From the outset, Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin was a recipe for disaster. Now Trump has made the situation much worse by refusing to reveal what was discussed at that meeting. In the meantime, the Russian media is having a field day spilling selected beans – information regarding Syria and arms control for instance.
Recently, the Russian ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said that Trump and Putin had entered into “important verbal agreements.” No one this side of the pond knows what these alleged agreements entail. Even the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, has admitted he hasn’t a clue what Antonov is talking about.
The president does not have a blank check to do as he pleases in the realm of foreign affairs. Our founders very purposefully divided responsibility for foreign relations between the executive and legislative branches. They had ousted one king and were not about to live under the rule of another.
Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution enumerates congressional powers including regulating commerce with foreign nations, declaring war, raising and supporting armies, providing and maintaining a navy, and making rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces. Congress also has the authority to lay and collect taxes. Article 2 grants the president command of the military. The president also is empowered to make treaties and appoint diplomats, but only with the approval of the Senate.
Thus, the congressional role in shaping and implementing our nation’s foreign policy is substantive and substantial. The president has no right to usurp it. Our allies shouldn’t be forced to guess at what Trump might have agreed to at the summit. Neither should Congress. Neither should the American people.
This charade has to stop. In an utter abnegation of responsibility, Congressional Republicans shut down Democratic efforts to subpoena the American translator, the only other American in the Trump-Putin meeting. Their cowardice and submission to Trump is exceeded only by Trump’s cowardice and submission to Putin.
There is a widespread and growing belief that our president got played in Helsinki. In response, Republicans have ducked for cover and run. Among those are the members of Idaho’s congressional delegation. After the president's shameful capitulation to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Republican senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch issued woefully anemic statements. Each merely acknowledged that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election and observed that Russia is no friend of the United States.
There was no condemnation of the president’s fawning over Putin, not a peep of outrage over his defense of the Russian attack on our country, or even a passing nod to their oaths to defend our nation against all enemies foreign and domestic. Republican strategist Rick Wilson calls this kind of pathetic response on the part of GOP office holders, the "furrowed brow and deep concern act." And it is totally inadequate to the moment.
For some time, many have wondered what Putin is holding over the president to make him behave in such a subservient and unprincipled manner, seemingly selling out his country to curry favor with the Russian dictator.
Now that same concern should also apply to members of the Republican majority in Congress. In the utter absence of bipartisan action, it falls to congressional Democrats to use every tool in their toolbox to demand transparency and accountability from this president. Their minority status makes the task daunting. But they must force the issue. Faithfulness to the Constitution requires nothing less.