It’s official: Trump’s Putin pals conspired to ‘hurt her, help him’

     FBI Director James Comey, left, joined by National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers, right, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 20, 2017, before the House Intelligence Committee hearing on allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

    FBI Director James Comey, left, joined by National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers, right, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, March 20, 2017, before the House Intelligence Committee hearing on allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

    Now we know it, for real. It is now objective fact that the Trump regime is the target of a criminal espionage investigation. It is now objective fact that key Trump apparatchiks are suspected of conspiring with a foreign adversary to weaken the democracy we love. These are objective facts because they have now been officially confirmed.

    Unless you’re totally numb or Trumpkin-dumb, you surely recognize that what transpired yesterday, during a House Intelligence Committee hearing, was historically extraordinary. It is now officially rational for citizens to view the Trump regime as (at minimum) seriously tainted — or fatally illegitimate. And we’re only 60 days into this sickening saga.

    Never before has a director of the FBI, with an assist from the director of the National Security Agency, so thoroughly eviscerated a sitting president. They called Trump a liar (for spewing fake news about an Obama-ordered wiretap), and James Comey delivered the sock to the kisser:

    “I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.”

    Wow. This is even more important than the Hillary emails that were found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop — the leftovers that Comey was so anxious to publicize on the eve of the election. Turns out, the FBI had been secretly probing Trump’s suspected Russian connection since last summer. Oh well. I guess it’s better late than never that Comey finally, publicly, put things in perspective:

    “They wanted to hurt our democracy, hurt her, help him … Putin would like people who like him … One of the things we radiate to the world is the importance of our wonderful, often messy, but free and fair democratic system, and the elections that undergird it. So when there is a serious effort by a foreign nation-state to mess with that, to destroy that, to corrupt that, it is very, very serious. It threatens what is America. And if any Americans are part of that effort, it’s a very serious matter.”

    In the words of historian Douglas Brinkley, author of three presidential biographies, “There’s a smell of treason in the air.”

    If these were normal times, testimony like that would cripple or kill a White House regime. And Trump’s poll numbers were already historically abysmal; on the eve of Comey’s appearance, Trump’s Gallup approval rating was hovering around 37 percent, by far the worst of any two-month president. But here in Trumplandia, what we have is rule by and for the 37 percent — and Republicans on Capitol Hill remain willfully hostage to the cause.

    And to think that Republicans used to pride themselves for being tough on Russia. Years from now, historians will look back and marvel at how speedily they morphed into Kremlin stooges.

    Yesterday, even after they publicly learned that their Leader’s regime was under investigation for criminal espionage — Comey hinted that there was “a credible allegation of wrongdoing” and “reasonable basis to believe” that some Americans “may be acting as an agent of a foreign power” — their big concern was about how we learned about it.

    Like dogs jumping for treats, they took their cue from Trump’s morning tweets about “leaks.” I won’t waste your time quoting the GOP’s complaints, except to note that Trey Gowdy, the hapless Benghazi hunter, had nothing to say about Comey’s probe but everything to say about “leaks” — which was amusing, given the fact that Gowdy’s closed-door Benghazi panel was adept at leaking anti-Hillary info to the press.

    Yeah, some government people — clearly upset about the Trump-Russia connection — have blown the whistle by leaking classified material. But apparently the Republicans have tied the Trump armband so tight that it’s cutting off oxygen to their brains. Focusing solely on the leaks, while ignoring the unprecedented attack on American democracy, was purblind and pathetic. And it was tiresomely predictable, because whenever politicians are compelled to defend wrongdoing, and they’re cornered with no way out, their first impulse is to stall and distract by saying, “Where’d you hear that! Who told you that!”

    Actually, Russian dissident Gary Kasporov, a Putin foe now living in America, said it best yesterday: “The house is on fire, and the GOP demands to know who called the fire department.”

    And as the House hearing drew to a close, the Republican chair of the intel panel was reduced to plaintive whining. Devin Nunes told Comey, “There is a big gray cloud you have put over the people who lead this country.” That, of course, was exactly backward. In truth, the people who “lead” this country are the ones who put the cloud over our heads, prompting an historic espionage probe that, even now, Republicans still refuse to face.

    But if they insist on remaining tethered to a tinpot emperor who has been stripped of his clothes, the least they can do for their country is to get out of the way. Say yes to a nonpartisan 9/11-style commission that can parallel the FBI probe and stalk the truth wherever it leads. Only then can we begin to recoup what Comey called our “free and fair” democracy.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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