Rex Nutting: Donald Trump is the new Benedict Arnold

Rex Nutting: Donald Trump is the new Benedict Arnold

Russia’s ongoing attack on our democracy amounts to an act of war. But instead of confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin at a joint press conference in Finland on Monday, Donald Trump praised him.

Instead of standing up to Putin, Trump stood by him.

By his actions, Trump is violating his oath, in which he “solemnly swore” to not only “faithfully execute” his duties as president and commander in chief of the armed forces, but also to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution.

Trump — to whom nothing is sacred — has violated a sacred trust and should be removed from office.

Despite overwhelming evidence collected by U.S. intelligence agencies, the Justice Department, congressional investigators and the private sector that Russia actively subverted the 2016 election and still seeks to disrupt the democratic process, Trump has never condemned Russia, nor demanded answers from the Russians, nor insisted that Russia cease and desist.

Instead, Trump says he believes Putin’s smirking denials over the sober assessment of his own Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, who told him that the evidence clearly shows that Russia was guilty of trying to hack the election. After Trump’s disgraceful fealty to Putin today, Coats repeated his assessment.

12 Russian spies

But Trump doesn’t believe Coats, or the investigators at the Justice Department who got 12 Russian spies indicted on cyberhacking charges on Friday. Trump believes Putin, the former KGB agent who has run a brutal regime that has suppressed dissent and murdered its opponents, including journalists. Trump admires Putin’s authoritarian verve.

Read: Russian woman charged with conspiring to infiltrate U.S. politics using gun-group front

“My people came to me — Dan Coats came to me and some others — they said they think it’s Russia,” Trump said at the press conference after meeting with Putin in private. “I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Trump says he doesn’t see what everyone else can: Russia attacked us in 2016. But Trump knows the truth, even if he won’t say it out loud. He himself invited the Russians to hack into the computers of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party to help him win the presidency. Whether he and his campaign entered into a formal alliance with Putin in 2016 or not, it’s well established by now that Russia did give Trump assistance, and people very close to Trump solicited and accepted that aid.

Putin wanted Trump to win

What’s more, the Russians did much more on their own to swing the election to Trump. Putin admitted on Monday that he wanted Trump to win.

Everybody in Washington knows that Russia is waging a relentless cyberwar against the United States. “There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan after Trump’s obsequious performance in Helsinki. “The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally.”

It now remains to Paul Ryan and the rest of the craven House Republican Caucus to do the right thing and impeach the commander in chief for his failure to defend the nation while under attack. No one should hold their breath for that act of courage, however.

‘Think patriotically’

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein cautioned on Friday that the successful defense of American democracy wouldn’t be a slam dunk. “When we confront foreign interference in American elections, it is important for us to avoid thinking politically as Republicans or Democrats and instead to think patriotically as Americans,” Rosenstein said. “Our response must not depend on which side was victimized.”

“There will always be adversaries who seek to exacerbate our divisions and try to confuse, divide, and conquer us. So long as we are united in our commitment to the values enshrined in the Constitution, they will not succeed,” Rosenstein continued. He is a Republican.

That means that Republicans must start to take Donald Trump’s anti-Americanism seriously.

Imagine, for a moment, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had met with the Japanese delegation just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Imagine FDR saying: “My people came to me — they said they think it’s Japan. But I have the Japanese ambassador and he just said it’s not Japan. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

FDR would have been whisked out of office by a unanimous vote.

Obviously, the Russians didn’t sink the jewel of our Pacific fleet or kill thousands of Americans. But what they did was worse in a way: They attacked the heart of our nation, the American ideal that our government is and ought to be of the people. They spotted our weakness and they exploited our divisions for their own purposes. They sowed dissension, and made us question the legitimacy of our democratic process.

The Russians may not have been instrumental in Trump’s election, but they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. The American president is a man who wants to be just like Vladimir Putin.

Step aside, Benedict Arnold. There’s a new champion traitor in town.

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