BIGGER THAN WATERGATE
The Russia-Trump probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is the most important criminal inquiry in our country’s history. It’s even bigger than the Watergate investigation, which was prompted by bungling burglars breaking into an office in 1972. In contrast, Mueller is scrutinizing a hostile foreign power breaking into our democracy in 2016.
And yet, the probe is a distraction from something even more significant.
Here’s what’s more significant, as indicated by the title of this January 10 Washington Post op-ed by Maryland Senator Ben Cardin: “Never before has a president ignored such a clear national security threat” – that is, Donald Trump is ignoring Vladimir Putin’s current threat to democracy. The piece is based on a Senate Foreign Relations Committee minority (Democratic) staff report. Though the report focuses on Russia and Europe, it warns that our own democracy is in grave danger.
THE PRESIDENT AT WAR
My first take on the president’s pardon for Joe Arpaio was that it was unnecessary, even by his cellar-dwelling standards. Sure, it reflects Trump’s portrait of an America besieged by job-stealing criminals from south of the border, with the former sheriff as a bulwark of our defense. But Trump supporters who admire Arpaio’s bigotry already saw the president as their leader in the war to keep America white. So the pardon seemed to be a hateful but gratuitous slap at Hispanics and Trump’s opponents.
At a Norfolk, Virginia ceremony today, President Trump commissioned the new aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford.
There are manifold ironies afoot here.
One ship sets sail as another conceivably sinks. Is that sinking ship the Trump presidency or our American democracy?
We have a naval vessel, honoring an honorable public servant, launched by someone who’s something less than that.
At the ceremony, Trump declares that the warship will cause America’s enemies to “shake with fear,” even as he confoundingly cozies up to arguably our main adversary, Vladimir Putin.
On some level, we all saw it coming. Courtesy of The Washington Post, today’s Trump scandal news is that the president’s attorneys are exploring pardons for his family, aides and even himself. What’s more, they’re looking for ways of discrediting Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s disrupting our democracy.
A key passage from the story:
[Trump] has told aides he was especially disturbed after learning Mueller would be able to access several years of his tax returns…
You’ve probably read about Donald Trump Jr.’s June 9, 2016 meeting to discuss Russian
orphans sanctions collusion with his dad’s campaign. If you want a good summary of why this is so important, see this Nicholas Kristof column.
Here’s one aspect that could become increasingly crucial: Consider the sources.
As Josh Marshall points out at his superb Talking Points Memo mega-blog, the New York Times cited five White House advisers – not law enforcement officials or other outside actors – as sources for its groundbreaking article on the meeting. He accordingly wonders whether the leaks for the story spring from the many splits within President Trump’s inner circle. The Washington Post points out that Trump aides are themselves pondering that possibility: