|© RICHARD CODOR / USED WITH PERMISSION|
Did anyone really believe that Donald Trump would grow a pair before meeting one-on-one with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday?
Of course not, but the sight of the president of the United States groveling at the feet of America's greatest adversary while committing the traitorous and treasonous -- yes, traitorous and treasonous -- sin of refusing to defend the homeland while attacking his own citizens and praising an autocratic thug was alternately sickening and heartbreaking. As was the muted reaction of most Republicans, who are as cowed by Trump as he is by Putin.
It does not matter that Trump has been a known quantity for decades.
That beginning in the late 1980s, Russian oligarchs, mobsters, spies and Putin himself began softening him up. Not because it was understood well before he announced his improbable run for president that he might do so, but because the ailing business empire of this desperately needy entrepreneur and celebrity television star was a convenient conduit for money laundering and propagandizing the Russian government brand, things of which Trump was well aware and for which he now is criminally culpable.
Then in 2016 when Trump did run for president, there were some 20 instances where there were face-to-face meetings between members of the Trump campaign team and Russians intent on insinuating the Kremlin into the campaign apparatus as he became a witting partner in Putin's quest to return Russia to the glory of the Cold War Soviet Union and knock the U.S. from its perch as the only superpower. This in return for help that was invaluable not so much in directly bolstering the Trump campaign, but in undermining Hillary Clinton's because Trump as president was a sure bet to cozy up to Moscow as president.
Which he has done through his first 17 months in an office Moscow helped steal in denying the interference that his own intelligence agencies, his own Justice Department and his own West Wing advisors know occurred beyond a shadow of a doubt while showing utter disinterest in, let alone preparing for, the probability Russia will further meddle in the midterm elections.
Further confirmation of Trump's utter disconnect with reality came just last Friday when Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller indicted 12 members of Russia's GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate), a powerful and secretive military intelligence organization, and charged them with engaging in a sustained effort to hack the computer networks of the Democratic National Committee, other Democratic organizations and especially the Clinton campaign, which it did with lethal efficiency through the summer and fall of 2016 as Trump sped to victory.
(Meanwhile, on Sunday as Trump left Britain, government authorities there said the GRU may be responsible for importing the weapons-grade poison that nearly killed a former Russian spy and three others, while taking the life of a woman who inadvertently came into contact with it. Then on Monday after the summit concluded, the U.S. Justice Department charged a Russian woman who tried to broker two secret meetings between Trump and Putin during the campaign.)
But those crimes pale to the crime that Trump committed in Helsinki.
In the run-up to the press conference that concluded a summit that Putin had requested and to which Trump quickly agreed, Trump made a series of staggering comments.
He congratulated Putin for the "brilliant success" of hosting a World Cup widely understood to have been awarded Russia because of corruption, asked by a reporter to name America's greatest foe cited the European Union, and then blamed hostilities between the U.S. and Russia on the U.S. while peddling the beyond tired canard that everyone is conspiring against him.
In failing his oath of office in failing to defend -- not behind closed doors, because what he and Putin said privately will remain between them -- but in full view of the world is so shamefully reprehensible, so unforgivable, as to chart horrifying new territory in the 229-year history of the presidency.
Even in a presidency filled with self-defeating moments, Trump's behavior was horrifying, although it was not surprising that he refused to speak up for America because he never has spoken for America.
As worst case scenarios go, it is impossible to beat Trump standing next to Putin and publicly betraying those U.S. intelligence agencies. And every true American as he insisted yet again that "there was no collusion" with Russia while openly colluding in plain view.
"They said they think it's Russia; I have President Putin, he just said it's not Russia," Trump declared only moments after the Russian president acknowledged the obvious -- that he had favored Trump in the election while demanding evidence of election interference he said had never been proven, something with which which Trump readily agreed while saying yet again Mueller's investigation "is a disaster" for the country.
"I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be" Russia that was responsible for the election hacking, Trump added for good measure. "I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today."
It was left to Senator John McCain, who is battling brain cancer, to best address an outrage that left most of his fellow Republican shocked but muted in their criticism. Many, in fact, could not even summon the courage to name Trump, referring to their Dear Leader only obliquely.
"It is tempting to describe the news conference as a pathetic rout — as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin's regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world."
On Tuesday, the editors of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine called on Republicans in Congress to formally censure the president, which they will not do.
They also could force Trump's hand on Russia by holding up nominees, demanding hearings, pushing for increased oversight and pass pending legislation to protect Mueller. None of which they will do.
Historians have long considered the 1961 summit between JFK and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev as the worst ever between the two nations, but JFK was trying to strengthen America's position while Trump deliberately worked to weaken it.
July 16, 2018 will forever be remember as the day Trump gave Putin everything he could have dreamed of while confirming, lest there have been any doubt, America's worst fears.
Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russian scandal
and related developments.