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Rachel Maddow Offers Much-Needed Context to Our National “Worst Case Scenario”

Rachel Maddow has spent a lot of time covering the investigation into possible connections between Russia and the Trump campaign and administration. She herself admits that it might sometimes seem like her show devotes too much time to these ideas, as it can be at the expense of other important issues. She’s been criticized for that decision, and mocked for devoting time to things like Trump’s tax returns, which didn’t have the explosive payoff many thought she was promising.

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Last night, following Trump’s Helsinki meeting with Vladimir Putin, Maddow opened her show by addressing those who questioned or teased her dedication to these issues. She also managed not to scream “I TOLD YOU SO” directly into the camera, and personally, I think that shows great restraint.

“On this of all days,” Maddow explains, “here’s why we have covered this story so intensely, since it first became clear that there was something wrong and illicit and unexplained about the relationship between this particular foreign adversary and the unlikely rise of this unlikely politician who shocked everyone by winning the last US presidential election.”

Maddow reminds us of all the totally inexplicable moves Trump made as a presidential candidate—why “he would step with such excruciating care to avoid ever saying anything remotely negative or critical about Russia and its president,” why he “would dig out of the vault” a campaign chairman who hadn’t worked in US politics for a generation (but who had spent a decade working for Putin in the former Soviet Union), or why he named a guy who was “quite recently and quite literally caught up in a Russian spy ring in New York as one of his five foreign policy advisors, when this is a guy nobody had ever, ever heard of.” Or why Trump hid the fact that he had ongoing business deals in Moscow while running for president, especially considering this is a man who loves nothing more than to brag about his business deals.

For those actions and many more (you can watch the clip above), there were no reasonable explanations, unless, Maddow says, you were willing to believe the worst, “and honestly, who wants to believe the worst? You don’t want to reckon with it, you don’t want to think too hard about the worst case scenario, because for one thing, it raises very uncomfortable questions about what we should do as a country, what we should do as citizens, if the worst case is true.”

After yesterday’s meeting between Trump and Putin—and this is just based on the public speeches, not the two-hour private meeting between the two leaders—we all may have to reckon with that worst case scenario, which is, as Maddow bluntly puts it, “the possibility that somebody has ascended to the presidency of the United States to serve the interests of another country, rather than our own.”

Rather than cooperate with the ongoing bipartisan investigation into possible connections between Russian influence and Trump’s campaign, Trump has repeatedly called it a “witch hunt.” He continues to do so after numerous indictments and even guilty pleas have been made. In just the last week, 12 Russian intelligence officers have been indicted on charges of hacking the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Trump still calls this a witch hunt, of course, and many of his supporters still take his word for it, but the actual indictment report is detailed and thorough and genuinely, overwhelmingly shocking. (You can read the full report here, or a great brief rundown of what it means here.)

And then there’s Maria Butina, a Russian woman charged this week with infiltrating the NRA and using the organization to influence and funnel money into the Trump campaign.

What all of this makes clear is that if this is a “witch hunt,” witches are very real and have taken control of the White House.

And yet, when Trump met with Putin yesterday, he ignored all of it. He reiterated the “witch hunt” notion. Putin proposed a bizarre idea in which he would help investigate his intelligence officers as well as American officers, and Trump called it an “incredible offer.”

Most shockingly, when asked by a reporter who it is he believes, Putin (who said there was no election interference) or “every U.S. intelligence agency” (who say there was), Trump sided with Putin. After rambling about Clinton’s emails, he called Putin’s denial of interference “extremely powerful” and said, “I don’t see any reason why it would be [Russia].”

It’s hard to overstate the importance of that. What do you do with a President who actively undermines and discredits the country’s institutions and agencies? Isn’t that the definition of a dictator?

As Maddow explains, “Before today, no serving US president has ever before taken sides with a foreign government against our own, let alone a foreign government that has just attacked our country.”

Anderson Cooper called Trump’s actions “perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president.”

Even Fox News was left shaken. (Well, some of Fox News. Not the Hannitys and Tucker Carlsons. They still managed to be fawning and even racist in their reactions.) Britt Hume called out Trump’s narcissism. Fox & Friends’ Weekend host (and daughter to a Russian ambassador) Abby Huntsman tweeted, “No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus.” Fox Business’ Neil Cavuto called Trump’s performance “disgusting.” His co-host Trish Regan called it “unpatriotic.”

So what do we do? Well, Chuck Schumer issued a number of demands from Congress.

Even Paul Ryan managed to muster some mildly critical words, saying, “The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally.”

As for the rest of us, Maddow says, “It means we’re going to have to come to terms with this as a country, and we’re going to have to come to terms with what we need to do next as a country to fix this. And in order to do that, the blinders have to come off. We have to be real.” That means staying informed, not believing Trump’s tweets of witch hunts and denials as truths, and sending a message to our elected representatives that sticking by Trump, as so many Republicans have done for so long, is no longer a safe bet if they want to keep their jobs.

(image: screencap, MSNBC)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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