“It’s a lot to do about nothing.”
“It’s a witch hunt.”
“It’s the democrats trying to find an excuse for losing an election they should have won.”
All of those are comments from President Trump about the Russia investigation. His followers agree and tempers flare whenever Russia is brought up. But wait a minute. Do any of those quotes apply to the investigations (7 of them by last count – 5 by congressional oversight committees, one by a special prosecutor and one by the New York Attorney General)?
The expression, “Where’s there’s smoke there’s fire,” is usually true and so far we’ve seen a whole lot of smoke and even a few flames but not yet enough to try, convict and jail anyone. In case you are one of the doubters you might want to read this. It is only a very small part of what the investigators are investigating but there certainly is enough smoke to suspect that a pretty big fire is causing it.
Since early in 2016 two prominent names began to be connected with greater regularity, Trump and Russia. Why is that important? Well, reporters are curious types and when two names keep popping up they get even more interested. Look at just a few of the incidents that continued to get the attention of the news media.
- Our entire intelligence community agreed that Russia was directly involved in cyber warfare against the United States in their attempt to influence the U.S. election, yet Donald Trump disagreed and offered no evidence to support his opinion (it is illegal for a foreign country to try to influence our elections).
- Candidate and President Donald J. Trump continually defended the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin. More importantly Trump refused to be critical of the Russian dictator at all. Even after Putin expelled over 700 American diplomats from Russia Trump responded by thanking him for reducing the federal payroll.
- Trump has made every effort to weaken the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), something Russia has been trying to do since the Soviet Union was a thriving entity. If there was no NATO Russia would be free to try to re-build the old Soviet Union through aggressive military action or just intimidation of the involved countries. In the meantime, Trump has gone out of his way to offend many of our allies like Great Britain, Germany, Australia, Canada, Mexico and others while refusing to say anything negative about Putin or Russia.
- He fired James Comey the head of the FBI, for refusing to stop the Russian investigation and has hinted at firing the Special Prosecutor as well.
None of the above information proves anything. But it is enough to have piqued the interest of at least five congressional oversight committees of his own party, and to cause Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from authority over the investigation and cause his second in command to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Trump connections to Russia.
During the campaign and the first months of the Trump administration “The Donald” has consistently denied any involvement with Russia. But – there has been a constant slow drip of information that adds further suspicion that not only is there a connection but it might lead directly to Trump himself.
The connection is Important because a candidate for President of the United States who has close ties with Russia may have violated certain financial and security restrictions and because this particular candidate Donald J. Trump has steadfastly refused to release his tax returns, returns that could accomplish at least one of three things. 1) That Trump’s Russian dealings had not enriched him in any way and wouldn’t, 2) Trump has financial ties to Russia that involve a quid-pro-quo and should be investigated and 3) As president of the United States he could be acting in a manner that enriches himself and weakens the United States because he is a Putin blackmail hostage who would see us destroyed before accepting another black mark on his already black reputation.
He’s also displayed some other strange behavior. At the G20 meeting in Europe Trump met privately with Putin without Trump’s national security advisor present– a very unusual move. Then at the same gathering a day later he ignored traditional friends like England, France, Germany and others and chose to again meet privately with Putin. We’ll never know what went on in that meeting because only a Kremlin interpreter was there. Trump speaks no Russian so one’s imagination could get pretty active upon considering that situation. Trump said it was small talk—for an hour?
But there’s a whole lot more to the Russian investigation. Trump defenders continue to refer to it as a “Witch hunt,” saying there’s not a single piece of evidence that ties him to any wrongdoing. And…they are right to a degree. There is not a single piece of RELEASED evidence. What they so conveniently forget is that investigative agencies like the FBI and the congressional committees don’t release information until the investigation is over and, they may not release it all even then.
Let’s look at some other irregularities along with a few more elements of the Trump/Russia connection that go beyond his odd behavior.
- Not only did Mr. Trump refuse to release his tax returns, but he also refused to divest himself of his business holdings while President. The reason that Presidents do that is to avoid the appearance of using the presidency to enrich themselves and violate the provisions of the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution. The clause was borrowed from the Articles of Confederation that said, “[N]or shall any person holding any office of profit or trust under the United States, or any of them, accept any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever from any King, Prince or foreign State.”
Towards the end of the U.S. Constitutional Convention, on August 23, 1787, Charles Pinckney moved to insert a provision closely tracking the language in the Articles. His language became the “Emoluments provision” (The dictionary definition of emoluments is: A salary, fee, or profit from employment or office, “The directors emoluments.” Synonyms: salary, pay, payment, wage(s) earnings, allowance, stipend honorarium, reward, premium).
The Provision is comprised of just 49 words in Article I of the Constitution and says, “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
Because Mr. Trump still owns all of the Trump companies (there are hundreds of them and most of them bear his name) any foreign entity that made purchases or housed their executives in a Trump hotel was in effect paying Mr. Trump — a direct violation of the emoluments provision that could be included in impeachment proceedings under high crimes and misdemeanors.
Now a brief look at other suspicious connections. Obviously to allege guilt by association is wrong. Just because a person knows someone who broke the law does not mean that person is also guilty but it doesn’t absolve them of suspicion and the likelihood of being investigated.
In the case of Donald Trump the number of his associates that have had some kind of significant contact with the Russians is mounting daily. Trump’s lies about connections to Russia were exposed quickly, starting with his national security advisor and former U.S. Army General Michael T. Flynn.
- Shortly after Trump took up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue stories of a Russian connection began to grow. The first to gain prominence was the newly appointed National Security Advisor and former General “Mike” Flynn. Flynn, it was discovered, had several previous contacts with the Russians among others that he failed to report. He also failed to report that he was still being paid by Turkey while serving in his National Security Advisor Role. The revelations caused Flynn to resign after only three weeks on the job but the investigation into his activities continues today and may still be the key to revealing additional illegal activities of other Trump staffers.
Flynn, though, was only the dorsal fin of a much larger fish. Soon it became clear that others in the Trump campaign and then the administration had several contacts with Russians all of which could be conflicts of interest or worse. Prominent family members were soon exposed as having conveniently omitted information on required government reporting forms. Among them were:
- Donald Trump Jr. who received a note from a Russian contact indicating that they possessed some “Dirt” on Hillary Clinton that might be useful in the campaign. Young Trump said, “I love it,” and agreed to meet. He invited two others to attend with him they were Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner (just attending such a meeting may be illegal). The gathering was to take place in the Trump Tower in NYC. The Soon to be President was in his office in the tower at the time.
- Don Jr’s first report said they soon discovered the Russians had nothing useful about Ms. Clinton and then spent the rest of the time talking about adoption of Russian orphans. Soon after, though, it was discovered that there were several key Russian officials at that meeting and the younger Trump had to change his story. As further revelations surfaced the younger Trump has changed his story several times. Then it was revealed that the President himself helped Don Jr. write a statement about the meeting a fact that has been verified by the White House.
- Jared Kushner who is not only the President’s Senior Advisor but also his son-in-law, attended a meeting at Trump Tower in New York in December of 2016 with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador. Sources say the two discussed establishing some kind of back door communication channel presumably to discuss the possibility of Trump administration concessions to the Putin regime in return for business and/or other opportunities. At that same meeting Kushner also met with Sergey Gorkov the CEO of a Russian bank that was seeking relief from sanctions placed on it by former President Obama. Gorkov is also known to be a Russian intelligence operative. Kushner had not previously notified the U.S. Government of these meetings as required by law. He since has done so.
- U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions adamantly insisted he had no contact whatsoever with the Russians, but ensuing investigations have revealed otherwise. Sessions was involved in several high level meetings for example he was forced to admit that he spoke twice with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak which led to Sessions recusing himself from the Russian investigation and the subsequent appointment of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller.
- Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager who while a private consultant worked for associates of Putin and reportedly received payments from them amounting to millions of dollars. He also attended meetings with Donald Jr., Jared Kushner and others in violation of the law that disallows the involvement of foreign governments in our election process.
In the interest of time and space I have covered only a tiny percentage of the people and events that have led to 7 investigations of a President who has only been in office for 8 months. That fact alone is unequaled in American history. If I may take liberties with Abraham lincoln’s famous quote. He said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Well, in Trump’s case we will substitute offend for fool and you can easily believe that “You can offend all of the people most of the time.”
So, weigh what you have read here and elsewhere and ask yourself if this is the kind of leadership America needs or deserves. The Trump Presidency has been under a cloud of scandal since the campaign started. From the racist birther lie to the recorded obscenities with Billy Bush to the lies he told about Ted Kruz, Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton, no blow was too low for Trump, and no blame was ever his to take. Always the victim and always on the attack, Donald Trump won the Presidency with lies, the help of Russians and the slander of his opponents. Millions of desperate Americans voted for him believing he might make their lives better. He has shattered that promise.
Donald J. Trump won the presidential election of 2016. He won the White House and now has no idea what to do with it. He is uniquely unqualified and unprepared for the job.
After carefully weighing what I have learned and presented here I am left with scores of questions and no answers. Here are just a few.
1. Why won’t Trump release his tax returns? What is he hiding? It may be something as innocent as the fact that he’s not as rich as he wants you to think he is. Or, it could reveal sources of income that are questionable or maybe even illegal.
2.Why won’t he say anything critical about Vladimir Putin or Russia? Putin’s government has proven itself to be our enemy time and time again. He sides with Syria, a government we oppose. He supports North Korea, a government that is threatening to nuke us. He provides arms and aid to Iran, a nation that exports terrorism to our shores and most recently he expelled hundreds of U.S. State department employees. Not a single one of those actions resulted in any negative response from Donald Trump. At the same time he continually berates our NATO partners for not paying enough. They are long time friends who have committed themselves to our national security and who are critically important U.S. trade partners. Donald Trump has no problem offending them.
3.Why does he continue to get away with violating the emoluments clause of the constitution? What kind of arrogance possesses a man who has decided he is above the law and that he can ignore the laws that 44 presidents before him obeyed?
4. If he continually ignores the advice of our intelligence experts why should we trust him to make the right decisions in time of a national emergency that could result in war?
5. Donald Trump is not yet guilty of anything criminal. But as an executive he is guilty of gross incompetence, impropriety, and an ongoing refusal to learn how government works.
6. And then, there is our greatest embarrassment, his total lack of knowledge of issues, government and governing. He trusts no one, is devoid of empathy, has no knowledge of history or even of our own constitution but what’s worse is his refusal to read and learn. Instead he gets most of his information from Fox News and seems to value their advice over that of his own experts.
The result is incessant tweeting. We have a president whose communications skills are so limited, whose vocabulary is so tiny and who is so self-centered he believes he can govern by tweet. Each morning he engages in a blizzard of tweets, usually attacking someone and usually petty. Rarely do they address issues of substance and because they are 140 characters prove nothing. Perhaps he tweets because 140 characters is the limit of his ability to communicate.
My only conclusion after watching this man for almost two years, eight months of it as President, is that I hope we all survive him. I genuinely fear that if someone offends him or somehow bruises his massive ego, he could be tempted to do the unthinkable simply because he has the power to do so and no one can stop him. That’s pretty heady stuff especially for a megalomaniac.
And—from where I sit, that’s the truth