Treason? Perhaps, but not on the part of Donald Trump

I see that Donald Trump’s summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki has caused liberals and Never Trumpers to go into absolute meltdown, even by their usual standards. The word “treason” is being thrown around like confetti, along with calls for impeachment which, to be honest, would be made if Trump wore mismatching socks.

So what’s Trump supposed to have done? Handed over billions of dollars in cash to America-hating loons in return for giving up nuclear weapons? Taken a seat on the board of a Russian state-owned energy giant? Accepted hefty donations from foreign powers to a charity he controls? Nope, none of that:

At a news conference after the summit, President Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to the allegations of meddling in the elections.

“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” he replied.

US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scale of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.

This is interpreted by Trump’s opponents as him “siding” with Putin against his own country. What is missing among the outrage I’m reading is an acknowledgement that this is nothing new. Here’s a news report from last November:

President Vladimir Putin feels insulted by allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, Donald Trump has said after meeting him briefly at an Asia-Pacific summit in Vietnam.

“You can only ask so many times… he said he absolutely did not meddle in our election,” the US president said.

Mr Putin later dismissed the allegations as “political infighting”.

The US intelligence community has already concluded that Russia tried to sway the poll in favour of Mr Trump.

President Trump has refused to acknowledge a reported assessment by the CIA and other intelligence agencies that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the run-up to last year’s presidential election.

So nothing has changed, allowing me to merely repeat what I said back then. 

You don’t actually need to trust Putin an inch to believe he is telling the truth that he didn’t try to swing the outcome of the US election. None of this passed the smell test from the beginning, and the whole think reeked of an effort to explain Hillary’s catastrophic loss and an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency. I always suspected Putin found all of these accusations highly amusing; other than the usual shit-stirring that Russia’s spy agencies have been involved in since the Soviet times, exploiting divisions in US society to sow chaos as part of their zero-sum rivalry with America, I very much doubt Russia had any involvement in the US election. For one thing, it’s never been explained why Putin would have preferred Trump to Clinton.

But more importantly, who can blame Trump for sitting on the fence here? Both the FBI and Department of Justice disgraced themselves during the election with regards to Hillary Clinton, and Obama spent eight years politicising other branches such as the IRS. Moreover, Trump’s efforts to “drain the swamp” have been met with ferocious opposition from what people call the Deep State, or (a term I prefer) the Permanent Government, i.e. those who have done extremely well from the status quo and for whom Trump represents an existential threat. Is the CIA part of this? Of course it is. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Trump could probably get a warmer reception walking into a branch of the Russian government in Moscow than an American one in DC. I’d even go so far as to say parts of the American government represent a far greater political and even mortal danger to Trump than Putin does. If you were Trump, who would you believe? Putin – who at least doesn’t pretend to have America’s interests at heart – or known liars in the American government who have sworn to remove Trump from office using fair means or foul? That’s a tough one.

Let me take a guess. Perhaps Trump has realised the entire American political establishment wants him gone and is doing everything they can to undermine and remove him; half the American electorate has gone into meltdown and, a year on from his election, are calling him a white supremacist Nazi when they’re not screaming at the sky; and supposedly intelligent and educated foreigners, particularly Europeans, are acting in a spectacularly immature manner over Trump while their own countries descend into chaos. Standing out from all this is Putin who, for all his faults, is remaining reasonably calm, acting like an adult, and not throwing around childish insults. Little wonder Trump is taking him more seriously than anyone else.

The lessons that ought to be drawn from this are that if you demonise your own president and try to bring him down, he will take his friends where he finds them; and if you insist on acting like a child, the adults in the room will ignore you and talk among themselves. Thus far, the reaction seems to indicate the exact opposite.

It appears Trump’s opponents are still reluctant to change course. What I find annoying is Russia’s actions did warrant a robust international response – the annexation of Crimea, the invasion of eastern Ukraine, the shooting down of MH-17 – but nobody did anything other than impose middling sanctions (which European countries immediately sought to undermine). The same people who were too scared to confront Russia then are now calling Trump treasonous for not holding Putin’s feet to the fire over the same issues in Helsinki. They are also wholly in denial of the fact that, regardless of his words, Trump’s actions have done more to harm Russia than anything his predecessor did, and he doesn’t appear to be letting up. Sure, he didn’t object to Russia having a free reign in Syria but that’s hardly detrimental to American interests, and don’t forget the Americans killed several hundred Russian or Russian-backed forces in the country when they made the mistake of messing with a US military run by James Mattis. And skeptical though I might have been about Putin ordering the novichok hit on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, the response of Trump’s administration was no less robust than any other nation and considerably more so than some. Odd behaviour indeed for a bought-and-paid-for Russian puppet.

The explanation is simple. Other than a bunch of neocons and Russian émigré lunatics like Max Boot, Julia Ioffe, and Garry Kasparov who want the US to launch a full-scale war on their former countrymen, this isn’t about Russia at all. As it’s been since the night of the election, it’s simply another vehicle with which Trump’s political opponents are trying to unseat him, and avoid their having to admit Hillary was a lousy candidate. As I wrote back in February:

What this is, and always has been, is an attempt to save Hillary Clinton’s face. She lost the election fair and square because she was an appalling candidate, and rather than accept it, her supporters are prepared to wreck already fraught relations with a serious geopolitical rival to spin this ludicrous narrative. The damage this woman has done to the USA is incredible, and still it continues, yet everyone blames Trump. There are people out there, some of whom laughably call themselves conservatives, who believe this latest indictment is proof that Russia is at war with the United States.

Yesterday Politico ran a piece saying Putin’s “hacking” of the 2016 election was the equivalent of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The actions of some branches of the government – particularly the FBI, Department of Justice, and possibly the CIA – meet the definition of sedition without question, and if they’d done it in previous eras the individuals involved would have been jailed for life or possibly even executed. Yet we’re supposed to believe that Trump, when speaking at a press conference, committed treason and plunged America into its darkest moment since its founding? These people are utterly deranged.

The irony is the American establishment’s refusal to accept that Donald Trump is president and Hillary Clinton lost is doing far greater and longer lasting damage to the USA than anything Putin, or indeed his Soviet predecessors, could have wished for in their wildest dreams. Whatever America’s greatest threat is, it isn’t Russia and Putin; it lies much, much closer to home.

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22 thoughts on “Treason? Perhaps, but not on the part of Donald Trump

  1. The spectacle of John Brennan accusing the US President of ‘treasonous’ and “high crimes & misdemeanors.’ is funny. No one seems to think it is odd that the guy who was in charge of the CIA while the Russians ‘stole the election’ is only waling about it on twitter years later.

    Projection is my only conclusion. There is something smelly they were up to that they are terrified of being rumbled for. Or they are just bigger idiots than even I ever suspected.

  2. The security services have never had access to the server at the DNC that was “hacked”.

    My Occam’s Razor with email servers is that it was an inside job.

  3. I don’t believe they can come to terms with Hillary’s wrong doing, since there are a number of currently active political campaigns (started since Trump’s inauguration) that lead back to senior members of Clinton’s campaign, so it looks like she is putting down the foundations for a run in 2020.

    Whether she will get anywhere given her track record is debatable, but since the current proposed candidates are tired hacks and political retreads like Maxine “blacks can’t be racist” Waters, Joe “Uncle Touchy” Biden and Elizabeth “Fauxcahontas” Warren, I wouldn’t put it past her having a try.

    Why not? Third time lucky worked for President…err….

  4. I’m staggered how poorly Trump’s opponents seem to understand the electoral process.

    Their sole focus should be on trying to get someone elected in his place in a couple of years’ time. That would involve persuading a smallish chunk of the people who voted for him last time to vote for someone else next time.

    But nobody seems to be engaged in trying to persuade anyone – both sides are just screaming to their own crowds. Can they not look at Blair or Obama for an example of how to do it?

    I always thought HRC was about the only person in the world who could have lost to Trump, but it looks to me increasingly like they’re going to find someone else to repeat it in 2020. Why are they screeching about impeachment when there’s an election to be one instead?

  5. @Tim

    “Odd behaviour indeed for a bought-and-paid-for Russian puppet.”

    Not that odd, in fact. Ever heard of the “60/40” SOP in KGB disinformation operations, in that they would provide enough real information to establish credibility and plant fakes where it matters? This is fully consistent with the Trump shtick.

    E.g. undermining NATO matters to Putin, whereas a bunch of disposable mercenaries in the desert – not so much. Putin has most probably saved money by not having to pay back wages to the poor bastards.

    Also, care to provide a reference to where Kasparov is calling to launch a war against Russia?

  6. Ever heard of the “60/40” SOP in KGB disinformation operations, in that they would provide enough real information to establish credibility and plant fakes where it matters?

    You think this is what’s happening with Trump? He’s a KGB agent operating under that 60/40 protocol?

    Also, care to provide a reference to where Kasparov is calling to launch a war against Russia?

    He’s accusing Russia of aggression against the US and Trump of treason by not confronting Putin. What would he have Trump do? He’s not saying, but his words are published amid the steady banging of war drums and retweeted by the people bashing them.

  7. How exactly if Trump was a Russian agent would it work. They blackmail him? And? No one can control him,if Republicans support him.

    The real reason we know its bullshit is Putin has one main policy objective that Trump could give him easily. Turn off fracking and other oil exploration. Maintain antipetrolum regulations.

    If Trump owed Russia that is where you would see it. In inaction, popular inaction. Yet he deregulated, drilled, fracked, released export licenses and built pipelines.

    It is those activities that will destroy Putin, Iran and the Saudis slowly.

    He is a deeply flawed patriot.

    Deeply flawed, but I think he knows it and has left policy to think tank employees who can’t believe everyone is to busy attacking Trump to notice they are tearing the government down. He is an accidential liberatian.

  8. I can’t recall an incident where a foreign spy was indicted whilst actually resident in his home country. Seems like the norm was sensible- once indicted he’s unlikely to turn up for trial, it therefore makes him less likely to stray into territory where he can be arrested. Indicting people who are outside your jurisdiction is pure theatre, with practical disadvantages assuming that there is evidence that he is indeed a spy. The only possible purpose is PR, working on the basis that many will equate indictment for guilt.
    The only PR purposes I can conceive are to convince the American people that the Russians are dangerous and to sabotage the summit.
    Bear in mind that Mueller previously indicted a number of Russian individuals and three Russian companies for interfering in the US elections. The Russian individuals stayed in Russia, but two of the Russian companies sent lawyers to court demanding a speedy trial and disclosure of the evidence. Last I heard Mueller sent a pile of untranslated Russian as his evidence (who knew you could influence a US election without using English). The third Russian firm turned out to have been formed after the event.
    It is worth bearing in mind that “deep throat” who informed against Nixon was not motivated by a desire to do good, but by angst over missing a promotion.

  9. I go along with much of what you say here, BUT, the indictment of the Russian officials has a lot of interesting details. They really fucked with the DNC. Whether it turned the election, I can’t decide, but they gave the DNC quite a drubbing. My one qualifier is that it seemed like DNC staff fell for every phishing trick the Russians gave them.

  10. They really fucked with the DNC.

    Oh for sure. But between Podesta having “password” as his password and Hillary’s server in the bathroom, probably every intelligence agency in the world helped themselves. I have no doubt the Russians made hay from Podesta and Hillary’s stupidity, but they certainly weren’t alone and I very much doubt anything they did – or could have done – changed how people voted.

  11. “My Occam’s Razor with email servers is that it was an inside job.”

    It wasn’t just emails. It was a colossal document dump. I went wikileaks to size up what was there, and the first impression I got (after being in the NW business for decades) was that this smelled like someone walking out of the DNC with a thumb drive.

    Why would that be far fetched? Wasseman Shultz has yet to be forthcoming about her sketchy IT guy, who certainly would have access. There surely were a few true believers that must have been demoralized when they realized the fix was in.

  12. Yaay! lets attack Russia! who cares about a nuclear holocaust as at Least Trump will be gone and like roaches Hillary will survive!

  13. My Occam’s Razor with email servers is that it was an inside job.

    That’s a fair assumption for any hack, but honestly SMTP is a very, very old protocol and has a lot of weaknesses; what security there is has been hacked on top and if you’re running a canned enterprise mail server like Exchange you have to really know your **** to lock it down effectively. Given that one of Hilary’s IT aides had to post on reddit for advice on how to scrub a hard drive, I’m not assuming that.

  14. The whole thing bores me to death. Nobody gave a damn about the Russian menace until the moment that Hillary lost the election and now the libs who used to roll their eyes at patriotism and flag waving are as gung-ho as the George C. Scott character in Dr. Strangelove. Believe me, if the Dems should manage to regain the White House in 2020, Russia will immediately go back to being a non-issue.

  15. @Tim

    “He’s a KGB agent operating under that 60/40 protocol”

    Nope, my expectation is he is a crook engaged in quid pro quo with the Russian mob at the expense of everyone else. Kinda like his pal Manafort, but more expensive in all senses. The protocol is just something he would naturally pick up from this milieau to manufacture plausible deniability on the above.

  16. I very much doubt anything they did – or could have done – changed how people voted.

    This is probably true, but I’m not crazy about playing this down. It’s not a good trend. Meanwhile, the most amusing panic I’ve witnessed, though, is the accusation that Russian activity on Facebook helped impact the election. It was such a tiny phenomenon. These people have lost all sense of proportion.

  17. The thing about Trump is that he is sticking to what he has always said and I really do think that he is doing a good job of keeping the peace and keeping the US killers that have all the power at bay. It’s not as if he changed position recently, or did I miss something.

    I would go as far as you have eluded to and say that those that are criticising him following the Helsinki summit are the real US traitors, particularly those from his side of the political divide. Trump knows that Brzezinski was right about the invincibility of Russia and he also seems to be doing the Kissinger thing of somehow trying to keep the Russians on side and separate from China. The Chinese as Trump has stated are the number one threat to the US, but I think he can also manage them as well.

  18. When it comes to Intelligence agencies and their methods of operating, things have a habit of becoming a bit more complicated and have unforeseen consequences when simple decisions are made that on the surface seem like a good idea. The old “We Must DO Something, This Is Something, Lets Do It” thing can bite your backside of not thought through properly.

    Something like THIS, for instance:

    http://www.michaelzwilliamson.com/blog/index.php?itemid=467

    Methinks an “Oh, Shit!” moment might be forthcoming in due course, eh?

  19. I think it’s pretty clear that Russia did ‘meddle’ in the US election, but not to get Trump elected; rather, everything they did was to try to exacerbate existing social tensions (they paid for pro-Black-Lives-Matter adverts to be shown specifically to people most likely to vote for Trump, for example) in the hopes of making the country ungovernable for whoever won.

    And they succeeded, obviously.

    It’s obvious if you think about it; if you want to destabilise your enemy, then it would be very hard to do so by deliberately picking a winner, manipulating them into power, and doing so without being detected. but it’s very easy to just lob grenades into the middle of their culture and try to wreck everything.

    (And of course it’s not like the West didn’t try to do exactly the same thing by helping out dissident groups in the Warsaw Pact countries, back in the day; it’s just that now there’s the inter-net, it’s much easier than when you had to smuggle in printing presses or get people to tune into propaganda radio stations).

  20. but it’s very easy to just lob grenades into the middle of their culture and try to wreck everything.

    Yes, and that’s what I mean by:

    other than the usual shit-stirring that Russia’s spy agencies have been involved in since the Soviet times, exploiting divisions in US society to sow chaos as part of their zero-sum rivalry with America

    But it’s amusing that the Russian supposedly sowed division in the US by promoting Democrat-backed groups.

  21. But it’s amusing that the Russian supposedly sowed division in the US by promoting Democrat-backed groups.

    Yes, that is fun. It’s put liberals in the position of claiming that it is illegitimate — treasonous, indeed — to promote the right causes to the wrong people, where the ‘wrong people’ are, apparently, the voters.

    Pretty much twice every week these days something reminds me of that old Brecht poem:

    ‘ … Would it not be easier
    In that case for the government
    To dissolve the people
    And elect another?’

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