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As the late great poet Maya Angelou might have said had she thought it was necessary, “When someone shows you over and over and over again that they are a traitor, believe them.”
For further, completely appropriate emphasis, she might have elaborated: “When someone shows you over and over and over again, for their entire lives, in business and in government, that they are not only traitors, but corrupt, ignorant, pathologically dishonest, coup-plotting, racist, misogynist traitors, then seriously, I’m not kidding about this, believe them!”
But, of course, as we have all witnessed during the past half-century of Donald Trump’s life (unless we were among the few who got to witness him bully his classmates at school, bullshit his way into college, and cheat his way out of the military), this menace to society has managed to slither his way from scandal to scandal—and yet somehow always remain center stage.
Indeed, here we are in 2023, two years after his attempted coup and his second impeachment, and he is still, according to recent polls, the Republican frontrunner to occupy an office he defiled more than any other of its previous occupants in our two-and-a-half-century history.
Given how dangerous this is, how could any nominally patriotic American still support this man? To put it plainly, he’s repeatedly demonstrated that he’s an existential threat to the country, made flesh.
In a social media post that coincided with Trump’s official 2024 campaign kickoff, the ex-president once again declared that he values the opinion of Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin more than those of the U.S. law enforcement and intelligence communities. He wrote, in part, “Remember in Helsinki when a 3rd rate reporter asked me, essentially, who I trusted more, President Putin of Russia or our ‘intelligence’ lowlifes.” He then characterized U.S. intelligence and law enforcement leadership as consisting of “really bad people.” He also used the word “slime” to describe them. And then he concluded “Who would you choose, Putin or these Misfits?”
As he acknowledged in his statement, this is not the first time he has made such a shocking public statement. And to be sure, recent developments concerning former senior FBI counter-intelligence official Charles McGonigal—who prosecutors allege was paid by a Russian oligarch he was supposed to be investigating—have been a black eye for the bureau. It is still early days in the investigation, but some respected observers—such as Yale history professor Timothy Snyder and former FBI agent Asha Rangappa—have suggested it is quite possible that when all the details are ultimately revealed, it might not look great for Trump.
We also recently discovered that when Trump hijacked the Department of Justice and tried to cook up an investigation to prove he was being unfairly attacked by the intel and justice communities, it didn’t work out as planned. The investigation led by Special Counsel John Durham came up with nothing… except more leads about Trump corruption.
There’s also the issue that Trump’s pal Putin has spent the past year making the sound case that he is one of the world’s worst monsters, a war criminal, author of a brutal illegal war, and an outright enemy of the United States, our NATO allies, and everything they stand for. Going to bat for Putin as Trump did (checks notes) this week (!) is far more repulsive than it even was the first time he did it back in 2018 in Helsinki.
By and large, the Republican establishment has remained silent on Trump’s latest betrayal of his country. The GOP-led House is continuing with its plans to launch a committee investigating the “weaponization” of government that will seek to undo, bury, or discredit investigations, such as those into Trump’s Russia ties.
And over in the fever swamps of MAGA social media, voices that echo Trump’s views on Russia (and those attacking the positions of the U.S. government in Ukraine) are gaining prominence. This pro-Putin, pro-Trump chorus has the effect of validating what Trump peddles, no matter how outrageous—including wild attacks on Western policies that come straight from Russian government talking points, such as this long thread arguing why the West is “really” providing tanks to Ukraine. (Yep, there’s a loony, long-ago disproven conspiracy theory underneath the whole thing.)
Consequently, while Trump may have skated on tax fraud in the past (because he donated to the right political campaigns) and never paid any meaningful price for his serial sexual abuse (because there are a ton of sexist assholes in America), to continue to support America’s enemies and seemingly get away with it takes a village. He has his own social media platform, the benefit of other alt-right-controlled social media platforms, Fox News, virtually the entire Republican Party, and the entire Russian propaganda machine to keep him afloat in situations that would have undone virtually any other traitor in our history.
There is of course, a grave danger in this. Trump’s flacking for Putin strengthens our enemy and puts our national security at risk. As the U.S. government mulls whether to shut down TikTok because it might someday serve as a Chinese propaganda platform, it’s fair to ask whether the same kind of scrutiny is due Truth Social, Twitter, or other platforms where the influence of Kremlin sympathizers (or worse) is already evident and doing damage.
Given the reality that such moves are unlikely in the current political climate, however, we must see Trump’s statement for what it is: not just a reminder of who he is and the danger he poses, but of the grave risk we face if the de facto leader of one of the United States’ two parties continues to elevate and empower our enemies, their allies, and all those who aid and abet them, either actively or through their silence.