Index: The Traitors Are Easy to Spot

It's not just Trump, it's most of the GOP, too.

Along with “We shall prevail,” which became the title of my Substack, my catch phrase these last four-plus years on Twitter has been: “The traitors are easy to spot.” I’ve tweeted this so much that my phone suggests “are easy to” when I type the word “traitors.”

I have endeavored on these pages to not just call traitors traitors, but also to explain how we know they are traitors. Here are excerpts from some of that work:

Mike Pence

FEW CHARACTERS in the Trump universe are as enigmatic as Michael Richard Pence. Who is this guy, really? What lurks behind those impassive eyes? What thoughts fire beneath that imperturbable robot’s dome? Is there any softness at all beneath the carapace of white hair? In the practiced cadence of that hypnotic voice, what is actually being communicated? For four full years this poor player—this bad actor!—has strutted and fretted his hours upon the national stage, and managed to signify…nothing. The real Mike Pence is a walking shadow.

Since his emergence as the running mate in the summer of 2016, Pence has been presented as a sort of compromise candidate—someone outside Donald John Trump’s incestuous inner circle. A chapter in Tom LoBianco’s fine Power & Piety: Mike Pence and the Taking of the White House explains the chaotic VP selection process: There was great reticence on the part of Trump to tap the Indiana governor; he preferred Chris Christie or Newt Gingrich, both of whom he had relationships with. It was only when then-campaign chair Paul Manafort contrived for Trump to spend the night in Indianapolis, as discussed, that Trump finally relented. There is a palpable awkwardness in that first interview of them together as running mates—almost like both men regret their decision:

Conventional wisdom held that Pence—former GOP Congressman; Evangelical Christian—was a concession to establishment Republicans, as well as the religious right. His presence was said to ease their concerns about the monster at the top of the ticket. To that end, his job has been to translate Trump’s noxious bombast into something palatable to both of those demographics. And if he has to lie to get the point across, so be it. “He didn’t really mean that,” Pence assures us, in his soothing, radio-host voice. “He really means this.”

In effect, the VP is a glorified press secretary, a Sean Spicer or Sara Huckabee Sanders or Kayleigh McEnany—just another foot soldier in Trump’s army of soulless gaslighters. He’s a handsome guy (as Trump’s male supporters never tire of telling us), he has gravitas, and, most importantly, he is the most skillful liar in the Beltway—which puts him in the running for the most skillful liar on earth. His forked tongue is positively Satanic. (What’s the line from The Usual Suspects? “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” The fly in his hair was trying to tell us something!)

The difference between Pence and the titular press secretaries is that the former is first in the line of succession. This is an obvious but significant fact. Because another lie we are told about Pence is that he is highly ambitious and wants, above all, to be president himself. His actions as Vice President, however, bely this. For the entire Trump term, there have been calls for the 25th Amendment, which establishes a mechanism for the removal of an incapacitated president. Pence, as Vice President, would be the one to make that move. There has not even been a hint of him doing so. Even now, he is far more likely to pardon Trump than to eighty-six him. It can’t be because he thinks Trump has done a bang-up job.

That makes two false narratives the media feeds us about Mike Pence: First, that he is independent of Trump. Second, that he is motivated by his own White House ambitions. There may be elements of truth in both of those narratives, as in any effective disinformation campaign. But the riddle of Mike Pence is easily solved when we discard the falsehoods and see him for what he is: owned. He is Trump’s property. Pence is to Trump as Trump is to Putin.

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Lindsey Graham

“YOU KNOW HOW you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell!” This is what Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, told Alisyn Camerota on CNN’s New Day on 8 December 2015—four full years ago.

“He's a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot,” Graham continued. “He doesn't represent my party. He doesn't represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for….He's the [ISIS] Man of the Year.” The senator rightly pegged Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric as cold political calculus of the basest kind: “What Mr. Trump is doing—and I don't think he has a clue about anything—he's just just trying to get his numbers up and get the biggest reaction he can. He is helping the enemy of this nation.”

And then, the money shot: “I'd rather lose without Donald Trump than try to win with with him,” Graham said. “I wish he would leave the party. I don't care if he runs as an independent. If we lose the 2016 election, so be it. I want to be in a category of the one percent who said ‘B.S., this is not who we are at a party, this is not who we are as a nation.’” Five months later, as Trump began his Russian-fueled ascendancy, Graham doubled down:

These were not isolated incidents, either. Graham pretty clearly despised Trump, during the campaign and well after the election, and he wasn’t shy about expressing his feelings. To Democrats, he was one of the few Republicans who seemed to get it. I cited Graham and his good friend John McCain as “patriotic Republicans who have boldly stood up to Trumpism” in my first serious anti-Trump piece in January of 2017. Three months later, a friend who followed the Trump/Russia scandal wrote me: “I have to say, though I don't agree with his politics, I think Lindsay Graham is often hilarious.” Graham continued to hammer Trump well into 2017, especially after the hate rally in Charlottesville that August.

And then, quite suddenly, on 9 October 2017, it all changed. The conversion of Lindsey Graham did not occur on the road to Damascus, like Paul of Tarsus, but on the back nine of the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia. And he did not come to Jesus, but to the Antichrist.

At the time, I thought Graham was paying lip service to a pathologically insecure windbag—making a few complimentary remarks to woo the easily wooable Trump. Politics 101. Machiavelli stuff. Hadn’t Jimmy Carter tried the same thing? In hindsight, however, it is clear that Trump was the one who made the power move. Judging by Graham’s odd behavior since that fateful day, what went down on the links was the homeland equivalent of “I’d like you to do me a favor, though.” Since 9 October 2017, Lindsey Graham has become Trump’s unlikeliest champion.

But there is something off about the presentation, something inauthentic. To me, Lindsey Graham presents as Trump’s hostage. He is Jesse Pinkman, locked in Uncle Jack’s oubliette, forced by Todd to make meth all day. He is an American POW in an orange jump suit, kneeling before a hooded terrorist with a scimitar, mumbling that the United States is the Great Satan, and wow are his captors treating him well. 

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Ron Johnson & the Fourth of July Traitors

IN 2018, EIGHT REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS celebrated the Fourth of July in Moscow, Russia: Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, who led the delegation, along with Senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, John Neely Kennedy of Louisiana, Steve Daines of Montana, North Dakota’s John Hoeven, Jerry Moran of Kansas, South Dakota’s John Thune, and Rep. Kay Granger of the 12th District of Texas. The ostensible reason for the trip was “engagement”—the same tired excuse Senator Rand Paul routinely provides to justify his own shadowy meetings with our enemies.

The GOP octet was denied an audience with Vladimir Putin—a subtle and characteristically petty show of his dominance—but the group nevertheless met with a number of key Russians, including foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and former Russian ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak—the two jackals who 14 months earlier were photographed by the Russian press yukking it up with Trump in the Oval Office, the day after Comey was fired. Perhaps the Americans’ intention was to lay the smack down? According to Daines, the delegation “sent a very strong message and a direct message to the Russian government,” in which they requested that Russia stop fucking with 1) our elections, 2) Ukraine, and 3) Syria. Kennedy echoed this claim: “I asked our friends in Russia not to interfere in our elections this year. I asked them to exit Ukraine and allow Ukraine to self-determine. I asked for the same thing in Crimea. I asked for their help in bringing peace to Syria. And I asked them not to allow Iran to gain a foothold in Syria.”

Sounds grand—but we have no way of knowing if this is true, as the media was barred from the closed-door meetings, much to the delight of the “gloating” Russians:

Judging by the fact that Putin has completely ignored the alleged warnings to knock it off, Shelby’s recap of the meeting was likely closer to the truth. He told his Russian counterparts that their purpose was to “strive for a better relationship” with the country that sabotaged the 2016 election, and not to “accuse Russia of this or that or so forth.” Flaccid acquiescence to Putin is more on-brand for the GOP than Dirty Harry-style ultimatum.

The Russian response confirms the Shelby version of events. “We heard things we’d heard before, and I think our guests heard rather clearly and distinctly an answer that they already knew: we don’t interfere in American elections,” the multi-chinned Kislyak remarked, apparently with a straight face. . . .

The delegation might have been as unremarkable as most Congressional delegations to foreign countries, and quickly forgotten, but for three things: First, the trip was not bipartisan; only GOP made the trek (“Since the Democrats actively accuse the Republicans of selling out to the Russians, it would naturally be strange if Democrats here were part of the group,” said Duma member Vyacheslav Nikonov). Second, the US lawmakers spent the Fourth of July in Russia (symbolism of this kind is very important in Russian culture). And third, some of the members of that delegation have been increasingly vocal in their support of Donald Trump upon their return—and especially since the start of the impeachment inquiry.

Senator Ron Johnson has been the most outspoken, defending Trump—and his Russian whoremasters—so blindly and Kool-Aid-drunkenly that Chuck Todd of all people called him out on Meet the Press

The big takeaway here is Johnson announcing that he doesn’t trust the FBI or the CIA—a tacit admission that he does trust the GRU and his Russian comrades. But there’s more to it than that. The 6 October 2019 interview is so over-the-top bat-shit that it’s best to read it, rather than watch it, to fully appreciate the extent of its crazy. To me, Johnson presents as a desperate man making what he knows deep down is a losing life-and-death argument. He is Galileo in reverse.

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Rand Paul

ONCE UPON A TIME, Rand Paul, the Republican senator from Kentucky, likened Donald Trump to a singularly loathsome and pathetic J.R.R. Tolkien character. “I have compared him to Gollum from Lord of the Rings,” he quipped on Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show.” Gollum — the hideous, friendless creature who cares only for his precious ring and will allow the world to destroy itself to protect it. Sounds about right.

On the same broadcast, Paul denounced Trump as “a delusional narcissist and an orange-faced windbag,” citing his similarities to Hitler and Goebbels. Paul made these comments on 25 January 2016. At the time, he was still running for president. During the interminable slate of GOP debates, in fact, he’d distinguished himself as the candidate most opposed to Trump.

But after suspending his campaign a few weeks later, Rand Paul changed tack. On 1 April 2016, he told the Cincinnati Enquirer that while he would not endorse any candidate in the Republican primary, he would vote for Trump in November. “I’m from Kentucky,” Paul said, “and Hillary Clinton recently said she would put coal miners out of business, and she would put coal companies out of business.” This bit of cynical pandering is both untrue and a foolhardy reason for entrusting the nuclear launch codes to Gollum.

Less than a year later, after Paul objected to a treaty to allow Montenegro into NATO — parroting a Kremlin position — John McCain accused him on the Senate floor of “working for Vladimir Putin.” This quote got a lot of play in the political press, who love that sort of thing, but the consensus seemed to be that McCain was using hyperbolic language to make his point.

But what if this was a bad take? Few members of Congress were more antagonistic toward Putin than John McCain. Perhaps when he called Rand Paul a Russian asset, on the floor of the US Senate, he actually meant it.

Since the day John McCain called him out, Rand Paul has been a veritable lobbyist for the Kremlin. On matters large and small, Paul has supported Moscow’s positions. He’s pushed for open and active dialogue with the nation that engaged in cyberwarfare against us. He’s argued for the lifting of sanctions on Russian individuals close to Putin. He was one of few politicians who defended Trump after his disastrous showing in Helsinki, when Trump more or less kissed the ring of the Russian dictator. He joined Trump in seeking the revocation of a security clearance on John O. Brennan, after the former CIA director denounced the Helsinki summit as “nothing short of treasonous.” In recent weeks, Paul has held with the Kremlin’s position on Syria. RT, the Russian state news network, lavishes praise on him, as Julia Davis reports:

The dissemination of Putinist propaganda is bad enough. But let us not forget that Rand Paul has served as a Trump/Russia intermediary, on one occasion flying to Moscow to deliver a handwritten letter from the president to Putin.

“The letter emphasized the importance of further engagement in various areas including countering terrorism, enhancing legislative dialogue and resuming cultural exchanges,” Paul said, as if Trump were capable of such nuanced statesmanship.

As Ariel Cohen writes at the American Interest, Paul apparently botched this simple courier job:

The White House was furious with the Senator going off the script and implying that [Rand Paul] had carried a confidential message from Trump to Putin. A fuming senior U.S. administration official told me that the Senator wrote the letter himself and that he insisted that U.S. Embassy personnel not accompany him to his meetings with Russian officials. This follows a pattern established by Trump in Helsinki in July, where only a translator was present at his two-hour-long meeting with Putin.

Wherefore all of this secrecy and frantic dissembling?

To continue the Lord of the Rings analogy, Rand Paul journeyed halfway around the world to deliver a missive from Gollum to Sauron. Was this mission simply quixotic? Or overtly seditious?

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126 Traitors

Kevin McCarthy
Cathy McMorris Rogers

The dimwitted House Minority Leader and his chum are best known for the audio recording of them discussing how Russia pays Trump and former House representative Dana Rohrabacher. These two are inveterate traitors, as I explained here and Aaron Harris explained much more elegantly here.

Steve Scalise
The guy was shot by a would-be assassin who didn’t approve of his nasty, Trump-toady politics. Police officers perished trying to save his life. He emerged from that near-death experience a changed man—he was more of a selfish asshole than ever.

Doug Collins
In an early episode of The Simpsons, ne plus ultra nerd Martin Prince (no relation to Erik) is running for class president against cut-up Bart Simpson. Prince hangs up a poster that says, “A Vote for Bart is a Vote for Anarchy!” The camera pans down the hallway to reveal Bart hanging up…the exact same poster. That episode came to mind when this slack-jawed yokel Photoshopped himself flanked by two Mueller-convicted felons, plus Devin Nunes, Matt Gaetz, and Carter Fucking Page. He’s not just a traitor, he’s proud.

Oh, and I’m pretty sure my friend’s father caught covid after attending one of Collins’ indoor, maskless, packed hate rallies in Georgia.

Dan Crenshaw
Made famous by a Pete Davidson riff on SNL, Crenshaw fancies himself a real-life action hero. He makes campaign ads where he’s some sort of secret agent who gets pulled off the stump to parachute out of airplanes. These little films are the stuff of swashbuckling male fantasy, and verge on self-parody. I’m sure his base loves them. In real life, alas, the only covert op the piratical Crenshaw was part of involved helping the VA Secretary smear a woman vet, per a report from the VA OIG.

Matt Gaetz
Forget the DUI. Forget whatever the deal is with Nestor. Forget his hobnobbing with Roger Stone. Forget his reflexive Trumpist sycophancy. As a member of Congress, he 1) tried to intimidate a witness, and 2) led a publicity-stunt charge to breach a SCIF.

The publicity stunt demonstrates how little this sad lickspittle cares for national security or the rule of law. (As we live in a country where Black men and women are routinely executed by police for the flimsiest of misdemeanors—and, too often, for no reason at all—it’s extremely disheartening that the security guards allowed this poster boy for white privilege into the SCIF without so much as a shove.)

Greg Gianforte
He bodyslammed a journalist because he didn’t want to answer a question. That should have immediately ended his political career. It didn’t, because Montana.

Steve King
Unabashed white nationalist.

Elise Stefanik
Starry-eyed carpetbagger who rose to national prominence when she jumped head-first into the impeachment hearings. I have more sympathy for troglodytes like Louie Gohmert and Debbie Lesko, who also signed on to the lawsuit, than savvy opportunists like Stefanik, who know exactly what they’re doing—and what they’re sacrificing to the dark gods of ambition.

Greg Pence
Unquestioned allegiance to the money-launderer-in-chief runs in the family, I guess.

Jim Jordan
When Jordan was the assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University, the team doctor, Richard Strauss, was sexually abusing the wrestlers like he was getting paid a bonus for each molested student—there were 177 victims, at last count. Strauss would do things like demand genital exams if a student had a busted thumb. He’d shower with the wrestlers. He’d groom them. And Jordan, the assistant coach, knew about it and did jack shit. This is why he’s known as “Gym Jordan.” These paragraphs are from a long article at CNN:

Former OSU wrestler Adam DiSabato told Ohio state legislators in February that Jordan called him in 2018 and asked him to contradict statements by his brother, who had publicly alleged Jordan knew about Strauss’ abuse when he worked for the university.

“Jim Jordan called me crying, crying. Groveling. On the Fourth of July, begging me to go against my brother. Begging me. Crying for a half hour. That’s the kind of cover-ups that's going on there,” DiSabato told legislators.

That statement was made in a statehouse hearing, under penalty of perjury. There’s no reason to suspect it isn’t true.

So we know damned well who Jim Jordan is and what he’s about. He’s a lummox from a seahorse-shaped Congressional district who dependably looks the other way when young men in his charge are being molested. Who better to protect Dear Leader at all costs than a spineless turd who has a track record of covering up odious crimes? The seditious shower lurker might be the worst human being to serve in the House since the former Republican Speaker, Dennis Hastert, whom a federal judge called “a serial child molester,” because that’s what he was. It’s no great shock that Jimbo’s gung-ho for sedition.


Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks: U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) joined Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence aboard Air Force 2 as they travel from Myrtle Beach to Greenville.