We are under attack.
That’s not news. Our sworn enemy, Russia, attacked us in 2016 to distort our presidential election, to favor and elect a demagogue, a racist, a liar, and a cheat.
But the news is that our president and all the Republican members of Congress are carrying water for the Russians, every day and every night. Following Trump’s lead, they are mouthing a lie that Vladimir Putin himself created. They are denying, indeed, that Putin’s Russia did everything in its power to put Trump in the White House. And they are putting the blame on the Ukraine instead.
Putin has been pushing false theories of Ukrainian interference since early 2017, deploying a network of Russian intelligence operatives to blame Ukraine for what was actually Russia’s 2016 interference. There’s a long history of Russians putting out fake information; their persistence bore fruit in 2016, obviously, and we saw its success this past week as Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan and other Republicans during the impeachment hearings mouthed, word for word, the Kremlin lie that it was the Ukraine, rather than Russia, that meddled in our election.
Career officials from the State Department, the Pentagon, and even the White House emphatically declared that, from the president on down, repeating this lie abetted Russia’s strategy of sowing discord among the American people.
Testifying in the impeachment hearings, Dr. Fiona Hill pointed out most clearly that Republicans loyal to Trump must stop pushing the idea that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election, because it plays into Putin’s hands. Hill is a former official at the National Security Council specializing in Russian and European affairs.
“Right now,” she testified, “Russia is seeking to interfere in the 2020 election, and we are running out of time to stop them. I ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”
In many ways this impeachment investigation is more significant than the investigations of Richard Nixon 45 years ago. I was in Washington throughout Watergate as a fellow of the Ford Foundation, and my reading is that Donald Trump and his connections with Russia are much more dangerous now than the Nixon debacle was back then. Nixon was a crook, but his aim was not to bring down the government nor to upend American democracy and destroy its institutions.
Trump is a demagogue and a megalomaniac who sees himself as the center of the world, above the law. More dangerously, he is the foil of a foreign power, Russia, and has shown himself a puppet willing to grovel at the behest of our enemy.
He has repeatedly violated his oath of office, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. He has weakened U.S. security, as expert impartial witnesses have shown us in recent weeks. He has used the presidency for his personal enrichment. In his overbearing attempt to force the interference of Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump committed a clearly understandable high crime as specified in the Constitution: He put his own interests above the national interest by pressuring a foreign country to smear and destroy his political rival. In his arrogance he has shown that he’s willing to do anything, however corrupt, to win re-election.
The impeachment process will move forward, and I suspect that we will discover deeds, plots, and scandals that are even worse.