Russia’s road to war in Ukraine started in Washington, DC – on the day the Republican Party officially hitched its wagon (its whole brand in fact!) to Donald Trump’s. That wasn’t July 19, 2016 the day the GOP officially nominated Trump; the nomination was merely the prettified coronation of a traitor. No, the day the Republican leadership officially committed themselves lock, stock and two smoking, corrupt barrels to the entire Trump-Russia enterprise was about a month earlier – June 25, 2016. Current GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy walked into a meeting of Republican leaders including then Speaker Of The House Paul Ryan and insisted out loud (it was recorded) that “There’s two people I think Putin pays – Rohrbacher and Trump – swear to God!” The Republican leadership wasn’t surprised by the news – they were merely surprised to hear it said out loud.
That’s why Speaker Ryan – third in line to the presidency – instructed everyone there, his trusted lieutenants, to keep it a secret that they all knew or suspected that their about-to-be presidential candidate posed a grave threat to America’s national security. “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here,” is how Ryan put it.
Think about it. Trump hadn’t even been nominated yet and the Republican Party was carrying Russia’s water. From this point forward, you can track the Republican Party’s decline into total Trumpism. And Trump, don’t forget, was impeached the first time (of two impeachments) for trying to blackmail Ukrainian President Zelenskyy! Trump threatened to withhold the very defensive capabilities Ukraine needed to prevent this war. HAD the GOP not, yet again, obstructed justice and stood with Trump and Russia in violation of their own oaths of office to protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic, Trump would have been removed from office and his relationship with Russia exposed.
But then, to expose Trump’s treason would be to expose the entire Republican Party’s treason – because that is a fact of life: every Republican with even an inkling of the truth about Trump and his relationship with war criminal Vladimir Putin needs to explain why they’ve been sitting on that inkling. That’s how conspiracy to obstruct justice works, ya see. “See something, SAY something”. See something and say nothing? We need to ask WHY? Why would any patriotic American see or hear something treasonous (of all things!) and refuse to do something to stop it. Even a vague message left to the FBI would get you off the hook. At least you tried not to be a traitor.
So – the Republican leadership kept their secret – that Trump posed a grave national security threat through the convention. The GOP leadership did zero to stop their party from nominating a man they knew was dangerous to America. And then – a few days after the convention – they also knew that when Trump appealed to Russia for help in finding Hilary Clinton’s 33,000 emails – “Hey, Russia, if you’re listening…!”, it wasn’t Trump being hyperbolic. Trump – a man owned by Russia – was announcing his relationship to them in public. He committed literal treason right in our faces! And his political party held his beer while he did it.
Had Russia never invaded Ukraine, it’s entirely possible that Trump gets away with the crime of this or any other century – the fatal blow to American democracy. The widening divide between left and right in America is the diving line between right and wrong. It’s not actually political. It’s moral.
Trump cares only about Trump. His only ideology is himself. The Republican Party however dreamed of bigger game: the end to legitimate elections in America. Part of becoming the Trumpist brand means abandoning all pretense of governing. The entire aim of winning an election is to hold power. Using that power to advance the commonweal isn’t part of conservative thinking – not unless it involves dragging the commonweal back into the past (where only white people had all the rights and privileges).
Because they enter the marketplace of ideas with nothing to sell, Republicans resort to gerrymandering and voter suppression. And treason. Every Republican in a leadership position knew what Trump hiring Paul Manafort as campaign manager meant: Russian involvement. Every Republican went along when Team Trump – run by Manafort – made ONE change to the entire Republican platform in 2016: to weaken America’s support for democratic Ukraine. Manafort also handed Russian military intelligence proprietary polling data for four states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan Nd Pennsylvania. That’s why Manafort went to prison, remember… it’s the crime Trump pardoned him for committing.
That proprietary polling data – delivered to Oleg Deripaska (extremely close Putin confidant) via Konstantin Kilimnik ended up being weaponized and sent back to America as personalized Facebook ads that landed on the pages of Black Democratic voters in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania (Minnesota seems to have dodged a bullet). The ads weren’t geared toward changing votes, they were geared toward dissuading votes. The ads insisted that Hilary Clinton was a racist on the downlow. If just one Black voter stayed home because they now believed this lie (I bet we can find them!) then a crime was committed and we have no choice but to prosecute it.
Our tolerance for election fraud must be exactly zero. Elections are the core principle upon which a democratic republic is built. Anything that attempts to manipulate any election’s free and fair outcome is a crime against our entire system of government and should be treated with all due gravity. Nobody forced any Republican to remain loyal to Trump – unless it was Trump (see Lindsey Graham). Even Bill Barr knew there was a line that, were he to cross it, he might be in deeper legal peril than he could get out of.
What compelled Putin to make such a bone headed, tone deaf move? What pressure did he perceive that required action? What gain could possibly have justified putting the greatest intelligence coup maybe forever (that includes the Trojan Horse) on the line? Putin put his guy in our White House! With his hand way up Trump’s bloated orange ass, Putin undermined every relationship America had – especially with our NATO allies. He had America not only split but split in a sustainable way – so long as it wasn’t this overtly criminal (as in getting into bed with a war criminal), Putin’s popularity among Republicans could play.
But Putin making not just war but war crime on Ukraine – that made the co-branding toxic. And the more America realizes how deep that co-branding runs – all the way back to “There’s two people I think Putin pays!” – the more insistent we’ll be that Donald Trump and every single Republican who enabled his treachery gets what’s coming to them.
A day of reckoning lies ahead. We will come to know that Trump’s presidency was every bit as illegitimate as Trump kept signalling it was. The authority to govern America – to make law and choose judges – flows directly from the outcomes of free and fair elections. If you’ve committed treason in order to win an election then you did not “win” the election.
Cheating to win can never equal “winning”. Otherwise, why NOT cheat to win? Why play by the rules when playing by them guarantees you’ll lose to all the cheaters every time? Moral victories will only take one so far. It is imperative that we not only acknowledge that Trump’s victory in 2016 was illegitimate, but that everything that flowed from Trump’s illegitimate win also was illegitimate. Trump lacked the authority to nominate judges. Just because he did it anyway doesn’t validate them. That’s like saying the car the car thief stole from you will remain his because, well, he stole it.
If we really, really want to address what Trumpism has done to us – and if we really, really want to stop it from destroying us completely – we need to call Trump what he is: a traitor. We need to call the GOP what they are: traitors. And we need to stop pretending that people aren’t what they say they are.
Trump told us every way he could that Putin paid him. After a certain point, the onus will be on us to listen.