Donald Trump and his sycophantic enablers like campaign adviser Carter Page continue to deny the allegations, calling them “a political stunt from the get go... absolutely ridiculous on every level.” However, far from being a “witch hunt,” as Trump also insists in one of his idiotic Twitter rants, the investigations regarding whether there was treasonous collusion with Russia — either directly through Trump, or through his campaign cohorts — to affect the outcome of our presidential elections appear to be gaining real traction.
By the hour, it seems, the legal and financial noose of convicting certainty is tightening around the necks of Trump’s campaign aides, and even some within his Cabinet, whose prime reason for appointment now appears to center around their ties to Russia. If some reports are to be believed, under the weight of mounting evidence, which could lead to his impeachment or imprisonment, Trump is ostensibly considering resignation.
But don’t light up the fireworks — at least, not just yet.
Resignation seems highly unlikely since Trump may not yet understand from his “intelligence sources” at FOX News that the Feds are at the White House gate. In fact, just last week, Trump further rooted son-in-law Jared Kushner in a West Wing role that could only rightfully be described as “Assistant President.” Simultaneously, First Daughter Ivanka, who swore up and down to America that her only role in the Trump administration would be that of “daughter,” was also further entrenched in a new West Wing office as an official White House employee covered by ethics rules — to be Daddy’s adviser.
Impeachment or imprisonment it is, then. To be sure, these options befit far more the noble hand of justice for the degree of criminal effrontery already perpetrated against the American public. Indeed, if Trump somehow evades charges of corruption or treasonous collusion with Russia — the details of which now require mapping on charts and diagrams to track — then every person in this country ever convicted of a crime based upon circumstantial evidence should be freed. Reasonable doubt long exited this political theater.
If based only upon the bombshell testimonies of FBI Director James Comey and NSA head Michael Rogers to members of the House Intelligence Committee on Mar. 20, what is clear is that the FBI has more than probable cause to warrant several streams of investigations into Trump’s dealings with Russia. Subsequent reports confirmed also that the FBI has information indicating that Trump’s associates communicated with suspected Russian operatives, seemingly to coordinate the release of information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Last week, there was further corroboration also that, just prior to joining the Trump campaign, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort worked secretly for Russian billionaire, Oleg Deripaska — a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin — with whom he eventually signed a $10 million annual contract, beginning in 2006, to design a plan that would “greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success.” In a 2005 memo, obtained by the Associated Press, Manafort offered Deripaska “a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.”
It is highly unlikely that Trump did not know of his former campaign manager’s clandestine activities throughout Eastern Europe, his dubious political clientele, or his direct involvement in promoting Russia’s interests — Manafort’s slimy resume trail is too substantial. To not know would have been criminally negligent at best and further proof of Trump’s eminent unsuitability for the more nuanced tasks of managing American Intelligence as Commander-in-Chief.
Last week, additionally, former Trump national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn, also under investigation, offered himself to be interviewed by the FBI and the House and Senate Intelligence committees in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Flynn exited Trump’s Cabinet rather unceremoniously back in February after a record 24 days of least service in that capacity because of conflicting statements to Congress regarding his level and frequency of contacts with Russian officials and inopportune discussions before Trump’s inauguration regarding the lifting of US sanctions. His offer was rejected.
In light of subsequent disclosures of unreported streams of income from Russian companies to Flynn — and by his own assessment — one could say that his jailhouse door has already slammed shut. And the FBI knows it.
“When you are given immunity, that means you have probably committed a crime,” Flynn said back in a September interview, referring to Clinton’s five aides, who had been given some measure of immunity to testify in FBI investigations regarding Clinton’s use of a private email server and the subsequent mishandling of classified information.
Karma is, indeed, a bigly bitch.
Furthermore, Flynn may have a long time in prison to contemplate his vitriolic speech at last year’s Republican national convention in which he initiated anti-Clinton chants — “Lock her up!” — and publicly derided her for “crimes” that have repeatedly cleared FBI scrutiny. Trump’s campaign gained significant momentum through Flynn’s hateful political rhetoric. Its followers drank that Kool-Aid in frenzied cult-like fashion — until reality started creeping in.
“That plays great before the election — now we don’t care, right?” Trump declared slyly in a post-election “thank you” rally in Michigan — an inevitable sign that it would take 4-part editorial spreads in major papers like the L.A. Times and exhaustive social commentaries by a stunning array of media stalwarts — some of whom have come out of retirement — to unravel the extent of Trump’s lies and explain his artistry in, well, bullshit.
Democrats, meanwhile, wait for the hand of justice to prevail, anxiously hoping that FBI and other intelligence agency investigations into Russia's meddling, as well as the related probe by the House Intelligence Committee, are not compromised. Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a partisan bootlicker who appeared more protective of the Republican power grab afforded by the Trump administration than the assault on our democracy by a hostile foreign power, recused himself today, just moments before the House Ethics Committee announced an investigation into his potential "unauthorized disclosures of classified information."
In any event, what does all of this mean for Democrats seeking vindication after an election defeat in which their candidate actually won the popular vote by unprecedented margins? Most are still angry, not fully reconciled to the fact that there will be no do-over, no justice that will see Clinton awarded the presidency.
"As it stands today, the Constitution contains a serious design flaw,” Harvard Constitutional Law Professor Laurence Tribe told me Sunday in an email communication. “If a President is impeached, convicted, and removed from office for fraudulently or even treasonously stealing the presidency, there is no way to redo the national election as logic would seem to require. A constitutional amendment would be needed to cope with such a crisis."
Tribe is unambiguous in his views regarding Trump — that “he’s a usurper.” Nevertheless, he confirms that the deposing of Trump would usher the swearing in of Mike Pence as president — unless he, too, is taken down in the Russian scandal, in which he seems inextricably tied to Flynn. According to the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, next in line is House Speaker Paul Ryan. Yes, he of the TrumpCare debacle fame.
All of which begs the question, what then is the strategic plan to mobilize Democrats going forward into the November 2018 midterms and 2020 — the plan that does not have Clinton cast in some kind of leading role?
Clinton is signaling her readiness to “come out of the woods” to fight for the causes she believes in. However, the Democratic Party needs to disavow itself of any illusions that embracing Clinton in another significant campaign would be anything less than ill-advised.
Not known for diplomacy or tact, political commentator, Bill Maher voiced, rather more colorfully, on a recent Real Time episode what others, like me, are thinking about Clinton’s “return.”
“Hillary, stay in the woods,” Maher said in exasperation. “You had your shot. You f**ked it up. You’re Bill Bucknor. We had the World Series and you let the grounder go through your legs. Let someone else have the chance. The fact that she’s ‘coming back’ just verifies every bad thing that anyone’s ever thought about the Clinton’s — that it’s all about them. Let some of the other shorter trees get a little sunlight.”
Yes, I understand the injustice of it all. Russia dealt Clinton a debilitating political blow, as did our own Electoral College. I wrote about it here, and here. However, let’s not tarry in the land of Wishful Thinking.
A recent poll from Suffolk University places the Democratic Party’s favorable/unfavorable ratings at 36 percent/52 percent behind the media, the GOP, Trump, and Mike Pence — ahead only of Hillary Clinton and Congress. In my last essay, I connected this finding with the 123.1 million American voters out in “no man’s land,” those who voted “Other,” or didn’t bother to show up at all in the last election — a problem that Clinton’s candidacy did not resolve.
People feel disenfranchised — “forgotten” — through income inequality and by their inability to fulfill the American dream of financial stability and home ownership despite hard work and college degrees that leave them gasping in the choke-hold of unconscionable student loan debts. According to Bankrate, savings are practically non-existent, with 6 in 10 Americans not having $500 in savings. What’s more, the cost of raising a child, born in 2015, just to age 17 and not including college, is now pegged at $233,610.
Conscious Americans recognize these imbalances as the only real consequences that have trickled down from the economics subscribed to by Wall Street and the political establishment. They see Clinton, inextricably, as part of that whole — a truth Democrats must face if they are to understand the loss of more than 1,000 seats to Republican control since Obama took office in 2009.
For many who loved Obama, “hope” was deferred. Under Trump, hope is already in death throes.
Therefore, kudos to newly-elected DNC Chairman Tom Perez for at least making a show of cleaning house and initiating CPR on a party still reeling from its November defeat without cohesive leadership.
Last week, Perez requested resignation letters from all current DNC staffers — a crucial, strategic move to distance his administration from the trail of corruption, affiliated with former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Shultz and the cheating scandal that surrounded former DNC Vice Chair Donna Brazile, which led to her being fired from CNN as a political commentator. Justice must not only be done for those like Bernie Sanders, caught in the cross-hairs of their zeal to elect Clinton as the party nominee and president, justice must also appear to be done.
In a Mar. 30 interview, when asked by Susan Page, USA TODAY’s Washington bureau chief, if he had talked to Clinton, Perez carefully replied, “We talked about how we make sure we build a better Democratic Party. I talked to President Obama, I talked to Secretary Clinton, yes, to Joe Biden, Senator Sanders, Senator Schumer, Leader Pelosi, other leaders — we're all working together.”
The interview was an enlightening exchange insofar as it presented a DNC Chair who ostensibly understands the past missteps of the organization and the monumental task ahead to repair its image and restore trust. Perez also appears more gracious and inclusive toward all who provide leadership for the Democratic Party.
More importantly, Perez and Deputy DNC Chair Keith Ellison are already on the campaign trail. Perez’s Twitter page tracks their tours of states like Texas, New Jersey, and California — critical grassroots campaigning, as Democrats notoriously do not turn out for mid-term elections. We cannot accept this prevailing status quo in 2018.
“We have to build a Democratic Party that is vibrant in every state,” Perez told Page. “We have to make sure we make house calls. We have to get back to basics. We did not invest enough in organizing over the last ten years — I'm not just talking about simply the 2016 cycle — we ignored too many zip codes. And so, as a result, I hear from people in my travels, ‘Where have you been?’ and ‘You don't stand for me!’ And so what we have to do is lead with our values and be present in making a difference in communities across this country.”
As it turns out, we may well have to embrace some of Trump’s disillusioned followers to the fold of Democratic communities — and practice forgiveness. The miasma of despair already rising from the consequences of their vote would be funny, if it didn’t affect us all.
Nevertheless, we are stronger, together. And evicting Trump and his fascist squatters from the White House will take all the strength we’ve got.