he following collage of more and less hysterical reactions to President Trump’s embrace of President Putin includes cries of “Treason!” without any call to action. What can we do if this is as true as it seems? The answer, such as it is, follows at the end of this piece.

Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate…. No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.US Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, official statement, July 16

Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you??? – John O. Brennan, former director, US Central Intelligence Agency

[Trump] gives every impression of betraying his oath of office…. Trump’s own national security adviser said the Russian election attack constituted an “act of war.” So what does that make his boss? Some – including former CIA di0044rector John Brennan – now dare call it treason. That conclusion was once unthinkable. No longer.Max Boot, Washington Post columnist

Everyone in this body [US Senate] should be disgusted by what happened in Helsinki today.Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska

I am a tea party conservative, that will never change. But Trump was a traitor to this country today. That must not be accepted. Speak out.July 16 Trump/Putin tweet from Republican former Congressman Joe Walsh, now a syndicated radio host

The Trump team were colluding with the Russians in 2016 – and they are still colluding. – Carl Cameron, former chief political correspondent for Fox News

Persistent and disruptive cyber operations will continue against the United States and our European allies, using elections as opportunities to undermine democracy, sow discord and undermine our values…. Frankly, the United States is under attack.Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee in February 2018

Some [Republican officials] now reportedly seek to impeach [US Deputy Attorney General] Rosenstein on trumped up charges. To attack one of our national defense leaders as we are being attacked, and to do so to benefit our foreign adversary, is textbook treason. [emphasis in original] – David Rothkopf, CEO and Editor, Foreign Policy Magazine

This is an incredible, unprecedented moment. America is being betrayed by its own president. America is under attack and its president absolutely refuses to defend it. Simply put, Trump is a traitor and may well be treasonous. – Charles M. Blow, New York Times columnist

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.United States Constitution, Article III, section 3

Since his first moment in office, President Trump has been guilty of impeachable offenses, most obviously by violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution: using the office of the presidency for personal profit for himself, his family, and his friends. At least some of the corruption of the Trump administration has been widely reported and even resulted in a few official resignations. But the impeachable corruption continues uninterrupted.

Now it appears more than likely that, since his first moment in office, President Trump has also been a traitor. And the apparent treason continues uninterrupted.

Among Republicans the response to Trumpian high crimes and misdemeanors has been largely limited to the wringing of hands, backed by mock-pious tut-tutting, and expressions of shock – shock! – to see sycophantic Putin-worship practiced so openly. Senator McCain’s exceptional response should shame the others, but smart money says it won’t. We live in a country where the expression “Republican patriot” is usually an oxymoron.

After hours of silence, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate majority leader, refused to answer any questions after making a brief statement lacking any noticeable principle:

The Russians are not our friends. I’ve said that repeatedly, I say it again today. And I have complete confidence in our intelligence community and the findings that they have announced.

Equally inert and unprincipled, Speaker of the House Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin issued a statement that had slightly better rhetoric but to no better point, given his own lack of effort to lead the House to seek the whole truth of the 2016 election:

There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world…. The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally…. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.

Republican corruption is neatly crystallized in that last sentence, which harbors two viciously false ideas essential to Republicans’ hanging on to power. The first deceit is the notion that only the Russians are at fault, which is part of the cover-up of Trump allies engaging with Russians in a manner that has resulted in several of them pleading guilty to felonies. The recent arrest of Russian national Mariia Butina for conspiring against the US as a secret agent involves a nexus of Americans that includes Republican operative Paul Erickson, Donald Trump Jr., two National Prayer Breakfasts, and the National Rifle Association, among others.

The second, even more important deceit is that there’s no need to put an end to Republicans’ own vile attacks on democracy over the past two decades. Republicans have used voter caging, voter purges, vote-counting manipulations, disenfranchisement of voters, gerrymandering, and other techniques, legal and illegal, to shape a false electorate that will vote Republican. They have done this with little opposition from Democrats and a big assist from the Supreme Court’s denial of reality in weakening the Voting Rights Act. This Republican elephant has been in the room for a long time as officials avert their attention in what is metaphorically treason by default – and makes Russian manipulations that much easier.

OPEN TREASONNew York Daily News front page headline, July 17, featuring a drawing of Donald Trump holding hands with a topless Putin while shooting Uncle Sam in the head, spattering brains on Fifth Avenue

This is an extraordinary moment. It is without equal, not only in American history but in modern history. A hostile foreign power intervened in our election to help elect a man president who has since actively served their interests and has defended them at every turn. – David Rothkopf, Foreign Policy Magazine

BETTER OFF NOWNew Republican slogan, July 11

Trust no one. – Vladimir Putin at Helsinki

The argument that Trump is a traitor who has committed treason as defined by the Constitution is pretty straightforward, but depends on applying modern reality to the 18th century document.

At this point, there is no reason to believe Trump has levied war against the United States. There is good reason to believe that cyberwar is war within the intended meaning of the Constitution, and that Russia (among others) has waged cyberwar against the US, and that the president has failed in his sworn constitutional duty to defend the United States. That would qualify Russia as an enemy of the United States (a longstanding pillar of US foreign policy).

Is there any serious doubt, then, that Trump has met the Constitutional requirement for treason, by adhering to enemies of the United States, giving them aid and comfort (most recently and spectacularly at Helsinki)? But what can be done with that obvious reality? No matter how much more evidence piles up, the Constitution has a booby trap: Article III, section 3, provides that “The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of Treason….” That’s it. For now at least, the country is at the mercy of a Republican Congress that has been committing the moral equivalent of treason for decades. There’s no constitutional alternative.

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