Turning Piety into Real Respect
Terry H. Schwadron
Once again, there were strange coincidences in the news:
The newly professed desires for friendly bipartisanship in the aftermath of the ballfield shooting of Republicans ran smack into the disclosures that the President is now clearly in the crosshairs of special counsel inquiries into possible conflict of interest.
Each was being described as a significant turning point — or not. Depending on your point of view, each was a natural outcome of the events that had led to this point.
Following the outrage of a shooting, the cross-calls to remember our humanity when it comes to politics sounded like a balm for the public. Of course, those statements of get-along-togetherness were not meant to substitute for substantive content.
To be honest, they struck my ears with a church-like declaration of a kind of piety that clashes with the real life of Washington.
For example, Republicans in both the House and the Senate continue to act on strict party-line voting lines to create a stealthy and unhealthy Health Care bill — without even sharing the content of what they are doing with Democrats. How about as a first step towards the new bipartisanship ideal, the Republicans actually open the process? They may want to shake hands with each other later, but if we’re really talking about recognizing the humanity of our actions, you would think we would care more about stripping 23 million of health coverage, charging sick people huge amounts more to get treatment and protecting women’s health, mental health and the rest. Or you might care about preserving money for food stamps. Or Science, Arts, Education.
Talk about caring and acting on caring seem to be two different things that these people believe can co-exist. I don’t happen to see it that way.
As for the investigation, it does feel like a new chapter, if not an actual “turning point” in the continuing probe into all things Russia. But it is the logical and inevitable outcome of the Presidential decision to summarily fire former FBI Director James B. Comey Jr. for leading an investigation into whether there were links between Team Trump and Russian efforts to interfere with the American election.
Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III does not discuss what he is doing, but The Washington Post was able to find five — not one — people familiar enough with the investigation to confirm that the investigation staff is now turning to the heads of the intelligence agencies to get information from them that they refused to share with Congress about conversations with President Trump. The notion here is that Mr. Trump personally asked them to help publicly debase any charges of collusion and to get Comey to quit his probe of Michael Flynn and Team Trump.
Tweets and statements by President Trump and his lawyers aside, it is Mueller’s job to do so, without regard to whether this information and what follows will tend to support or undercut suspicions about Mr. Trump’s behavior. Nevertheless, the actions confirm that the scope of the investigation is widening to include the President himself in a possible crime, despite earlier assertions by Comey that — at that time — the President was not personally under investigation.
It must be repeated here that these investigations and continuing “clouds” have resulted from the President’s own actions, not the result of some perceived “witch hunt” by renegade investigators. There actually seem to be three separate prongs of investigation — any involvement of Team Trump in the Russian interference; any financial misdeeds by members or associates of Team Trump, particularly as they may touch Russia; and the obstruction of justice possibilities. There are separate investigations by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, various subcommittees and the Senate Judiciary Committee and the FBI-special counsel investigation.
The disclosures, denounced as illegal leaks by Mr. Trump’s lawyers, also make clear that the actions of refusing to testify about their conversations makes the appearances of National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, Adm. Michael S. Rogers of the NSA and Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions look so ludicrous. As I pointed out at the time, they will have to answer a special counsel investigation, which, in the end, is the real deal, unlike the political drama of public hearings.
Meanwhile, 200 Democratic members of Congress joined in a lawsuit by the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia against the President for illegally ignoring the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution for failures to separate from his business interests.
Along with dysfunction in the White House, the various congressional probes and ethics conflict investigations, Mr. Trump has put himself into quite a box. This is to say nothing of his long list of actions now that have isolated America, that have insulted allies and curiously have led to praise for autocratic foes, that have demonstrably made mincemeat of environmental, educational and consumer interests.
Oh, just a reminder here, my complaints and observations are all business here, not personal. Humanely, I recognize that the President is a person who shares the same deteriorating Earth that I do. Hope I’ve hit the right pious “tone” for pointing out that we expect a President to obey the law.