Lots and lots of smoke...now to find the fire
The ongoing investigation into Russian influence pertaining to the 2016 general election, the firing of former FBI Director James B. Comey, the supposed breaching of the emoluments statutes by the Trump family or organization, and the president’s possible participation in the obstruction of justice continues to stifle the business of Washington.
By now it is clear that there is a great deal of “smoke.” In other words, there is circumstantial evidence and innuendo that crimes may have been committed. However, the investigation to root out concrete proof of malfeasance, if it truly exists, will take months upon months to uncover. And in the meantime, there will be an unavoidable stranglehold of the capacity of government to proceed with the people’s business.
President Trump, whether guilty of an impeachable offense or not, acts like someone with something to hide. He exacerbates the entire situation by emotionally tweeting messages with the fury of a spurned adolescent. He uses pugnacious terms in his tweeting such as fake news, and calls his foes liars, cheats, crooked and crazy.
To shield himself from prosecution, Trump has formed a personal team of attorneys headed by the well known Chief Counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice Jay Sekulow. Sekulow has recently completed the “full Ginsburg.” This buzzword refers to an attorney who appears on all the major Sunday morning news shows to defend a client of notoriety in one day. Sekulow had chaotic and uproarious exchanges with Fox News’ Chris Wallace and NBC’s Meet the Press’ Chuck Todd where the attorney contradicted himself within a few minutes in the same interview.
Neither Trump nor his legal team can avoid the fact that a special investigative process headed by former FBI Director Robert Mueller is burgeoning. No denying of who is the target of inquiry will change the truth that will eventually be uncovered. Yet, Trump alternately affirms and denies either through social media or through surrogates the claim he is not a target of this special investigation.
Political enemies are hoping that what is revealed meets the impeachable standard of “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” necessary to dislodge Mr. Trump from office. Even if the House chose to impeach, it is doubtful the Senate would vote to oust him. Thus, we would have the same result as the Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson impeachments. They both remained in office and a whole year of possible government progress was lost while the impeachment process took center stage.
It is probably fair to say that if former FBI Director James B. Comey wants a friend in Washington DC he should buy a dog. Last year during the election, he alienated Democrats by making announcements in regard to candidate Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email sever in breach of security protocols while she was Secretary of State. Once then Attorney General Loretta Lynch delegated the chore of speaking on the issue publicly after a 45-minute impromptu meeting with 42nd President Bill Clinton on an airport tarmac, Comey was left in an uncomfortable position. Of his two public statements on the matter, the second speech about reopening the case late in the election season may have had a great effect on the outcome.
Comey was then lauded by Republicans for his honesty after the second speech. The appreciation was short lived. As both President-Elect and President, Trump spoke to Comey either on the phone or in person on nine occasions. In the arc of those communications, Trump at first expressed that he wanted Comey to stay on as director. Then, Trump insisted on receiving what amounted to a loyalty oath to him personally. Comey would not offer one. Trump asked if he personally were a target of any FBI investigations. At the time he was not, so Comey assured him he was not a person of interest. Further, the president wanted Comey to back off investigating former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn on February 14th, the day after Flynn was forced to resign. Comey refused.
In all those nine instances of communicating with the president, Trump never asked about the Russian interference in our general election. Consequently, this begs the question is there something he knows about, but does not want uncovered? Was there collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians? Already, it has been established that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, former NSA Michael Flynn, Son in Law and Special Advisor Jared Kushner and Attorney General Jefferson Sessions all met with principle Russians during the campaign and presidential-elect transition period. Also, it has been established by seventeen government agencies that the Russian government was intruding by computer in our election. Certainly, that is a lot of smoke.
After Comey’s reluctance to assent to the president’s wishes, Trump fired him. Subsequently, James Comey was called before a congressional hearing to supply answers about the investigation and his firing. He conveyed the substance of his discussion with FBI General Counsel James Baker. “His concern was, because we’re looking at potential again, that’s the subject of the investigation-coordination between the campaign and Russia, because it was President Trump’s campaign, this person’s view was inevitable, his behavior, his conduct will fall within the scope of that work.” Simply, there is no doubt there is smoke and everyone involved has to go under the microscope of investigation.
James Comey may have made mistakes in regard to his public statements during the general election. However, he kept his constitutional covenant when he refused to capitulate to the wishes of Trump and chose to sacrifice his career for doing what was right.
Following the firing, Trump entertained two Russian ministers in the Oval Office and referred to James Comey as a “nut job.”
More smoke can be detected under the doors of the deals between foreign entities and the Trump family. The Trump Organization has business projects in 22 countries, and has had financing deals with Russian government banks. Special Prosecutor Mueller is boring in these relationships and has reportedly found problems especially concerning Jared Kushner. If it could be proved that Trump or his family had in any way benefited from Trump’s presidential position, he would be in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution. Then an impeachment indictment would be inevitable.
Trump’s offbeat penchant for impetuous tweeting is well known, constant, and self-defeating. For instance, his words concerning the ongoing investigation are telling. “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt!”
After AG Sessions’ recusal, responsibility fell to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to assign a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation. He chose the beyond reproach Mueller. Since then the president has been attacking Rosenstein. Recently, through a surrogate, Trump suggested he might fire Mueller and Rosenstein. A bipartisan backlash of the floated idea strongly suggested a re-imposition of the independent prosecutor law would result from Trump’s prospective action. So, Trump apparently has let the matter lay.
Next on the Trump battle plan was to deploy Attorney Jay Sekulow in a media technique called the full Ginsburg. Sekulow contradicted the president when he stated: “The president is not under investigation by the special counsel.” Really, that is not what Trump said in his tweeting. Sekulow fell further into the deception abyss: “Nothing he’s tweeted has caused me any issues whatsoever, nothing.”
Later in the interviews, Sekulow sounded even more befuddling; “He’s being investigated for taking the action that the attorney general and the deputy attorney general recommended him to take, by the agency that recommended he take the action. That’s the constitutional threshold issue.”
Okay Sekulow, which is it? Is Trump being investigated or not?
There is no question that there is a lot of smoke that is suffocating Washington right now. Whether Mueller and his team will find the fire and whether the intensity of that fire is hot enough to bring down a president is yet unanswered. There is one immutable consequence of the process. It is unlikely much will get accomplished within the beltway until the matter is resolved. For those of us old enough to remember Watergate and Monica Lewinsky, governmentally there will not be much to look forward to this upcoming year.