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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…


“If you’re looking at Russian collusion, the president’s tax returns would be outside that investigation,” said a close adviser to the president.

Many things that could undo Trump: Donald Jr.’s jumping for rhetorical joy over the prospect of colluding with the Russian government to smear Hillary Clinton…Trump’s firing former FBI Director James Comey to block the probe…the list is already long and could well grow.

But those tax returns stand out right now. Considering how much their potential disclosure discomforts Trump, there must be some financial and political bodies buried there.

Particularly in light of this development, Trump’s trashing Attorney General Jeff Sessions in his recent New York Times interview makes some sense. If he can force Sessions out, the replacement AG will take over oversight of Mueller’s work from the politically independent Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. And while the new guy – you know that with Trump, it will be a guy – could not simply overrule Mueller, he could hamper his work in various ways, via control of his budget and other supervisory mechanisms. Or he could conceivably accede to a Trump temper tantrum demanding that Mueller be fired.

Pardons of crooked cronies…smearing and even dismissing a respect public servant…where will it end?

But wait, there’s more! The third leg of this crooked stool is called deflection and distraction. Exploit a foreign policy crisis or terrorist attack, to change the subject and rally people around the flag. Is it too far-fetched to see such a wag-the-dog scenario unfolding? Have you heard of North Korea? Of ISIS?

Now, I know. At some point Trump could go too far. Republicans in Congress could finally turn on him. How are we doing with that assumption so far?

John McCain, I wish you well simply because you’re a fellow human being, but also because you’re someone who has sometimes shown some semblance of independence. If we ever needed you to stand up, even as you’re fading away, the time is now.


Based in Oakland, California, Stephen Golub writes, consults and teaches about international development, with a particular focus on justice, democracy, human rights and governance issues. Currently teaching part-time at Central European University in Budapest and previously at the University of California at Berkeley, he has worked in over 40 countries and with such organizations as Amnesty International, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Ford and Open Society Foundations, the U.K. Department for International Development, the U.N. Development Program and the World Bank

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