I wanted to wait a bit after former FBI Director James Comey’s Senate testimony to let it all settle.
In the next few days, our selected president declared in typically self-serving terms, bordering on fantasia, Comey vindicated him or lied, depending upon Trump’s cherry picking of Comey’s remarks.
Remember, too, I have no love for James Comey and have written many articles eviscerating him in HuffPost for his interference in the 2016 presidential election. That said, I’ve never disputed his integrity, his capacity for telling the truth. His judgment, hell, yes. But he’s never been caught telling a lie.
That can’t be said about Donald Trump, who repeatedly lied when confronted with facts concerning many of his utterances, most notably his campaign to cast illegitimacy on Barack Obama’s presidency with the nonsense Obama was born in Kenya. The man in the White House whom I’ve designated Trump the Pretender has lied about our economic statistics, crime statistics and so many things which have been shown to be false through Trump videos the media oft display in contrast with public statements.
Trump’s a salesman, that was his career, embellishing his products as the best and his competitors in less lofty terms. This continued in politics, where he insulted in unseemly and often false terms his opponents or their families. Besides calling Ted Cruz “lyin’” he accused Cruz’ father of complicity in JFK’s assassination. Trump protects himself, or thinks he does with “People are saying,” or “I’ve been hearing,” so that when the untruth is exposed he can say he wasn’t the one making the accusation.
Whereas with James Comey, flawed as he is, there’s no evidence yet presented he’s stated something untrue even once, let alone on repeated occasions like Trump. So, even with a he said/he said situation, such as what was said in the Oval Office between Trump and Comey, while it may not be enough in a court of law it should certainly be enough in the court of public opinion.
Which brings us to today's Senate Intelligence Committee grilling of Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, a man forced to recuse himself from the Russian investigation, yet had a hand in Comey's dismissal, citing selective, convenient reasons for recommending his termination.
It wasn't surprising most Republicans on the Committee, with the exception of Susan Collins (Maine) and to a lesser extent Marco Rubio (Florida) foisted praise on Sessions, while leading him into answers he easily responded. They often shifted to the Hillary Clinton investigation, which GOP senators perhaps forgot candidate Trump once praised. Or that Trump cajoled Russia during the campaign to leak more data damaging to Hillary, even as Sessions and senators declared such hacking as inimical to American democracy.
Senator Cotton (Arkansas) was the worst, in a rare instance damning Democratic colleagues for questions adding nothing to the investigation, which sounded very Trump-like in presuming that his outrage would somehow negate facts that have come out and are continuing to emerge, mostly due to reportage by respected journalists.
The Democrats were naturally more antagonistic and one could see Sessions squirming the moment vice-chair Warner (Virginia) laid out his concerns, particularly why Sessions left the famed meeting in the Oval Office, allowing Comey to sit alone with the president with no witnesses present. Senator Wyden (Oregon) accused Sessions of stonewalling.
Sessions repeatedly refused to answer questions, citing an unsubstantiated rule that he could not do so, though stating it wasn’t due to executive privilege, which he said only the president could demand. He persisted in stating there was a rule that such conversations couldn’t be discussed, though when Senators Heinrich (New Mexico), King (Maine) and Harris (California) asked for the rule to be quoted he could not do so and would not specifically commit to providing such a written document.
Sessions refused to even acknowledge that Trump's request for a letter urging Comey's dismissal by Deputy Attorney-General Rosenstein and himself, listing as the primary cause Comey's press conference and letter to congress concerning Hillary Clinton, seemed questionable at best, inasmuch as Trump admitted to NBC's Lester Holt it was "this Russia thing" that caused the dismissal. That he had decided to do so beforehand and was not affected by the letters, so why had he asked them to write them?
Here was a man who confidently turned to his Republican former colleagues for assistance, which most provided, and clearly padded his non-revelatory answers to the Democrats, knowing full well it was eating up their five-minute time periods. Oddly, John McCain (Arizona), was suddenly coherent and initially seemed to press Sessions a bit, at one point referencing his service on the Armed Services Committee, which McCain chairs, wondering why he’d be talking to the Russian Ambassador when Russian matters didn't seem to concern him while on the committee.
This investigation is hardly over, and I'm betting Sessions will resign. However, with all the subsequent commentary there's just about never any talk about changing our presidential election system to popular vote. With all the controversies over myriad subjects, health care, medicare/medicaid, immigration, the environment, etc., it's as if the commentators and politicians are incapable of talking about more than the issue of the week, presuming it rather than the umbrella issue that caused this all, our election system, caused our current mess.
I urge you to write to representatives and media outlets to get the discussion and debate in focus, particularly the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. To not forget how Trump got there with almost 3,000,000 fewer votes than Hillary Clinton, nonetheless attempting to ram through policies that a greater number of voters didn't want. That should be the most important issue on the plate in America.
Michael Russnow’s website is www.ramproductionsinternational.com
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