I was engaged in a discussion on my personal Facebook about whether I think our current president is a traitor. This was in response to an Vox video I posted that highlighted President Trump's comments during a press conference in Helsinki during a Summit with Russian President, Vladmir Putin.
It involved a lot of research, and I made sure to include a variety of generally neutral sources as my references. Below is my justification for why I believe that President Trump is compromised and is a traitor.
[My response includes two sections: a preface and the argument]
Before I start with my position, I wanted to address your comment about "whatever CNN told [me]": I'm pretty good at identifying reputable sources and I'm pretty good at corroborating information. I intake generally neutral and factual media such as NPR, New York Times, Associated Press, Reuters. Vox and Vice are some more liberally leaning sources that I'll intake. Vox (source of the video I posted) is generally considered to be analysis and opinion but based in fact. But I try my best to make sure that I'm not just in an echo chamber and that I have my own opinions (also based in fact/truth).
A second note I want to make is the difference between consequences from the public and the legal/justice system. As a public figure, Donald Trump should accept that he will be (and should be) critiqued by the public - this can be both positive and negative criticism. This criticism is a public consequence that can be based in objectivity and subjectivity. And the reason subjectivity is acceptable when scrutinizing an elected official is because a person in said position should be a mirror of the people he/she represents: something based more on qualitative factors than quantitative factors.
On the other hand, since there is a federal investigation into his campaign, the 2016 Presidential election and any foreign powers that may have interfered with aforementioned election, Donald Trump is also subject to scrutiny from the justice system. The difference between this and the public scrutiny is that all legal consequences that stem from this must be based in objectivity and the defendant's guilt must be beyond a reasonable doubt.
The public may deem something traitorous that isn't technically considered so in a legal sense, but the public should be granted that ability to make qualitative judgement as long as there is a reasonable suspicion based on the facts of the case.
Was there hacking and interference in the 2016 Presidential Elections? Who deemed it such?
Yes. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a report that states "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.”
There was enough evidence to convince a grand jury to authorize indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers, a Russian Army-trained linguist, 13 Russian nationals, 3 Russian-based companies, 3 Americans who served as senior campaign officials, 1 former National Security Adviser, and 2 other Americans who worked with the Trump campaign. Of which, there are 5 guilty pleas so far. Innocent people don’t usually plead guilty.
Donald Trump has denied his knowledge of any meetings with Russians that would give him an advantage in the election. His son, Donald Trump Jr., can’t deny that as he set up a specific meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer. This meeting also had in attendance Paul Manafort (campaign chairman at the time) and Jared Kushner (President Trump’s son-in-law). I find it really hard to believe that President Trump was not aware of this meeting as it included two close family members that he sees extremely often and his campaign chairman that he worked with on a daily basis during the campaign. Political campaigns are usually structured to where the candidate is at the top with the chairman directly underneath them. It seems illogical to not share a significant event that possibly provided “damaging information about [the opponent]” to the person leading the campaign against said opponent. Accepting help from a foreign power in a political campaign is illegal.
What has Trump done as President to benefit Russia?
The United States has imposed sanctions on Russia, freezing their assets and disallowing any engagement with the foreign body. Trump has increased sanctions, but has still treated them as though they are not a country currently facing punishment by the US and its allies as indicated by some of his personal tweets after signing certain laws that made trade with Russia more difficult. The United States should stand by their economic foreign policy and admonish Russia for its crimes, but President Trump hasn’t done while in power.
Why did Russia attack the US instead of its allies since they also have certain sanctions on trade?
In the ODNI report from above, it mentions that Russian intelligence organizations also implemented similar cyber-attacks in other Western countries such as the United Kingdom and France. These attacks are indicative of an attempt to destabilize Western countries and international geopolitical alliances such as the EU and NATO. Fragmenting these organizations divides and dilutes the power they hold, allowing Russia to become more competitive. Russia can also gain political power and begin to pressure Western countries into removing the sanctions on Russia.
President Trump had a NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium. Then, he had an appearance in England. Lastly, he had a Russia Summit in Helsinki, Finland that included a private one-on-one meeting with Vladmir Putin.
What happened at the NATO summit?
Global leaders were planning on talking about the growing threat of Russia, including their cybercrime and hybrid warfare. President Trump has complained in the past that NATO allies don’t contribute much when it comes to defense spending, which is accurate, but there have already been agreements to have nations contribute more equitably. There was also concern about President Trump discussing the US should leave NATO. Nothing was reported to be finalized, and people are pretty certain that we’ll stay in NATO. But it was a bit of a ruffling of feathers for everyone else at the summit. Foreign policy analysts and experts are worried that another step in destabilizing NATO.
This is where things get interesting. President Trump requests a private meeting one-on-one with Putin, so the public has no idea what they talked about. This is not a usual practice by a President who is meeting with a hostile foreign body (contrast Trump’s Summit with Obama’s Summit with Putin in 2009). During a live press conference (keep in mind these are his natural responses to reporters’ questions and he had no pre-written response to these), he undermined the evidence found by our intelligence community that Russia interfered with our elections and sided with Putin’s denial of Russian involvement in the 2016 Election. Throughout the Summit, it appears as though Putin is running the show. The contrast in demeanor is evident in the way they handled themselves during press conferences and other public appearances. By the end of it, it basically seems like we are asking Russia for help in the investigation, which seems illogical considering they are the entity we suspect to be committing the original crime. On a global stage, he had the opportunity to stand up for the country and call out Russia for interfering with our elections and committing cyber-crimes. Instead, he chose to delegitimize the efforts of the US intelligence community as well as the US’s position as someone to call the shots. He is practiced in making something seem overly impressive. He had the chance to do that with his country against another that had no reason to come out looking stronger, and lets it slip. His praise for a leader who orders executions of their own intelligence officers is highly concerning, and it leaves everyone wondering why.
Is there a reason for why he would support Putin and not US government agencies?
There has been a lot of talk about the possibility of Trump being blackmailed. The Trump-Russia dossier written by Christopher Steele talks about an event at the Trump hotel involving Russian prostitutes at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Moscow. There is also evidence that the FSB (a Russian state security agency) had planted cameras in it and likely have video documentation of the whole incident. The dossier also outlines various potential bribes Trump may have payed to further his real estate endeavors in Russia. The FSB apparently has documentation of many of these illegal transactions and can blackmail him.
Russian intelligence organizations hacked into Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC, a sub-organization of the DNC) that had several emails that were later leaked to the public. To investigate the hack, the FBI hired a third party organization to image the servers and do analysis without necessarily needing to obtain the DNC’s hardware. This is what FBI director at the time, Jim Comes was advised to do. They have since been using information collected to direct their investigation into appropriate leads.
We know that Putin wants to destabilize Western countries and make Russia a competitive force again in international trade and politics.
We know Russia interfered with our elections. People extremely close to President Trump, who he saw almost daily, had a secret meetings with foreign bodies that had ties to the Kremlin about opposition research that could incriminate Hillary Clinton. It’s very likely that Trump knew about these meetings, although there is no hard evidence proving this yet.
We know that the Kremlin likely has evidence of Trump having an embarrassing sexual encounter with prostitutes in Moscow as well as giving various bribes to to different Russian nationals.
We know that Trump has continuously supported Russia and their interests over the US and its allies and our collective interests.
We know that Trump has willingly created tensions with our allies in the EU and in NATO.
Why do I think he’s compromised?
See Trump-Russia dossier from above.
Why do I think that he’s a traitor?
Trump, while in the most important public position in our country, has had multiple opportunities to stand up for it. Time and time again, when confronted with hostile nations, he pushes away our friends and welcomes our foes. He acts against the interests of our country and our allies. And its reasonable to believe that this can all be for self-preservation. In essence, he sold-out to save himself. He likely knew about attacks on our country and let it happen because it would keep him safe. It might not be the legal definition of treason, but everything I’ve outlined is characteristic of what I believe a traitor represents.