The Democrats need to be careful. Already they’re overreacting to the disclosures that Don Trump Jr. and other Trumpsters met with a Kremlin insider seeking dirt on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” That’s what the email promised.
Collusion, yes. “Treason,” probably not. But here we had Sen. Tim Kaine carelessly throwing around the T-word after The New York Times reported, and Junior confirmed, the latest horror stories to rise from the Trump muck (pardon the redundancy): “This is moving into perjury, false statements and even potentially treason.”
Has anyone recently given Sen. Kaine a PED test? That seemed to be a clear case of a ‘roid rant. Kaine, you’ll remember, was Hillary’s running mate. You don’t remember? That could be because usually he’s a blend-into-the-woodwork kinda guy, careful with his every utterance. But here he was bursting out of the woodwork — splinters everywhere — with his “treason” tirade.
What Junior and Jared Kushner were doing as playtime politicos by taking that meeting, along with then-campaign leader Paul “no client too sleazy” Manafort, doesn’t rise to that level. Instead, they were slopping around in the very sewage the special counsel and congressional committees are sifting through, looking for evidence that the Trump campaign and a hostile government colluded to steal the U.S. election. That might end up being some variation of not-so-grand theft, but not treason, which would require we be at war with Russia. Officially, we’re not. Hostile, yes, but not at war.
Shouting “treason,” as so many Democrats are, provides Don Trump Sr. with a straw man he can easily topple. He’s already latched on to the word, telling reporters: “When they say ‘treason’ — you know what treason is? That’s Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for giving the atomic bomb, OK?”
Let’s be honest: The name of the Democrats’ game is “impeachment.” Typically, they both underplay and overplay their hands. First of all, nobody has established that Papa Don, aka POTUS, knew about that meeting. At least we don’t know that they have. Nobody, so far, has proven that the president his very own self plotted with his bud Vladimir Putin to steal the election. Again, not yet. Not only that, but even if subsequent disclosures, probably in the media, show that he was personally involved, it’s not at all certain that impeachment would really gain momentum. No matter how many associates get legally snared by special counsel Bob Mueller, removing a president is a political act, no matter what the charges. And congressional Republicans would have to defy Trump’s base, which is their base, and they’re too timid to do that.
So no matter how damning the “fake news” stories that prove to be true, Donald Trump appears to be untouchable and, for now, unimpeachable. As for the sleazebag reporters, one can only imagine the fantasies running through President Trump’s mind as he sat there in Paris on Bastille Day pondering the guillotine.
Hey, a man can dream, can’t he?
Thus far he’s had to suffice with lesser assaults, like cutting out the TV cameras at the press briefing, and chintzy little tricks like the one played by Junior. When the Times first confronted him with the story about his Russian meeting, he misstated what it was about, and left out the good stuff. Finally, when the reporters said they would publish his emails, he pulled one of the oldest and smarmiest tricks of all: He tried to blunt the impact by releasing the emails himself before they could be published. Then he went around claiming he had been “transparent.”
His dad also congratulated him for being transparent, and, of course, again called the entire Russia investigation a “witch hunt.” The question for Trump will be “Which witch?” That is, unless the Democrats sabotage the entire investigation of him by using careless, incendiary words like “treason.”
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.