On Mediums of Self Expression (The second Public Comment pilot)

What is the right way to express one’s self?  I felt, for far too long in life, conflicted by this question. The “Public Comment” experiment had gone through several different iterations: vlog, video diary vlog, political commentary show, podcast…what was I actually doing!?! And why? What should I really be doing? And why?

The more research I did, and the more thinking I did, the case for focusing on a making Public Comment a podcast grew stronger and stronger. From the perspective of pure logic it seemed to follow that my thought could reach more people if they didn’t have to “sit and watch” me for an hour; if instead they could listen, whether driving or just “chilling” on the couch.

Up to this point though, I was fixated and the vlogging idea. (I remain in love with the talking-head vlog, however think the most effective approach to the medium is to keep them under 15 minutes or so, and think they work great as part of a wider, supplementary multi-media approach, along with the website, essays, et cetera). I was so inspired by Proust, Musil, Dostoevsky, Montaigne, Joyce, Whitman, and all the great artists who dared to share their consciousnesses without concern for their verbosity, how time consuming their works were, et cetera, and how intimate a glimpse we have of their souls, that as far as I was concerned, I was simply exploring and capturing the soul. Thus, Public Comment had been mostly developed as a vlog it no longer seemed logical to me. Frustrated with how tangled my aesthetic and multimedia thinking was, I decided to experiment with a second “pilot” launch, but this time, I was consciously intending to create a podcast, and develop the series from here on out as a podcast.

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Impeach Trump For Treason: Here’s Why

“We have a cancer within-close to the presidency, that’s growing. It’s growing daily. It’s compounding. It grows geometrically now, because it compounds itself.”

-John Dean, on tape discussing Watergate with President Nixon

 

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily…”

-Donald Trump, speaking at a press conference the day Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller III alleges, in an indictment, that Russian election related hacking began

 

“What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening”

            –Donald Trump speaking at a rally

 

Please, let’s at least pause and reflect because something is wrong

 

It upsets me, and it nauseates me as real has come to seem surreal when reflecting on the current political conditions in America, yet alas, I must join with my fellow patriots in calling out our President, Donald Trump, for actively committing treason (not to mention a list of other crimes, such as obstruction of justice, and violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, and its first and 14th amendments). I must also join in the patriotic and just choir of lament over Congress’s refusal to protect America from the president’s attack on our national security operations (including the solidarity of our alliances), our democratic process, trust in the operation of our government as a whole, trust in the free press, and his attack on objective reality more fundamentally. To protect us from the President’s utter treason- his mysteriously dogmatic policy of doing the bidding of Russian President Vladimir Putin- congress should remove President Trump from office immediately. As of the moment I put these words on the record unfortunately Congress is yet to act as they ought to. In the meantime then, we, the people, will have to be the ones to act, and do so by inundating congress with demands to remove the president from office immediately.

I concede that my rhetoric could arguably be interpreted as perhaps unacceptably over-dramatic however I hope you might at least grant me this:  when president Trump verbally attacks our closest allies in the European Union, calling them “a foe,” and yet lavishes Russian president Vladimir Putin with praise, calling his denials of interference in our 2016 presidential election “strong and powerful”- much more so, apparently, in his estimation, than the unanimous findings of the U.S. intelligence community- such an attitude does appear quite upside down and contrary to what most of the world expected from a United States president (note that even a barrage of Fox News commentators expressed disgust with President Trump over this matter); this certainly at least merits pause and reflection.

I understand that some critics, of course, disagree with this perspective. Maybe you are one of those critics who remains passionately loyal to Trump but I hope at least you are willing entertain the Devil’s advocate nonetheless, if only to double check your convictions. Other critics reading this may share my basic concerns yet find my overall interpretation of recent events as presumptuous, since, for example, Robert Mueller III’s investigation into Trump’s possible ties with Russian interference in our 2016 elections has not yet concluded. In other words, we do not yet know all the facts. That is true but we do have some facts, and moreover we have enough direct evidence, including the President’s own behavior and words on live television to prove that his behavior and catastrophically poor judgement are not befitting of a president. Indeed, some of Trump’s actions are blatantly illegal. Take his violation of the emoluments clause for example, which he is currently being sued for in a civil case. Evidence of President Trump’s impeachable offenses exist in troves. Indeed, the case against him is so complex and multifaceted that History Professor Allan J. Lichtman wrote an entire book – The Case For Impeachment- outlining and explaining the case as he sees it.

In light of the immense complexity surrounding President Trump’s disturbing behavior and the special investigation into it- specifically his ties to the Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, but also his blatant obstruction of justice, his attacks on the first amendment, his cruel treatment of children at U.S.-Mexican border (he has torn babies from their parents who were merely seeking asylum), questions about campaign finance laws, violations of the emoluments clause and other financial activities- I want to hone in specifically on president Trump’s treasonous behavior throughout what NBC News anchor Katy Tur calls the president’s “worst week ever,” explain why it is indeed “treason,” why it is dangerous, and why therefore, congress must impeach President Trump and remove him from office immediately. Every U.S. citizen should be pressuring congress to do so. Even more specifically, I will focus on the frightening implications of Trump “publicly sid[ing[ with Russia over his own intelligence community” -to borrow a phrase from Katy Tur- thereby humiliating them in front of the world and of the fact that he publically considered handing over U.S. citizens to Russian President Vladimir Putin for interrogations.

 

I shall begin with a few of the week’s most tumultuous events and historically charged comments as I believe it will set the stage, so to speak.

 

Trump believes Putin, not the entire U.S. intelligence community

 

On Monday, July 16, 2018, there was a U.S.-Russia Summit and then a Press Conference in Helsinki, Finland. “We carefully analyzed the current status, the present and the future of the Russia-United States relationship — key issues of the global agenda,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin, describing the nature of the summit. President Trump offers a similar characterization, saying he and Putin discussed “a wide range of critical issues for both of our countries. We had direct, open, deeply productive dialogue.”

At the press conference following the secret conversation between Trump and Putin, Associated Press reporter Jonathan Lemire said to President Trump:

“Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every US intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did.

“My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe? My second question is would you now with the whole world watching tell President Putin — would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?”

President Trump said in response: “My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me and some others and said they think it’s Russia.

“I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

President Trump did not at all “denounce what happened in 2016” and he did not “warn [Putin] to never do it again,” – to never interfere in our elections again (Neufeld). Trump openly and with the whole world watching, espoused his belief in Putin over the entire United States intelligence community (including the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, who Trump himself appointed), saying: “I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that president Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” (Neufeld; emphasis mine). Trump did not say that our intelligence community has “strong and powerful” evidence explicitly articulated in Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller III’s indictment of 12 Russians accused of  participating in the meddling of the 2016 election- evidence which clearly Mueller, his staff, and a grand jury all found compelling and convincing enough to proclaim the conduct of those 12 Russians so suspicious that they should face a court of law (although we can be confident that Putin will not extradite them). Trump literally and quite uncritically (so sadly true to his form) deferred to the unsubstantiated claims of a Russian dictator whose nefarious anti-American activities include ordering “Russia’s military intelligence agency [to] infiltrate[] the control rooms of power plants across the United States [which] could enable it to take control of parts of the grid by remote control.”  (What happens to sick hospital patients dependent on power to sustain their lives if Russia shuts down the wrong power plants? That would be one concern among many. Concerns President Trump clearly does not share with rational Americans.)

 

Outrage & Orwellian Smoke and Mirrors!

 

Americans responded in outrage over this open display of pure treason.  That day, former Central Intelligence Agency Director, John O. Brennan tweeted: “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to and exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treason. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???” Conservative columnist for the Washington Post, George Will, wrote in his July 17 article that “collusion with Russia is hiding in plain sight” and called President Trump a “sad, embarrassing wreck of a man.” One of Trump’s most ardent supporters, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich tweeted: “President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected – immediately.”

Even those highest up in Trump’s chain of command found the situation to be something they needed to inject themselves into. NBC reported that: “Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo had a private conversation with Trump to urge him to make clarifications on his comments from the news conference in Helsinki.” And so, he did, one might argue, attempt to make clarifications, though really what he did was play word games and treat we, the American people, as if we are incapable of seeing through his smoke and mirrors. President Trump said:

I thought that I made myself very clear by having just reviewed the transcript [of the Helsinki Press Conference]. Now, I have to say, I came back, and I said, “What is going on? What’s the big deal?” So I got a transcript. I reviewed it. I actually went out and reviewed a clip of an answer that I gave, and I realized that there is need for some clarification.

It should have been obvious — I thought it would be obvious — but I would like to clarify, just in case it wasn’t. In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word “would” instead of “wouldn’t.” The sentence should have been: I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t — or why it wouldn’t be Russia. So just to repeat it, I said the word “would” instead of “wouldn’t.” And the sentence should have been — and I thought it would be maybe a little bit unclear on the transcript or unclear on the actual video — the sentence should have been: I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia. Sort of a double negative. So you can put that in, and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.

People are not convinced by Trump’s claim that he meant “wouldn’t” and not “would.” As NBC reported: “Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. accused Trump of trying to ‘squirm away’ from his comments in Helsinki. ‘President Trump tried to squirm away from what he said yesterday. It’s 24 hours too late and in the wrong place,’ Schumer said” (Clark). NBC further reports, “Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he wasn’t buying it. ‘I don’t accept the president’s comments today,’ Warner said. “If he wanted to make those comments, he should have had the strength to make them in front of Vladimir Putin” (Clark).

Trump supporters like Newt Gingrich however thought Trump fixed the problem. He tweeted:

President Trump did right thing today in clarifying his comments in helsinki-reiterating his respect for and support of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and the intelligence community. President responded quickly and clearly once he realized he had used wrong language.

Although Trump sort of changed a few of his Russia talking points, he injects a totally unsubstantiated, modifying contradiction which amounts to nothing more than an obfuscation which on the surface could only appease those who think America’s official languages should be Orwellian FoxNewsspeak, BreitbartNewspeak, and Doublethink. Trump said: “I accept our American intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place, could be other people also”  (emphasis mine). Since the American intelligence community’s conclusion is not that interference in our 2016 election “could be other people also” it is blatantly obvious that Trump in fact is merely adding to the list of 3,000 plus “false or misleading claims” he has already told to the American people. Beyond the fact that he contradicts himself he also provides no source or rationale as to how he knows or even why he suspects it “could be other people also.” He is merely trying to confuse vulnerable minds and convince them to submit dogmatically to his invented, fake reality. “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,” Trump tells the American people, implying that only what he says is happening is indeed happening. (That is why all news media content that contradicts his claims are deemed “fake news,” and why reporters who ask questions about the president [questions which his Press Secretary Sara Huckabee Sanders deems “inappropriate”  are banned from the White House, and why Trump threatened to strip security clearances former intelligence officers who criticize him in ways which Press Secretary Sanders calls “inappropriate.”  Attacks on the first amendment, abuse of power, and desperate attempts at mind control- that is “what’s happening.”)

That’s how Senator Jeff Flake (AZ-R) perceives it also, saying we witnessed “an Orwellian moment” and that President Trump is “wag[ing] war on objective reality.” Senator Flake did not hold back and stop there. He clearly established an implied grounds for Trump’s impeachment when he spoke on the Senate floor three days later. Flake said: “An American president was invited by a reporter to denounce Russian attacks on our elections and in doing so defend the country he was elected to lead.” Flake addressed “the findings of our intelligence community regarding the Russian aggression” which Trump rejects and said “To reject these findings and to reject the excruciating specific indictment against…Russian operatives in defense to the world of a K.G.B. Apparatchik is an act of will on the part of the president.”   He characterized Trump’s behavior as “giving aid and comfort to an enemy of democracy,” citing the exact constitutional definition of treason, which can be found in Section 3. Clause 1 which says in full:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open court.

It does need to be noted that unfortunately not every Republican shares Senator Flake’s perspective. The view which contrasts Senator Flake’s most strikingly is that of Senator Rand Paul. Senator Paul alleges that “Trump Derangement Syndrome has finally come to the Senate” and he condemns what he perceives to be a widespread “hatred for the president” and says it is “so intense that partisans would rather risk war than give diplomacy a chance.”  Paul seems to confuse issues by equating widespread outrage over Trump’s refusal to acknowledge U.S. intelligence conclusions of Russian meddling (and instead take Putin’s word for it that they didn’t do it) and his refusal to strongly condemn them for it with openness to talk. One might speculate that Senator Paul either isn’t thinking clearly or is himself a “partisan” who would rather defend the president’s behavior than acknowledge the troubling contradictions that tarnish Trump’s credibility on this matter.

Sen. Paul was especially infuriated over allegations that Trump is a treasonist. “For goodness sakes, we have the former head of the CIA John Brennan gallivanting across TV now being paid for his ‘opinion,’ to call the president treasonous. This has got to stop. This is crazy hatred of the president. This is crazy partisanship that is driving this,” Senator Paul said (Senate Session). (That Rand Paul of all people, once known widely for his libertarianism and his constitutionalism suddenly seems to have a problem with Brennan’s exercise of his first amendment rights is baffling and I cannot help but find it strangely suspicious. Something seems to have deeply corrupted Senator Paul but that is another conversation for another time.)

 

“This seems not treated with the urgency required.

“The entire country should be aware of this. If Putin can single out @mcfaul, he can single out anyone.”

As if President Trump’s “submissive and deferential” attitude and actions towards Putin (to cite Senator Bob Corker’s [R-Tenn.] characterization at the beginning of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [which he chairs] hearing on the U.S. summits with North Korea and Russia)  weren’t a great enough shock to the nation, President Trump sent Americans into even more alarm during yet another disaster of a press conference. It was the Wednesday following the Monday Helsinki incident. As the Washington Post reports:

“Russian authorities yesterday named several Americans who they want to question, who they claim were involved in Bill Browder’s quote-unquote ‘crimes’ in their terms [Browder is accused of committing crimes in Russia but they are widely disputed], including former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul,” the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman said. “Does President Trump support that idea? Is he open to having U.S. officials questioned by Russia?”

“The president’s going to meet with his team and we’ll let you know when we have an announcement on that,” Sanders replied.

Putin wanted the U.S. government to allow his government to interrogate Browder and other U.S. citizens including former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and this infuriated most vocal Americans. Washington Post journalist Samantha Schmidt writes:

“The willingness of the White House to contemplate handing over a former U.S. ambassador for interrogation by the Kremlin drew ire and astonishment from current and former U.S. officials. Such a proposition is unheard of. So is the notion that the president may think he has the legal authority to turn anyone over to a foreign power on his own.”

Among the most prominent of voices opposing this terrifying notion was acting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “That’s not going to happen. The administration is not going to send, force Americans to travel to Russia to be interrogated by Vladimir Putin and his team,” Pomepo told the Christian Broadcasting Network. Although Pompeo thankfully says it’s “not going to happen,” where’s his moral compass and characterization; where is his pronouncement of the bigger meaning of the fact that President Trump actually considered the idea that certain Americans should have to be forced to answer questions asked by a dictator who rigs elections, annexes sovereign territory, and has his critics imprisoned or murdered? The former Secretary of State John Kerry, who served under President Obama was able to offer more clarity: he characterized the notion as “dangerous.” Representative Eric Swalwell (D-Calif) tweeted this: “Take this to the bank, @realDonaldTrump: you turn over former U.S. Ambassador @McFaul to Putin, you can count on me and millions others to swiftly make you an ex-president.”

One of the most sobering and crucial reactions for Americans to heed (if not the most) is seen in a Twitter exchange between a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and the Harvard Extension School- Tom Nichols- and attorney Ben Campo. The exchange is as follows:

                      Ben Campo: Am I overreacting when I think that the mere consideration

of this request by the White House is an abdication of their duties and a

very dangerous precedent by the administration? This seems not

                        treated with the urgency required. [emphasis mine]

 

Tim Nichols: No. You are not overreacting. The entire country

                       should be aware of this. If Putin can single out @mcfaul, he

                       can single out anyone. The president’s job is to protect us, not to

even * consider * handing any of us over to an enemy government.

 

 

Open Treason

 

There is currently, among us Americans, a debate as to whether Trump’s actions- undermining our intelligence community and considering subjecting American citizens to the harassment of Vladimir Putin- indeed qualify as “treason.” To begin with, what is the definition of treason? Here it should be noted that there is the rhetorical or general definition of treason (not applicable to the law, but used in informal conversation) and then there is the legal definition. It should also be noted that in response to Trump’s behavior and comments at the Helsinki press conference, “treason” was the top searched word on the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website, as the site tweeted. This suggests it is possible that a massive plethora of Americans thought they may have witnessed treason committed before there very eyes and sought check whether they might be right. The second, third, and fourth most searched words were: “abase, traitor, collusion” demonstrating further evidence that at the very least, a compelling number of Americans found Trump’s behavior suspicious and concerning.

According to the Oxford Dictionary “treason” is defined as “The crime of betraying one’s country, especially by attempting to kill or overthrow the sovereign or government” or “The action of betraying someone or something.”  But let us consult more than one dictionary as more than one perspective should always be considered. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary “treason” is defined as:

1 : the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family

2 : the betrayal of a trust : treachery

As for the legal definition? Article III Section 3 says:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted (emphasis mine).

 

“Russia and the United States are on the opposite sides of various armed confrontations in Syria”

 

Politifact, widely known for scrutinizing controversial claims, sides with a number of legal experts that it cites, claiming in an article that “Trump’s actions have not met the strict constitutional definition” of treason. The popular rationale which Politifact’s experts adhere to is the interpretation that treason requires that the U.S. be in an official state of war, which the experts say we are not. (It should be noted that Politifact did not oppose the notion that Trump is a “traitor.” Politifact is arguing based on legal semantics) The author of the Politfact article cites legal historian at Fordham Law School, Jed Shugerman, who says: “We are not at war with Russia under any fair understanding of the word.” Jacobson then paraphrases: “Shugerman added that even a notion like ‘cyberwar’ with Russia is a metaphor for war rather than an actual deadly conflict-unless that cyberwar were to escalate to, say, hacking into nuclear power plants with the intent of exploding them.” (Here it should be noted that Russia has and is hacking into our power plants.)

University of California-Davis law professor Carlton Larson is also cited in the Politifact article and says “Even if one thought the Russian hacking amounted to an act of war, the U.S. has not treated that hacking as an act of war. So until an actual state of war erupts between the United States and Russia, Russia can’t formally be an enemy for purposes of treason law.”

Conservative commentator Kevin D. Williamson, in article for The Weekly Standard doesn’t even bother to confer with constitutional or dictionary definitions of “treason” and instead cites the concept as it was treated by ancient Romans. Williamson writes:

the law of the Roman republic defined treason in military terms: perduellio consisted of making war on the Roman republic, assisting those making war on the Roman republic, or handing over a Roman citizen to an enemy at war. During the republican period, charges of treason were levied almost exclusively at Romans in military service for actions taken in a military context.

Williamson should refer back Robert Mueller III’s July 13 indictment of 12 Russians interfering in our election and note that Mueller ties election interference to “a military intelligence agency called the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (“GRU”) (United States of America V. Viktor Borisovich Netyksho et al.; emphasis mine) This is clearly and explicitly a military context.

Still, clearly it is a reasonable trend among legal and intellectual minds contemplating Trump’s actions, to conclude Trump is not guilty of constitutional treason on the grounds that the U.S. and Russia are not at war in any traditional sense of the term. But I contend that the nature of warfare and aggression between nations have evolved, as I believe, is made clear by the fact that according to Mueller, Russia’s attack on our elections was a military operation. Russia is engaged in new forms of aggression which include, not just attempting to subvert our democracy in general, including our intelligence community, and our sovereignty especially as it concerns our foreign policy,  and not just waging a misinformation campaign by inundating media with propaganda as part of that subversion, but also attempts to control our power grids which poses a severe threat.  As the New York Times reports:

the Department of Homeland Security reported that over the last year, Russia’s military intelligence agency had infiltrated the control rooms of power plants across the United States. In theory, that could enable it to take control of parts of the grid by remote control (emphasis mine)

If Russia’s cyber attacks should not be called acts of war, how exactly do we categorize Russia’s aggression? Let us briefly delve deeper into legal understandings of war for further clarity. According to 18 U.S. Code S 2331- Definitions (4) (a, b, & c):

(4) the term “act of war” means any act occurring in the course of—

(A) declared war;

(B) armed conflict, whether or not war has been declared, between two or more nations; or

(C) armed conflict between military forces of any origin; (Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute; emphasis mine)

 

The question ultimately comes down to the phrase “armed conflict.” The 2015 Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) Deskbook [“a collection of teaching outlines, collected, bound, and distributed as a matter of instructional convenience, intended only to introduce students to the law and point them to primary sources of that law”] says “it is a well-settled proposition in international law that the LOAC applies to all spheres of conflict, to include land, sea, air, space, and also cyberspace” (see page 8, footnote 3; emphasis mine). That being said, there exists a point of view that there is no definitive, explicit, legal definition for an official cyber attack, or state of war fought exclusively in cyberspace.  As Federal News Radio reported in an article by Scott Maucione last April:

Since cyber became a major domain, what exactly constitutes an attack on the nation and its people remains debatable.

Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.) wants to change that. Last week he went before the House Armed Services Committee to request a provision be added to the 2019 defense authorization bill that provides a legal definition of cyber warfare.

“Cyber war does not fit within the traditional confines of how we conceive warfare. While we have a cyber command that is tasked with protecting U.S. cyberspace, we do not have a legal definition detailing under what circumstances a cyber attack is considered an act of war. That is why I am requesting an amendment that will require the Pentagon to form a working group to propose a legal definition, report back to Congress and make the findings known to the public,” Donovan said during the April 11 hearing (Lawmakers still looking).

On the other hand , Business Insider cites Jens David Ohlin, a vice dean and professor of law at Cornell Law School, who told reporter Grace Panetta:

even without a formal declaration, there is a case to be made that Russia and the US are indeed at war.

“One argument would be that Russia has engaged in a covert cyber intervention against US interests, including election meddling, that rises to the level of hostilities… However “an even better argument would be that Russia and the United States are on the opposite sides of various armed confrontations in Syria”

… referring to Russia’s backing of the Syrian government while the US backs rebel groups there.”

It is certainly true in that sense that an “armed conflict” exists between our two nations. Let us also consider that Russia has used actual force (hacking and stealing private information and using it for nefarious purposes, even accessing our energy grids, compelling the president [for reasons yet to discovered] to interrupt the coordination and functioning our government by striving to delegitimize and stifle the effectiveness our democratic process, our intelligence community, even our alliances, and to crush dissent in the media by striving to delegitimize all voices in the media critical of Trump and his relationship with Putin ) and that this force has damaged our government as an institution, and threatened our national security.

 

“Half (49%) of Americans agree with former intelligence officials’ assessments that President Trump acted ‘treasonous’ during the Helsinki summit”

 

Trump’s open, public and dogmatic deference to Putin (again, with whom we are in armed conflict, and cyber warfare) and not the findings, and credibility of U.S. institutions is by all means treason: a pronouncement that many Americans persist in making.

 

Recall again, the tweet from former Central Intelligence Agency Director, John O. Brennan: “nothing short of treason.” Recall again, as well, Senator Jeff Flake who described Trump’s behavior as “giving aid and comfort to an enemy of democracy,” again, citing the exact constitutional definition of treason. In a Seattle Times article University of Washington Law Professor Hugh Spitzer writes:

Could Trump’s actions provide a legal basis for impeachment under Article II, Section 4, of the Constitution, which provides for removing the president and other officials “on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”?

The answer is “yes.”  Spitzer says the answer is yes because in his interpretation of events, Trump is “adhering to the enemy, and giving them aid and comfort” (“’Aid and Comfort…’”).

New York Times Columnist Thomas L. Friedman  writes:

There is overwhelming evidence that our president, for the first time in our history, is deliberately or through gross negligence or because of his own twisted personality engaged in treasonous behavior — behavior that violates his oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Friedman’s rationale? Trump “threw his entire intelligence establishment under a bus,” and blamed the United States in part for our poor relationship with Russia (forget the audacity for a second, he does not even bother to suggest why he thinks this, other than to say that the U.S. and Russia “should have had this dialogue a long time ago” which they did if he will remember that both President Bush and Obama have engaged in dialogues with Putin.

Friedman’s colleague at the New York Times, Charles M. Blow says :

“Trump should be directing all resources at his disposal to punish Russia for the attacks and prevent future ones. But he is not…America is under attack and its president absolutely refuses to defend it. Simply put, Trump is a traitor and may well be treasonous”

The front page of the New York Daily News for Tuesday, July 2017 reads: “OPEN TREASON; *Trump Backs Enemy Putin over US intel….”

An astonishing trend is blatantly apparent: A number of law professors, lawmakers, and pundits in the media allege that Trump committed treason. And by no means whatsoever, do they reflect some “fringe” group (such as the Green Party or the Libertarian Party), nor do they reflect mere Democratic partisan anger at Trump. According to an Ipsos poll conducted after the Helsinki incident, “Half (49%) of Americans agree with former intelligence officials’ assessments that President Trump acted ‘treasonous’ during the Helsinki summit.”

 

 President Trump must be impeached

 

Condemnation however is not enough. The president must be impeached, and treason is an impeachable offence. After impeachment, the Senate must vote to remove Trump from office. He should then be indicted and tried in a court of law. Since lengthy commentaries such as this one can sometimes muddle the bottom line, let us be clear exactly what Trump should be impeached for (at least with respect to his ongoing treason):

 

  • Publically proclaiming the illegitimacy of U.S. intelligence (which unanimously agrees Putin coordinated an attack on our elections) and instead deferring to the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose unsubstantiated denial in interfering with our elections, Trump calls “strong and powerful,” thereby conspiring with Putin in a misinformation campaign and a campaign to literally destabilize the functioning of our government, and slow down the efficacy of our national security apparatus and coordination.

 

  • Willingness to even consider handing over U.S. citizens to Putin (who has a global reputation for having his critics murdered both in Russia and abroad) whereby they would be subjected to harassment, at the very least, and either end up in prison for phony financial crimes or murdered at worst, proving that the president not only has failed in his ability to defend Americans from Russian aggression, but has also demonstrated a disinterest.

 

  • Points 1 and 2 clearly prove that Trump is giving “aid and comfort to an enemy” (an enemy we are armed conflict with), and that enemy is Russia.

 

 

And let it also be clear that just as perceptions of Trump’s actions are not merely defined as treasonous by radical fringe groups, the same is true of calls for his impeachment. A CNN/SSRS poll found that even prior the Helsinki Crisis “42% of Americans say President Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office.” While no polls have been released since the event, given the fact that perception of Trump has sunk to lower estimations post Helsinki, it is not at all unreasonable to speculate that public support for impeachment will grow. Most certainly, as I have outlined, by conferring in this commentary, with legal experts, lawmakers, pundits in the media, and the view of nearly half the American population, public support for Trump’s impeachment and removal must grow, or else Putin will have succeeded in indeed hijacking the U.S. presidency and controlling key elements of its foreign policy; he will have succeeded in subverting U.S. sovereignty, which we must never allow, as this nation was founded on the principle that no dictator may take our sovereignty from us.

 

References

“Americans Interrogated by Russians? ‘Not Going to Happen’ Says Pompeo in CBN News EXCLUSIVE,” Christian Broadcasting Network. 1:13-1:19 http://www1.cbn.com/content/americans-interrogated-russians-not-going-happen-says-pompeo-cbn-news-exclusive Accessed 30 July 2018.

 

Atkinson, Claire. “’Disgusting’and ‘Surreal’: Fox voices offer sharp criticism  of Trump in Helsinki. NBC News. 16 July 2018. https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/disgusting-surreal-fox-voices-offer-sharp-criticism-trump-helsinki-n891841

 

Blow, Charles, M. “Trump, Treasonous Traitor,” New York Times, 15 July 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/15/opinion/trump-russia-investigation-putin.html

 

 

Bump, Philip.“Putin’s push to interrogate U.S. officials Russia accuses of crimes, explained,” Washington Post, 18 July 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/07/18/putins-modest-proposal-on-interrogating-u-s-officials-explained/?utm_term=.a317e8bb632e

 

Chalfant, Morgan. “Trump mulls move against intel critics.” The Hill. 23 July 2018.

http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/398478-trump-mulls-move-against-intel-critics

 

Corker, Bob (Senator), “Senator Corker Expresses Concerns About President’s Conduct of Foreign Policy,” 25 July 2018, 1:58-2:01  https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4742121/senator-corker-expresses-concerns-presidents-conduct-foreign-policy

 

Dartunorro, Clark.  “24 hours later, Trump claims he misspoke in Helsinki, meant to say Russia did have reason to meddle in election” NBC News. 18 July 2018, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/24-hours-later-trump-claims-he-misspoke-helsinki-meant-say-n892166

 

Dean, John & Nixon, Richard. “Cancer on the Presidency.” Miller Center.  https://millercenter.org/the-presidency/educational-resources/cancer-on-the-presidency (accessed 1 August 2018).

 

Dowdy, Ryan et al. “Law of Armed Conflict Deskbook,” INTERNATIONAL AND OPERATIONAL LAW DEPARTMENT, The United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School Charlottesville, VA, 2015,  http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/pdf/LOAC-Deskbook-2015.pdf

 

Farhi, Paul & Sonmez, Felicia. “CNN reporter barred from White House event, drawing protests from journalists.” The Washington Post. 25 July 2018.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/cnn-reporter-barred-from-white-house-event-drawing-journalists-protests/2018/07/25/81dd6b5e-9057-11e8-bcd5-9d911c784c38_story.html?utm_term=.be9aba3e2ab1    

 

Flake, Jeff. Paul, Rand. Senate Session. CSPAN.  19 July 2018, 1:377:18- 1:39:47 1:52:35-1:59:40, https://www.c-span.org/video/?448415-1/us-senate-approves-resolution-opposing-russian-questioning-us-officials

 

Friedman, Thomas L. “Trump and Putin vs. America,” New York Times, 16 July 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/16/opinion/trump-and-putin-vs-america.html

 

Front Page, New York Daily News, 17 July 2018, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/new-york-daily-news-scorches-treason-trump-with-brutal-new-cover_us_5b4d3bb0e4b0de86f485c6fd 

“Half of Americans agree that Trump acted “treasonous” during the Helsinki summit,” Ipsos, 19 July 2018, https://www.ipsos.com/en-us/news-polls/Half-of-Americans-agree-Trump-acted-treasonous-at-Helsinki-Summit

 

Hohmann, James. “The Daily 202: Trump creates an alternative reality, and he wants you to join him there.” The Washington Post. 25 July 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2018/07/25/daily-202-trump-creates-an-alternative-reality-and-he-wants-you-to-join-him-there/5b57c83e1b326b1e64695515/?utm_term=.6f1db5b94341

 

Jacobson, Louis. “A closer look at claims of treason after Trump’s meeting with Russian President Putin.”Politifact,23 July 2018, https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2018/jul/23/treason-trumps-actions-russian-putin-meeting/

 

@JohnBrennan. “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???” Twitter, 16 Jul 2018, 8:52 a.m.,

https://twitter.com/johnbrennan/status/1018885971104985093

 

Kessler, Glenn, et al. “President Trump has made 3,001 false or misleading claims so far.” The Washington Post. 1 May 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2018/05/01/president-trump-has-made-3001-false-or-misleading-claims-so-far/?utm_term=.e866e1bb4f9a

 

Levy, Clifford, J. “An Investment Gets Trapped in Kremlin’s Vise,” New York Times, 24 July 2008, https://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/24/world/europe/24kremlin.html?hp=&pagewanted=all

 

Lichtman, Allan J. The Case For Impeachment. Harper Collins e-Books, 2017.

 

@MarriamWebster. “Top searches, in order: treason, abase, traitor, collusion, presser,” Twitter, 16 July 2018, 2:39 p.m., https://twitter.com/MerriamWebster/status/1018973357604265986\

 

Maucione, Scott. “Lawmakers still looking for definitive answer on what constitutes cyber war,” Federal News Radio, 16 April 2018,

 

Mueller indictment, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/new-york-daily-news-scorches-treason-trump-with-brutal-new-cover_us_5b4d3bb0e4b0de86f485c6fd

Neufeld, Jennie, Putin, Vladimir, Trump, Donald. “Read the full transcript of the Helsinki press conference.” Vox. 17 July 2018. https://www.vox.com/2018/7/16/17576956/transcript-putin-trump-russia-helsinki-press-conference

 

@newtgingrich. “President Trump did right thing today in clarifying his comments in helsinki-reiterating his respect for and support of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and the intelligence community. President responded quickly and clearly once he realized he had used wrong language.” Twitter. 17 July 2018. 2:31 p.m.https://twitter.com/newtgingrich/status/1019333770946621440?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1019333770946621440&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcnews.com%2Fpolitics%2Fpolitics-news%2F24-hours-later-trump-claims-he-misspoke-helsinki-meant-say-n892166

 

@newtgingrich. “President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected—-immediately. Twitter, 16 July 2018. https://twitter.com/newtgingrich/status/1018967261418344450

 

Panetta, Grace. “Former CIA Director John Brennan said Trump’s press conference with Putin was ‘treasonous’ — here’s what legal experts say,” Business Insider, 16 July 2018 https://www.businessinsider.com/did-trump-committ-treason-russia-summit-2018-7

 

@RadioFreeTom. “No. You are not overreacting. The entire country should be aware of this. If Putin can single out @mcfaul, he can single out anyone. The President’s job is to protect us, not to even *consider* handing any of us over to an enemy government.” Twitter, 18 July 2018, 12:32 p.m., https://twitter.com/RadioFreeTom/status/1019666361621143553

 

 

Restuccia, Andrew and Nelson, Louis. “Trump’s Putin fire rages on,” Politico, 19 July 2018,

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/19/michael-mcfaul-trump-russia-question-732356

 

Sanger, David E. “Russian Hackers Appear to Shift Focus to U.S. Power Grid,” New York Times, 27 July 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/27/us/politics/russian-hackers-electric-grid-elections-.html

 

 Schmidt, Samantha. “Outrage erupts over Trump-Putin ‘conversation’ about letting Russia interrogate ex-U.S. diplomat Michael McFaul.” Washington Post, 19 July 2018.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/07/19/trump-putin-conversation-about-russian-interrogation-of-u-s-diplomat-prompts-outrage-astonishment/?utm_term=.399aa39213e6

 

 

Spitzer, Hugh. “‘Aid and comfort’ to enemies: Trump, Russia and treason,” Seattle Times, 18 July 2018, https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/aid-and-comfort-to-enemies-trump-russia-and-treason/

 

Stempel, Jonathan. “Emoluments case alleging Trump violated Constitution can proceed: U.S. judge.” Reuters. 25 July 2018. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-emoluments/emoluments-case-alleging-trump-violated-constitution-can-proceed-us-judge-idUSKBN1KF2GZ

 

“Treason,” Merriam-Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/treason, accessed 30 July 2018

 

“Treason,” Oxford Dictionary, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/treason, accessed  30 July 2018

 

Tur, Katy. “Trump’s Worst Week Yet?” MSNBC. 20 July 2018,0:00-0:07, https://www.msnbc.com/the-last-word/watch/trump-s-worst-week-yet-1282333251677

 

“Treason,” Oxford Dictionary, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/treason, accessed  30 July 2018

 

“Treason,” Merriam-Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/treason, accessed 30 July 2018

 

Trump, Donald. “Donald Trump Asks Russia to Find Hillary Clinton’s Emails.” C-SPAN. 17 July 2016. https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4615538/donald-trump-asks-russia-find-hillary-clintons-emails&start=775

 

U.S. Constitution, Article III,  and Amendment I, 21 June, 1788, (Cornell Law School Legal Institute)  https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articleiii; https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/first_amendment

 

Will, George. “This sad embarrassing wreck of a man,” Washington Post, 17 July 2018,

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/this-sad-embarrassing-wreck-of-a-man/2018/07/17/d06de8ea-89e8-11e8-a345-a1bf7847b375_story.html?utm_term=.555ca8105920

 

Williamson, Kevin D. “Stop Calling It ‘Treason,’” The Weekly Standard, 17 July 2018, https://www.weeklystandard.com/kevin-d-williamson/donald-trumps-meeting-with-vladimir-putin-wasnt-treason

 

Wolf, Z. Byron. “There’s nearly a Nixon ’74 level of public support for impeaching Trump,” CNN, 22 June 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/22/politics/impeach-trump-nixon-support-bill-clinton-poll/index.html

CBS’ SCOTT PELLEY: “I TRULY, DEEPLY, DO NOT CARE”; “MAYBE IT’S A GENTIC DEFECT”

I had the wonderful opportunity of attending the College Media Association (CMA) Spring National College Media Convention in Times Square, where I got to ask CBS’s Scott Pelley a few questions about freedom and bias.

The CMA describes itself on its website (http://www.collegemedia.org/site/about.html) as “the preeminent source for education and support for professionals and students engaged in creating all forms of student produced media on college and university campuses.”

Also according to the website, it was founded in 1954 and has more than 900 members.

The CMA published a program for the convention and inside that program it says they hold two annual conventions. Every Spring they hold a convention in New York City, and every fall the convention “convenes at varying sites across the country.”

One of the convention’s keynote speakers was CBS’ Evening New’s managing editor, Mr. Scott Pelley.

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-2-02-45-pm
Photo by Sean O’Connor 

When I got to question Mr. Pelley I mentioned some specific things that I found to be troubling that prompted me to ask my question: things such as the Washington Post article about former CBS employee Sharyl Attkisson, who resigned due to the network’s alleged liberal bias, and their alleged refusal to air certain stories on the Benghazi scandal (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2014/03/10/sharyl-attkisson-leaves-cbs-news/) , and a commentary in the USA TODAY that day on America’s drastic loss of freedom of the press. (Preserve Freedom Of The Press; Jonathan Turley; 3/13/14).

(It is worth noting that I was later told by an advisor at the convention who once interviewed President Barack Obama, that one should never ask someone in a political position to “comment” on something, because it only gives them the opportunity to dance around the issue. A point well made.)

While Mr. Pelley responded by saying “I will put The CBS Evening News- of which I am managing editor- up against any news organization, broadcast or print, when it comes to coverage of Benghazi”, and that he has been accused of having both a liberal and conservative bias, which in his opinion means he has “nailed” his interviews, he said nothing about whether or not he believed we are losing the freedom of the press.

screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-2-04-48-pm
Photo by Sean O’Connor 

For Mr. Pelley to fail to point out that the U.S. Justice Department seized phone records of reporters and editors of the Associated Press,and seized records of Fox News phone lines, and that the FCC had planned to monitor news rooms, and grill journalists on how their organizations select news stories, and that these events are problematic, is, on his part, most discouraging, especially because he is a veteran journalist, and was in a room full of people who will become future members of the media industry.

It was also rather inconsistent with the message he began his speech with, as he spoke of how without a free press there is no democracy.

He identified the lack of free press in Syria but failed to mention a single attack on free press here in America. Considering how important the issue theoretically is to him, he should have at least raised questions: Should the government monitor news organizations?

If it does, what is the difference between news that is officially run by the state, and news which is unofficially run by the state?

Why do we call the unofficial state ownership of the press “free press”?

There is something else Mr. Pelley said, in response to another person’s question. Mr. Pelley was asked if he worries about being a tool of the government. He said he did not worry about that and then added “I don’t care whether there’s a Democrat or a Republican in the White House. I don’t care which party is in the leadership, on either side of the house or senate. Maybe it’s a genetic defect that I have of some kind, but I truly, deeply, do not care. My job is to report on what those people do or say and illustrate the contrast between what they do and say.” He said he is neither a conservative or a liberal, and that he just tries to “inflict as much pain on both of them” as he “possibly can, because…that’s what journalists do.”

It is one thing for a reporter to be unbiased in his official report, and another thing for him to have an opinion. Having an opinion does not make a reporter’s report inherently biased. Injecting an opinion into a report and refusing to tell all sides of the story is biased and is essentially what we would refer to as propaganda. I wonder what Mr. Pelley would say in response that.

I also wonder: was Mr. Pelley being honest?

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Photo by Sean O’Connor

Does he just tell us what he thinks we want to hear so we’ll like him and trust him, or does he mean it when he says he “truly, deeply [does] not care” whether America is led by Republicans or Democrats?

While I wish I could speculate that by not caring, he means that he believes both the Republicans and Democrats are corrupt and he himself is an independent, unfortunately his comment that “maybe it is a genetic defect” suggests that he doesn’t think that deeply about it, and instead, considers his apparent political apathy to be just some bizarre and very paradoxical aspect of his personality.

When he said that his job is to “report what those people do and say and illustrate the difference” and that “we [at the CBS Evening News] just try to inflict as much pain on both of them as we possibly can” it comes across as impersonal, detached, and somewhat nihilistic.

What does he mean when he says he tries to “inflict pain”?

Even supposing he is speaking figuratively, it still comes across as arbitrary since he “truly, deeply [does] not care” about who is leading America, causing his projected ideal image of a journalist to look, not like a person with a moral consciousness, but rather a sadomasochist who views an interview as a means of “inflicting pain” on people merely because it is his job to do so.

A journalist should care about the state of the universe. All people should care about everything that is produced, from ideas to food.

As for journalists in particular, it should be their rational consciences that prompt them to ask the questions they ask and report events honestly. No, not all journalists have to broadcast or publish commentaries.

Perhaps some would rather let reporters report, and commentators publish and broadcast their opinions. That is fine. But all people- no matter what job they work- should most certainly analyze the news and have opinions and share them if asked and act on those opinions.

I would have loved to ask Mr. Pelley if he even votes, and why or why not, but unfortunately there wasn’t enough time for me to ask a follow up question.

As I mentioned earlier, the CMA describes itself as “the preeminent source for education and support for professionals and students engaged in creating all forms of student produced media on college and university campuses”. If the association is what it claims to be, then it should be clear to students, that above all things, they should never be politically apathetic like Mr. Pelley, because in doing so, further attempts by the U.S. government to manipulate the media would grow more and more successful, would trickle down to the college media, and reach a point where American media begins to resemble the Syrian media that Mr. Pelley rightfully condemned.