Junk Explained: Why The Latest Trump Scandal Is Way Worse Than The Usual Trump Scandals

This time it involves the word "treason".

Donald Trump

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Look, if you’ve tuned out of the frequent stories of Donald Trump’s massive fuck-ups, we don’t blame you. They occur at such a rapid, head-spinning pace that it’s hard to keep up even if you want to.

But you may have noticed over the last few days that people are particularly angry at the President, and that’s because he did a particularly bad thing.

Let’s Start At The Start

Cast your mind back to 2016, when things were slightly less terrible than they are now. Trump was facing off against Hillary Clinton in the upcoming US election, and it really, really, really looked like Clinton was going to win. Sure, she wasn’t a perfect candidate, but she wasn’t Donald Trump either, and that should have been enough. But then a bunch of things happened shortly before the election.

First, Wikileaks starting posting a trove of leaked emails sent by people around Clinton. At the same time, an army of trolls and bots were creating Facebook ads and fake news to influence the election in Trump’s favour. Other things were happening too: voting machines were hacked, and Russian operatives were setting up meetings with the Trump campaign.

Pretty quickly, the US government realised that Russia was behind this effort to swing the election in Trump’s favour. Russian President Vladimir Putin hates Hillary Clinton, while Trump had shown an affinity for the authoritarian strongman.

And as we all now know, Trump ended up winning the election, but it was really close. Did the Russian efforts actually secure victory for Trump? It’s impossible to know. But what’s not in dispute is that Russia did everything it could to help Trump and tear down Clinton.

That’s the conclusion of a bunch of US security agencies like the FBI, CIA, NSA, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Justice Department and the House and Senate Intelligence committees.

They all agree, Russia meddled in the 2016 US election to help Donald Trump.

Ok, But What Did He Do This Week?

So you may have seen this week that POTUS and Putin were scheduled to hold a summit down meeting in Helsinki, Finland. When I catch up with an old friend, it’s called “having a beer”, but when Presidents do it, it’s called a “summit” for some reason.

They had a lot to discuss. They could have spoken about Russia’s annexation of Crimea, denuclearisation, the ongoing war in Syria, or Trump’s recent meeting with Kim Jong Un.

We don’t know everything they discussed, because for a few hours they sat alone (with only their translators), and had a nice chinwag before emerging to face the world’s press.

POTUS was immediately questioned on whether he had raised Russia’s meddling in the US election, and he pivoted to a weird rant about Hillary Clinton and the ongoing independent counsel investigation into his campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia.

When questioned again, Trump tried to avoid a direct answer, then said that he “can’t see why it would be” Russia who meddled in the election.

Those few words have caused a lot of trouble for the President.

What’s The Problem?

So, while standing next to the man who almost certainly ordered the Russian interference in the US election, Trump said he believes Putin over his own intelligence agencies.

This is quite a big deal.

Instead of siding with the FBI, CIA, and all of the other US agencies, Trump accepted the word of an autocrat, whose argument is to essentially say “nah, it wasn’t me” with a huge shit-eating grin on his face.

But sure, Trump has said a lot of dumb shit before, so why is this time different? Because this time he’s being condemned on all sides.

Republicans, who have stood by Trump when he sided with white supremacists, and when he attacked the family of a dead soldier, and when he separated children from their parents for no good reason, seemed to have finally reached a limit.

Fox News, which always backs the President, admitted that he’d got it wrong and needed to clarify his remarks immediately. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, one of the President’s biggest supporters, called him out on Twitter.

A whole bunch of GOP Senators also denounced Trump. John McCain (who has never been a fan of Trump), said that, “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.” Ouch.

A bunch of media outlets and former diplomats have speculated that Trump’s actions could only be explained if Putin has some kind of compromising evidence that he’s using to blackmail the President.

John Brennan, the former Director of the CIA, said Trump’s comments amount to treason, which is a pretty big deal.

Treason would, obviously, meet the “high crimes and misdemeanours” standard needed to impeach a President. For a while yesterday, it seemed like might actually be possible…

Trump Reckons He “Misspoke”

The furore over Trump’s comments was so bad that he did something he rarely does and admitted he made a mistake.

In a press conference overnight, the President said he simply got his words mixed up.

“In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t,’ ” he explained. “The sentence should have been: ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ Sort of a double negative.”

As he said it, the lights in the White House flickered as if Putin was in the next room trying to shut him down.

The explanation makes no sense. POTUS was given multiple opportunities to denounce Putin to his face and he didn’t take them. He very clearly meant what he said. The only reason he backtracked is because the furore over his comments was more than anyone could have imagined.

Of course, Trump’s backdown was enough to bring his allies back into the fold. Republican Senators and the conservative media have already forgiven him and taken his apology at face value. If there ever is going to be an impeachment, it will need to be bipartisan, so that’s probably off the table for now.

As for what’s next, who knows. Trump will probably continue just being Trump, saying stupid shit and making the world a less safe place.