Last Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation charged 12 Russian government intelligence agents with direct interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Not China, not some 400-pound guy in his basement: Vladimir Putin did this.
Despite knowing about these indictments in advance, at the Helsinki weekend summit Donald Trump said he believes Putin and not his own country’s intelligence officials.
Montana’s Republican members of Congress, Senator Steve Daines and Representative Greg Gianforte, are treading a fine line. I think (and hope and pray) they recognize that what Trump is doing with Russia is dangerous and, indeed, a wholesale betrayal of America.
They are caught between Montana constituents who still support our malignant president by 52 percent to 44 percent (according to the latest Morning Consult poll) and doing what is right for our country.
Americans of honest faith should no longer judge Trump based on the results of Mueller’s probe of election collusion; they must recognize that right now their president, the most powerful person in world governance, openly works for Russia’s interests and against America. (We’ll leave aside the completely baffling question of, “Why??”)
This is what collusion looks like in real time.
To many of us who care deeply for and even served our country against foreign enemies, Trump publicly siding with Putin is treasonous. Continuing to criticize allies while mimicking the talking points of an autocratic, lying, former KGB, Russian dictator are the words and deeds of someone who is a traitor to his country.
This doesn’t matter much as it pertains to Trump himself: True Believers in the Dear Leader will never see the truth, no matter how often or comprehensively it is pointed out. Montana Trump supporters are all-in, psychologically and politically. The Great Falls rally two weeks ago settled this point. They deserve a marginal amount of sympathy: it must be crushingly difficult to recognize that you were duped by a con-man and voted for someone who never cared about your interests.
What matters now is that Greg Gianforte and Steve Daines (the latter is not on the November ballot) either declare that they are for America and not Trump-and-Russia or get replaced.
They made a middling start. Both issued statements following Trump’s humiliating kiss-up to Putin:
Daines: “Russia is our adversary and must be held accountable[.]”
Gianforte: “Russia is not our ally . . . and must be held accountable.”
Yet there is meal in those mouths: neither mentioned Trump’s open capitulation while standing next to Russia’s dictator. Neither mentioned that the American President comforts and copies Putin. Neither mentioned that Americans must stand together to oppose enemies, foreign and domestic. Now.
It is Trump who is ripping the fabric of our country, and not to call him out on it is to contribute to it.
The Trump recession is coming. The Trump tax-cut giveaway to the rich exploded the debt and made it impossible to effectively counteract that recession. Trump’s ignorant trade war will hurt Montana consumers and producers alike and put Montana farmers out of business. His betrayal of long-time allies and trade partners lessens U.S. influence in the world and strengthens China and Russia. These are crucial faults, and Americans will feel the pain personally.
But an American president praising America’s true geopolitical foe on a public stage while criticizing his own country is a different level of American betrayal.
At what point do Montana’s representatives stop being sheep and become leaders? We can only hope that we will see it or replace them before too much more damage is done.
Jon-Claud Nix is a former Marine Corps officer and resident of Washington, D.C. He worked previously in national security and economic policy and politics. He now resides in Missoula.