Vladimir Putin had his best day ever last Friday when he achieved two of his longest-held goals: a divided Europe and a divided United States. Putin succeeded without any shots fired or missiles launched.
After 47 years, Britain left the European Union following a 2016 referendum that passed with a slim four-point margin and a fractious debate over the last three years. The choice pitted urban vs. rural, young vs. old, white people vs. people of color, and Tories vs. Labour. The election itself was called into question with reports of Russian interference that sowed doubt about the results.
With Brexit now official, it will likely harm Britain’s economy. In fact, the referendum alone did just that, as well as reduce the country’s per capita income. As a result, Britain is weaker politically and economically.
Also on Friday, 51 GOP senators voted against allowing witnesses to testify before the Senate impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump, even though 72 percent of all Americans wanted witnesses, including 67 percent of Republicans. It is the first time in American history that an impeachment trial didn’t have witnesses.
As a result, Trump is likely to be acquitted later this week, even though some GOP senators are saying that his actions – withholding military aid in an effort to have Ukraine investigate a political rival – were wrong. But the senators didn’t think the actions constituted an impeachable offense, even though it is a crime to solicit foreign aid for a U.S. election. So the senators voted against calling witnesses, effectively ending the trial.
Many Americans disagree with these Republican senators. In the latest Fox News poll, 50 percent of Americans think Trump should be removed from office. But it seems unlikely he will be when the Senate votes on Wednesday. As a result, the country is roiled by political divisions created by a president that hasn’t been seen since Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal.
All that makes Putin very happy.
Remember his two major goals to divide the West.
First, he hopes to increase his own power by dividing Europe, and Brexit certainly helps him in that effort. Of course, he would also love to end NATO, and many experts have pointed to Trump’s derogatory comments about the alliance as detrimental to its unity. Withdrawal from NATO by the United States would certainly make Putin happy by further weakening Europe.
It is time to ask some hard questions of every House and Senate Republican, on the record, about their support of Trump’s conduct that led to his impeachment.
Second, Putin hopes to exacerbate divisions in the U.S. That is happening now with impeachment proceedings that will likely see Putin’s friend and ally Trump stay in office. As that process unfolds, Putin openly continues to sow discord in the 2020 election online and in our election systems, assisted by Senate Republican accomplices who refuse to pass legislation to protect our upcoming election. This is the best of all worlds for Putin.
So now what?
It is time to ask some hard questions of every House and Senate Republican, on the record, about their support of Trump’s conduct that led to his impeachment. The following questions go to the heart of the allegations against Trump, and the answers will reveal Republicans’ intentions in support of this wrongdoing:
- Have you ever solicited, accepted or received anything of value, including donations, from a foreign government for your election?
- What are you doing to restore the Federal Election Commission so it can enforce campaign finance laws?
- Do you support security reforms to protect our elections, including 2020, from foreign interference similar to Russia’s in 2016?
- What are you doing to bring election security legislation passed by the House last year to a vote in the Senate?
The answers to these questions will provide the true motivation behind Republicans’ support of Trump as well as demonstrate where their loyalties lie. Every American should want to know where each of them stands.
To understand the full import of the Senate vote last Friday consider historian Jon Meacham’s view of it:
Donald Trump, he said, “has such a standing with his political base that senior United States senators have decided that though he is guilty, they are not going to risk the wrath of the people in order to follow through on what is clearly spelled out in the Constitution.”
Meacham continued, “President Trump is functionally a monarch at this point. If the king does it, it's okay. That's what we're seeing unfold in Washington right now. And I think all Americans, whether you support the president or you don't should pause significantly and think about the long-term implications of having a president who is above the law.”
Britain still has a monarchy but its future is in doubt.
The United States is barely hanging on as a republic and its future is in doubt, too.
That makes Friday one of the best days for Putin so far. And he is very happy indeed.