• Trump’s best chance at battling the Russia scandal

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    IN the churning, murky pond water of Kremlin-gate, a few things are increasingly clear:

    First, the Russian-influence scandal is consuming President Trump, and this is likely to get worse as the special counsel’s investigation moves forward. Associates describe the President as obsessed by coverage of the scandal — an impression reinforced by tweets that seem to emerge involuntarily, like myoclonic jerks. President Trump possesses nothing of Bill Clinton’s talent for compartmentalization — the ability to prevent flooding in one area from sinking the whole ship. Trump reflects the design work of the Titanic. Breach one compartment and the rest flood as well.

    Second, along with the President, Trump’s administration is being consumed. Aides who entered government for at least partially noble reasons are now requiring criminal defense attorneys. This creates both tension and isolation, because it is a bad idea to discuss with fellow staffers anything remotely related to an ongoing criminal investigation. Even for the innocent, locating and surrendering documents and answering the questions of FBI investigators add a layer of distracting stress to already stressful jobs.

    Third, Trump’s traditional methods of damage control no longer work. In the past, he has used Twitter feuds and teased policy announcements as shiny, distracting objects. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller 3rdcares not a whit for any of this. As Trump was attempting to use climate policy as a political page-turner, Mueller was hiring the chief of the fraud section of the criminal division of the justice department to be part of the investigation into Russian influence. Trump is now facing not only the challenge of exploiting the media’s limited attention span but the scrutiny of institutions. His normal repertoire of responses — demeaning, inflaming, vulgarizing — seems like arrows against an advancing tank.

    Fourth, the chief advantage of nepotism — a bond outside political calculation — is also a considerable drawback. It is difficult to throw someone under the bus when you are handcuffed to them. This maneuver is not entirely unknown. “I have already given two cousins to the war,” said humorist Artemus Ward during the Civil War, “and I stand ready to sacrifice my wife’s brother.” But the attitude makes for an awkward Thanksgiving dinner. And there is no possible way to claim that Jared Kushner — now revealed as a focus of the Russian-influence investigation — was somehow outside the inner circle, unless that circle is smaller than Trump’s own head.

    Mueller now has a job similar to mathematician Urbain Le Verrier. In the mid-19th century, Le Verrier noted some perturbations in the orbit of Uranus and predicted the existence of another, unknown planet exerting a gravitational pull. Neptune was duly found where Le Verrier calculated.

    There is some unknown fact exerting influence on all the various parts of the Russian-influence scandal. Some pulling planet. Some missing key.

    Why did candidate Trump insist on praising Vladimir Putin, even to the point of slandering the United States? (“We have a lot of killers. Well, you think our country is so innocent?”)

    Why did the Russians work (according to American intelligence services) to tip the election in Trump’s favor, perhaps achieving one of the largest intelligence coups in history? And why should Trump, instead of being offended by such manipulation, attack the credibility of US intelligence services in turn?

    Why should Michael Flynn, the since-ousted national security adviser, and Kushner fail to fully report meetings with Russian officials and representatives in security background checks?

    Why should Kushner apparently ask to use Russian facilities for a back channel that would escape the scrutiny of American intelligence services?

    Why should Trump reportedly demand a loyalty oath from FBI Director James B. Comey, then fire him over the Russia investigation (by his own admission), then assure the Russian ambassador in the Oval Office that the pressure of the investigation had been “taken off”?

    Why has Trump insisted — even in the midst of an investigation of Russian influence — on serving longstanding Russian policy goals in Europe (such as raising questions about the NATO mutual defense agreement)?

    If Trump’s tax returns and financial information are exculpatory, why not release them? And how does this unwillingness relate to Donald Trump Jr.’s 2008 statement that Trump businesses “see a lot of money pouring in from Russia”?

    For Mueller, Trump is innocent until proved guilty. But citizens judge their President according to reasonable inferences. We are now at a point when it is reasonable to believe something disturbing is occurring. A point when it is reasonable for citizens to demand of Trump: Disclose, or confirm our worst fears.
    (c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

    michaelgerson@washpost.com

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    1 Comment

    1. MARIANO PATALINJUG on

      Yonkers, New York
      03 June 2017

      At the outset, let it be known that MICHAEL GERSON is a Conservative, a Republican who was a Speech Writer for former Republican President GEORGE W. BUSH. He is a columnist for The Washington Post.

      That should put what he says in this Washington Post column of his, “Trump’s best chance of battling the Russia scandal,” which is reprinted here, in proper perspective.

      And what he says here is clearly not something which President Donald J. Trump and his close associates will appreciate. Instead, they will have every reason to be seriously worried because, Mr. Gerson’s drift is that “the furies” are closing in on Trump & Co. [with apologies to W.S.] with parallel investigations being conducted by Special Counsel ROBERT MUELLER and the Senate Intelligence Committee. first, into “OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE” and, secondly, into “COLLUSION” between DONALD TRUMP and cohorts on one side and the RUSSIANS on the other side.

      Both investigations could yield a recommendation of IMPEACHMENT for President Trump and criminal prosecution for his cohorts–but “Collusion” is tinged with TREASON, and it could even turn out to be worse than disgraced President Nixon’s ‘WATERGATE.”

      MARIANO PATALINJUG
      MPatalinjug@hotmail.com