Terry H. Schwadron
Even as President Trump takes his White House group on its first foreign tour, the heaviness of his investigation-centered problems was stowing away on Air Force One, a reminder that all the folks meeting with Mr. Trump this week, will take into account in assessing whether to believe and trust him.
The Trump-in-Trouble beat is flourishing among news outlets with more significant findings, a lot more published challenges to the presidency and baited-breath reports that just appear to be waiting to catch the President in a foreign faux-pas. You just know he will make some; his audiences are so wound up that Mr. Trump would have to be perfect not to step on some toes. He isn’t and he will. The question will be whether they are just stylistic and can be laughed off.
Not so for the home front. Even as the President was taking off from Washington,
· The New York Times’ report continued to echo, reminding all that Mr. Trump had boasted to the Russians about firing James Comey as FBI director, calling him a “nut job” and saying that the dismissal was an end to pressures he was feeling about ties to the Russians. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied it, but the White House didn’t. Comics saw this as license to become yet bolder in their portrayal of ineptness in the White House.
· News that the investigation is targeting a current senior White House team member from The Washington Post also drew no denial or comment. Various news and opinion makers were pointing to Jared Kushner citing only that Kushner had failed to include Russian business deals in a recent government filing about his business. Meanwhile, everyone in the West Wing was said to be hiring personal lawyers to gird themselves for the coming legal duststorm.
· Comey’s agreement to testify publically before the Senate Intelligence Committee is already being touted for the inevitable confrontation of presidential explanations for the dismissal and attempts to shut down the investigation of all things Russian.
· The talk of a total shakeup of White House communications staffers was being fanned even in flight to Saudi Arabia.
· From the Associated Press came a report that the President never actually signed, that is swore truth, about voluntary financial documents that he had filed with the Office of Government Ethics, and correspondence with Mr. Trump’s lawyers about needing a certification signature by next month. This is yet more bad news flowing from the refusal to share tax returns.
· Cable news seemed upset that Republican congressmen were mostly avoiding cameras, and Democrats were growling after briefings by the Justice Department’s Rod Rosenstein, who outlined the duties of Robert Mueller III in taking over an “independent” investigation. Meanwhile, congressional investigations were planning to continue, and mentions of “impeachment” were being dropped liberally on television, either in encouragement or ridicule.
None of this has to do with the people’s business, of course. That beat, too, continues. The EPA is targeting removal of a huge number of scientists, and the president is calling for cutbacks in the cleanup of toxic dumps. The education agenda continues to promote private school alternatives with public school money. The health care discussion gets worse and worse, with Team Trump now actively moving to consider removing financial supports for insurance companies to sell policies under Obamacare in rural, unprofitable areas. Where are those jobs?
And none of this has anything to do with seeing President Trump craft a speech today that somehow will have to walk away from years of Islam-bashing to ask leaders of 50 Muslim states to come together to fight ISIS. Why will they find him believable? The media answer stems from the idea that Trump is not Obama, whose insistence on considerations of democracy and human rights were anathema to many of these leaders.
Mr. Trump is announcing a ton of weapons sales and positive trade deals while he is in Saudi Arabia, many of which apparently were in the works from months before Mr. Trump became President. But okay, nothing says “pursuit of peace” like selling a billion dollars’ worth of arms to people who, you have said in the past, are out to kill you. As long as it results in a positive trade balance for Americans, it must be a good thing.
The important thing, apparently, is that you not bow to a Saudi king, unless he is putting a gold chain around your neck, and that your wife and daughter don’t wear head coverings, which you criticized Hillary for forgoing.
Mr. Trump is out there selling Trump First. I hope he does not forget that at home, we’re not all buying it.