Viewpoint: Shocked and awestruck in Helsinki

Karen Rubin

Just when you think Donald Trump couldn’t be more outrageous, more dangerous, more debasing to American institutions and values and the presidency, itself, the world sees him standing next to Vladimir Putin, looking small, sheepish, obsequious, an acolyte deferring to his master, parroting Putin’s line, humiliating the United States, equivocating American justice with Russia’s lack of it, and upending America’s vaunted rule of law.

The Russian dictator was barely able to contain his glee.

Putin managed to say that he had never meddled in U.S. elections, and never would, but that yes, he did favor Trump to be elected.

Kompromat? Putin demonstrably lied that he didn’t even know Trump was in town in 2013, but he does know a thing or two about dossiers.

And instead of extraditing the 12 Russian officers indicted for stealing data from the DNC and the Clinton campaign, he magnanimously offered to host American investigators to come to Russia to join the interrogation as Russians could interrogate Americans he accuses of interfering in Russia’s elections.

Trump thought this a fantastic idea (can he order Mueller’s investigators to do that?).

Trump was also eager to partner with Putin on cybersecurity (that’s letting the fox into the henhouse, for sure), encouraging U.S.-Russia business collaborations (what about those pesky sanctions?

Clearly, that was the deal they worked out in private) and working collaboratively to raise the price of oil and gas.

“I think that we, as a major oil and gas power, and the United States as a major oil and gas power as well, we could work together on regulation of international markets, because neither of us is actually interested in the plummeting of the prices,” Putin said, in reaction to Trump’s absurd attack on Angela Merkel that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline made Germany a “puppet” of Russia.

“Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to and exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors’,” former CIA Director John Brennan tweeted. “It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”

Trump has been able to get away with clear violations of his oath of office, the Constitution, the Rule of Law because it is so outrageous, so unprecedented, so frequent, it can’t be comprehended.

Also, Republicans see Trump as the means to achieving their agenda ends (ending Medicare, Social Security, Obamacare, environmental protections, women’s rights, voting rights, etc.).

“We are in a constitutional crisis,” CBS News justice and homeland security correspondent Jeff Pegues author of “Kompromat: How Russia Undermined American Democracy,” told NPR.

Putin had so much to grin about.

Trump’s rampage through Europe including calling the European Union “a foe,” trashing UK Prime Minister Theresa May and elevating Boris Johnson while swiping at Brexit (that vote was also likely manipulated by Russia), and denigrating NATO (having already disrupted the G7, where he called for Russia to be readmitted and attacked Canada P.M. Trudeau), on top of toppling U.S. leadership on climate, on Iran, on trade policies that helped global markets recover from the recession initiated by the U.S. in 2008.

On the other hand, Trump has done his best to elevate Russia, with a GDP less than Texas and only 30th on the list of US trading partners, to co-equal with the U.S., seemingly to divide the world between them.

Instead, quietly, in the wings, is China spreading its sphere of influence.

“No collusion,” Trump claimed, saying that the Moeller investigation is the reason that relations with Russia are at an all-time low – not because of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, incursion into Ukraine, shooting down Malaysian flight MH killing 298 civilians exactly four years ago, its meddling in European elections including Brexit, or its cyberattacks on critical American infrastructure (electric grid, water, financial networks, air transport control), and most especially, its attack on American democracy through its manipulation of the election that , well, resulted in Trump winning the Electoral College (by 70,000 votes over three states).

But if Mueller couldn’t pin down “collusion” or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian agents before, Trump gave a clear demonstration of what colluding with a foreign adversary looks like.

Trump not only has refused to lift a finger to protect America’s electoral system against an even more sophisticated and brazen attack, he is openly encouraging it because instead of sanctions and consequences, Putin is being rewarded.

Indeed, it is more than likely that’s what the tyrant and the tyrant-wannabe discussed in their two-hour private meeting: how Russia might help Republicans retain control of Congress in the midterms, and secure reelection in 2020.

As Putin did admit, he did favor Trump for election.

On Friday, the same day as Trump dissed U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump’s own Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, painted a stark picture of cybersecurity threats to the nation, comparing the warning signs to those that flashed red before 9/11, saying, “The system is blinking. I believe we’re at a critical point.”
It doesn’t even have to be Russia, though the next time, Russia’s techniques will likely be even more sophisticated, very possibly flipping just enough e-votes to tip the balance for the desired candidate.

But it could be North Korea, China, Macedonia, or just Brad Parscale, Trump’s reelection campaign manager, building upon the Cambridge Analytica software and the social media methods he used so effectively in 2016, as he boasted, to suppress voting from women, blacks and liberals.

Eric Swalwell (D-Calif., a member of the House Intelligence Committee) Trump went “lower than I thought he could go. There may have been an American flag on stage, but there was no American president, there were two defenders of Russia.

“We’re not helpless in Congress,” he said.”We have the authority to protect the United States: to protect Mueller, pass an independent commission (outside Congress), vote every resource possible to protect against what DNI Coats warns can compromise election apparatus.”

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Karen Rubin

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