Saturday, May 13, 2017

Trump Just Incriminated Himself

I have been a fan of Andrew Sullivan for years and have even had the pleasure to meet him once at an Equality Virginia event some years back.  I often disagree with him, especially in respect to his views on Catholicism and remaining a Catholic - he did while I left the Catholic Church for the less soul killing Episcopal and then Evangelical Lutheran Church where gays are not deemed "intrinsically disordered."  Where we do agree is on the descent of the Republican Party into something evil itself. That cancer has now fully metastasized in the form of Donald Trump and the Vichy Republicans  - who like the Vichy French in WWI who collaborated with the Nazis - who continue to put party over country.  Conservatives are working strenuously to downplay the consequential nature of the Comey firing and now Trump's apparent threats directed at Comey and suggestion that White House tapes exist.  The parallels with Watergate just seem to keep growing, but with a much more dangerous underlying betrayal.  Here are highlights from Sullivan's latest piece in New York Magazine:
At the center of the Comey firing is, it seems to me, a simple question. Is the presidency of Donald Trump a threat to liberal democracy? This has always been the question. It’s why his presidency is different than any other. Yes, there are policy goals that can be debated — health care, foreign policy, mass immigration, etc — and he can be opposed or supported on those grounds. There are appointments — or a stunning lack of them across the executive branch — that reflect amateurishness and incompetence outside the norm. There are habits — like Trump’s tweeting — that degrade the office of the president. There are skills — such as shepherding legislation through Congress — that may be absent, and their absence might even be a cause for relief. There is evidence that the president knows close to nothing about the world — see this latest jaw-dropping interview with The Economist, where he imagines you can buy health insurance for $15 a month. And there are clear indications he is off his rocker — see this staggering exchange about steam, “digital,” and aircraft carriers in an interview with Time. These are horrifying indications he is unfit for the office he holds. But they can all be handled within the boundaries of democratic electoral accountability — and, with any luck, will be in 2018 and 2020.
The core concern was always deeper than this. It was that Trump doesn’t understand the Constitution he has sworn to protect; that he would abuse his executive power, to lash out at enemies; that he would undermine the rule of law by trying to get his way, consequences be damned; that he would turn vital democratic institutions, such as the Justice Department and the FBI, into mere handmaidens of his own interest, rather than guarantors of the public’s. And it is clear to me that the firing of Comey — while within the president’s Constitutional powers — falls squarely into this category. To fire someone who is conducting an investigation into your own campaign cannot help but be seen as an interference with the rule of law. It is to cast doubt on the integrity of that investigation, and its future. It undermines public confidence that the executive branch can enforce the law against itself. It politicizes what should not be politicized. It crosses a clear line.
And it also crosses a line when you keep lying brazenly about why you did it. You don’t pin it on Rod Rosenstein. You don’t pretend it’s about “showboating.” You don’t ludicrously argue that you’ve just finally realized that Comey did Hillary wrong. You don’t also say that you were going to fire him anyway. You don’t say the FBI was in turmoil under Comey, when it wasn’t. And you don’t say you want to get to the bottom of the matter when you have already declared the entire story a hoax. More to the point, you don’t lie about all these things and then go on television and blurt out the truth: “When I decided to just do it [fire Comey], I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russian thing with Trump and Russia … is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election.” Read that again. The president has just said on national television that the Russia investigation was in the front of his mind when he decided impulsively to fire Comey. He has admitted he wanted to remove the FBI director because his investigation — which is fast intensifying — was targeting his campaign. That is called obstruction of justice. His spokeswoman yesterday reiterated that, after the Comey firing, the administration hoped the Russia investigation, which was trivial, would be wound up soon.
We also learned overnight that, according to sources close to Comey, just seven days after his inauguration, Trump invited the former FBI director to a private dinner. At the dinner, he twice asked him for his personal loyalty. Comey demurred, as any decent FBI director should. But the very idea that a president should ask the FBI director this is astonishing and deeply disturbing. It’s an attempt — just a week into his presidency — to control an agency he absolutely must not control.
All of this is simply unacceptable. An attempt to obstruct justice is an impeachable offense. And Trump has just openly admitted to such a thing. When, one wonders, will the patriots in the Republican Party stand up and confront this? If Clinton had done such a thing, the House would be drawing up articles of impeachment right now.
Now, if I am not to be stupefyingly naive, I have to assume the president is guilty of something and is busy rigging the system to stymie any attempt to bring potential traitors to justice. And yes: This is about the possibility of treason against our democratic system. And the president, chumming it up with Lavrov and Kislyak the next day, seems incensed that there is even an investigation at all.
If this is swept under the rug, we take one giant step toward the authoritarianism Trump has always threatened. When a democracy believes its own president can put his finger on the scales of justice whenever his own interests are at stake, and get away with it, it is on its way to disintegration. I hope the Senate understands that this is not a drill. There needs now to be an independent prosecutor to take charge of the FBI case. If there isn’t, the checks in our system will have failed.

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