We’ve gotten to that point when one starts to truly wonder, How much longer can this go on? How much longer can a nation go on pretending we’re a functional democracy when 57 percent of voters believe it’s “likely” that Russia “has compromising information” on Trump. In essence, that’s nearly six-in-ten voters looking at the pr*sident’s behavior and concluding that surely he’s acting like a Russian agent because there’s just no other reasonable explanation for what we’re witnessing. The Friday indictment of longtime Trump adviser and serial liar Roger Stone did nothing to dissuade this narrative.
But the eye-popping number of Americans who say Trump could be compromised is likely the reason impeachment talk blossomed then ballooned so suddenly in the hours following a Buzzfeed bombshell last week alleging Trump had ordered a subordinate to lie to Congress about a Russian real estate project. Congressional Democrats, once allergic to the I-word, suddenly vowed to hold hearings on the matter and get to the bottom of things. Then confusion and disillusionment set in when the special counsel, who comments on practically nothing, issued what seemed like a lawyerly half-hearted denial of the reporting almost a full day after it first surfaced. The statement claimed Buzzfeed’s “description” and “characterization” of documents and testimony the special counsel had obtained were “not accurate.” But a wholesale denial seemingly would have read much more straightforward: “Buzzfeed’s reporting is inaccurate based on information in possession of the special counsel.”
Unlike the special counsel’s statement, Buzzfeed’s article seemed to bring a brief moment of clarity to a subject that has been rattling around in voters’ minds for months, if not years. Watching Trump’s performance in front of Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last July was like watching a demoralized dog finally give up any inkling of independence and surrender to its master.
Pre-Helsinki, Trump’s record on Russia-related issues was already deeply suspicious. He made multiple attempts, both overt and covert, to hamstring the investigation into his Russian ties; railed against the people involved in the probe, in some cases vindictively dismantling their careers; invited Russian operatives into the Oval Office at Putin’s behest, bragged that firing his own “nut job” FBI director had really relieved the “pressure” surrounding the Russia probe, and then revealed classified intelligence to them.
But post-Helsinki, Trump has delivered nothing short of a Putin wish list of objectives that is shaking this nation to its core. The government shutdown, stretching an agonizing 35 days, crippled the federal government—destroying FBI investigations designed to protect the nation from our enemies, stoking chaos among Americans who couldn’t pay their bills or get the services they needed, and wreaking havoc on the basic safety functions provided by federal employees like air traffic controllers. A foreign adversary couldn’t possibly dream up a more demoralizing and debilitating episode for a long-time foe.
So yeah, that along with Trump’s insistence on spiting all our decades-long Western allies, forcing out a totally competent Defense Secretary through a Syria troop withdrawal that benefits Russia, lifting sanctions on one of Putin’s biggest allies, and ripping up our multilateral trade agreements in favor of nominally different, inferior, or even non-existent ones—boggles the mind, to say the least. And then we find out there’s no documentation of Trump’s conversations with Putin because Trump actually confiscated the ones that existed, among other things.
Just imagine—if you were compromised by Russia, what do you think you might be ordered to do as president? Exactly what Trump has been doing and no one seems to be able to stop.
So the idea that impeachment could be tied to something concrete like suborning perjury was a respite. It put a momentary fine point on a swirl of disorienting questions that Americans are still waiting with bated breath for Robert Mueller to clear up.
Whereas the Buzzfeed story that Mueller dashed hinged on the notion that Trump “directed” Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, the Stone indictment teases us with the allegation that a senior Trump campaign official “was directed” to contact Stone about future Wikileaks releases. So who had the power to order around a “senior” campaign official? Again, we are left with more questions than answers.
In the meantime, despite Trump’s cave on Friday, he’s still a mad man who’s threatening to go nuclear all over again in three weeks if he doesn’t get his border wall money. Thank goddess, Nancy Pelosi is holding the gavel at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue because the thought of Kevin McCarthy running the show is nothing short of frightening. Nonetheless, the country needs answers and frankly deserves clarity sooner rather than later on whether we are all living under Putin’s thumb.