Donald Trump is now facing what may be an irreversible crisis. The full extent of Trump’s ties to the Russian government is unknown, but what we know so far – his comments to Russian officials in the Oval Office, in the immediate aftermath of the Comey firing; the conduct of current and former officials in his administration – raises serious questions about his competence. The revelation that Trump pressed James Comey to end the investigation of Michael Flynn before firing Comey indicates an egregious attempt to obstruct justice that has rightly drawn comparisons to Watergate. We now have the extraordinary spectacle of an “American-firster” who has leaked intelligence to a foreign government that meddled in the election that catapulted him into power, and who seems to have been absolutely comfortable in hiring a national security adviser he knew to be a) under investigation; and b) a paid consultant to foreign powers.
We understand that anxiety about foreign – especially Russian – influence is a familiar trope in American politics, and has been used in the past to suppress internal dissent. But to emphasize this particular angle in Nation coverage over the conduct of the Trump administration is a dereliction of our responsibility as progressive journalists. Last week, for example, the magazine ran a piece casting doubt on the motivation of the officials behind the White House leaks, one of several it has published in recent months that have implied the real threat to national security is not Trump’s conduct but rather the attacks on him. As longtime associates of The Nation, we are deeply concerned that by making these editorial emphases and by likening calls for investigations into the Russia connection to “red baiting,” the magazine is not only playing into the hands of the Trump administration, but doing a dishonor to its best traditions. We have noted, too, with dismay, that Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter and other far-right adversaries have taken comfort in the writings of other Nation writers on the current crisis.