After Helsinki, Dems struggle over Trump, the term ‘treason’
By LAURIE KELLMAN
Thursday, July 19
WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats are happy to say President Donald Trump undermined American democracy. That he patted Vladimir Putin on the back for interfering in U.S. elections. That he’s being blackmailed by Russia.
But that he committed treason? That’s too far for some leading Democrats worried about sending the wrong message during an election year.
“The bottom line is, different people will characterize it differently,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told reporters this week of Trump’s conduct toward Russia. He slammed Trump in every way but that one, accusing him of weakness and lame and contradictory walk backs. “President Trump undercut our intelligence, elevated a brutal dictator who’s taking advantage of the United States. And maybe, most importantly, refused to confront President Putin.”
A debate has raged in Democratic circles this week over how strongly to condemn Trump’s comments in Helsinki, where, standing by Putin’s side, the U.S. president refused to say he believed American intelligence over Putin’s denials about Russian election interference. Trump later sought to walk back his stance, saying he misspoke using a double negative.
There was a burst of condemnation in the 48 hours after Trump’s performance that elevated the discussion of “treason” by a president to a level not seen in generations. Former CIA Director John Brennan, who has worked in both Democratic and Republican administrations, quickly tweeted that Trump’s conduct in Helsinki was “nothing short of treasonous.” Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., used #TreasonSummit in her post about the meeting. Protesters gathered in front of the White House on Tuesday chanted, “Traitor! Traitor! Traitor!”
But Democratic leaders, along with some activists and strategists, warn that such rhetoric could backfire.
Trump responded Wednesday by casting his critics as victims of “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” a term coined to describe a fury so deep it renders the afflicted blind to the president’s accomplishments. It’s a theme he’s set out before, when he labeled critical comments by Democratic women “crazy rants” and other unflattering analysis as “hysterical.” And it’s designed to undermine the Democrats’ midterm election argument that they can govern more steadily than the Republican majorities of the House and Senate.
The legal definition of treason is providing “aid and comfort” to enemies of the U.S., a high crime. If Democrats align behind the term, it raises the question of what they plan to do about it. The party, according to two congressional aides who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss strategy, doesn’t have an answer.
The language also risks alienating swing voters who don’t appreciate over-the-top rhetoric. After all, treason is a crime so serious that the convicted can be executed.
Polls taken before the Helsinki summit suggest the public is split over how each party is treating Trump. A Washington Post-Schar School poll conducted in late June and early July found that nearly half of registered voters — 48 percent — think Democrats running for Congress have been too critical of Trump. Forty-four percent think Democrats are striking the right balance and 7 percent think they’ve been too supportive.
Other strategists say Democrats generally are better off backing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether Trump or his associates colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 elections in Trump’s favor.
“I’m not sure it’s going to be beneficial to get into a political argument over whether Trump’s behavior meets the legal standard of treason,” said Democratic pollster Geoff Garin. “What’s important about this is it burnishes other things that people worried about regarding Trump, including how he is focused always on what’s in it for him as opposed to what’s in it for the country. That’s a framework that applies to a whole host of things Democrats can be talking about between now and the election.”
Jim Kessler, the senior vice president for policy at Third Way, a think tank that backs center-left ideas, said Democrats are “getting toward 100 percent unity between likely Democratic and swing voters that the Mueller investigation must go forward in full force.”
Michael Avenatti, the outspoken lawyer for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels who is suing Trump, said he deliberately did not use the word “treason” or “traitor” when he spoke at the White House protest Tuesday night.
“The reason why I did not use that word is because it may be a bridge too far,” Avenatti said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “My role revolves around evidence and facts that then lead me to conclusions. And I don’t have yet enough facts and evidence to use the word ‘treason.’”
But not all Democrats see the treason charge as necessarily harmful to their election-year prospects. Indeed, there’s evidence of some ambivalence. Though Watson Coleman used the #TreasonSummit hashtag, she has chosen not to say the word in public yet, her spokeswoman said.
And Rep. Jan Shakowsky, D-Ill., was the only one of 10 Democrats at a Tuesday news conference on Trump’s Helsinki summit to mention the word “treason.” But even she didn’t directly accuse Trump of that offense. Instead, she thanked Brennan for “using the word that is starting to pop up now, and that word is treason.” She noted that her own statement said Trump’s conduct “borders on treason.”
Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, called Trump a “traitor” at Tuesday’s protest in front of the White House.
“I believe that (Trump’s) behavior is commonly understood as treasonous,” said Tanden, who served as policy aide to President Barack Obama.
And several Democrats quoted Brennan’s statement.
“I agree with John Brennan, who said that it was ‘nothing short of treasonous,’” House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer told reporters Wednesday. “It is the duty of every patriot who loves their country to stand up and speak out against this dangerous and dishonest behavior.”
Associated Press Polling Editor Emily Swanson contributed to this report.
Follow Kellman on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman
Opinion: A Primer on the Economic Benefits of Immigration
By Michael McGrady
President Trump ascended to the American presidency on campaign promises that focused on stopping illegal immigration. Like his two immediate predecessors, Barack Obama and George W. Bush, he adopted hard-line immigration policies.
It just so happens that Trump’s immigration policies are far more encroaching on migration. Arguments have been made by all political classes justifying or challenging the administration’s immigration policy.
Focused on developing a merit-based system, Trump officials have made policy decisions that have infringed on the fundamental human rights of migrants and has unjustly separated families for acts that aren’t officially criminal violations.
Consider the economic justifications of allowing a free flow of people. The majority of immigrants that come through Southern ports of entry — meaning from Mexico and Latin America — are emigrating to the United States for a better life. According to the World Economic Forum, a migrant is 21 percent more likely to go to the United States, given this case.
Almost all of the reported reasons for a migrant’s move are war, famine or some form of displacement. The United States remains the “gold standard” for migration destinations. But, the issues that arise from entering the United States under the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown are unwarranted given the popularity of U.S.-bound migration patterns.
Well before Trump became president, the United States maintained one of the strictest immigration regimes in the world. Thanks to the September 11, 2001, attacks and the declaration of a global war on terrorism, immigration — even for economic migrants — has become a harsh process.
Essentially, pre-Trump laws advocated for chain migration and the importation of skilled labor. Notably, the tech industry capitalized on the world’s best talent by sponsoring work visas for thousands from all over the world. Infuse Trump’s policies shifting to a stricter “merit-based” system, the process becomes a filter for immigrants based on race, skill sets, nationalities and faiths.
This deprives the world’s most innovative economy of the best talent at all labor skill levels.
The administration and its apologists have justified harsher immigration reform through manufactured hysteria. One of the arguments for stricter border policies and Trump’s beloved border wall stems from the fiscal burden on American taxpayers. For example, immigration restrictionists argue that the United States spends more than $116 billion on illegal immigration, citing a study by the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform (FAIR).
This calculation is flawed. A Cato Institute analysis refuting the FAIR study more accurately measures overall taxpayer costs at $3.3 billion to $15.6 billion. A drastic deduction. Consequently, the FAIR study, misses two key facts: the taxes undocumented immigrants pay and the economic generation of net immigrant workforces and their children.
“The tax revenue collected through that extra activity cannot be adequately measured by looking at IRS forms but must include the taxes paid by U.S. citizens who also have higher incomes as a result,” Cato immigration research policy analyst Alex Nowrasteh wrote. “Since the economy is not a fixed pie, removing millions of illegal immigrant workers, consumers and business owners would leave a gaping economic hole that would reduce tax revenue.”
Even arguments associated with the so-called high crime rates among immigrant populations is manufactured. In June, The Washington Post published charts sourcing Cato Institute data showing that native-born Americans are more likely to commit crimes than undocumented immigrants. Another chart is sourced from data developed by scholars Michael Light and Ty Miller. The Light and Miller data show the rates of violent crime (i.e., homicide, assault, etc.) decline in communities with high undocumented immigrant populations. Effectually, this data prove that immigrants, despite legal status, are law-abiding economic generators.
Even the conservative Manhattan Institute acknowledges immigration has a wide-ranging benefit on economic growth. Specifically, “Immigrants increase economic efficiency by reducing labor shortages in low- and high-skilled markets because their educational backgrounds fill holes in the native-born labor market,” according to a 2013 brief.
Additionally, economic benefits from immigrant workers also stem into how immigrants can cause wage growth and foster competitive market environments. Pia M. Orrenius, a labor economist and vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, argues this in an essay published by the George W. Bush Institute.
“When immigrants enter the labor force, they increase the productive capacity of the economy and raise GDP. Their incomes rise, but so do those of natives,” Orrenius wrote, citing the phenomenon of immigration surplus.
As the evidence cited by Orrenius reveals, the economic benefit of flowing immigration does benefit the nation’s economy. Any argument suggesting otherwise is flawed, misinformed or outright false.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Michael McGrady, a political consultant, is the executive director of McGrady Policy Research. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.