fallows, veteran national correspondent for The Atlantic, wrote after the debacle in Helsinki, "Either Donald Trump is flat-out an agent of Russian interests—maybe witting, maybe unwitting, from fear of blackmail, in hope of future deals, out of manly respect for Vladimir Putin, out of gratitude for Russia’s help during the election, out of pathetic inability to see beyond his 306 electoral votes. Whatever the exact mixture of motives might be, it doesn’t really matter.
"Or he is so profoundly ignorant, insecure, and narcissistic that he did not realize that, at every step, he was advancing the line that Putin hoped he would advance, and the line that the American intelligence, defense, and law-enforcement agencies most dreaded.
"Conscious tool. Useful idiot. Those are the choices, though both are possibly true, so that the main question is the proportions.
"Whatever the balance of motivations, what mattered was that Trump’s answers were indistinguishable from Putin’s, starting with the fundamental claim that Putin’s assurances about interference in U.S. democracy (“He was incredibly strong and confident in his denial”) deserved belief over those of his own Department of Justice (“I think the probe is a disaster for our country”)."
What was the Republican response? Where were those patriots mentioned by Brennan? Well, they spent a lot of time wringing their hands.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said "The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally," adding that "The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy."
Other comments by Republicans were equally pointed, but some were just typical, saying Trump's performance in Helsinki was "very concerning."
Tweeted Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), ""Missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections." Wow, Senator. That's really a strong statement. So what now? What are you and your GOP colleagues going to do now?
The Atlantic's John Brennan put it best, however.
"Those who could do something are the 51 Republican senators and 236 Republican representatives who have the power to hold hearings, issue subpoenas, pass resolutions of censure, guarantee the integrity of Robert Mueller’s investigation, condemn the past Russian election interference, shore up protections against the next assault, and in general defend their country rather than the damaged and defective man who is now its president.
"For 18 months, members of this party have averted their eyes from Trump, rather than disturb the Trump elements among their constituency or disrupt the party’s agenda on tax cuts and the Supreme Court. They already bear responsibility for what Trump has done to his office.
"But with every hour that elapses after this shocking performance in Helsinki without Republicans doing anything, the more deeply they are stained by this dark moment in American leadership."
I worked on Capitol Hill as a Congressional chief of staff during Watergate. This is far, far worse. Richard Nixon was a crook. This president is a traitor.