It was just two months ago that I sat down to interview Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, the Democrats’ vice presidential candidate in last November’s election. Then, in a cool and collected mood, Kaine said that America’s “Constitutional safeguards” designed by the Founding Fathers to “minimize the risks of an overreaching executive” are working and will prevail in the crisis over the Donald Trump’s presidency.
This week, after the black-and-white email revelations about Trump’s son, son-in-law and campaign manager’s high level meeting with a Russian government cut-out to discuss the Russians’ “damaging information” about Hillary Clinton, Kaine became the first U.S. elected official to use the big “T” word — “treason” — in reaction. Some others since have followed suit.
Even though there are the powerful “Constitutional safeguards” Kaine talked about earlier, the current situation is unfolding as unprecedented in U.S. history. There has never been an agent of a hostile foreign power, an out-and-out traitor, in the White House before, someone who was put there through a full-blown effort by that hostile power to interfere and disrupt a U.S. national presidential election. This extraordinary reality is what’s before us now.
Again, this is unprecedented, and the indisputable fact that this is so has only begun to sink in on some of the most powerful lawmakers in the land. There is no roadmap for how to deal with this. The Founding Fathers did not anticipate something like this.
The Constitutional provision for impeachment does not do justice to this new reality. Even a successful impeachment would leave the same treasonous administration in place, only with the vice president instead of the president in control. That does not redress this situation. The impeachment option anticipated action against a corrupt or criminal individual, not a traitor placed there by the effort of the nation’s adversaries. Substituting Pence for Trump will not correct the problem because for all practical purposes he, like Trump, was elected by illegitimate means. The majority of the American people did not vote and intend for this administration and its ideological bent to be in the White House. Not only did the Clinton-Kaine ticket get three million more votes than Trump, but it is the case that the outcome in terms of the Electoral College was corrupted.
Again, this is not what the American people voted for. With a GOP-dominated Congress, the public favored the offsetting balance in the White House that Clinton-Kaine represented. The public was robbed, robbed by a hostile foreign power.
The U.S. cannot afford to allow this current situation to continue. There is too much damage being done, too much advantage being taken by our Russian adversaries to stumble along at the current pace. Of course, many Republicans in Congress are going to be judged very, very harshly by history for their current, cynical collusion to keep Trump in power, despite their knowing the treacherous way he got there, and the treasonous things he’s doing with the nation’s vital interests and security.
Insofar as the November election was rendered illegitimate by all that has occurred (and who knows what new bombshells are still to be revealed in the coming days and weeks that could show far more Russian involvement and Trump collaboration with it than we know now) a couple useful reminders: 1. Russia does not function like the U.S. Nothing happens there that is not sanctioned by the Kremlin. So any claims that Russian cut-outs are not linked to Putin are categorically false; 2. The same goes for the Trump campaign. It is not structured to permit rogue or independent actions by campaign officials without a top-down coordination. Both “organizations” are run like Mafias, and in fact both have plenty of history and involvement with Mafia entities.
The only remedy to our current national crisis is for the courts, ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court, to rule last November’s election null and void and either to order a new election or declare the second-place finishers the winners.
Anyone who dismisses such a remedy as too far “out there” has simply failed to grasp the depth of the violation of our democratic institutions that has occurred.
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected].