James Risen explores a provocative question: Is Donald Trump a traitor?

I remember James Risen as a top (Pulitzer-winning) investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. He was aggressive and controversial, but he played by the old rules of fact-based, so-called objective journalism, with which I am very familiar from my decades of playing by them.

The norms that defined that style of journalism, which dominated the 20th century, have not exactly disappeared but they certainly no longer dominate. Facts still matter, to me and I hope to you. But journalism has changed, perhaps symbolized by the (troubling, to me) division of the TV news audience into Fox and MSNBC watchers.

Risen has turned up in a new gig, as a columnist for The Intercept, an online publication that arose after the trove of national security materials were leaked by Edward Snowden. Risen’s first Intercept column is provocatively headlined: “Is Donald Trump a Traitor?”

The choice of that final word certainly raises the temperature a few degrees, compared to the usual version of the question: Did Donald Trump collude with Russia to influence the election?, although Risen argues that such collusion, if proven, would be a pretty good way down the path to treason. Treason, Risen notes, is the rare crime that is actually defined in the text of the Constitution, which 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.

Risen argues that the possible crimes that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to investigate are awfully close to that constitutional definition of treason, if you score Russia as an “enemy” and cooperating with Russia be pretty near “aid and comfort.” Of course, the case for Trump actively cooperating is not made, at least not yet.

Risen’s maiden column was published online just hours before the Friday news that Mueller has charged 13 Russians with the crime of meddling in the U.S. election with the goal, specified in the indictment, of helping Trump win. (The above-linked version was revised to reflect the new charges.) The new indictments do not (nor does anything released to date by Mueller) allege any actions by Trump to collaborate in such meddling.

The column is long and complex. Risen talks about some aspects that have not made big news yet in the United States. And, as columnists may, he speculates on where some of those developments may lead. He also, right at the top of his column, makes clear that he will not be playing the objectivity game where matters Trump or concerned, as in:

I find it hard to write about Donald Trump. It is not that he is a complicated subject. Quite the opposite. It is that everything about him is so painfully obvious. He is a low-rent racist, a shameless misogynist, and an unbalanced narcissist. He is an unrelenting liar and a two-bit white identity demagogue. Lest anyone forget these things, he goes out of his way each day to remind us of them.

Reporters in Risen’s heyday didn’t say such things, but columnists could. So columnist Risen isn’t afraid to let you know how he feels.

But he’s also a systematic, critical thinker. So I appreciated his effort to clarify what he calls the four tracks of the Trump-Russia story, the fourth of which is one most of us haven’t been thinking about in the criminal investigation frame. He wrote:

There are four important tracks to follow in the Trump-Russia story. First, we must determine whether there is credible evidence for the underlying premise that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win. Second, we must figure out whether Trump or people around him worked with the Russians to try to win the election. Next, we must scrutinize the evidence to understand whether Trump and his associates have sought to obstruct justice by impeding a federal investigation into whether Trump and Russia colluded. A fourth track concerns whether Republican leaders are now engaged in a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice through their intense and ongoing efforts to discredit Mueller’s probe.

Comments (74)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 02/19/2018 - 09:48 am.

    I hesitate

    …to delve into conspiracy theory, but – sadly – would not be surprised if Risen’s 4th track turned out to have at least some validity. We already have ample evidence that someone of Trump’s level of narcissism would be easy for campaign staff and high-level advisors to manipulate, so the first 3 tracks seem more direct, and more easily verifiable. It would be much more difficult, and perhaps pointless if there’s no “there” there, to verify the 4th one, but it’s certainly worth investigating.

    If it turns out there’s something “there” after all, it would, once again, demonstrate that the current version of the Republican Party can’t be trusted to govern, has disqualified itself, actually, from having any major role in government, its leaders are, in fact, as treasonous as some much farther left than I have been insisting all along, and would bring about a full-fledged domestic crisis, not to mention a media feeding frenzy the likes of which old people like me have never seen before. There was no internet when Richard Nixon obstructed justice.

  2. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 02/19/2018 - 09:48 am.

    I think that Trump (and his family) is not a knowing traitor–he knows so little of the rules and norms of elections and governing that assuming he knew the name of the path he was heading down is a far stretch. But his path after the initiation of the investigation has clearly been one of ending the investigation by any means possible..

    But, is ignorance of laws a defence?

    But certainly, people like Flynn, Manafort, Prince, Page, Papadopoulos, Sessions. etc knew that they were dancing over the edge of illegality (the mass amnesia seems pretty telling).

    As for the author’s list–it’s clearly a “yes” to all tracks.

    And Trump still declines to criticize the Russian actions.

  3. Submitted by richard owens on 02/19/2018 - 10:51 am.

    The Emperor’s New Clothes

    Like the Hans Christian Andersen tale of weavers with magic threads, we are routinely treated to ‘Supply Side Economics’, or ‘Tax Cuts for the Rich help the little people’, or ‘the Military needs more money’- or ‘cars kill people too’– all of which are, of course, bold-faced lies made by partisans who call themselves “conservatives” but are actually reactionaries-for-profit.

    The townspeople certainly wondered about those magic threads from which the Emperor’s New Clothes were made, but they knew better than question authority, so it was up to one little kid to simply say what was obvious- the Emperor was naked as a jaybird (or words to that effect).

    Emma Gonzalez simply says, “We call B.S.”, and now it should be clear to everyone- the NRA blood money for Second Amendment excesses have truly NO CLOTHES. Money is not speech, and Republicans lie whenever they pretend our Constitution protects mass murders. Citizen’s United’s unleashing of overt corruption at the highest levels has enabled traitors and put gun profits above innocent lives.

    But it isn’t just the Emperor who is a traitor in his ‘most rare and beautiful threads’, it is the weavers who sold the very LIE of the wonderful threads. It is, in fact, the Republican Party, who continues to use the same lies and the same tactics to keep up a game of deceit and treachery for profit. The “child” sees tyhe obvious truth- and calls “B.S.”!

    Emma Gonzalez is a hero, just like the kid who cried B.S. at the naked Emperor.

    Traitors need complicity and acquiescence from co-conspirators. The Big Lie is their whistle.

    We should all call B.S., like Emma and her classmates. I hope they can defeat the lies and hopelessness that allows massacres and traitors to exist.

    Risen nailed it:
    [quote]
    “…Donald Trump…It is that everything about him is so painfully obvious. He is a low-rent racist, a shameless misogynist, and an unbalanced narcissist. He is an unrelenting liar and a two-bit white identity demagogue. Lest anyone forget these things, he goes out of his way each day to remind us of them…”
    [thanks Eric and James Risen]

  4. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/19/2018 - 10:53 am.

    Loose Words

    It’s too easy to bandy about words like “traitor” or “close to treason” when discussing a figure one dislikes. Lord knows it was done often enough during the Obama Administration, to the point where the terms almost lost all meaning.

    Mr. Rosen does raise some interesting points. Did the Trump campaign collude–knowingly or not–with the Russians? Given the amateurish quality of a lot of that campaign, I think it is entirely possible that the collusion was unwitting. The Trump Brothers have never come across as being especially bright or savvy about this type of thing. Supporting Russian meddling without knowing that they were doing so, or without knowing that it was illegal, would be entirely within character for them.

    The obstruction of justice is also clear. Trump does not want anything that would make his presidency look less than legitimate (according to this morning’s Times, he was in a fury all weekend at reports of pundits who said the indictments of the Russian meddlers showed that he couldn’t win the election on his own). Even if he is not guilty of anything, he finds it imperative to avoid anything that would paint him in a less than flattering light.

    Likewise, Republicans in Congress want to obstruct an investigation. Trump has little interest in any kind of public policy. He finds it convenient to espouse the standard GOP line not out of genuine conviction, but as a way of sticking it to the elites who haven’t shown him sufficient adoration over the years. Congressional Republicans find this to be a handy arrangement. He is an enthusiastic backer of their agenda, so any Executive Branch check on Congress is largely theoretical.

    Is it all criminal? Perhaps. Is it destructive of our democracy? Certainly.

  5. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 02/19/2018 - 11:43 am.

    For those of us in the political laity out here, it has been fascinating to watch three facets of the investigations into the Trump campaign-Russia connection in 2016 and since the inauguration (Trump talks and meets with Russians, including Putin, more frequently than the Trump White House permits our press to know: We find out only because the Russian press reports it! Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show has the specifics.)

    First, there is the investigative press, which has kept out in front of Congress on digging up factual detail of Trump people meeting with Russians and lying about it and trying to hide the fact. Also, on Trump as Failed Businessman and Russian Mafia associate.

    Then, there is the really sad spectacle of House and Senate committee “investigations” into Russian influence on the 2016 elections. Chairs, all chosen by the majority’s Republican leadership, have become White House shills with truly breath-taking obfuscations and obstruction of justice: Devin Nunes (House Intelligence Committee), Chuck Grassley (Senate Judiciary Committee), Trey Gowdy (House Oversight Committee–the guy with the fruitless Benghazi obsession that led nowhere). etc.

    These committees not only deny vital information to the Democratic minority members of their committees before the Chair takes specific action (Nunes does this routinely); they refuse to release to the public important testimony they’ve heard (Nunes and Grassley refused to release the powerful transcripts of the testimony by the founder and chief researcher of Fusion GPS who hired ex-MI6 spy Christopher Steele to check out Donald Trump’s Russian business ties). Senator Feinstein of California finally released, on her own, the Glenn Simpson testimony before Judiciary when Grassley refused to release it, even when Simpson and his attorneys insisted it be public. The infamous “memo” by Nunes’s staff that released only one side of Intelligence’s information on FBI applications for surveillance warrants on Carter Page had a social media “hype” that was amplified by Russians–you know that, right?–has yet to be publicly countered by a “long” (for The Donald: it’s ten pages!) Democratic memo that does not reveal the secret stuff Nunes blithely did.

    And then, we have our current Quiet-Man Hero Among Public Servants to the U. S, of A. : Mueller and his staff who are investigating the Trump-Russia connections. From what Miueller is carefully doing, it looks pretty clear now that–at the least–the witless Trump campaign, transition, and administration has “unwittingly” colluded with the Russians. Dupes, in other words, is the best designation Trump staff and the President can aspire to.

    I do wish the American public took more time to actually go to the documents now and then, and take the time to read them. Not just opinion articles like the nice one that Eric points us to today. Read important Congressional testimony and memos (anybody who read the infamous Nunes “memo” laughs him right out of the room! Talk about dumb.). Read the actual indictments Mueller is putting out, and the details of the plea deals with this and that Trump associate.

    I’m starting really to feel sorry for Donald J. Trump. He is clearly in way, way over his head, and he knows it–vaguely, and like a man in a cage.

  6. Submitted by ian wade on 02/19/2018 - 01:07 pm.

    I think he is and nearly every GOP lawmaker is complicit.

    This nation is under attack by a foreign government to undermine our electoral process and sow discord between its citizens. Trump doesn’t care…the GOP is looking the other way because it gave them control of government. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

  7. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/19/2018 - 02:07 pm.

    Treason

    The problem with this term is that it requires defining Russia as an ‘enemy’. Short of a declaration of war approved by Congress, I don’t see this happening with the legal rigor required to justify a charge of treason.
    ‘Obstruction of justice’ seems more doable, if less politically viable as a grounds for impeachment (which is lurking under this discussion).

  8. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/19/2018 - 02:17 pm.

    “Of course, the case for Trump actively cooperating is not made, at least not yet.” Here is a crux of the matter: what is the reason to discuss all these things if there is nothing – I repeat, NOTHING, – that point in the direction of Trump’s cooperating with the Russians to help his presidential bid. Of course, the answer is simple: since an axiom is that Trump is “a low-rent racist, a shameless misogynist, and an unbalanced narcissist. He is an unrelenting liar and a two-bit white identity demagogue” (these are, of course, all established facts so no proof is necessary), it is so pleasant to discuss how this awful creature may be in big trouble… especially if it gives an opportunity to call all Republicans criminals… Sure, Mr. Risen has the right to do it but the main question is: how does it serve the interests of the people? And how is it different from speculation about Clinton’s wrongdoings?

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 02/19/2018 - 06:51 pm.

      The problem for Trump supporters is that either he was a tool of scheming underlings and relatives, or he was a tool of scheming foreign powers, or he was a part of it.

      There is no doubt as to the scheming underlings, relatives, and foreign powers.

      And Trump’s real involvement?

      It is in the interest of the people to find out.

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 02/19/2018 - 07:42 pm.

      … how is it different from speculation about Clinton’s wrongdoings?

      Clintons: Speculation

      or

      Trump: Indictments, convictions, guilty pleas, sworn testimony of all of the intelligence agencies, firings, threats, uncovered-documented and admitted meetings, multiple revealing tweets from the Twitterer in Chief, and more.

      Boy, seems like a toss-up of wrong-doing to me (not !)

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 02/19/2018 - 07:49 pm.

      Shouldn’t a certain level of embarrassment be setting in for the conservatives who bring up the Clintons as the demon-children of politics after 30 years of constant investigation on one ginned-up matter or another?

      It’s kind of like bragging about what a good grade you got in high-school chemistry.

      Just saying.

      “Butter-emails” !

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/20/2018 - 10:19 pm.

        “The problem for Trump supporters is that either he was a tool of scheming underlings and relatives, or he was a tool of scheming foreign powers, or he was a part of it.” So how does indictment of 13 Russians show that Trump was a tool? I just can’t make a connection.

        Trump vs. Clinton (speculations): None of “Indictments, convictions, guilty pleas, sworn testimony of all of the intelligence agencies,” etc. has anything to do with collusion with Putin, which means that this collusion still falls under the category of speculations. Clinton’s e-mail server, on the other hand, is a fact and so is her paying for the dossier. And, by the way, the only reason I bring up Clinton is to compare her and Trump’s treatment by the left. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have bothered.

        • Submitted by Bill Willy on 02/21/2018 - 04:58 pm.

          That’s what Devin Nunes keeps saying

          One of the Big Problems with what you’re saying (about “the dossier”) is:

          “Conservative Website First Funded Anti-Trump Research by Firm That Later Produced Dossier

          “The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website funded by a major Republican donor, first hired the research firm that months later produced for Democrats the salacious dossier describing ties between Donald J. Trump and the Russian government, the website said on Friday.”

          http://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/27/us/politics/trump-dossier-paul-singer.html

          So you might want to take a look at that.

          But the Biggest Problem is the Really Big Question:

          Even if the Clinton campaign DID pay for the production of the dossier, SO WHAT?

          I’m not sure if you’ve noticed (I suspect you haven’t) but what you, Devin Nunes, the journalists at Fox, et al, keep repeating about this issue has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with whether or not the things IN that “dossier” are true.

          No no no no . . . That has NOTHING to do with anything. For everyone who is so outraged over Clinton’s (and, probably, Obama’s) “obvious involvement,” the question is NOT, “Could the president actually have DONE any of the things it says he did?”

          No no no no . . . The only question is, “Who paid for the research that went into it!?”

          And, you seem to think, whoever did THAT is the person who should be investigated (and locked up).

          You and your family are out for dinner when some drunk person drives a car through your home’s front door. The driver gets out, staggers out the back door and slips away into the dark without anyone seeing them.

          Meanwhile, gasoline is leaking out of the car’s gas tank and dripping through the floor into the basement where the fumes drift to your gas water heater which explodes and blows a hole in the floor above it.

          The car (which later turns out to have been stolen) drops into the basement and, five minutes later, your house is so engulfed in flame that all the fire department can do is keep it from setting your neighbor’s houses on fire.

          Bummer.

          The police have no leads. Months go by. No answers.

          You get more and more frustrated. You want whoever did this to you and your family brought to justice.

          When two years go by without the police being able to figure it out you decide to hire a private detective who, two months later, hands you a report that says Mr. X was in a bar getting really drunk when he “borrowed” a friend’s car . . . The car that wound up in your basement. He hands you a picture of the guy who “borrowed” that car 30 minutes before it set your house on fire, along with his name, address, phone number, etc..

          You pay him and say, “Thank-you. Thank-you very much!”

          You go to bed but have trouble getting to sleep. You can’t wait to wake up and call the police which you do the next day just before going to the police station to show them the “dossier” you paid the private detective to compile.

          You hand them the folder, they look trough it and ask, “Where did you get this?”

          You tell them and they say, “We’re sorry. We can’t use this information because the private detective you paid to get it for you was accused of selling illegal fireworks in 2004.”

          They hand you back your “dossier” and say, “Thanks for stopping by. We’ll let you know if there are any developments,” which, of course, there never are.

          OR, better yet, instead of investigating the guy who borrowed the car that blew up your house, they start investigating YOU and, next thing you know, there are lots of local media and other people outside your new home shouting and holding signs that say, “Lock Him Up!! Lock Him UP!!”

          They’re there because it turns out the guy in the picture the private detective gave you is a really rich guy who owns a bunch of businesses a lot of your neighbors work for AND he’s the chairperson of the city council.

          “Lock Him Up! Lock Him Up!! Lock Him UP!!!”

          Who knows? Maybe they’re right . . . After all, you WERE the person who paid to have that “dossier” put together, right?

          And, speaking of that, you’ll be glad to hear (if you haven’t already) that JUST YESTERDAY, the unstoppable Devin Nunes announced that House Republicans are about to launch “Phase 2” of the Trump “dossier probe”!

          It was reported by Fox News, so you know it’s not only a great news (that will help make America great again), but true news.

          http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/02/20/house-republicans-launch-phase-two-trump-dossier-probe.html

          Maybe this time they’ll be able to get to the bottom of this mess and answer the all-important question of just who it was that paid for having “the dossier” put together.

          • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/22/2018 - 10:11 pm.

            I do not see any problem – big or small – with Free Beacon paying for this dossier. And I agree with you (and I think I said it before) – there is really no problem with Clinton’s paying for that dossier either (if she provided fake information to its writer, that’s a different story). But I just want to point out that if Clinton’s paying for the dossier is a nothingburger, so is Trump’s son desire to buy dirt on Clinton from whoever could sell it to him – it’s all called opposition research or, more precisely, opposition dirt-digging.

            As for whether that dossier contains truthful information – I don’t know. Trump denies everything and I have not seen any reliable source collaborating its content so for now I incline to believe that it’s fake, especially considering that its author hated Trump and that Russians could easily supply junk to him (wasn’t it a story very recently that Russians tried to sell fake Trump’s pictures?)

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/23/2018 - 11:41 am.

              The Problem

              Actually, two problems.

              Buying opposition research is no problem. Lying about it, however, is.

              Buying it from the representatives of a foreign power who may have been less than ethical in how they obtained it is also problematic.

              “As for whether that dossier contains truthful information – I don’t know. Trump denies everything . . .” His denials are prima facie proof that the information is true. 😉

              • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/23/2018 - 09:44 pm.

                Lying is always a problem but unless it is done under oath it is only a moral one.

                “Buying it from the representatives of a foreign power who may have been less than ethical in how they obtained it is also problematic.” I disagree – it’s no different than buying it from a person who hates your opponent and possibly was fed info by that foreign power. Again, ethically, maybe problematic, legally – should be fine.

                “His denials are prima facie proof that the information is true. ;-)” Funny!

                • Submitted by Bill Willy on 02/25/2018 - 01:44 pm.

                  Again: Foreign contributions are illegal

                  “Commission regulations prohibit foreign nationals from . . . making of contributions, donations, expenditures, or disbursements in connection with any federal or nonfederal elections in the United States . . . ” (below)

                  Opposition research costs money . . . A lot of money. Presidential election opposition research in particular. It is something that has substantial monetary value.

                  To borrow senor Holbrook’s point, “Accepting a contribution of it from the representatives of a foreign power, however it was obtained, is also problematic.”

                  If you accept the idea that “our democracy is under attack by foreign nationals interfering in our elections” — and can bring yourself to consider the idea that the sale or contribution of “opposition research” is one weapon being used in that attack — then you may be able to see the similarities that would be involved if a state, or group of states, were to purchase or accept contributions of actual military weaponry from foreign nationals or governments if that state, or those states, were to “secede from the union,” as the southern states did in the 1860s.

                  So while you may think and say it’s fine for U.S. candidates and their campaigns to buy or accept contributions of campaign-related items of substantial value from foreign nationals or governments you MAY want to look into and think about the implications a little more earnestly and, maybe, in a less partisan and defensive way.

                  The laws in question were put in place to protect our electoral process as much as possible. If we are in fact “under attack” it’s that electoral process that is being used to attack our democracy. And, when it comes to the fundamental basis of America, democracy is much more important than any particular president, political party or the opinions of their supporters.

                  The FBI investigation is the correct response to what appear to be numerous violations of those “laws in question.”

                  The primary focus of that investigation is the broad question of “Russian interference.”

                  The secondary focus on various individual’s possible cooperation WITH that interference is a RESULT, or “by-product,” of that primary focus.

                  Unfortunately, the relentless, “anything goes,” defense of the president by attempting to create doubt and delegitimize that SECONDARY focus of the investigation (“by any and all means necessary”) is saying (loud and clear) that maintaining the power Republicans now hold is more important to them (and their supporters) than defending the democracy that gave it to them.

                  And, unfortunately, when it comes to the question of overall perception, reliable judgment and basic-as-it-gets common sense, that’s the equivalent of deciding that protecting a few of its eggs (that a small handful of people possess) is more important than protecting the Golden Goose . . . and that doing BOTH of those things at the same time is something that is “impossible to do.”

                  Which is why Americans should stop voting for and defending today’s Republicans until they demonstrate (with their actions) that they have re-developed the capacity to understand and DO that.

                  • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/25/2018 - 10:04 pm.

                    First of all, selling something is not a contribution to anything (your car dealer does not CONTRIBUTE to your family by selling you a car – it will contribute if it gave it to you for free) – as I said, it’s business. American government buys a lot of things abroad, including supply for our military, – people selling those things do not contribute to our government.

                    Secondly, Trump wanted to do what Clinton did – she paid a foreign national for Trump research. Again, I don’t see anything wrong with this but do you?

                    And finally, I agree that “democracy is much more important than any particular president, political party or the opinions of their supporters.” So let’s protect our democracy – ignore all ads: whether they come from DNC, RNC, or Putin, they are always lying, so we should learn the facts.

                • Submitted by Bill Willy on 02/26/2018 - 10:46 am.

                  Under oath

                  Speaking of being under oath, here’s the one presidents takes when they’re sworn into office:

                  “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

                  Richard Painter served as the top ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush. Here’s a little of what he’s had to say about how well the president is doing when it comes to just one aspect of that oath:

                  “The real problem with President Trump, or the most serious, most dangerous problem, is he ignores the Constitution. And with respect to financial conflicts of interest, the Constitution has a provision that prohibits any person holding a position of trust in the United States government from receiving profits and benefits from foreign governments. It’s called the Emoluments Clause.

                  “It is very clear the founders did not want anybody, including the president, receiving profits or benefits from dealings with foreign governments. He’s ignored that. He has refused to divest the businesses that are borrowing money from foreign governments and foreign-government-owned banks that are doing business with foreign governments. And that is one of many serious violations of the Constitution, so I think it’s very important to view the ethics problem within the constitutional framework.”

                  http://www.npr.org/2018/01/16/578247224/report-trump-administrations-first-year-has-been-unethical

                  For just one example of the kind of thing he’s talking about, what do think about the Bank of China’s $2 million per year lease of space at Trump Tower?

                  https://therealdeal.com/2018/02/13/inside-the-trump-organizations-rent-roll/

                  That’s just a fraction of the “estimated $175 million in annual revenue from commercial tenants” the president’s company collects, but still . . . What if, by chance, the Bank of China is actually owned, in small or large part, by the Chinese government?

                  Would you see that as a violation of the Constitution and that oath of office, or would you be okay with that too because, even if some of the profits or (things like Chinese trade mark) benefits of the president’s company come from a foreign government or two it would probably be more of a moral problem than an under presidential oath constitutional violation problem?

                  • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/26/2018 - 09:05 pm.

                    The emoluments clause of the Constitution was intended to prevent bribes, not regular business. What if Trump had a factory which would be making some stuff which would be sold abroad to a company part owned by that government? What if he owned a farm and sold corn abroad to an entity partially financed by some foreign government? Yes, you can say that the foreign government in theory can threaten to stop buying those things and therefore influence him but is it what the Constitution meant? I doubt. Anyway, Trump claims that he returns all profit from dealing with foreign governments https://finance.yahoo.com/news/trump-org-says-donated-foreign-profits-treasury-175535197–finance.html and we may (or not) believe him but I would wait until the lawsuits about violation of this Constitutional provision brought against Trump are resolved. Trust me, I do not what Trump to be influenced by other countries…

                    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 02/28/2018 - 01:34 pm.

                      Continuing education

                      I’m not sure I’m all that wild about it, but one thing I’ll say for the president is his presidency has gotten me to look at things I never would have if it wasn’t for him and his “unusual behavior.”

                      Take the “emoluments clause,” for example. Who, besides those most interested in the Constitution, had even HEARD of it before the election or would have thought about it for more than 10 or 15 seconds if they had?

                      And while I don’t pretend to be as legally attuned as several others who comment here, I have — thanks to general curiosity and, I should add, thanks to your reply — just finished reading a long but excellent and enlightening explanation of that part of constitution that I think you might find interesting too:

                      The Emoluments Clause: It’s Text, Meaning and Application to Donald J. Trump

                      December 16, 2016

                      Norman L. Eisen, Richard Painter and Laurence Tribe

                      https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/gs_121616_emoluments-clause1.pdf

                      For many reasons the piece goes into and explains much better than I could, I’ll just say that while you’re right about the emoluments clause’s purpose being the prevention of bribery, corruption, avoidance of “undo influence,” etc., as you’ll see, whether or not the president (any president) is in violation of that part of the Constitution has nothing to do with whether or not there’s any bribery or corruption involved and, in this particular case, EVERYthing to do with “regular business.”

                      And, related to that, it appears that “Yes” is the short answer to the question of whether a president’s “regular business” that gained any profit or benefit from a foreign government is a violation of the emoluments clause and why his “contribution” to the treasury of his “hotel profits” (the Yahoo story) is, for all practical purposes, meaningless and near-infinitely “incomplete.”

                      As you’ll see, the emoluments clause is amazingly simple — and amazingly simple by design.

                      Which is another genuinely interesting part of the story . . . We hear a lot about the “founding fathers,” the “framers,” what they were thinking, what they intended, etc.. Well, the history, the context (the “Why?”) and the special emphasis those people placed on this particular part of the Constitution was surprising to me. For such an obscure “clause,” its inclusion appears to have been exceedingly important to them BECAUSE of that context . . . the revolution they had just been through and their intense desire to do everything they could to NOT allow the reasons for — or some of the “root causes” that led TO — that revolution to take hold in the new and extremely fragile democracy on which they had based and bet everything (including their lives!).

                      Anyway . . . When you’ve got time (it takes a while), take a look. I think you may find it as much of an unexpected expansion of the “Common Person’s Continuing Education” as I did . . . If nothing else, it provides a LOT of fundamental background (that few of us are getting from “the media”) related to what will likely turn out to be one of the pivotal issues in the relatively colossal political battle that is now in progress.

    • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 02/20/2018 - 03:38 pm.

      Nothing? Really?

      The Trump campaign first said no one associated with it had anything to do with Russia. Now, we’ve discovered that there were at least 19 contacts. We know that Trump Jr., Manafort, Page, Sessions, Papadopolous, and Kushner have all at various points have been less than completely honest about their contacts. We know that Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner took a meeting with Russians with the express intent of colluding. We know that Trump Jr. was in contact with Wikileaks around the release of the Podesta e-mails. We know the Trump campaign pushed to weaken the Ukraine plank of the RNC platform shortly after Page met with Russians in Moscow.

      To say there’s nothing there is ridiculous.

  9. Submitted by Roy Everson on 02/19/2018 - 02:52 pm.

    GOP: Empire without clothes

    “Emma Gonzalez is a hero, just like the kid who cried B.S. at the naked Emperor.” H.C. Andersen has never been so in-the-moment.

  10. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 02/19/2018 - 03:24 pm.

    “Knowing” is the key

    The question is not whether ignorance of the law is a defense-it’s not- but whether Trump of any of the actors in his campaign knew of the conspiracy of the 13 (so far) Russians engaged in violating laws to prevent interference with US elections. I suspect Mueller has laid out the charge staring with the Russians to first establish the factual basis for the conspiracy itself. So far, the indictments read like they’re on solid factual grounds. There may be defenses but it will be surprising if the indictments are facially defective.

    To widen the conspiracy net, Mueller might indict others only on the basis of their knowledge or awareness of the conspiracy, and some act in furtherance of the conspiracy. Interestingly, the indictment of the “Internet Research Agency, LLC” does not include any mention of hacking of the DNC or other acts that have been thought to represent the Russian interference. The violations mentioned are in a sense “low hanging fruit” of the use of propaganda techniques. The question si whether “Internet Research Agency, LLC” was also involved in any DNC hacking or was coordinating with some other group of individuals who were?

    I don’t think Trump or any of his staff can be indicted or tried for “unwitting collusion” with the Internet Research Agency, LLC or its co-conspirators. The Internet Research Agency, LLC seems to have been acting as any other “dark money” interest group which supports a candidate using dirty tricks but without “coordination” with the candidate or the candidate’s campaign. James Risen is at least asking the right questions. We’ll have to stay tuned for the answers.

  11. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/19/2018 - 04:06 pm.

    By the way, Intercept is founded by Glenn Greenwald, a friend and supporter of Julian Assange…

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/19/2018 - 04:48 pm.

    The real question is:

    What can be done with a treasonous POTUS?

    I like Risen’s work, and this article is good, but there’s a hint of focus on too many trees at the expense of forest. Look: It is well and truly documented beyond question that Trump literally asked the Russians to hack into DNC and or Clinton’s emails… and he did it publicly. He says it was a joke but when the Russians showed and said they had those e-mails; they got a meeting. Why is that is THAT not enough? Does it matter whether those particular e-mail materialized while a blizzard of other e-mails were being released? Certainly we KNOW that Trump’s son and other attempted to collude, why is that not at least attempted treason?

    If in fact, as documented, the Russian government tried to interfere in the US election as described, that IS a hostile act, making them a hostile government. We haven’t declared war since 1941 but we’ve faced many hostile entities. We never declared war on the Soviet Union but we executed the Rosenberg’s for treason nevertheless so our classification of an “enemy” of the State is plenty flexible and Russia certainly qualifies.

    Regardless of Trump’s personal election collusion or lack thereof, he HAS clearly and publicly disparaged the US government while praising, supporting, and promoting another government, i.e. Russia and Putin. Trump has openly attacked several branches of the US government sought to undermine confidence and credibility while ignored clear warnings of Russian threats. How is THAT not treason in and of itself?

    There is a fifth track that Risen doesn’t discuss- and that Trumps previous relationships with Russia and the Russian mafia. Dating back to his involvement in the Panama Trump tower Trump and his family have had numerous dealings Russian criminals and various money laundering schemes. We know that Putin is personally connected to Russian mafia activities, and we know that those activities are part and parcel of the Russian intelligence apparatus. I think it’s inconceivable that Russian intelligence, which has always excelled at corrupting and blackmailing it’s way into power has NOTHING on Trump himself. We have to ask why Putin would want Trump in power so badly if he didn’t think he could actually influence Trump in some way? And he does appear to have a man in the White House because Trump to this day keep trying to deny Russian culpability despite overwhelming evidence and mounting political cost.

    At any rate, the real question ends up being what we’re going to do? As long a Republicans control at least one house of Congress they won’t impeach. We can’t just march the FBI into the White House and arrest Trump. And don’t forget his earlier questions about his own ability to pardon himself… he actually asked his legal council if he could do that.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/19/2018 - 05:08 pm.

    The election outcome is irrelevant

    Whether the Russian program actually got Trump elected is not at all clear, the outcome itself may well have been the result of mundane electoral factors. Trump should never have gotten as close as he did in the first place and wouldn’t have had the Democrats produced a strong candidate.

    In terms of treason and collusion, I think it might be an overstatement to give Russia credit for Trumps victory, although they certainly will exploit it if they can.

    • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 02/20/2018 - 10:36 am.

      Paul should keep in mind the context of Trump’s election: The Russians were so determined NOT to have Putin’s arch-nemesis, Hillary Clinton, become president that they supported everybody who ran against her. Including Bernie Sanders. Fiercely (in the primaries AND the main election campaign).

      I saw Bernie in a news video clip yesterday telling us all that he and his campaign knew, in the midst of the presidential campaign (way post-primary) that the Russians were still pushing his candidacy against Hillary Clinton. he was quite worried about the signs that he saw of this, and notified the Clinton campaign of what Sanders noticed.

      And: I continue to say that anyone watching the display of total inadequacy of Donald Trump as President cannot, in all good faith, claim that Hillary Clinton was a weak candidate. Trump is a daily embarrassment to us all.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/20/2018 - 02:07 pm.

        Sorry

        Nothing changes the fact that Clinton campaign was a disaster and Hillary was a weak candidate. Had Clinton been a strong candidate the Russian meddling couldn’t have put a candidate like Trump in play to begin with. And nothing that we’re seeing here actually quantifies the effect of the meddling. The Russians were just one of a multitude of problems Clinton had to contend with.

        • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 02/20/2018 - 03:47 pm.

          Paul, I’m sure you’re aware that the Russian bots hugely amplified the social media lies and calumnies about Hillary Clinton that turned her into a veritable she-devil in many people’s eyes.

          She’s not a she-devil. But that tweeting and re-tweeting of vicious anti-Clinton material, and the multiple forwarding of Facebook junk in the same vein reached about 150 million people, at least. Your attitude toward Hillary Clinton was perhaps shaped in part by Russian propaganda. And you have no way to know whether it was, or not. That’s the big problem, in an election that Clinton won by almost three million votes and Trump scraped by with an Electoral College majority count that depended on his getting a total of 77,000 more votes than Clinton in three swing states.

          Most American voters preferred a highly-qualified woman with a public-service record to a New York blowhard who loved his rallies chanting :”Lock her up!” on the basis of NOTHING criminal done by Clinton. Jut a lot of social media garbage. Lots of it Russian garbage, as we now know (from Mark Zuckerberg, finally).

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/20/2018 - 06:42 pm.

            Russian bots

            Not to get sidetracked but I’m sure YOUR aware that Clinton was the most unpopular and distrusted candidate the democrats ever put on the ballot, and her unpopularity preceded any Russian activity. Clinton started out with very high level of distrust among the electorate, the Russians just tried magnify those trends.

            No one (except Trump and some others) denies that the Russians tried to sway votes away from Clinton. The problem is given her historical level of unpopularity and the numerous other issues she had it’s difficult if not impossible to measure how effective the Russian campaign actually was. Just because we know they tried, doesn’t mean we know that they succeeded. There is little if any evidence that the Russian campaign actually flipped any voters. Most likely it’s just reinforced pre-existing tendencies among the various demographics.

            FB tells me for instance that I never saw any of the Russian memes or bots. They targeted likely Trump voters, they didn’t flip Clinton voters into Trump voters. Likewise 95% of Sanders supporters voted for Clinton, a higher percentage than previous Obama voters. And I can’t see how the Russians got majority of white women in America to vote for Trump. By election night it all came down to independents and there’s no evidence that Russian bots played a larger role than any other factor in pushing them towards Trump. And again, had Clinton been an even moderately strong candidate there wouldn’t have been so many factors working against her on election night to begin with.

            The issue of Trumps treason and Russian operations and collusion are separate issues in and of themselves. They can’t be woven into a excuse for Clinton’s defeat.

  14. Submitted by chuck holtman on 02/19/2018 - 07:05 pm.

    Arguing about “treason” is tail chasing.

    What is it to side with the “Enemies” of the United States? What is “the United States” and what makes an “Enemy”? Do only external “Enemies” count? We speak of the national interest, but who defines it? Can one not define the national interest as being that of always forwarding our nation-state in the direction of its founding principles, and then can we not say that all those who do not work in good faith to that end are its Enemies? Yet essentially 100% of the majority caucus, and a good proportion of the other caucus, by any reasonable assessment fails this test abjectly. They seize the levers of the nation’s public power for private ends, and to the detriment of the founding principles. And those who vote to place them in office, if witting, conspire in the same act. What matter if we call it treason? The consequence is the same.

    If Mr Trump has worked with the Russian government to turn the United States to Russia’s ends, perhaps that is “Treason.” But if he has worked with the Russian government only to advance his own private, infantile ends, and Russia benefits thereby, is it a different crime, or any less of one, that he or those who abet and protect him have committed? And by giving it a name do we wave aside or excuse the other crimes committed in every banal instant by those who use public power for private gain?

  15. Submitted by Bill Willy on 02/19/2018 - 07:10 pm.

    A different but similar question

    A week ago Friday, Mark Shields said something in passing (PBS Newshour) that I’ve been thinking and wondering about since. The context was the Rob Porter story and what it boils down to is the question of whether or not the president could get or keep a security clearance. As the Washington Post put the relevant crux:

    “Those [Porter domestic violence] allegations — and the fact that they could potentially be used to blackmail him — were the reason that Porter’s security clearance was being held up.”

    If Porter’s past behavior was enough to prevent White House clearance, a person would think the president’s past would make it impossible for him to get within 100 miles of the place.

    While much of his adult life appears to be a black hole of potential personal behavior-related blackmail, it would seem the potential for excruciating, “hit him where it hurts most,” financial arm twisting he may be susceptible to, courtesy of (alleged) big time Russian investment in his business (see: Felix Sater), would be more than enough to cancel the “default” security clearance he has.

    Unfortunately, it looks like the Founding Fathers weren’t able to imagine a person like him getting anywhere near the presidency. As far as I can tell from a few cursory searches on “presidential security clearance background check,” etc., there’s no such thing and, amazingly, the presidential election itself is considered to BE that “background check.”

    In a previous life, it was part of my job to manage the background check process for 1,000 to 1,200 applicants per year and there’s no way the average voter (never mind “the base”) is qualified to determine who should or shouldn’t be given access to a storage shed, let alone the White House.

    But, according to what I could see, the way things stand, no candidate for president is subjected to any formal background scrutiny and both candidates just start getting limited, but sensitive, intelligent briefings as soon as they receive their party’s nomination . . . And, it appears, that’s pretty much that from there on out.

    If that’s actually the (bizarre) case, a person would think the idea of all future nominees being required to undergo an FBI security clearance check BEFORE being allowed to continue running for president MIGHT be something Congress could agree on.

    As for now, my question is, if a person can’t meet that FBI security clearance standard, why in the world would that person be allowed to be in charge of something like the United States?

    Because the Constitution doesn’t specifically state they can’t be if they can’t pass a “background check”?

    Because the people who wrote the Constitution didn’t think hell could ever freeze over (see: deepest global warming system breakdown)?

    Because — could it be? — they simply forgot to include a provision like that?

    Personally, I think this “benefit of the doubt” and “the president is legally untouchable” absurdity has gone way too far already. All the endless speculation and split-hair analysis is just wheel-spinning and rehashing of the obvious.

    If I held the Magic Wand I’d implement an Immediate Temporary 25th Amendment situation in which the president would be given enough of a time-out to be examined by a team of America’s most respected mental health professionals (so they could come out of their “Goldwater Rule” safe place and conduct those “personal interviews” they keep claiming they simply cannot say anything without); and, of course, undergo however thorough a background check the FBI deemed necessary to determine whether or not a person — ANY person — should be given the security clearance you’d THINK the “leader of the free world” would already have but, apparently, doesn’t, except by “election result” default.

    Related to James Risen’s remark about our peculiar leader being “an unbalanced narcissist,” this little oval office scene has been playing in my mind, on and off, since R Mueller’s Russian indictment and the president’s initial tweets:

    “Commander. We are under attack.”

    “Which proves I had nothing to do with it.”

    “Commander. We are under attack. What are your orders?”

    “Make sure everyone knows I didn’t have anything to do with it.”

    “Commander. We are under attack.”

    “Are you deaf!? I TOLD you . . . Tell everyone I had nothing to do with it!”

    (See: Caine Mutiny Commander Queeg strawberry count, or http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/captain-trump-stay-helm-article-1.3186867)

  16. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/19/2018 - 09:52 pm.

    Do I understand it correctly: the indictment says that the Russians started doing this before Trump became a candidate, tried to help Sanders and Stein, and organized pro- and against-Trump rallies but Trump is still somehow a willing beneficiary of this thing?

    By the way, can someone explain to me what was the actual crime those Russians committed? We have been told many times that illegal immigrants have all the rights when they are in the US and that should include the Freedom of Speech. So if Ivan Petrov comes to visit America (legally) and wants to place an ad on Facebook pertaining to elections, why can’t he?

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/20/2018 - 09:46 am.

      You don’t

      Free speech is not absolute….
      “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic.”
      Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

      • Submitted by Robert Owen on 02/20/2018 - 10:59 am.

        Facebook postings are on the same level as falsely shouting fire? Then not only some Russians but just about everyone on Facebook who commented on the election (and didn’t support the person you favor) is guilty.

    • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 02/20/2018 - 10:53 am.

      Ivan Petrov can’t spend any money on a campaign ad because he’s Russian, Ilya. It’s against our laws for any foreign national to contribute directly or indirectly to our campaigns monetarily, and ads cost money.

      So does organizing political rallies (that’s why the indictment specifies how the Russians who came here finagled “unwitting” Americans into fronting Russian-directed campaign activities–for Russians to do that is against our laws). Russians commit crimes when they purchase stolen Social Security numbers to establish fake American IDs for their electoral incursions into the US (the US Hispanic guy with the lucrative sideline of selling SSNs that he culled from the deep internet is a cooperating witness in the Mueller investigation).

      Basically what Mueller did with last Friday’s multiple indictments was to lay out the base line of the criminal activity of the Russians in 2014-2016 to influence our elections. Next up, will be the American “dupes” of said Russians. Taker a deep breath, for Mueller is far, far from done!

      Russians apparently regard this kind of misinformation campaign and subversive election “meddling” as commonplace (the post Soviet Union never did comprehend democracy). That’s why Russians can’t understand what these ‘trolls” did that was so wrong. They don’t understand our democracy, Ilya. Or what we consider serious crimes against our democratic processes.

      Sadly, neither does Donald Trump, our Main Dupe.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/21/2018 - 09:40 am.

        Some Corrections

        Some minor, some major.

        “It’s against our laws for any foreign national to contribute directly or indirectly to our campaigns monetarily, and ads cost money.” It is only against the law for foreign nationals who are temporarily present. I believe that lawful permanent residents–those who live in the US and who intend to apply for citizenship–are allowed to contribute.

        “So does organizing political rallies . . .” I would draw a distinction here between “political” rallies and “electoral” rallies. A foreign national can help organize a rally in favor of DACA. Lobbying a member of Congress on the issue might not be allowed (too lazy to look it up right now).

        “They don’t understand our democracy, Ilya. Or what we consider serious crimes against our democratic processes.” I think they do. I think it’s more a matter of they don’t care.

        “Sadly, neither does Donald Trump, our Main Dupe.” You’ll get no argument from me on either of those points.

        • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/21/2018 - 09:53 pm.

          “I would draw a distinction here between “political” rallies and “electoral” rallies. A foreign national can help organize a rally in favor of DACA. Lobbying a member of Congress on the issue might not be allowed.” So it’s OK to organize a rally for DACA but not a rally to support a candidate who supports DACA? And what is lobbying a member of Congress?

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/22/2018 - 09:21 am.

            Yes

            “So it’s OK to organize a rally for DACA but not a rally to support a candidate who supports DACA?” Yes. It’s a subtle distinction, albeit a real one. The actual prohibition, BTW, is against non-permanent resident foreign nationals making a monetary contribution or participating in the decision-making regarding election-related activities. A foreign national who shows up at a rally for a candidate for Assistant Commissioner is not committing a violation, but one who gives money to the campaign, or who helps with the organization, is.

            “And what is lobbying a member of Congress?” Lobbying actually means contacting a covered legislative or executive branch employee on behalf of a client.

            • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/22/2018 - 10:12 pm.

              Well, it is a very very subtle distinction, to the point of no distinction. Monetary contributions are easy to understand but I don’t think any of those 13 Russians gave any money to candidates or their campaign. But “participating in the decision-making regarding election-related activities” is a totally different matter. Any rally, especially when shown on TV, is affecting decision making for the voters. Any political message aired in Congress or town hall meetings is a participation in decision making activities. Putin’s saying that he doesn’t like Clinton and likes Trump (he actually never did it but let’s imagine he did) is influencing decision making of voters. A mass e-mail sending may have an effect on people’s thinking – what if someone living in Russia does it? My point is that nowadays (TV, Internet, social media) anything and everything people do is participating.

              “Lobbying actually means contacting a covered legislative or executive branch employee on behalf of a client” OK, an American citizen may lobby on behalf of a foreign government, if registered, of course… But what if a person is contacting a member of congress on his or her own behalf? Can a foreign national write an e-mail to a congressman?

              • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/23/2018 - 11:46 am.

                A Distinction is a Distinction

                “Well, it is a very very subtle distinction, to the point of no distinction.” It is a very real distinction. “Vote for candidate A because he favors continuation of DACA” is a very different thing from saying “Support continuation of DACA.” Churches make, or are supposed to make, this distinction: “Support candidates who promise to uphold our values” is different from saying “Vote for X because she promises to uphold our values.”

                “Monetary contributions are easy to understand but I don’t think any of those 13 Russians gave any money to candidates or their campaign.” Direct or indirect, and the contribution does not have to be monetary. In any event, it’s all just in the Grand Jury indictment and there will not be a conclusive finding on it unless the defendants stand trial (presumably, they will return to the US voluntarily, on flying pigs).

                “But what if a person is contacting a member of congress on his or her own behalf? Can a foreign national write an e-mail to a congressman?” Provided it’s not on behalf of someone else, yes.

                • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/23/2018 - 09:43 pm.

                  “”Support candidates who promise to uphold our values” is different from saying “Vote for X because she promises to uphold our values.” I just wonder what “support” means before elections? That’s why I am saying it’s a non-existent distinction.

                  “Can a foreign national write an e-mail to a congressman?” Provided it’s not on behalf of someone else, yes.” So if a foreign national writes an e-mail to a candidate asking for legal status, it’s OK but he or she cannot ask to give it to all friends, right?

                  • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/26/2018 - 09:21 am.

                    Distinctions

                    “I just wonder what “support” means before elections?” The distinction is whether candidates are named.

                    “So if a foreign national writes an e-mail to a candidate asking for legal status, it’s OK but he or she cannot ask to give it to all friends, right?” Right. That would be lobbying.

                    • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/26/2018 - 09:07 pm.

                      “The distinction is whether candidates are named.” It’s obvious that in any highly polarized race, saying “support candidate who supports such and such thing” is the same as saying “support candidate X.” There is no distinction here, at least from the practical point of view.

                      “Right. That would be lobbying.” So a DACA recipient cannot advocate for other DACA recipients…

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/21/2018 - 09:52 pm.

        “the criminal activity of the Russians in 2014-2016 to influence our elections” So where was Obama, Kerry, and Comey when the Russians did this?

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 02/20/2018 - 11:51 am.

      Actual crimes

      I don’t know about the specifics of the FBI indictment of Russian people — here’s one place you can read it: http://www.politico.com/story/2018/02/16/text-full-mueller-indictment-on-russian-election-case-415670 — but part of the FBI’s investigation is related to this:

      “Commission regulations prohibit foreign nationals from directing, dictating, controlling, or directly or indirectly participating in the decision-making process of any person (such as a corporation, labor organization, political committee, or political organization) with regard to any election-related activities. Such activities include, the making of contributions, donations, expenditures, or disbursements in connection with any federal or nonfederal elections in the United States, or decisions concerning the administration of any political committee. Foreign nationals are also prohibited from involvement in the management of a political committee, including any separate segregated fund (SSF), nonconnected committee, or the nonfederal accounts of any of these committees. See Explanation and Justification for 11 CFR 110.20 at 67 FR 69946 (November 19, 2002) [PDF].”

      http://www.fec.gov/updates/foreign-nationals/

      According to the news, the indictment included several instances of Russians paying Americans — who were “unwitting” and not associated with the Trump campaign — to help fund their “anti-Clinton activities” in four or five different states during the campaign.

      In the Bigger Fish and Speaking of Ongoing Mass Shootings and the Ongoing Refusal of Congress and the White House to Take Any Action Whatsoever to Reduce Gun Violence in America department, there was this January 18th report of the investigation of the (possible) commission of a much bigger version of the same kind of actual crime:

      “FBI investigating whether Russian money went to NRA to help Trump

      “The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.

      “FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said . . .

      ” . . . the NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Trump – triple what the group devoted to backing Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Most of that was money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors . . .

      “It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.”

      http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article195231139.html

      (And, by the way, when it comes to the separate, “possible collusion,” aspect of the FBI’s investigation, the article mentions Donald Trump Jr. and Alexander Torshin just happened to run into each other at an NRA convention they were both attending. That’s probably because they’re both just gun and hunting enthusiasts, but I’m sure you can see how a lot of average Americans might not understand that and think there could have been something fishy going on.)

      Hope that helps answer the “actual crimes” part of your question. There may be several other types of crime being investigated, but it’s a sure thing that any suspected crime related to the “use foreign money to influence federal elections” is among them.

      • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 02/20/2018 - 03:00 pm.

        Nice clarification, Bill!

        Incidentally, the Mueller indictment of last Friday does, indeed, mention activities of “unwitting” members of the Trump campaign to assist these Russian interventions in our electoral campaign of 2016. They did collude.

        “This indictment,” to quote the Acting Attorney General who announced the indictment, does not cite those “unwitting” dupes for a crime. That’s yet to come.

        Small note, but most of the attorneys and law professors who spoke to the intricacies of the long and detailed Mueller indictments mentioned two things repeatedly: the details contained in the document show that Mueller is sure he could get a conviction in court on these charges; and that the phrase “In this indictment” narrowly excludes some guilty parties who may be included in the future.

        The man continues to surprise everyone with his investigation (although I understand that the Russian press had already reported much of what Mueller revealed Friday–as I say, in Russia, they don’t comprehend how we think all this is such a big deal because they do subversion and chaos creation all the time, in every democratic country they think they can undermine).

        • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/21/2018 - 09:57 pm.

          “mention activities of “unwitting” members of the Trump campaign to assist these Russian interventions in our electoral campaign of 2016. They did collude.” It looks to me that the word “unwitting” makes charging with collusion impossible.

        • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/21/2018 - 09:58 pm.

          “the details contained in the document show that Mueller is sure he could get a conviction in court on these charges” This may be true provided he can get those people TO court which seems highly unlikely (and surely Mueller knows that).

          • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/22/2018 - 09:28 am.

            The Unlikelihood of it All

            “This may be true provided he can get those people TO court which seems highly unlikely (and surely Mueller knows that).” Russia does not allow its own citizens to be extradited, a fact doubtless known to Mueller and his team. The indictment also seeks criminal forfeiture against any assets the defendants hold in the US.

            The indictment may also serve to put pressure on the as yet unindicted co-conspirators.

  17. Submitted by Rosalie O'Brien on 02/20/2018 - 07:52 am.

    How ironic it is…

    How ironic it is that his narcissism, the characteristic that most makes Mr. Trump unfit for public service, could also be the reason why he could be found incapable of having formed the necessary intent for collusion (or the many other things he could be specifically charged with).

    As he caroms and boomerangs off the walls of his somehow simultaneously polygonal and mirror-like psyche, he excites higher and higher volumes of noise, but this person has yet to accomplish anything positive in over a year in office.

    How refreshing to think that perhaps Ms. Gonzalez and her cohort can bring about a re-birth of our polity.

    Thanks once again, Eric.

  18. Submitted by Bob Petersen on 02/20/2018 - 08:39 am.

    Hubris

    So, only the Republicans are treasonous by the definitions of a leftist columnist? There is much more smoke to the Clinton foundation’s work with other governments than what’s been found with Trump’s alleged collusion with the Russians, which none has still been found.
    The slander that this type of behavior is only to one side of the aisle is what is such a turn off to the many people in this country. No one seems to mention that we just had an administration that allowed the IRS to go after groups of people that support opposing causes and now finding out that it used the FBI to spy on Americans based upon complete fabrications. This is just for starters that we are finding out. Are these actions also not treasonous? Our government going after it’s own people.
    To many, the only guilty people are those that have opposing views. Facts be damned.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/20/2018 - 09:17 am.

      Bob…

      We’re talking Donald Trump because he’s the current president of the United States.

      Republicans/conservatives only reveal their moral vacuity when they point to someone else’s alleged crimes or misdeeds. The crimes and misdeeds of one person, real or imagined, cannot sanction the crimes or misdeeds of another. That’s basic basic basic moral reasoning 101. For any given crime or transgression you can always find a worse crime or transgression committed by someone else.

      Just because someone else committed genocide in the past, be it near or distant, doesn’t mean that anyone can or should commit genocide now.

      Your argument basically claims that Trump can’t be a criminal because he’s not the original criminal. This is a model for moral collapse that actually makes morality and law impossible. Unless someone does something that no one has ever done before, or something worse than ANYTHING anyone has ever done before, they can’t be prosecuted or held accountable. So much for conservative “values”.

      And no, we’re not talking about “context”, the context is that Donald Trump is the president of the United State, not Obama, not Clinton, not Ellison…. Donald Trump; THAT’S the context.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/20/2018 - 10:29 pm.

        “The crimes and misdeeds of one person, real or imagined, cannot sanction the crimes or misdeeds of another” Very true. But if someone ignores crimes and misdeeds of one person, he or she loses moral ground to talk about crimes and misdeeds of others.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/21/2018 - 08:49 am.

          Yes Illya

          “But if someone ignores crimes and misdeeds of one person, he or she loses moral ground to talk about crimes and misdeeds of others.”

          That’s why ignoring Trumps crimes and misdeeds betrays moral vacuity.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/21/2018 - 10:32 am.

          Ignore? Or Discuss at a Later Time?

          Where do we draw the line? It isn’t ignoring a crime or misdeed to discuss another wrongful act. That would be no different than a criminal defendant asking the court why he is being prosecuted when there are so many other criminals out there.

          A defense strategy I would not recommend, BTW.

          • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/21/2018 - 09:51 pm.

            We are not in criminal court but in a court of public opinion where it is very legitimate to ask how come you attack A for doing B but not C for doing a similar thing.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/22/2018 - 09:29 am.

              Legitimacy

              If we follow your logic through, we may never “attack” anyone for ethical transgressions, simply because it is impossible to “attack” everyone. Or would a blanket “attack” suffice? “I hereby condemn all those who have left undone those things which they ought to have done, as well as those who have done those things which they ought not to have done; And there is no health in them.”

              I actually prefer the term “seek to hold accountable” over “attack.”

              • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/22/2018 - 10:15 pm.

                I agree – “seek to hold accountable” is much better than “attack” but it’s hard for me to see how treatment of Trump – regardless of whether he deserves it or not – is not “attacks.” As for logic, mine is that people should be consistent and fair and if someone tries to hold A accountable, he or she should try to hold B accountable for similar things – of course, if A and B are in similar positions which would eliminate the need to hold everyone accountable.

                • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/23/2018 - 11:54 am.

                  Once Again

                  Trump is the President of the United States. That is why he gets the brunt of the criticism we level at public figures. Here, A and B are not in the same league.

                  “[I]t’s hard for me to see how treatment of Trump – regardless of whether he deserves it or not – is not “attacks.” If criticism is regarded as an “attack,” perhaps his sensibilities are too delicate for the office he holds. If the attacks are deserved, his fitness is also questionable.

                  “[I]f someone tries to hold A accountable, he or she should try to hold B accountable for similar things . . .” No. A is accountable for what A does, without reference to anyone else.

                  • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/26/2018 - 09:09 pm.

                    A and B don’t need to be in the same time – they just need to be in similar positions.

                    “If criticism is regarded as an “attack..” Criticism is by definition issue specific (and issue has to be relevant to all of us). Saying that he eats too many cheeseburgers is not criticism – it is an attack, and totally not deserved.

                    “No. A is accountable for what A does, without reference to anyone else.” Yes, A is accountable for what A does but if C didn’t criticize B for doing what A is doing, C should not criticize A. Only D can criticize A because D criticized B before.

            • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/22/2018 - 10:09 am.

              Sure, you can ask…

              But it’s not a serious question because you’re manufacturing your similarities. No president in the history of the United States has behaved like Donald Trump. And even if you can find some similarities why would we NOT “attack” Trump for doing the same bad stuff someone else did in the past? Whatever other presidents did is an historical question, and the idea that Trump is the first president in history to have ever been criticized is simply absurd. The conduct of our CURRENT president is the issue at hand. Responsible citizenship and morality isn’t an academic exercise, as citizens and moral agents we are compelled to prioritize our sitting president.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/20/2018 - 09:48 am.

      The question is

      who’s generating the smoke and holding the mirrors?

  19. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/20/2018 - 09:38 am.

    It’s kind like being a frog in pot of water…

    The situation simply surreal. We have a president who is clearly and deliberately putting the nation at risk and we’re “arguing” about whether or not he’s a traitor?

    Congress has levied sanctions against Russia; Trump has refused to implement them. Multiple agencies across several countries have determined that the Russian’s HAVE an ongoing covert hostile program designed to ultimately bring down the US government, and our President not only denies this fact, but refuses to acknowledge the threat. How is THAT not treason? We’re months away from another election that the Russians are trying to undermine and influence and to the extent that our defense, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies are responding to that threat… they are literally doing so DESPITE the President and the White House. How is that NOT treason? We have a sitting president who has told us that the Russian President is more trustworthy and reliable than our allies, or our own intelligence, military, and law enforcement agencies. Face it- we have a traitor for a president. Now what?

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/20/2018 - 10:09 am.

      You know

      It is easy too look at this site as an echo chamber for left leaning, But, it is also easy to look at some comments as furthering RW BS. It was noted way up the comment list. Mr. Gowdy had 5 Benghazi investigations all revealed ZERO, Many of us in the echo chamber are more than familiar with the “R” demonetization of the Clinton’s for over 30 years, and the results have been “ZERO”, (FOX would surely have come up with something tangible by now, other than their normal smear campaign)”T” is the one settling the, Trump U lawsuit for $25M. There was another article here last or the week before on “Tribes”. One would think we would look at what is or is not good for America, and level our judgements based on legal, moral, and ethical values, not put it to immediate party “tribal” affiliation, and defend our fearless leader regardless of fact. From this perspective that is and has been The Road to Hell” we have enjoyed for the last 20-30 years! Eric doesn’t like it, but some folks seem to be flat earther’s, total denial of facts regardless of the situation, Seems like Billy made that comment up a few as well. Sorry, you got took, try not to be so naive the next time, we all have scars from something or the other.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/20/2018 - 03:55 pm.

        I don’t belong to any tribe.

        I AM thinking about what’s good for America. If you have problem with my reasoning tell me what the problem is, simply noticing that I have a point of view doesn’t negate my position or relegate me to some “tribal” status of some kind. The tribal narrative is bereft of insight and functionally incoherent. Lets talk about substance. If you think I’m wrong about something, tell what I’m wrong about and why. I’m speaking in general terms by the way when I speak of “you” and “I”, I’m not demanding a personalized exchange.

        A bunch of people in a room who all agree that 2 plus 2 equals 4 aren’t an echo chamber full of tribal members, they’re just a room full of people who understand arithmetic.

        • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 02/21/2018 - 10:45 am.

          If you

          Took the comment as personal, perhaps it struck a chord? (It somehow was placed differently than I expected/intended) but so be it. Any discussion to address your comments, would be way off topic from “T” as a Traitor. Perhaps another article/time would be more fitting. It was impressive see “bell curves” and bi-modal distributions show up the other day though!

    • Submitted by Rosalie O'Brien on 02/20/2018 - 12:31 pm.

      Precisely.

      Paul, you’ve nailed it. And the confounding thing is that in many respects the media, notwithstanding the many efforts at increased coverage (WaPo beefing up its staff, NYT and others providing lots of digital coverage in addition to hard copy, etc.) seems to be obfuscating rather than getting to the heart of the issues. As the distinction between news and noise has eroded, they themselves are in many respects only adding to the noise! Now what, indeed!

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/21/2018 - 09:53 am.

        Rosalie,

        I don’t know how old you are but I was young adult during the Reagan administration, and it’s interesting to compare the current situation with that one. I’ve always thought that on a very basic level Trump is using Reagan as a template, it’s a somewhat updated template but a template nonetheless.

        If you strip away the tweets and focus on his executive actions Trump is a mirror image of a far more popular Reagan. Sure, Reagan called the Soviets the Evil Empire… but he also broke through diplomatically and established normal and almost friendly relations with Gorbachev. Reagan’s accomplishment with Gorbachev looks a lot like what Trumps wanted to accomplish with Putin. Trumps assault on the government and its agencies is literally a mirror image of Reagan’s declaration that the government was the problem not the solution. Trumps problem is that unlike Ronald Reagan, he’s an incompetent dullard who has surrounded himself with incompetent dullards. Reagan was no genius but he brought a Party apparatus with him into the White House that was not completely incompetent.

        Getting back to your point, it’s interesting to compare the current press treatment of Trump to the treatment that Reagan got back in the 80’s. The mainstream/corporate media has always serviced the elite, and contained it’s analysis for the most part to whatever is officially recognized as a legitimate story. For instance during the Iran Contra affair coverage focused on the hearings, and details of the arms sales, but no one in the mainstream media broached issue of war crimes or crimes against humanity. The big question was whether or not Reagan “knew” or whether or not Reagan’s people had lied to Congress. Outside the progressive media like “The Nation” no one talked about the fact that the whole point of all this illegal funding and lying was to create and sustain a terrorist army that was murdering Nicaraguan’s. No one talked about the possibility of putting Reagan or his cabinet on trial at the Hague for war crimes or crimes against humanity.

        There was one interesting moment, but just a moment during the Iran Hearings (note: they were the “Iran” hearings.. not: “The Contra Hearings”) where Daniel Inouye of Hawaii (a military veteran) began asking jerkamoid Oliver North about his “knowledge” of the Military Code of Conduct and the REQUIREMENT that US military personal refuse to obey illegal orders. Remember, North always acknowledged that he new he was breaking the law, he just claimed he did because his commander and chief told him to. This line questioning opens the door to issue of North not merely being a liar to congress, but war criminal. Norths lawyer jumped in and stopped Inouye, he reminded Inouye that this line of questioning had been prohibited by North’s agreement to testify. Let me repeat that: This line of questioning was prohibited by North’s agreement to testify. Likewise the corporate media at the time let it go, the confined themselves to the issue of whether or not North lied to congress.

        Likewise the issue of CIA drug smuggling revenue that supported the Contra’s has been effectively off limits until recently. Look up Contra-Cocain, or better yet pick of a copy of: “The Politic of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade” by Alfred McCoy.

        So yes, the media can function as a firewall against discussions beyond recognized parameters, they tend to focus trees and procedure at the expense of the forest. We saw that again when Bush et al cooked up the invasion of Iraq. For the most part sanctioned parameters are a comfort zone for journalists. The difference between Trump and Reagan is that the establishment that typically defines the parameters of the comfort zone is in disarray. Trump by definition is the most powerful political force in the nation, but he is in conflict with other powerful forces whereas Reagan was not. During the Reagan years BOTH Parties agreed to limit the discourse to the “crime” of lying to Congress. I don’t think we have an “agreement” like that with Trump, so the media can’t find it’s traditional comfort zone.

        The lack of parameters has led to much much more reporting than Reagan got. As you point out Wapo and the NYT’s have increased their staff and resources. Whereas Reagan’s various appointments and internal machinations tended to remain in the shadows until someone actually got charged with a crime (138 Reagan officials were actually CONVICTED of a variety of crimes) the mainstream press today is Johnny on the spot. A lot of the stuff you’re seeing in the NYTs and Wapo now would have been limited to Amy Goodman, and The Nation back in the 80s. On one hand that’s encouraging, but it still has it’s limitations. The imaginary “firewall” between “reporters” and “columnists” is still interfering with clarity.

  20. Submitted by Joe Musich on 02/20/2018 - 08:10 pm.

    It seems we are moving from

    preponderance of evidence to clear and convincing and the final shoe to drop will of course be beyond a reasonable doubt. The doubts are being erased daily as The House of Cards falls. One does not even have to be hyperbolic any longer. To equate this with prior efforts done by the Dems is at best false equivalency. And at worst as the article referred to is suggesting “treasonous!” But go ahead aid and abet and will see where it goes. Being as I was old enough to follow the Nixon series of events what is striking to me but not mentioned much is his defenders are in the same slot of thinking as were are seeing Trump supports take. Deflect ,deflect and deflect.

  21. Submitted by Solly Johnson on 02/22/2018 - 04:04 am.

    video interview

    For those who are interested, The Intercept now has a video debate between James Risen and Glenn Greenwald concerning the Trump/Russia investigation.

  22. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 02/23/2018 - 05:26 pm.

    Whether the current Republican president is a traitor or not, his cult doesn’t care, nor is this assertion of particular interest to the nation’s largest voting bloc, Non Voters.

    If the Democrats hope to ride this assertion to victory in November, they are deluded.

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