A woman holds a sign depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump during a protest outside the White House, on Tuesday in Washington. It was the second day in a row the group has held a protest following Trump's meetings with Putin. Credit: Andrew Harnik | AP

“If you pluck a chicken one feather at a time, nobody will notice. … Trump has overplucked,” former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said after President Donald Trump’s meeting and press conference with Vladimir Putin on Monday.

Trump’s private two-hour meeting with Putin, a dictator who oversaw the concerted effort to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, was bad enough. The disgraceful follow-up press conference in which Trump groveled before a thug who’s invaded foreign countries and had perceived enemies — including journalists — assassinated took Trump’s horrendous behavior to a whole new level.

Some called it “treasonous,” and they were right.

Not surprisingly, congressional Democrats exploded in anger. Surprisingly, many Republicans even spoke out. Sen. John McCain, who refuses to bow down at the Trump altar, said that “Trump gave one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.” Sen. Robert Corker, a frequent Trump critic, opined that “The dam is finally breaking.”

[Opinion: Putin didn’t have to push the Kremlin’s narrative. Trump did it for him.]

Several commentators from Fox News, Trump’s media outlet, even scolded Trump, with the notable exception of lapdog Sean Hannity. Newt Gingrich, a reliable Trump defender, noted that “It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected immediately.”

The “ correction” on Tuesday featured a laughable press conference with Trump grumpily reading, in the tone of a hostage, a prepared statement in which he claimed to have mistakenly used the word “would” rather than “wouldn’t.”

“The dog ate my homework” would have been more believable.

Some people voted for Trump because they thought he’d be a strong leader and regain America’s stature in the world. He’s done the exact opposite, continually alienating our allies, constantly — and inexplicably — praising Putin. Remember how proud Republicans were when President Ronald Reagan said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” How do those same people defend Trump saying, in effect, “Vladimir Putin, tear down our democracy!”

[Angus King says Trump’s attacks on allies play into Russia’s hands]

Other people voted for Trump because he conned them into thinking that he was a great businessman and dealmaker. Read what John Murphy, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, had to say about Trump’s tariffs, which have begun a trade war: “This is going to take some momentum out of the economy. It’s going to be a direct hit to specific companies, specific ranchers, and farmers across the country. There’s a real breadth of opposition to those tariffs across the business community.”

Back to the Helsinki fiasco. Many pressing questions remain, the biggest of which are: “Why did Trump want to meet alone with Putin?” and “What did they discuss?”

Let me toss in another question, more food for thought: “Why is it unpatriotic for NFL players to take a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and patriotic for an American president to bend over for a Russian dictator?”

[Opinion: After a stunning news conference, there’s a newly crucial job for the American press]

It’s long past time for members of Congress to hold Trump accountable. “Tsk, tsk” mumblings hold no water. It’s time to put country over party. Members of Congress must, I believe, take several concrete actions:

1. Increase economic sanctions on Russia.

2. Demand the release of the transcripts of Trump’s private meeting with Putin. If they can’t — or won’t — Trump should be hauled before a congressional committee to explain what was discussed. (He’ll lie, of course, but some public shaming might be good for him.)

3. Subpoena Trump’s tax returns to help determine, once and for all, why he is so beholden to Russia and so reluctant to criticize a murderous dictator.

4. Pass legislation to protect the Mueller investigation.

The emperor wears no clothes, and the chicken wears no feathers. We can no longer not notice.

David Treadwell is a writer from Brunswick.

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