In the past two weeks, we learned that Trump did nothing when he found out that Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, successfully paid bounties to militants who killed American soldiers in Afghanistan and that Trump begged China's leader, Xi Jinping, to help him win re-election.
These are just the latest examples of Trump capitulating to the interests of our two biggest competitors, and they are unlikely to be the last. If there were any doubts in 2016 as to who Trump puts first, he has erased them now by showing us he will always put his own political interests above the national interest -- even if it means getting played by foreign dictators.
Take, for instance, Trump's darling trade deal, which he made the centerpiece of his approach to China -- and a centerpiece of his re-election strategy in November. Trump gave China's leader, Xi Jinping, concession after concession to secure the deal. He rushed to save the Chinese company ZTE -- which had violated U.S. sanctions and poses a national security threat -- citing "too many jobs in China lost." He offered to stop prosecuting Huawei, another giant Chinese company that threatens American interests, if it would help get to a deal with China. He promised not to criticize Xi's repression in Hong Kong and chillingly even encouraged him to build concentration camps in Xinjiang -- where over one million people are detained and subjected to horrors like forced abortions and sterilizations -- to protect his trade talks.
Trump then gave China a free pass on the coronavirus in January and February. In the early weeks of the pandemic, what we needed most to save American lives was information on the virus' transmission and nature -- information only China had at the time. But Trump twice refused the urgings of his advisors to pressure China for it, instead praising Xi on at least 15 occasions and saying "the United States greatly appreciates [China's] efforts and transparency."
Why did Trump do the opposite of what Americans needed and experts pleaded? Because he didn't want to derail his trade deal, which was signed in January and implemented in February. Researchers have concluded that eighty percent of American deaths from the coronavirus -- by far the most in the world at over 125,000 and counting -- could have been prevented if the administration had acted just two weeks earlier. But Trump put politics and his trade deal, which has already collapsed, before American lives and livelihoods.
With Russia, Trump has inexplicably put Putin first. Most importantly, Trump refused to stand up to Putin when he offered bounties to kill Americans in Afghanistan even though U.S. intelligence concluded that our soldiers died as a result. It's a familiar pattern: Trump gushed over Putin in their first phone call, later lauded the brutal dictator as a "great guy" and "terrific person," regularly sides with Putin over our allies, and publicly sided with Putin in Helsinki by rejecting the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
After all this, it comes as little surprise that Trump asked Xi and Putin to help him win elections instead of putting Americans first by taking them on. As John Bolton, Trump's former National Security Advisor, recently revealed, Trump begged Xi to use China's economic clout to help him win re-election. As a candidate, Trump invited Russia to interfere in our elections on television, and when the U.S. intelligence community confirmed that Russia did, he denied it -- then privately told two senior Russian officials that Russia's interference did not concern him.
The revelations of the past two weeks are beyond the last straws in this disgraceful onslaught that should infuriate all Americans. After all, we, not a Russian or Chinese dictator, choose our leaders, and our leaders are supposed to put our interests first -- not their own.
American patriots declared independence so many years ago to fight for a democracy that protected our freedoms. Today, we must again assert that independence. There's only one way we can protect our national security, our troops, and the republic that so many of our forebears and contemporaries died to defend: we must vote Donald Trump out of office in November.
Naz El-Khatib, a North Hills, Montgomery Township, native, is a foreign policy expert based in Washington, D.C. Originally published by The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.