On the Mueller testimony

News organizations widely reported that the Mueller testimony failed to capture much of the country. As to why, exactly, I think it is more complex than some may think. Beyond claims of apathy, cynicism, or Mueller’s failure to “perform” as some would have liked, there is the rather important consideration that many of us have to work and experience varying degrees of economic anxiety and other day-to-day pressures that make wrapping our minds around the upsetting drama in Washington something much easier said than done. While I was able to listen on my drive to the tutoring center, I did still have to “work” on things beyond the production of Public Comment, and when I didn’t, I still had my own marketing, branding, and aesthetic contemplations to improve Public Comment in mind. So, while I am concerned that too many people are apathetic, to be fair, I don’t know how much has more to do with juggling life than general apathy. As for the main stream media, I was saddened by those who placed so much emphasis on Mueller seeming not “as sharp” as he used to be as I wondered if in so doing they may have overlooked a number of other possible, contextual factors, such as possible anxiety over the high stakes of his testimony, and/or what he knows, but can’t tell us, but perhaps wishes he could tell us? Whatever you make of Mueller’s testimony, I hope enough Americans come to care so that as a nation we can get our act together and start taking care of our troubled government. 

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Akhtar’s and Dostoevsky’s Examinations of Freedom, Reason and Faith

“There is nothing more seductive for man than the freedom of his conscience, but there is nothing more tormenting either

The Grand Inquisitor (From Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov 254)

 

“…an attempt to liberate the more heartfelt metaphorical version of religious experience from the literalist dogma of the orthodoxy…”

                                    -Ayad Akhtar (From The Essential Ayad Akhtar by Natalie Hulla

of the Cincinnati Play House in the Park)

 

In the essay “How American, How Muslim,” Pulitzer Prize winning writer Ayad Akhtar says one of his inspirations is the late 19th century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky (Akhtar Appendix item 3). In both Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and Akhtar’s American Dervish there are characters with complex views on religion. As complex as their views appear to be, in both novels there are characters who ultimately possess religious faith or lack it. What makes comparing and contrasting these two pieces especially interesting is that despite both authors examining different religions- Dostoevsky examines Christianity, Akhtar examines Islam-, writing in different centuries – Dostoevsky wrote in the 19th, Akhtar in the 21st-,  and in different countries- Dostoevsky in a considerably homogeneous Russia, Aktar in a considerably diverse and pluralistic America- their characters critically examine religion in similar ways. Both novels examine the importance of freedom (intellectual freedom, and the freedom to do what one wants), and the conflicts between reason and faith (for example, ‘can/should one have both reason and faith?’). Although they examine similar things, one notable difference is how each author’s characters define of reason.  In American Dervish an atheist adheres to a notion of non-contradictory thinking and shows how contradictory interpretation of the Quran leads to antisemitism. In The Brothers Karamazov, both a Christian monk named Zosima, and Ivan, a conflicted agnostic, fear that unchecked reason will lead to violence. Moreover, the monk, specifically, views Christ as the only way to save an otherwise rational mind from this violence. In other words, the rational character in American Dervish sees reason as a path to peace and religion as a path to hate, where as for Dostoevsky, reason leads to violence and only religion can bring peace and love.[1]

 

FREEDOM

 

Both Akhtar and Dostoevsky have characters who champion freedom. And in fact, both examine different ways to define the concept. For example, in American Dervish, Naveed is a staunch advocate of freedom- intellectual freedom of thought, as well as freedom to act as he wishes- who believes “Eastern women [are] mentally imprisoned” (Akhtar 160; italics are Akhtar’s). Hayat’s mother says implicitly that he thinks Eastern women are sexually imprisoned too. She says, “What the filthy man really means is that [white, ‘free’ women will] put their mouths anywhere, like animals. So he can put his mouth anywhere. Like an animal. That’s what they want and that’s what they like. It’s disgusting” (Akhtar 160-161; italics are Akhtar’s). A possible interpretation here is that Hayat’s mother, Muneer, is saying white women and Naveed both like oral sex but she does not, and Naveed thinks oral sex is sexually liberating while she thinks it’s “disgusting.” This would certainly explain (but not justify) why Naveed is motivated to sleep with women other than his wife- because he feels by holding herself back sexually she holds him back from experiencing what he wants to experience; to enjoy the freedom he wants to enjoy. If she wants to deny herself sexual freedom, to him, it’s her loss but he will not let it be his. It is important to note that it is not only “Eastern women” Naveed is critical of. It’s the Muslim community more broadly, which according to Naveed consists of “fools” and “sheep” (Akhtar 320).  “You can’t live by the rules others give you…you have to find your own rules,” Naveed tells his son Hayat, who is narrating the novel, when he’s explaining to him why he left a wedding they attended (Akhtar 320). A character in The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan, is similar to Naveed though Ivan takes his belief in freedom to the extreme.[2] The topic of freedom comes up with Ivan because he and his brother Alyosha are having a conversation about “the universal questions” such as “is there a God, is there immoratality?” and ethics (Dostoevsky 234). When Alyosha learns that Ivan does not put his faith in God and Christ he asks Ivan if this means Ivan thinks, in terms of ethics, that people should be free to do whatever they want (Dostoevsky 263). “The formula, ‘everything is permitted,’ I will not renounce,” Ivan tells Alyosha (Dostoevsky 263). In both cases, these characters conceptualize freedom as an individual thinking and doing whatever it is he or she wants (though both characters have thresholds at which point things seem cruel which make them squeamish. Naveed cannot stand anti-Semitism [Akhtar 207] or the oppression of women [Akhtar 321]. Ivan cannot bear the “cruelty” of people [Dostoevsky 238]). What readers comparing these two novels may find interesting is that Naveed’s belief in freedom seems more meaningful- that is to say, there are clear, explicit, palpable things Naveed wants as a result of his freedom: namely sex and independence. With Ivan, freedom at its core does not seem to be what he actually desires. Instead it merely happens to be that the ethical justification for freedom is a consequence to the fact that he cannot say with certainty that God exists. In other words, Naveed thinks about freedom in a very personal and psychological sense, whereas for Ivan it is simply an impersonal, detached, philosophical deduction that there is no source from which it can be proven that there are things people should or should not be able to do.[3]

In both novels there is an entirely different conceptualization of freedom posited as well: spiritual freedom which characters in both novels appear to perceive as being based, at least in significant part, on humility. In American Dervish, Mina tells a story of a Dervish, which Mina says is “someone who gives up everything for Allah” (Akhtar 191). She does not call this, explicitly, “spiritual freedom.” She actually refers to it as “true humility” (Akhtar 103) and oneness (Akhtar 104). When we compare the Dervish she speaks of to the Christian monk, Zosima, in The Brothers Karamazov we see a striking similarity. The Monk, says

Obedience, fasting, and prayer are laughed at yet they alone constitute the way to real freedom: I cut away my superfluous and unnecessary needs, through obedience I humble and chasten my vain and proud will, and thereby, with God’s help, attain freedom of spirit, and with that, spiritual rejoicing (Dostoevsky 314; italics mine).

Also striking is the fact that both the Dervish and the Monk find connections between humility and nature. Of the Dervish, Mina says

“He realized he was no better, no worse than the ground itself, the ground that takes the discarded orange peels of the world. In fact, he realized he was the same as that ground, the same as those peels, as those men, as everything else.”

Compare this with Dostoevsky’s monk: “Man, do not exalt yourself above the animals: they are sinless” (Dostoevsky 319). This notion of spiritual freedom then seems to include even a freedom from sense of individuality, distinctiveness and uniqueness for the Dervish and the Monk see people as no different than orange peels and animals. It could be argued that both therefore deny the exceptionalism of human beings and are, ultimately, pessimists who can only experience spirituality via self denial. This is actually important because we see self-denial explicitly and viscerally in American Dervish. In fact, it is Mina- the one who tells us about the self-denying Dervish- who denies herself in the story. Instead of marrying the man she loves and exploring her sense of self and purpose she marries an abusive man she was pressured by family to marry and says it is “an expression of Allah’s will” (Akhtar 343) which in fact “she regretted” (Akhtar 348). Ultimately then, it could be argued that Akhtar portrays “spiritual freedom” through “self denial” as a negative and harmful thing. But compare this to Dostoevsky! In the case of Zosima the monk, what are the consequences of his self denial? When Zosima does not resist his desires (we are speaking of the time before he becomes a monk and discovers self denial), he is driven, in a rage, to take out his anger over the fact that someone else has won the affections of a girl he fancies on his servant who he beats so brutally that the servant bleeds (Dostoevsky 297). Zosima discovers this was wrong; he says “this is what a man can be brought to” (Dostoevsky 298). Instead of engaging in a dual with the man who won the affections of the woman he is fond of, he surrenders to the man saying he can shoot him if he wants but Zosima will not shoot at him (Dostoevsky 298). The point here is that in Dostoevsky’s novel self-denial leads to noble acts. But again, in Akhtar’s, it leads to harm.

There is a third notion of freedom the two novels examine: freedom from faith, or put another way, freedom attained as a result of no longer having faith. Again we see a contras with the two authors; this aforementioned kind of freedom being depicted in a positive light by one author, and negative by the other. In American Dervish Hayat eventually comes to describe losing his faith as a positive and liberating experience (as a young teenager Hayat is a devout, Quran-reading-and-memorizing Muslim) where as in The Brother’s Karamazov Ivan, who concedes God may exist, rejects this possible God and God’s world more broadly and for him this rejection isn’t a pleasurable experience, it’s simply necessary on ethical grounds. I shall elaborate.

In the prologue to American Dervish, Hayat tells us that “to lose your faith” is “So freeing. It’s the most freeing thing that’s ever happened to me” (Akhtar 10-11). Hayat does not fully explain the nature of his lost faith nor of this liberation however it is quite possible that the freedom he feels is a kind of inner-peace after rejecting his notion of Islam and the damage which Islam did to his family and especially Mina. Moreover it is possible he feels free of guilt too We know that when he sees her “two months before she die[s]” (Akhtar 337) he “had been giving up on Islam little by little for years, and…now there was barely anything left” (Akhtar 341). After he brings this up to Mina, asking what her “suffering” had “to do with finding God” she said “Even the pain… is an expression of Allah’s will” he never once hints with the slightest subtlety or implication that she has changed his mind (Akhtar 342-343). When we see two months later he loses his faith, and cites no other significant experience associated with his faith it is quite reasonable to posit indeed this faith is lost because he sees that virtually every example of Muslim faith has brought with it unreasonable, unacceptable suffering which was tolerated as a result of that faith.

In The Brothers Karamazov Ivan has a somewhat similar experience however his qualm is spelt out for us, and it is not mere religion that troubles him, or even Christianity. It is God and reality. For Ivan, if a God exists, God is evil for God has created a world of suffering, and Heaven, according to Ivan, does not make up for that suffering, thus he will have nothing to do with Christianity, even if there is a God (Dostoevsky 245). As he puts it, “I’d rather remain with my unrequited suffering and unquenched indignation, even if I am wrong…it is not that don’t accept God, Alyosha, I just most respectfully return him the ticket” (Dostoevsky 245). In what sense then is Ivan free? He is free,  at least thinks he is, of a certain kind of guilt[4]; he feels free in the sense that while God may keep reality as it is, and while God may think He makes up for the awfulness of life with Heaven for the good believers and Hell for evil non-believers, Ivan will not give it his moral sanction-  for he says: “it is my duty, if only as an honest man” to maintain his rejection of this (Dostoevsky 245). He is rebelling (“Rebellion” is in fact the title of the chapter. Strangely enough yet true to his sort of contradictory, paradoxical way, he says “One cannot live by rebellion, and I want to live” [Dostoevsky 245]) and saying God’s system is unacceptable to him, even hell for evil non-believers and heaven for the innocent is not enough. Speaking specifically about those who torture children he says “what can hell set right here, if these ones have already been tormented?” (Dostoevsky 245). Both Ivan and Hayat can be viewed as rebels here but they are rebelling against different things; Ivan is rebelling against reality[5] where as Hayat is merely rebelling first against his father when he deeply embraces Islam  and later against segments of the Pakistani community that his family sometimes associates with when he rejects Islam. He is also rebelling against the pain which these Muslims inflict on themselves, Jews, women, et cetera, as a result of their strict Quranic interpretations.

 

REASON VERSUS FAITH

 

What’s especially interesting about Ivan is that it is not reason which makes him agnostic and resentful of the universe and potentially God if there is one (at least, it is not reason according to him). Reason, or what Ivan in this instance, calls “logic” is something, first of all, left undefined, and secondly, loveless, or insufficient in terms of providing people with a capacity for love. “Sticky spring leaves, the blue sky- I love the, that’s all! Such things you love not with your mind, not with logic, but with your insides, your guts” (Dostoevsky 230). A little later Ivan says “reason hedges and hides. Reason is a scoundrel” (Dostoevsky 236). A possible interpretation, if we compare the two aforementioned quotes, is that Ivan perceives reason as a detached, over intellectualized, cold mental operation with no room for emotional experience, or sympathy. If reason “hides” it is perhaps more exactly, “feeling/emotion” which it hides, remaining cloaked only in detatched factual deductions.[6]

In American Dervish we get another interpretation of reason and that comes from Sonny Buledi- a Pakistani friend of Naveed’s who is an atheist. Sonny’s version of rationality is non-contradictory thinking. We learn this when he debates Quranic interpretations among fellow Pakistanis. Specifically they’re debating whether an interpretation has anti-Semitic implications.

“C’mon, man!” Sonny exploded. “God condemns them [Jews] in verse sixty-one, which    you choose to underline, and then follows it with accepting them in the next?! That’s an outright contradiction and unless you can explain it, it renders both versus utterly meaningless…” (Akhtar 131)

It would follow- if we apply Sonny’s epistemological standard- that Sonny is probably an atheist because as he sees it, there is no proof or logical deduction which can verify that a God exists.

But something else is interesting about Sonny’s rationality. It doesn’t only lead to atheism. It also leads to peacefulness and tolerance. Sonny’s rationality leads to a justification for Chatha’s anti-Semitism (which Chatha claims is based on the Quran) to be discredited and rejected. It is extremely noteworthy that in Akhtar’s novel, it is the rational atheist (or agnostics, or the spiritually ambiguous/open-minded) who reject(s) hatred and it is the religious characters who have hate in their hearts (whether it be outward hate for others, such as the anti-Semitic Chatha, or even Hayat when he goes through such a phase as a pedantic, literalist Muslim,  or what appears to be self-hatred in the case of Mina and Muneer who deny themselves of better lives where they could be less oppressed).

However, in The Brothers Karamazov, reason is associated with violence and is conceptualized as something that is of limited use for people. This relationship is really rather complex and is articulated by several different characters in different ways. For the sake of succinctness and focusing exclusively on the ultimate essence of this idea I shall bring up only the example of sentiment expressed by Zosima, the Monk. Zosima says:

These, following science, want to make a just order for themselves by reason alone, but with Christ now, not as before, and they have already proclaimed there is no crime, there is no sin. And in their own terms, that is correct: for if you have no God, what crime is there to speak of? In Europe the people are rising up against the rich with force, and popular leaders everywhere are leading them to bloodshed and teaching them that their wrath is righteous. But ‘their wrath is accursed, for it is cruel’[7]  (Dostoevsky 315)

Zosima assumes that rational thinking cannot lead people to goodness.[8]  Why does he think this? He says earlier of science (of which reason and logic are a part) that it consists only of “that which is subject to the senses” (Dostoevsky 313). Clearly than Zosima assumes ethics have no basis in “the senses” or that which can be abstracted from them; in other words, we see that classic notion of original sin inherent in Monk’s assumptions, i.e., Zosima thinks people are inherently bad and can only be saved by God and God’s standards- standards which could only even be first discovered by a God.

The deeper discovery we can make as readers then is that Dostoevsky and Akhtar appear to be at very opposite ends of the spectrum, not only when it comes to their views on reason, but of human nature itself, for there is nothing implied by Sonny, Hayat or anyone espousing rationality in American Diverish, that suggests they think humanity is inherently depraved. For Dostoevsky, religion saves humanity from its depraved self. For Akhtar, reason saves humanity from religion!  

While reason in the two novels is interpreted by the characters differently, religious faith is viewed quite similarly, even in the face of suffering. Hayat questions Mina’s faith at the end of the novel, when she is in the hospital (Akhtar 342).  He thinks “all these Sufis tales [are nothing] but fictions she’s using to shed a redeeming glow on a life scored with pain, pain I caused her, pain Sunil caused her, and that she should have sought not simply to bear, but escape” (Akhtar 342; italics are his). To her he says, “What did the suffering she had gone through over the past eight years at her  husband’s hands- and for that matter the suffering she was experiencing now, as she lay dying- what did any of this have to do with finding God?” (Akhtar 342). She answers: “this is how the divine is choosing to express Himself through me…everything, everything, is an expression of Allah’s will. It is all His glory. Even the pain…That is the real truth about life” (Akhtar 343). In other words, Mina herself, according to her thinking, is irrelevant. Mina does not even exist as Mina in her mind. She exists as a manifestation of God. So whatever God throws at her, including pain and dying, God throws at her. Mina’s submission to God is a dramatization of that haunting cliché that is so often sighed, “it is what it is.” And this for her is not just perfectly okay, but good and wonderful. As Hayat describes her as she is nearing her death in the hospital: “Her eyes sparked when she saw us. However sick she appeared, she looked no less alive” (Akhtar 338) (It is only in that light that we can really understand the significance of the final page of Akhtar’s novel when he feels inexplicable gratitude which he can finally discern, saying he “finally” is able to hear what he is grateful for: “my heart, silently murmuring its steady beat” [352]. Hayat acknowledges the fact that he has a self).

We see a very similar sentiment articulated by the monk- a sentiment the monk learns from his brother. Like Mina, Zosima’s brother is close to death and aware of it. In speaking of natural beauty, his brother says “there was so much of God’s glory around me: birds, trees, meadows, sky, and I alone lived in shame, I alone dishonored everything, and did not notice the beauty and glory of it all” (Dostoevsky 289) As Zosima is about to die before his visitors to whom he has given his final talk,  everyone notes how despite the pain he appears to be in, he is “still looking at them with a smile…bowed down with his face to the ground, stretched out his arms and, as if in joyful ecstasy, kissing the earth and praying…quietly and joyfully gave up his soul to God” (Dostoevsky 324). Both Zosima and Mina face death and pain and find spiritual satisfaction in surrendering to God. Despite the element of self-denial inherent in both Zosima’s and Mina’s surrender there is one positive thing: in their final moments, God, or their idea of a supposed God can provide comfort. Say what one might about all the various aspects of elements of religions, we see at least that belief in a God can be comforting when one is confronted with one’s mortality. Religion, as depicted by both authors, has at least something to offer.

There are two wider takeaways we can gain from comparing and contrasting the examination of religion in these two novels. First,  it is interesting that pain plays such a strong role in the characters of both novels as it pertains to their attitudes on religion, and implicitly on their views of human nature (are we inherently bad? Are we capable of being good? Do we need a God to be good?). This is not to say we learn anything universal about the experience of pain.  Rather, it has to do more with how each unique individual processes pain. In the case of the non-religious in both novels, it is specifically that pain that motivates them to rid themselves of their faith (Sonny, who seems to be an atheist most fundamentally as a result of drier, detached rationality, is an exception). Ivan, for example, is in so much pain he can barely deal with reality so he rejects God even if God exists. Hayat sees the pain that religion has caused him, his family, Mina, and Nathan. On the other hand, the believers in God see pain as almost superficial when compared to the glory of God. That or they are so humble and self-denying that it would be a betrayal of their values to deeply sulk or curse God. Spiritual characters on the verge of death in both novels (Mina and Zosima) both find tremendous pleasure and peace despite their pain.  A second takeaway is that just as each person processes pain differently, each person has different definitions for words- sometimes even multiple definitions- perhaps not even dictionary definitions, or universal definitions, further complicating these kinds of discussions. Most notably, we see different notions of freedom: spiritual freedom versus moral freedom, and the freedom that comes from losing faith. We also see different notions of reason. Dostoevsky’s characters- regardless of their broader theological differences- seem to agree that reason leads to violence yet in Akhtar’s novel, reason is shown to be supreme, even implicitly by the narrator who says, when discussing his loss of faith, that it did not bother him like other Arabs in his class on Islam when his professor suggested there was proof that the Islamic notion of “the Quran as the direct, unchanged, eternal word of God was a fiction” (Akhtar 7-11). His response, when his girlfriend asks him how he feels about the lecture is: “What’s to feel? The truth is the truth” (Aktar 9). By not putting his feelings into the validity or lack-there- of, he is being objective, i.e., he is using reason, and he grows compassionate (when he is no longer a Muslim he is also no longer an anti-Semite)[9] and is doing so in a way which it appears Dostoevsky could not imagine or fathom.

 

Works Cited

 

Akhtar, Ayad. American Dervish. Back Bay Books/ Little, Brown and Company, 2012.

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2002

Frank, Joseph. Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time. Princeton University Press, 2010

Hulla, Natalie. “The Essential Ayad Akhtar,” Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, 20 June 2017,

https://cincyplay.com/blog/cinncinati-blog/2017/06/20/the-essential-ayad-akhtar

Trepanier, Lee. “The Politics and Experience of Active Love in the Brother Karamazov,” Voegelinview, 20 January 2017,  https://voegelinview.com/politics-experience-active-love-brothers-karamazov/

 

[1] Both of these novels in my view are exceptionally complex and thus there is more they have in common, and there are more distinct differences however it would require a lengthy amount of time to be so comprehensive.

[2] To be clear, Ivan is complex because he is conflicted, wishy-washy, and contradicts himself. He says “everything is permitted” (Dostoevsky 263)  and yet loathes God’s supposed cruelty (Dostoevsky 235). Likewise, Naveed is all for freedom yet cannot stand how Muslim men oppress women (Akthar 321).

[3] This is not to downplay the philosophical capacity, depth or nature of Naveed. This simply appears to be a manifestation of ,what appears to me, to be a stylistic differences between Akhtar and Dostoevsky: that Dostoevsky’s characters tend to deliver long, theoretical, sometimes even discursive monologues, whereas Akhtar’s characters are much more succinct.

[4] Noteworthy here also is that however free Hayat feels, unlike Ivan, he actually does not feel free of guilt. The same night he says he feels free, he learns that Mina has died, and says “Now that she was gone, how could I ever repair the harm I’d done” (Akhtar 12).

[5] Ivan’s denial of reality suggests psychological trouble far more complex and potentially problematic than Hayat’s disagreement with religious claims. Hayat is making a philosophical, and theological discernment. Ivan, it appears, is struggling to cope with what is for him the malady of existence.

[6] This of course, is a claimed notion of reason, and not necessarily the proper notion. After all, is Ivan not in the act of attempting to reasoning when he is essentially saying what is what and why what is what?

[7] According to the end notes the quite within the quotes comes from Genesis 49:7

[8] One could argue this is hard as a reader to reconcile since if we apply Sonny’s definition of reason (non-contradictory thinking) to Zosima’s application of it, his very act of reasoning is what suggests to him that reason is insufficient for arriving at ethical standards.

[9] And ‘oh, the irony’- it is the all-loving Christian writer Dostoevsky who, throughout his life was an anti-Semite. He once spoke of “Yiddifying” ideas as “third-rate” (Frank 744). Other disturbing examples abound in Joseph Frank’s comprehensive biography.

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

Impeach Trump: My Friend Mark Lewis & I Discuss Why We Must

My friend- an Aerospace Engineer who used to do national security related work under the Obama administration- Mark Lewis, and I decided to do a live stream discussion on Facebook about the case for impeaching Trump.

Mark and I both decided on the same day that we wanted the president Impeached. It was the morning after we both heard audio clips of crying children- those children who had been forced and ripped from their parents. We got to talking about it that morning and both found that any person enabling such a policy was enabling cruelty.

We began collaborating on a script for calling congress and demanding they impeach Trump. The priority of this scripting was to outline Trump’s various impeachable offenses which include:

TREASON 

-Publicly humiliating U.S. intelligence community in front of the world and chossing to take the word of a dictator who murders his critics over the word of the U.S. intelligence community

– Even considering handing over to Putin (known for murdering his critics) American citizens for interrogation.

OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE 

-Refusing to legitimize U.S. intelligence

-Firing Former FBI Director James Comey

-Attempting to fire Special Investigator Robert Mueller III

VIOLATION OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT 

-Incessantly attacking the free press every time it publishes content that puts Trump in a light he dislikes

-Barring reporters from attending public events for questions he deems “inappropriate”

-Threatening to remove security clearances from former Intelligence officials as retaliation for being critical of him

-Banning Muslims from entering the United States

VIOLATION OF THE DUE PROCESS CLAUSE 

-Separating families at the border who had merely sought political asylum  and denying them a right to stay together and state their case

VIOLATION OF THE EMOLUMENTS CLAUSE 

-The president currently earns a profit from foreign government officials who pay to stay at his Washington DC hotel

#ImpeachTrumpNow: Demand That Congress Do It Immediately!

This was a Facebook Live Stream I did on 7/18/18 explaining the facts behind my utter conviction that we need to call our members of congress and demand that they impeach Trump. My friend and co-worker said I should put this on YouTube to reach more people.

Treason, obstruction of justice, violation of the emoluments clause, violation of the first amendment, forcing babies at the border from their parents- the list of President Trump’s criminal and unethical behavior goes on and on!

Perhaps the most frightening of his disgusting and unacceptable behavior was when he suggested handing to Vladimir Putin, former U.S. diplomat Michael McFaul.

As McFault put himself in a tweet:Screen Shot 2018-07-20 at 4.08.33 PM

[McFaul’s Tweet]

I was terrified when I learned that Trump was open to this. I felt a fear unlike any I’d ever felt before- a fear so chilling I consider it somewhat traumatic for this thought passed through my mind: Trump is open to arresting his/Putin’s critics, sending  them by force, to the dangerous hands of Putin – a man who kills critics and journalists who make an impact. It’s happening, I thought. It’s the beginning of freedom’s demise in America. Critics will now have to fear for their lives.

As Samantha Schmidt reported in The Washington Post, “Tom Nichols, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and the Harvard Extension School” said in a Tweet:

Screen Shot 2018-07-20 at 4.11.18 PM

The Senate, thank God, unanimously rejected the prospect of this dangerous idea, however, as Nichols tweeted:

“the entire country should be aware of this”

because Trump cares more about how his criminal and unethical relationship with Putin than his own fellow Americans. Add to the pile of evidence the fact that Trump takes Putin’s word over the word of our own intelligence chief, and that makes treason.

I believe Trump should be impeached, removed from office, and arrested immediately! I hope you call your members of congress and demand impeachment now!