Jared Yates Sexton is an associate professor at Georgia Southern University. He is the author of The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore: A Story of American Rage.
Monday was a dark day in American history.
Tuning in to see the results of a much-maligned summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, Americans were treated to one of the most disgusting sights imaginable: the chief executive of the United States of America licking the boots of a murderous dictator.
But it’s not the first time. A little more than a month ago, we were treated to the nightmare of Mr. Trump and Kim Jong-un meeting in Singapore, a conference that put the American flag on equal footing with that of North Korea, a dystopian nightmare where people are slaughtered, imprisoned and denied basic human dignity. Mr. Trump flew to every camera he could find and sung the praises of Mr. Kim and claimed his people “loved him.”
We’ve certainly come to expect this farce of a president will cozy up to ruthless hatchet men, but Monday’s news conference was another thing entirely: Mr. Trump publicly refuted his country’s intelligence agency’s findings regarding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and instead parroted Mr. Putin’s lacklustre denial. He stood on the world stage and sided with a man who has murdered dissidents and interfered with global democracy multiple times, and cast his lot with him over the country he’s supposed to serve.
Donald Trump aided and abetted a foreign adversary.
Just days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a respected veteran of the FBI, indicted 12 Russian nationals for stealing and trafficking stolen information in the pursuit of assisting Mr. Trump’s candidacy, the President sided with the enemy.
There will be plenty of time to sift through the crimes of Mr. Trump’s past. Mr. Mueller’s investigation is painstakingly weaving the threads of deception and conspiracy in an effort to discover just who colluded with the Russians, who benefited from the crime and who worked tirelessly to cover it up.
Doubtlessly, there will be hours of hearings that will make the inquiries into the 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, look like afternoon chats. We’ll see the receipts, the money transfers, the e-mails and clandestine messages in the stark black and white they deserve. Already, Mr. Mueller has composed a case on the perimeter of the conspiracy that has ensnared Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, and Michael Flynn, the President’s former national security adviser. The controversial contact between Mr. Trump’s familiars and the Russians included well-publicized and scrutinized meetings with Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law, and Jeff Sessions, his beleaguered attorney-general.
This is an open secret, a bleeding shame that has loomed over our political process since the summer of 2016, when many heard rumblings of something foul within the Trump campaign. It has grown in stature and stench. It has muddied the water continually as Mr. Trump has met with our allies – in Canada, Britain, Germany, France – and insulted them time and again. At times, Mr. Trump has seemed bent on razing the entire system to the ground, whether that means dissolving treaties and trade deals, or simply ravaging the bonds of trust. He has done so with zero regard for the consequences and has seemed propelled by some unseen force.
One can look at his continued disrespect of North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the military alliance that was formed to curb Russian aggression, and see the fingerprints of something larger. Since Mr. Trump’s rumoured dalliances with Russian influences, he has continually called NATO obsolete and has more or less threatened to either weaken it or bring its walls down around its participants’ heads. Just this past week, he single-handedly derailed the NATO summit, choosing to forgo participation and instead challenge our allies and the group’s purpose. Almost as if he was sent there with a goal in mind.
That is all conjecture. Mr. Mueller’s findings are the only concrete evidence we have so far of Mr. Trump’s web of lies, and though they are growing by the day, we’re still awaiting the final verdict. We’ll have that day of reckoning, but for now, we’ve seen – up close – what the truth really is.
The President of the United States openly betrayed his country on the world stage. We can argue why he did it – whether it was a mistake in judgment, a failure to lead or simply deference to a man who might very well be his handler. We cannot know why Mr. Trump did what he did in Helsinki, why he aided and abetted our most dangerous foreign adversary. But we watched a high crime play out on national television.
We saw a president disqualify himself from office. And if he hasn’t resigned his position by the afternoon or offered an explanation while begging forgiveness, he should be removed for the good of the country.