If Donald Trump Jr. was younger, the courts would intervene, take him away from his father and put him up for adoption. (It would take a village.) But it is too late for that. Like John Gotti’s son, he had all the wrong examples set for him. He saw Russia as a political ally and stupidly took a meeting with a Russian lawyer without summoning one of his own lawyers. Lucky for him, his father is his boss. His job is safe. In Trump Land, this passes for meritocracy.
Poor Junior is his father’s son. He lives and works in a bubble in which political morality and ethics have no place. His own father extolled Vladimir Putin as a strong leader and has to be virtually water-boarded to criticize him. During the campaign, he called on Moscow to release more of Hillary Clinton’s purloined emails — a joke, he later said. How was Junior to know that Putin is a thug or that it is wrong to use emails purloined by a foreign government in a presidential campaign? Daddy said otherwise. Daddy has his name in bling all over the building.
Trump Jr., his father and others may well have committed a crime. That crime, though, is certainly not treason, as Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) suggested. It is rather an evident willingness to meet with someone Trump Jr. ought to have known was not an American ally but an American adversary. The nature and conduct of Putin’s Russia meant nothing to him. Putin heads a criminal regime. It steals property. It has suffocated democracy and murdered opponents. It enabled human rights abuses in Syria. It later interfered in the U.S. presidential election. Trump Jr. had no compunction about taking a meeting. In fact, he expressed his glee. “I love it,” he emailed.
The danger for Trump Sr. and Trump Jr., and all the other Trumps, is now obvious. But there is danger for Trump’s opponents as well. Trump’s most serious crime is how he has debased electoral politics and American civil life — his daily lies, his arrogance, his attempt to silence media critics, his pandering to the mob.
The spotlight has to remain on the man and not on the distant promise or hope of some particular crime that may never be proved. The loose talk of treason is both ugly and counterproductive. The charge of treason should never be hurled in a political context. It is unfortunately reminiscent of Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s demagoguery in which, in 1954, he accused the Democratic Party of “20 years of treason.” As seems always the case with the GOP, it managed to suppress its gag reflex. Not until McCarthy abased himself later that year at the so-called Army-McCarthy hearings did the GOP summon the courage to take him on. Since then, it has been morally exhausted.
Kaine’s hyperbole is not quite in that category. For one thing, he lacks McCarthy’s standing or, if you will, celebrity status. But he does personify the larger Washington tendency to turn a procession of lies into a monster felony and from there into a capital crime. (Think Bill Clinton — not just Monica Lewinsky but also the Whitewater investigation that went approximately nowhere or, more recently, the Benghazi nonsense.) Trump the younger may be guilty of numerous crimes, but selling out his country is not one of them. He has, for starters, too much real estate here.
There is clearly no treason here and maybe no crime. If that’s the case, then the failure to make the case will surely be used by Trump and his legion of useful idiots into a blanket exoneration. That must not be allowed to happen. Trump’s most serious crime is how he had debased America’s political culture and the damage he has done to our standing in the world. For that, the jury is already in: guilty.