Tag Archives: special counsel

Trump defies political gravity

I found a blog post I wrote not quite a year ago, just prior to the 2016 presidential election.

I’ll get this off my chest right up front: I was dead wrong about Donald John Trump Sr.’s political fortunes when I posted the item.

Here it is:

Trump is committing political suicide

There. I’ve admitted once again. Trump defied conventional political expectations.

I want to mention this earlier item as a cautionary tale about any effort to predict what might happen to the president — even as a special counsel seemingly tightens a noose around the Trump campaign’s alleged connections with a Russian government effort to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

I keep hearing reports about how special counsel Robert Mueller and his crack team of prosecutors are looking ever more closely at key White House aides’ involvement in dealings with Russia. They’re poring through mountains of statements and public testimony from Trump, his closest aides, even members of his family. They’re seeking to determine the truth behind Trump’s involvement with the Russian goons who hacked into our electoral process.

The president keeps bobbing and weaving. He keeps changing his story. He keeps doing what appears to be everything he can to self-incriminate himself.

Does this doom his presidency? Hah!

If the rules of conventional wisdom applied to this clown, he would have imploded long ago. The denigrating of John McCain’s heroic service during the Vietnam War; the disparaging of a Gold Star family; his admission of groping women; his mocking of a disabled reporter; his repeated insults and innuendo; his defaming of Barack Obama over the former president’s constitutional eligibility to serve as president. His incessant lying — about anything!

Any one of those incidents should have doomed this man. That he survived all of them is utterly astonishing in the extreme.

Critics of this blog are fond of reminding me how wrong I was about Trump’s candidacy. They’re entitled to keep reminding me of something I’ve acknowledged readily since this guy’s election. I take a small measure of solace in the knowledge that many other Trump critics were just as wrong. 

I offer this observation as a warning to anyone who’s ready — yet again — to consign this president to the ash heap.

Impeachment isn’t such a long shot after all

Let’s play out a possible scenario that could emerge from the 2018 midterm election.

Democrats think they have a shot at winning back the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. They also believe their chances of winning a Senate majority are even greater.

I’m going to pose a question that well might provoke some angry response: Is it possible that we can learn just how much Democrats hate Donald J. Trump if they manage to achieve a majority in the House and Senate? Is impeachment a foregone conclusion if both congressional chambers flip next year?

Special counsel Robert Mueller is hard at work collecting information — perhaps even evidence — concerning whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians who hacked into our electoral system. If they produce actual evidence and release it to the public, say, in the first quarter of 2018, then the impeachment talk is going to ratchet up to a very loud level. Then again, there might be perjury accusations coming forward, which also is serious enough to impeach a president; just ask Bill Clinton about that one.

The election will occur in November of next year.

Suppose the special counsel produces evidence of collusion. Suppose, too, that Democrats seize control of Congress.

I’ll now offer a brief explanation of presidential impeachment, which is a two-act drama.

It takes only a simple majority of House members to impeach a president. What might the “high crimes and misdemeanors” include? If there’s collusion, I believe that constitutes an impeachable offense.

If the House impeaches the president, it then merely files a formal complaint, an accusation. Then the House hands off to the Senate, which conducts a trial.

To convict a president, though, the bar is set much higher. Two-thirds of the Senate, 67 senators, must vote to convict. President Andrew Johnson came within a single vote of being tossed out of office; President Bill Clinton faced three counts in his Senate trial, and he was acquitted on all three by comfortable margins.

I wouldn’t dare to predict how a Trump trial would conclude. I am not even going to predict that Congress’s controlling majority is going to flip next year.

If it does, however, my sense is that impeachment becomes many times more possible than it is at this moment with Republicans in charge of Capitol Hill.

What is POTUS trying to hide?

I keep circling back to this question regarding “the Russia thing,” the investigation into whether the Donald Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russians who meddled in our 2016 election.

If Donald J. Trump is innocent of the allegations that have been leveled against him and his team, why is he angry at U.S. senators for not doing enough to “protect” him from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of legal eagles?

The president reportedly is steamed at congressional Republicans who won’t rush to his defense. He is angry about efforts to protect Mueller from any presidential effort to get rid of him. One Republican senator, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, is defending pending legislation aimed at shielding Mueller from Trump’s vengeance.

If the president is innocent, if he has done not a single thing wrong, then why is he acting like someone with something to hide?

Hey, I have no inside info here. I’m just watching all this drama from the peanut gallery in Flyover Country.

That gnawing in my gut is beginning to cause some rumbles of discomfort. Donald Trump is working pretty damn hard to discredit everyone seeking to learn the truth.

My sense simply is this: If the truth is as Donald Trump says it is, then let the special counsel do his job, and let him come up empty.

Impeachment? Not so fast, folks

Social media are chattering and clattering like a newspaper newsroom full of typewriters on deadline. Those of you who are old enough to remember actual typewriters will understand the analogy.

But the social media are abuzz with viral statements, requests and demands that Donald John Trump Sr. gets impeached.

Let’s hold that thought. At least for a while, OK?

The president of the United States is demonstrating plenty of disturbing behavior. He holds those rallies in which he ad-libs his way into nonsensical rants. Then he reads reasonably crafted speeches, looking for all the world as if he’s been asked to eat every bite of the squishy spinach on his plate. The next day he tears into the media, members of Congress and virtually every political foe who’s lined up against him.

Serious-minded folks like former head spook James Clapper say they doubt Trump’s “fitness” for his job. He’s acting like a maniac. Sounding like a blithering, blathering fruitcake.

Does any of this behavior rise to the level of an impeachable offense? No. Not as I understand what’s written into the U.S. Constitution.

Article II, Section 4 spells out the specifics of a presidential impeachment. It calls for such an action in the event of “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The House of Representatives must bring formal charges against the president. Then the Senate conducts a trial; to convict a president and toss him out of office requires a two-thirds vote by senators.

Has the 45th president committed any sort of “high crime and misdemeanor”? No. Indeed, there is an open debate on just when we’ll know of any potential charges being brought. Many of us have our opinion on whether there should be charges brought. To date, we have none. We don’t even have any compelling evidence to suggest that there will be charges brought.

What about the president’s behavior? My reading of the Constitution suggests that loopy conduct does not, by itself, constitute an impeachable offense. But let’s not kid ourselves here. Donald Trump’s behavior on speech podiums is weird in the extreme.

I’ve never heard a more inarticulate president than the one we’ve got now. Never have I seen someone trash tradition in the manner that he does. Given an opportunity to heal a nation divided by myriad issues of many stripes, Donald Trump does precisely the opposite. He lashes out. He hurls insults at his foes. He cannot even bring himself to offer a word of good wishes to one of his critics — Sen. John McCain — who is in the midst of a life-and-death struggle against cancer.

Trump disgraces his office almost daily. I’d say he disgraces himself, but he seems to lack the capacity to look inward.

Is any of this impeachable? No.

None of it will stop the social media chatter. I just think it’s important to put some of this hysteria into some perspective.

Meantime, let’s wait for the special counsel looking at “The Russia Thing” to do his job.

Hey, what about ‘the Russia thing’?

Pssst. I am about to let the cat out of the bag.

Much of the nation — maybe most of it — has been consumed by the tragic events of Charlottesville and the president’s response to it. I get it. Donald Trump first blamed “many sides” for the riot; then he singled out the white nationalists, neo-Nazis and the Klan; and after that he reverted back to his original response.

All ever-lovin’ hell has broken loose. The fecal matter has hit the fan.

But, but, but …

We have this other thing going on. It’s the “Russia thing.” Remember it? Of course you do!

Special counsel Robert Mueller has assembled a crack team of legal eagles who are examining the many aspects of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. There might be an obstruction of justice element; there might be collusion; there might be some financial matters to examine; hey, we might even get to see the president’s tax returns.

As the national media continue to scurry after this Charlottesville story — as they should — Mueller and his team are being left relatively alone to pore through the mountain of evidence and information that keeps piling up.

The last thing I heard — and it seems like eons ago now — was that Mueller wants to speak with former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. There might be subpoenas coming from Mueller’s office.

I just thought it would be useful to remind everyone that as important as the Charlottesville story is — and the media must cover it — we’ve got this other matter lurking out there.

The “Russia thing” needs a resolution. Don’t look for it soon. Just be sure to keep one eye on the special counsel’s exhaustive search for the whole truth.

‘Hoax’ probe of Trump now is getting quite serious

This is a mere hunch.

When a special counsel orders an unannounced search of a home for evidence of possible crimes involving the president of the United States, then I believe we have a serious investigation under way.

Federal agents barged into the home of former Donald J. Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort. They collected information and evidence allegedly related to the probe being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The president, let us remember, has said all along that Mueller’s probe is a “witch hunt,” that it is a “hoax,” that the whole “Russia thing” matter is a creation of Democrats who are still steamed at losing the 2016 presidential election.

The search conducted two weeks at Manafort’s home suggests something quite different. It represents a potentially stunning turn in the probe into whether Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election were done in collusion with the Trump campaign.

Is there an obstruction of justice charge on its way? Might there be an actual violation of the law to be discovered?

Yes, this investigation is still in its infancy. Mueller is known as a meticulous lawyer. He has hired a crack legal team. He is a former FBI director who served under presidents of both major political parties: George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama.

Is this man capable of conducting a “hoax” investigation?

Hmmm. I, uh, don’t believe so.

Will POTUS serve out his term?

The question came to me today at lunch from a fellow I’ve known for more than two decades and who I consider to be one of the smartest men in Amarillo, Texas.

“Do you think Donald Trump is going to serve his entire term as president?” asked my friend, who’s been involved in local government for four decades.

My quick answer was “I think it’s 70-30 that he does but those odds are shrinking.” By that I mean the gap between survival and non-survival is going to become narrow as the special counsel assigned to investigate matters involving the president continues his probe.

I have not a single thing on which to base that percentage estimate, other than my gut and my proverbial trick knee.

I am watching along with millions of Americans the flailing of the president as he tries to achieve his objectives — whatever the hell they might be. The dysfunction is unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed in a presidential administration.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, meanwhile, is examining the Russia matter and his probe well might delve into other issues not related directly to whether the Russians meddled in our 2016 presidential election or whether the Trump campaign colluded with them.

Donald Trump is at the center of all this. He’s not used to this kind of scrutiny. Nor is he accustomed to being challenged at every turn by political foes or by the media.

I told my friend that every human being has his or her limits. We don’t yet know where those limits exist with Donald Trump. Does the president have a limitless capacity to suffer the indignities that governing in a complicated political system inflict on him? After all, this self-proclaimed business genius is new to this game of politics, government and public service.

My buddy is as aghast as I am, moreover, that this man even got elected in the first place. “What have we done?” he asked, obviously rhetorically.

We exchanged a few more thoughts on this totally unpleasant subject before heading back to our lives.

Bear in mind this, though, about the “prediction” I made. One is that I no longer predict seriously political outcomes. I never thought, for instance, that Hillary Clinton would run for the U.S. Senate in 2000 at the end of her husband’s two terms as president; she did.

Nor did I ever think Donald John Trump Sr. would be nominated by the Republican Party and then be elected president in 2016. He was.

Many Americans were wrong about the outcome of this past year’s election, which makes me quiver at the thought of predicting with any kind of certainty whether this clown will survive the ongoing onslaught that awaits.

Stand tall, proceed Special Counsel Mueller

Robert Mueller doesn’t need an encouraging word from little ol’ me out here in Flyover Country, far from the halls of power in Washington, D.C.

I’ll give him a few of them anyway.

Mueller is up to his eyeballs in probing “the Russia thing” that cost James Comey his job as FBI director … when Donald John Trump Sr. fired him. Mueller now owns the title of special counsel and he has assembled a team of crack lawyers to probe whether Trump’s campaign worked in cahoots with Russian hackers seeking to meddle in our nation’s electoral process.

Trump, of course, is calling it all a “hoax,” a “witch hunt,” an “excuse” for Democrats who are angry about losing the 2016 election to Trump.

It is none of the above, largely because of Mueller.

The special counsel once ran the FBI himself. President George W. Bush appointed him to the FBI post in 2001– one week before 9/11! He served his 10-year term and then was asked by President Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama, to stay on for additional two years. Think about that. He gets selected by a Republican president and then is asked to stay on by a Democrat.

He left office and then went into private practice. Then came a new presidential administration. The new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, decided to recuse himself from anything having to do with Russia. A deputy AG, Rod Rosenstein, then appointed Mueller to be the special counsel, to take charge of this investigation.

His appointment was hailed by Republicans and Democrats alike, who all sang in perfect unison about Mueller’s integrity, his knowledge of the law, his professionalism and his honesty.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans now are lining up against any attempt Trump might mount to remove Mueller. They want him on the job. They want him to ferret out the truth. They want this guy to finish the task he has been given.

The only people who are disparaging Mueller happen to be the president of the United States and his closest White House advisers — some of whom happen to be members of the president’s family.

I’ve said before that if the president believes Mueller is marching down a blind alley, that he shouldn’t have a thing to worry about. Let the investigation proceed and then breathe a heavy sigh if it produces zero criminality. Might that be a reasonable posture for the president and his team to take?

Instead, they are seeking to undermine the man’s work and his reputation. Accordingly, Donald Trump disgraces himself and his high office every time he opens his trap.

Robert Mueller needs to complete his investigation. This American patriot — yours truly — has complete faith in his ability to do the job he has been assigned.

Grand jury portends intensifying of probe?

Am I able to make a presumption without sounding presumptuous?

I’ll give it a shot.

Robert Mueller, the special counsel assigned to examine Russian meddling in our 2016 election, reportedly has just impaneled a grand jury to begin hearing evidence and, more than likely, call witnesses to tell the panel what they know about this matter.

Here’s my presumption: I am going to presume that Mueller’s investigation is gaining some speed and that the former FBI director just might be smelling some blood in the water around Donald J. Trump and his presidential campaign team.

Recall for a moment another grand jury that a special counsel impaneled. I refer to the panel called into duty at the behest of Kenneth Starr, who was ostensibly examining a real estate transaction involving Bill and Hillary Clinton. Then he stumbled onto something quite unexpected: a relationship that President Clinton was having with a young White House intern. He summoned the president to testify before the grand jury, which asked him about that relationship. The president didn’t tell the truth.

Bingo! Impeachment followed.

Is the past going to be a prologue for what might await the current president?

As the Wall Street Journal reports: “Grand juries are powerful investigative tools that allow prosecutors to subpoena documents, put witnesses under oath and seek indictments, if there is evidence of a crime. Legal experts said that the decision by Mr. Mueller to impanel a grand jury suggests he believes he will need to subpoena records and take testimony from witnesses.”

I believe it also suggests that Mueller might expand his probe into areas other than precisely the Russian meddling and the allegations of collusion between the Russians and the Trump presidential campaign. There might be a subpoena or two coming that deals with, say, Trump’s tax returns and assorted business connections involving Trump’s business interests and Russian government officials.

Here’s another presumption: This story is still building.

That’s it: Blame Congress now

Here, dear reader, is a tweet that came from the president of the United States. It is just another in an endless litany of shocking pronouncements from Donald John Trump Sr.

Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!

There you have it. The president has blamed Congress for enacting a tough sanctions bill against Russia. He didn’t say a word in that tweet about his signing the bill into law. Lawmakers approved the bill with overwhelming majorities and they undoubtedly would have overridden any presidential veto.

Indulge me for a moment.

The U.S.-Russia relationship has tanked because the Russians have been caught — and please pardon the somewhat dated description here — red-handed in their effort to attack the U.S. electoral process. The Russians sought to meddle in our 2016 presidential election. Intelligence analysts have concluded the Russians did it. Members of the Trump administration have drawn the same conclusion.

The only high-ranking U.S. official to equivocate is the highest-ranking of them all: the president.

Congress acted as it should have acted by imposing new sanctions on the Russians — and by assuring that Congress has the final say on any effort to lessen or eliminate them.

Yet the president continues to hold tightly to this notion that he can “negotiate” better deals with Russians than Congress.

I should add that Trump signed the sanctions bill without the usual fanfare associated with high-profile bill signings. No TV cameras were present; the president didn’t hand out pens to officials as he etched his signature to the document. The signing was carried in the proverbial dead of night. Why is that?

Now he’s going after Congress yet again for doing what it is entitled to do.

Just suppose for a moment that Donald Trump finds himself in grave political trouble down the road. Suppose special counsel Robert Mueller concludes that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian effort to sway the election; let’s also suggest that Mueller might find evidence of obstruction of justice stemming from Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey.

All of this well might bring the president to the brink of impeachment by the House of Representatives. It is at that point that the president is going to need every friend he can find on Capitol Hill to save his backside.

Is this how he nourishes those relationships, by blaming Congress for the deterioration in U.S.-Russia relations?