Watching the Trump-Putin summit, and the two men’s subsequent behavior, it’s hard not to think about Napoleon having to retreat from Moscow in November 1812 after invading Russia. While the analogy is not exact, Trump’s bravado leading up to the summit (“I’ve been preparing all my life” and spending the weekend playing golf) is reminiscent of Napoleon’s arrogance in thinking he could conqueror Russia. And, like the Russian winter that Napoleon was not prepared for, Vladimir Putin’s trap has sent our president spinning out of control on the one issue capable of leading him to his Waterloo — impeachment.
The United States’ relationship with Russia is the one bipartisan issue left in the Congress and the country. Through the end of World War II, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the cold nuclear-armed war, Americans have been united in their opposition to Russian aggression. We have viewed Putin as a shrewd adversary intent on restoring the Soviet Union’s influence in any way possible. This was the historical context for the summit. The fact that Donald Trump did not understand this is testimony to his incompetence. His behavior in this context is grounds for impeachment.
Section 4 of Article Two of the Constitution creates “treason, bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors” as the standards for impeaching a president. After the stunning revelation that President Trump knew that President Putin had ordered the 2016 cyber attack on our democracy two months before his inauguration, it is not farfetched (as former CIA director John Brennan has done) to identify the president’s behavior in Helsinki — and his relentless campaign over the past two years of calling the Mueller investigation a “hoax” and a “witch-hunt” while perpetually declaring “no collusion” — as treasonous behavior.
Treason requires an enemy. After reading Special Counsel Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russian military officers for attacking our democracy, along with the conclusion of all our intelligence agencies that Russia attacked our electoral process with the intent of destabilizing the election, it’s clear that Russia remains our enemy. The constitutional definition of treason is “levying war against them [the United States], or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.”
One can try to spin it, but watching the President of the United States standing next to the President of Russia, after a private two-hour, closed-door meeting, with full knowledge of the attacks and the indictments, saying he could think of no reason why Russia would have attacked us, can only be seen as having given “aid and comfort” to our enemy. His attempt to obfuscate this upon returning home by flip-flopping on what he said and then inviting the Russian president to Washington for a second meeting is simply more evidence of an out-of-control president in collusion with our adversary.
President Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives for perjury and obstruction of justice under the “high crimes and misdemeanors” criteria for lying about issues involving an extramarital affair and allegations of sexual harassment. Obviously President Trump doesn’t want to testify before Robert Mueller’s investigation for fear of committing perjury, an impeachable offense. However, weighing an impeachment for extramarital affairs and sexual harassment versus betraying one’s country before the whole world, I would argue that it is the latter that qualifies as an impeachable act.