Everyone who works for President Trump: Quit now. Save your souls. Save your honor, such as it is. Save your reputation, such as it remains. Russia attacked our democracy. Trump has demonstrated repeatedly, and did so again with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, that he doesn’t care and won’t defend his country.
If you work for this man and you call yourself a patriot, it is time for you to go.
This may sound excessive, even irresponsible. Indeed, for months I have agonized over the question of public service in the age of Trump.
Of course, as a general matter, it is better to have more grown-ups around Trump, mitigating his worst impulses, providing wisdom born of experience to counter his ignorance and petulance.
But that assessment assumes facts not in evidence: that Trump is educable or containable. Actually, it contravenes the available evidence. There is none that Trump has done anything but what Trump wants to do. Monday’s news conference made that clear.
Extreme times call for extreme measures, and these are the extreme-est of times.
A foreign adversary – not a competitor, as Trump would have it, an adversary – mounted a sustained and multifront assault on the presidential election, specifically to help elect Trump. We knew this before Friday’s indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking into Democratic computers and emails to help secure Trump’s election.
So I would ask those who continue to serve Trump: What is the impact and message of your continued presence? Are you mitigating Trump’s excesses or enabling them?
Think about it. You are a Republican who loves your country. Or you are a foreign policy or intelligence professional. What do you do in the face of Trump’s craven capitulation to an adversary? It is a hard choice but one that Trump is making easier every day. On Monday, he all but forced it.
Specifically, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, you cited “the need to hold the Russians accountable for what they did.” In what way did Trump do that? Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, you said Friday that, much as with rumblings of a terrorist attack on the United States before 9/11, “the warning lights are blinking red again,” this time on the danger posed by Russian cyberattacks to the 2018 elections. How do you continue to serve a president so determined to ignore those flashing lights?
And others: CIA Director Gina Haspel; national security adviser John Bolton; gulp, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis? You understand the Russian threat; combating it has been part of your life’s work. How do you get up every morning and go to work for a man who’s so heedless of his responsibilities to his country?
How heedless? Before his two hours alone with Putin, Trump tweeted, “Our relationship with Russia has never been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!”
Things went downhill from there. At his post-meeting news conference, Trump stood side by side with Putin and, asked about holding Russia accountable, instead replied: “I think we’re all to blame. ... I do feel that we have both made some mistakes.” On the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, he added, “the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart, it’s kept us separated.”
And challenged directly about whether he would, “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,” Trump flat-out refused. He not only resorted to his usual misdirection about the Democratic National Committee’s computer server, but he also refused to back up the claims of his intelligence director against Putin’s denials.
“My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia,” Trump said. “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server.”
God save us.
Certainly, Congress won’t, at least not from the extensive evidence of GOP spinelessness so far. Sure, we saw some post-summit head-shaking from the likes of South Carolina Sen. Lindsey O. Graham and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee. Better than nothing, but we have suffered months of tut-tutting followed by capitulation.
Perhaps mass resignations of administration officials would rouse a supine Congress. Perhaps this would alarm even some Trump voters, who thought they elected a crockery-breaker and got, in the most charitable interpretation, a Putin-enabler. Perhaps not, but really, administration officials, what good are you doing, for yourselves or your country, by sticking around for this?