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:
According to this New York Times story, last June Donald Trump Jr., presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chair Paul Manafort met with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer who claimed to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton. The key take-away from the article: “The accounts of the meeting represent the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help.”
A TANGLED WEB
The article and related reporting goes on to make matters murkier and potentially more incriminating. Trump Jr.’s inconsistent responses have flowed from first insisting that the meeting was mainly about adoptions to later, after the Times story appeared, asserting that he was fooled into seeing the lawyer because she claimed she had dirt on the Democrats and Hillary. According to Junior, that claim was a Russian ruse, for after briefly offering some nonsensical accusations against Clinton, she moved on to her real agenda: lobbying against a U.S. law that blacklists certain corrupt Russian officials implicated in human rights abuses, a law that has triggered Putin’s retaliation of barring Americans from adopting Russian kids.
Courtesy of Nicholas Kristof, historian Douglas Brinkley and others, the “T” word is finally in the air. Kristof’s column sums up and speculates about some of what we know about Trump advisors’ potentially treasonous collusion with Russia. As an indication of how this story is evolving in such a fast and troubling way, the piece doesn’t address the recent unprecedented, extremely political decision of House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes to brief a subject of his investigation (Trump) on the investigation itself.