Pressed by Megyn Kelly on his ties to President Trump, an exasperated Vladimir Putin blurted out, "We had no relationship at all ... I never met him ... Have you all lost your senses over there?"
Yes, Vlad, we have.
Consider the questions that have convulsed this city since the Trump triumph, and raised talk of impeachment.
Did Trump collude with Russians to hack the DNC emails and move the goods to WikiLeaks, thus revealing the state secret that DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was putting the screws to poor Bernie Sanders?
If not Trump himself, did campaign aides collude with the KGB?
Now, given that our NSA and CIA seemingly intercept everything Russians say to Americans, why is our fabled FBI, having investigated for a year, unable to give us a definitive yes or no? The snail's pace of the FBI investigation explains Trump's frustration. What explains the FBI's torpor? If J. Edgar Hoover had moved at this pace, John Dillinger would have died of old age.
We hear daily on cable TV of the "Trump-Russia" scandal. Yet, no one has been charged with collusion, and every intelligence official, past or prevent, who has spoken out has echoed ex-acting CIA Director Mike Morrell: "On the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians here, there is smoke, but there is no fire, at all ... There's no little campfire, there's no little candle, there's no spark."
Where are the criminals? Where is the crime?
As for the meetings between Gen. Mike Flynn, Jared Kushner, Sen. Jeff Sessions and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, it appears that Trump wanted a "back channel" to Putin so he could honor his commitment to seek better relations with Russia.
Given the Russophobia rampant here, that makes sense. And while it appears amateurish that Flynn would use Russian channels of communication, what is criminal about this?
Putin is not Stalin. Soviet divisions are not sitting on the Elbe. The Cold War is over. And many presidents have used back channels. Woodrow Wilson sent Col. Edward House to talk to the Kaiser and the Brits. FDR ran messages to Churchill through Harry Hopkins.
As for Trump asking Director James Comey to cut some slack for Flynn, it is understandable in human terms. Flynn had been a loyal aide and friend and Trump had to feel rotten about having to fire the man.
So, what is really going on here?
All the synthetic shock over what Kushner or Sessions said to Kislyak aside, this city's hatred for President Trump, and its fanatic determination to bring him down in disgrace, predates his presidency. For Trump ran in 2016 not simply as the Republican alternative. He presented his candidacy as a rejection, a repudiation of the failed elites, political and media, of both parties. Americans voted in 2016 not just for a change in leaders but for a revolution to overthrow a ruling regime. Thus this city has never reconciled itself to Trump's victory, and the president daily rubs their noses in their defeat with his tweets.
Seeking a rationale for its rejection, this city has seized upon that old standby. We didn't lose! The election was stolen in a vast conspiracy, an "act of war" against America, an assault upon "our democracy," criminal collusion between the Kremlin and the Trumpites. Hence, Trump is an illegitimate president, and it is the duty of brave citizens of both parties to work to remove the usurper.
The city seized upon a similar argument in 1968, when Richard Nixon won, because it was said he had colluded to have South Vietnam's president abort Lyndon Johnson's new plan to bring peace to Southeast Asia in the final hours of that election.
Then, as now, the "t" word, treason, was trotted out.
Attempts to overturn elections where elites are repudiated are not uncommon in U.S. history. Both Nixon and Reagan, after 49-state landslides, were faced with attempts to overturn the election results. With Nixon in Watergate, the elites succeeded. With Reagan in Iran-Contra, they almost succeeded in destroying that great president as he was ending the Cold War in a bloodless victory for the West.
After Lincoln's assassination, President Andrew Johnson sought to prevent radical Republicans from imposing a ruthless Reconstruction on a defeated and devastated South. The radicals enacted the Tenure of Office Act, stripping Johnson of his authority to remove any member of the cabinet without Senate permission. Johnson defied the radicals and fired their agent in the cabinet, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.
"Tennessee" Johnson was impeached, and missed conviction by one vote. John F. Kennedy, in his 1956 book, called the senator who had voted to save Johnson a "Profile in Courage."
If Trump is brought down on the basis of what Putin correctly labels "nonsense," this city will have executed a nonviolent coup against a constitutionally elected president. Such an act would drop us into the company of those Third World nations where such means are the customary ways that corrupt elites retain their hold on power.
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)