I don’t know if the pee tape is real.
I have no idea if Russian president Vladimir Putin has compromising information about Donald Trump.
I cannot confirm that the president is on active retainer with the Russian government.
But what I do believe — and at this point seems patently obvious — is that the president of the United States is an agent of the Russian government.
After Monday’s disgraceful and appalling joint press conference with Putin and Trump, any remaining doubts about this issue need to be put aside.
Last week Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, announced criminal indictments against 12 members of the Russia Military Intelligence agency, or GRU. The indictment, prepared by special counsel Robert Mueller, laid out in extraordinary detail the extent to which Russian hackers sought to infiltrate the computer networks of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff in order to sway the election to Trump. This came on the heels of an indictment from last February in which Mueller’s office laid out evidence of Russian efforts on social media to denigrate Hillary Clinton, stoke racial and political divisions, and target voters in key swing states. All of this is consistent with the unanimous view of America’s intelligence agencies — one backed up just last week by Trump’s own Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats — that Russia was not only responsible for the 2016 hacking, but is plotting to do it again in 2018 and 2020.
Yet, on Monday Trump dismissed it all. The president was asked if he believed US intelligence agencies or the former KGB agent, unrepentant liar, and murderer standing next to him. “He just said it’s not Russia,” Trump said in reference to Putin. “I don’t see any reason why it would be.” Then Trump launched into an incoherent rant in which he blamed the Democratic Party for the hack and asked repeatedly about the “DNC server,” which is a fevered argument of election-hacking truthers.
Perhaps more astonishing was Trump’s answer when asked if he stood by his tweet that placed the blame for the drop-off in US-Russia relations on American “foolishness” and the Mueller investigation. According to Trump, “I hold both countries responsible. I think the United States has been foolish. I think we have all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time, frankly, before I got to office. I think we’re all to blame. I think that the United States now has stepped forward along with Russia.”
Notice what is missing from this answer: criticism of Russia or Putin. There’s no mention of Putin’s seizure of Crimea and support for insurgents in Ukraine. No mention of Russian involvement in shooting down a Malaysian Airline plane four years ago this week. No mention of the poisoning of Russian opponents of Putin in London. And, of course, no mention of Russian cyberattacks.
So much about the Trump/Putin relationship is disturbing, but the president’s pathological refusal to ever say a bad word about Russia or Putin is perhaps the most disquieting facet. The why is less important than the practical impact — which is that Trump seems more interested in safeguarding the reputation of Russia than he is in safeguarding US national security interests. These are not the normal actions of a president loyal to the Constitution he swore to uphold. They are more consistent with someone who has actively betrayed his country and continues to do so.
How else can one describe what’s happening right now? At the NATO summit last week, the president bashed America’s key European allies and even referred to the European Union as a “foe.” Last month, he pushed for Russia to be included in the G-8, all the while publicly attacking America’s G-7 allies. These mimic the foreign policy objectives of Putin.
Trump has repeatedly called the Russia investigation a witch hunt. He refuses to acknowledge Russia’s role in the election hacking and has done nothing to protect America’s democratic institutions against future attacks.
This is as grave a political crisis as any we’ve seen in our lifetimes — a US president more loyal to his own ego and to a foreign rival of the United States than to the country he leads. Trump is a clear and present danger to US national security. Every American needs to demand that Congress do something, anything, to end this madness. This can’t go on.
Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.