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Beware the hotseat, Mr. President, it may be your undoing


Our first President George Washington often wrote about his fears of factionalism. His concern was that strong political parties would devolve into searching for debilitating scandals that would paralyze their opponents.

Unfortunately, old George was right on the mark.

Currently, Washington, D.C. is virtually road-blocked by the ongoing investigation into whether or not the Trump campaign knew about the Russian disinformation barrage, which may have affected the election outcome.

Of course, this constraining effort is not the first attempt at clamping a stranglehold on the party elected to the White House. Perhaps most notably the Watergate Scandal, during the GOP administration of Richard M. Nixon, rendered the government almost immobile. Also, the various scandals of the Democratic William J. Clinton administration of Whitewater, Travel Gate, the Monica Lewinsky Affair, and the following impeachment muddied the ground impairing serious achievement.

Our fallacy as citizens lies in our perception that a president should be pristine. Our mistake is that we sanctify human beings that rise to this high office in a way that excludes their inevitable frailties. Each president carries baggage into the Oval and adds luggage while in office.

Certainly, when ethics have been severely compromised and laws broken, justice should be pursued. However the embellishment of errors, invariably prevent the fluidity of government. Constant confrontation between antagonists and protagonists, in other words the accusers and the accused, prevent the people’s business from getting done.

Such is the case with the current investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He believes there is possible collusion between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government of President Vladimir Putin. And that Trump tried to cover this deviousness up.

The FOX News Channel, which is the propaganda arm of the current administration, has claimed that the FBI and the special counsel are Democrat shills for the party. Thus, the biased network has been broadcasting round the clock reinforcement of the idea that Mueller, whose reputation is beyond repute, is callously abusing his investigatory power.

Seventeen intelligence-related agencies have confirmed the meddling of Russian government entities in the United States General Election of 2016 through social media and email onslaughts.

The question is whether the Trump Campaign was aware, or worse, was a participant in this manipulation of the American public’s perception. Thus, the Deputy Attorney General of the United States Rod Rosenstein (Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusal put Rosenstein in charge of the appointment) appointed the former head of the FBI Robert Mueller to investigate whether a connection existed between Russia and the campaign.

Mueller guided the FBI during the post-911 era and has a reputation beyond reproach. His stellar reputation is one that Trump and his proxies in the biased press have tried to taint.

Suspiciously, President Trump tried to have Mueller fired. In June of 2017, Trump threatened to fire Mueller for not falling in line and backing off the investigation. White House Counsel Don McGahn told the president that he would quit if he pressed the issue. Even Republicans in the congress stated then that they would take umbrage if Mueller were dismissed. Senator Mark Warner (D) of Virginia, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has clearly mapped the minefield for Trump.

“Firing the Special Counsel is a red line that the president cannot cross,” he said. “Any attempt to remove the Special Counsel, pardon key witnesses, or otherwise interfere in the investigation, would be a gross abuse of power. All the members of congress, from both parties, have a responsibility to our constitution and to our country to make that clear immediately.”

Where it is likely that Donald Trump was not directly involved in any joint efforts with his campaign and the Russian government, his efforts to thwart the investigation into this situation might be his undoing. Similar to Richard Nixon in the Watergate Crisis, rather than immediately firing all who were involved in the criminal antics conducted by the Committee to Reelected the President (CREEP), he sought to cover them up. Most probably, Trump, who is generally uninformed about the salient details in regards to everything, did not know about an arrangement forged to create disinformation about the Democrats.

Yet, Trump has tried to usurp the efforts of the justice department to unearth the truth. First, after FBI Director James Comey refused to assure the president that an investigation would cease and Trump would expect a direct proclamation of devotion to the chief executive; Comey was fired.

Second, Trump was livid at Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his recusal regarding the appointment of a special prosecutor.

Third, National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was dismissed by Trump and has since entered a plea agreement with the justice department and therefore is now a cooperating witness. Once one of Trump’s closest confidants, Flynn has been pilloried by the pro-Trump press as a turncoat. Flynn has been since portrayed as someone “not particularly close” to the president, despite the fact that Flynn was one of Trump’s earliest supporters and was constant company on the campaign trail.

Fourth, former campaign director Paul Manafort has also been indicted and very possibly is singing like a hummingbird about anything and everything regarding the campaign/Russian connection. Manafort is a known international political crook. He had worked with for totalitarian leaders of dubious character, such as the former president of Ukraine, and should have been rebuffed by the Trump campaign because of his record of helping foreign leaders gain sway in Washington DC. Trump originally said Manafort was the magic man. Later, Trump stated he hardly knew him when Manafort became a target of the investigation.

These factors, among others, have propelled investigators to consider the president possibly guilty of obstruction of justice. Now Mueller is requesting the president testify under oath in a deposition. Caught off guard Trump said, “I’d love to talk to Mueller.”

Trump should be careful about sitting down with Mueller. President William J. Clinton was interviewed under oath by prosecutors during the investigation by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr into Clinton’s various scandals. Clinton’s attempts at lawyerly parsing of language in his answers arguably led to his impeachment in the House of Representatives. And Trump is not as skilled at verbal elusion as old Willy. So, President Trump should not be so eager to place his head on the chopping block of direct inquiry if he can avoid it.

Further, any questioning will be skillful and undoubtedly latent with “perjury traps.” Trump’s undisciplined tendency toward extemporaneous recklessness could very likely enable Trump to indict himself with his own words. Simply, self-promoting lies come easier than the truth with this president.

Besides, the likelihood that Trump will incriminate himself under oath is a more sorrowful reality. Similarly to the past administrations of Nixon and Clinton, Washington cannot effectively get anything substantial accomplished while the focus of the country is on scandal. Trump’s first year saw only one significant piece of legislation become law (tax reform). Health care reform, infrastructure, immigrant law reform and a variety of other pressing issues were eclipsed by questions of who did what and when, and who might have tried to cover it up.

Surely, we citizens want our leaders to be pillars of veracity and goodness. Politicians are not built that way. Opposing parties want to stymie the other side of the aisle, understandably. Nevertheless, the business of the American people needs to be attended to. If the president is harmed by his own testimony and indicted through impeachment, our country will remain in a stagnant state for another year at least.

The question all of us must ask is, it worth it? Let us say that members of the Trump campaign knew Russian elements were bombarding the American social media with unsubstantiated new stories about the Democrats during the campaign. If voters made their decisions strictly upon erroneous social media news sights and email blasts then I am not sure they should be voting to begin with.

The cloud of scandal is malignant to the cause of responsive and responsible government. Let us emerge from that dark cloud toward a horizon of participatory government. Those readers who, like me, lived through Watergate and the scandal-ridden Clinton period, know what I mean.


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Thursday, February 1, 2018