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Saletan writes: "President Donald Trump should be impeached. Not just for his manipulation of Ukraine, but for his overwhelming pattern of treachery against the United States."

Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/Getty)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/Getty)

The Case for Trump's Impeachment: He's Betrayed America With Seven Countries

By William Saletan, Slate

26 September 19

He has betrayed America with seven countries. Here’s the indictment.

resident Donald Trump should be impeached. Not just for his manipulation of Ukraine, but for his overwhelming pattern of treachery against the United States. 

The president swears that his pressure on Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s leading opponent in the 2020 election, was perfectly innocent. Despite an array of evidence that Trump abused power—a whistleblower complaint, an arm-twisting phone call with Ukraine’s president, suspension of U.S. military aid to increase the heat, and an influence campaign in Ukraine by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani—Trump shrugs off the whole story as a “Ukraine Witch Hunt.” He says he’ll beat the rap. 

But Trump’s rap sheet is a lot longer than one story. What he has done in Ukraine—defending a corrupt foreign official, enlisting a foreign government to fight his domestic political opponents, and circumventing or removing American security officials who stood in his way—is part of a pattern. In transactions with at least seven countries, Trump has pursued personal advantage at the expense of the United States. In each case, he has explicitly attacked America, its political leaders, or its national security officials. 

Here are the seven countries. 

1. Russia. Trump solicited criminal campaign help from Russia and defended collaboration with the Kremlin to win the 2016 election. These aren’t unproven allegations. They’re recorded on video. At a press conference in July 2016, Trump urged Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. When a reporter asked Trump whether he had “any pause about asking a foreign government—Russia, China, anybody—to interfere, to hack … anybody in this country,” Trump replied, “No, it gives me no pause.” In 2017, when he was asked about the Trump Tower meeting at which his top campaign officials sought political help from Russian emissaries, Trump said there was no difference between getting help from Russians and getting it from Americans. 

Trump has repeatedly asserted that the United States is no better than Russia. During his campaign, and again as president, he defended Russian President Vladimir Putin’s record of killing dissidents, claiming that “our country does plenty of killing also” and isn’t “so innocent.” Trump said Putin was better than President Barack Obama, calling the Russian president “a leader, you know, unlike what we have in this country.” Last month, at a press conference, Trump boasted five times that Putin had “outsmarted” Obama. 

Trump took specific steps to protect Putin from the U.S. government. He repeatedly defended Putin against the 2017 U.S. intelligence report that exposed Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Trump also dismissed the American officials behind the report as liars and hacks. He denounced the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, and “the intelligence community.” Last year, after a Department of Justice indictment documented the involvement of 12 Russian intelligence officers in the election hacks, Trump dismissed the evidence and defended Putin’s denial

2. North Korea. Last year, Trump formed a public-relations alliance with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, based on the mutually advantageous fiction that North Korea was dismantling or halting its nuclear missile program. Since then, Trump has followed Kim’s lead, ridiculing American officials and politicians Kim doesn’t like. In May, Trump repeatedly applauded North Korea for calling Biden a “fool of low IQ.” In June, Trump portrayed the United States as North Korea’s lowly suitor, boasting—falsely—that Obama had “called Kim Jong-un on numerous occasions to meet” and that despite “begging for meetings constantly,” Obama had been turned down. Trump has also endorsed Kim’s attacks on Trump’s own advisers. Two weeks ago, after North Korea denounced U.S. national security adviser John Bolton as a “human defect” and said Bolton should vanish, Trump fired Bolton and defended North Korea’s invective against him. 

Kim, like Putin, enjoys Trump’s protection from U.S. intelligence agencies. Trump has brushed aside the agencies’ evidence of Kim’s ongoing nuclear and missile work, calling such allegations “fake news” from “the Opposition Party.” Last month, Trump again followed Kim’s lead, criticizing joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea. And on Monday, despite international alarm over North Korea’s persistent missile launches, the president defended them

3. Saudi Arabia. Trump is shielding the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, from American intelligence that shows MBS directed the murder of a U.S. resident, journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Last fall, a CIA assessment concluded that MBS ordered the assassination. Trump lied about the assessment, claiming that the CIA “didn’t make a determination.” Congress then instructed Trump to issue a legally mandated report on Khashoggi’s death, but Trump refused. Three months ago, when Trump was asked whether the FBI should look into the case, he said it had been sufficiently investigated, and he claimed that “nobody so far has pointed directly a finger” at MBS. When a reporter pointed out that the CIA had in fact implicated MBS, Trump replied, “I just don’t want to talk about intelligence.” 

4. China. Trump often complains about China’s trade surplus with the United States. But he always insists that the real culprit is the U.S. government. That’s because Trump views competition with other countries, like collaboration with other countries, as a venue in which to outscore and humiliate the real enemy: his fellow American politicians. At least 19 times since Trump became president, he has declared, “I don’t blame China.” Instead, he has faulted America. Last fall, he explained, “I don’t blame China. I blame our country.” Last year, and again two months ago, he repeated, “I don’t blame China. I blame the United States.” 

Trump’s contempt for America, relative to China, goes beyond trade policy. He also believes that China’s Communist government is morally superior to the Democratic Party of the United States. Earlier this year, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer refused to fund Trump’s border wall, Trump protested, “I find China, frankly, in many ways, to be far more honorable than Cryin’ Chuck and Nancy. I really do. I think that China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party.” 

5. Israel. This year, Trump has targeted four Democratic congresswomen: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib. He has portrayed them as un-American, claiming that they “came from countries” with bad governments (three of them were born here) and should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” But it’s Trump, not the congresswomen, who has dragged a foreign government into the feud. 

Last month, Omar and Tlaib made plans to travel to Israel. Although Israel objected to their support of boycotts against it, it decided to permit their visit, on the grounds that denying entry to members of Congress would be an offense against the United States. But Trump felt no such loyalty to his country. He openly urged Israel to bar the two Americans—in fact, he warned Israel that it would look weak if it approved their trip—and he also lobbied Israeli officials in private. Under his pressure, Israel reversed itself and blocked the visit. 

Trump proceeded to exploit Israel’s rebuke of the two congresswomen, just as he had exploited Putin’s criticisms of Clinton and North Korea’s criticisms of Biden. He also suggested that American Jews should put allegiance to Israel before their duties as American citizens. “Any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat,” he argued, were “being very disloyal to Israel.” 

6. Turkey. Trump has consistently excused Turkish aggression against the United States. In 2017, he defended his former national security adviser Michael Flynn after Flynn was exposed as a Turkish foreign agent who had spiked a U.S. plan to arm America’s Kurdish allies. Then Trump refused to criticize Turkey’s authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan—and even expressed sympathy to Erdogan in a phone call—after Erdogan’s thugs assaulted protesters in Washington. Last year, the White House pressed the Justice Department to look for ways to expel Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish dissident, despite having been told there were no legal grounds to do so. And in a dispute over whether to betray the Kurds in Syria, Trump sided with Erdogan against U.S. officials. Trump capped his treachery by firing Defense Secretary James Mattis, who had protested his abandonment of the Kurds

7. Ukraine. What we know so far about Trump’s backstage manipulation of Ukraine fits the pattern. But you can also see several of his pathologies out in the open. 

One of them is his incomprehension that he’s supposed to be a teammate, not an enemy, of previous American presidents. At last month’s G-7 meeting, Trump dismissed Russia’s annexation of Crimea, a Ukrainian province, as a personal embarrassment to Obama. That invasion was Obama’s problem, not Trump’s, the president argued. Therefore, in Trump’s view, the punishment Russia had suffered for it—being kicked out of what was then the G-8—should be overturned, now that Trump was president. Crimea was “taken away from President Obama, not taken away from President Trump,” said Trump. “It was very embarrassing to him. And he wanted Russia to be out … that was his determination.” 

Another pathology, familiar from Trump’s interactions with Russia, China, and North Korea, is his habit of belittling domestic critics by playing on the idea of American inferiority. “Our media has become the laughingstock of the world,” the president told reporters on Friday, castigating them—in the presence of Australia’s prime minister—for pursuing the Ukraine story. “The media of our country is laughed at all over the world now. You’re a joke.” On Tuesday, at a meeting with Iraq’s president, Trump claimed that every foreign head of state with whom he had spoken at the U.N. General Assembly said the investigations of him were “crazy.” 

A third pattern, consistent with Trump’s treatment of Russia, North Korea, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, is his attacks on U.S. intelligence officials. On Saturday, he tweeted smears by two Fox News commentators. One called the Ukraine whistleblower’s complaint a “seditious effort” against Trump. The other warned that “an American spy in one of our intelligence agencies may have been spying on our own president.” 

Trump says Ukraine is part of a much bigger story. “It’s just a continuation of the witch hunt,” he scoffed on Tuesday. He’s right that we’re seeing the same thing over and over. But what we’re seeing isn’t witches. It’s a president betraying his country. Draw up the articles of impeachment. your social media marketing partner
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