Thursday, May 11, 2017

Why It Matters

Watching a grown man throw a temper tantrum

If you're going to consider the ramifications of a President whose lawyers have to keep him from picking up the phone to chat with Michael Flynn, keep this in mind:

We now know that Donald Trump chose a man as his top national security adviser whom the prior president had both fired and warned him against hiring. We know that Trump’s White House failed to vet this man who would be entrusted with some of America’s most sensitive secrets and decisions. We know they did not get him the security clearances his position required, yet allowed him to operate freely in that position. We know that this man, Gen. Michael Flynn, took significant cash payments from an enemy, Russia, and from a nominal ally with which we have precarious relations, Turkey. We know Flynn failed to disclose those payments in violation of the law.

With that highlighted sentence we're back to the Russians in the Oval Office with their cameras.  John Negroponte assured NPR that no breach of security could have occurred, because it's the White House.  Others, however, were not so reassured:

The officials cited the danger that a listening device or other surveillance equipment could have been brought into the Oval Office while hidden in cameras or other electronics. Former U.S. intelligence officials raised questions after photos of Trump’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were posted online by the Tass news agency.
Other former intelligence officials also described the access granted to the photographer as a potential security lapse, noting that standard screening for White House visitors would not necessarily detect a sophisticated espionage device.

Well, that could never happen, right?

Russia has in the past gone to significant lengths to hide bugs in key U.S. facilities. In the late 1990s, the State Department’s security came under fire after the discovery of a sophisticated listening device in a conference room on the seventh floor, where then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and others often held meetings.
And then we have a President who still thinks Flynn was done wrong, and wants to commiserate with him.  Because what could go wrong, right?

And that "evidence of collusion" Trump keeps saying doesn't exist?  Well, one FBI agent had this to say about Trump's assertion Comey told Trump repeatedly that Trump was not the subject of any investigation:  “That is literally farcical.”  Instead, we have this:

Indeed, we know that the only thing likely to keep Flynn from serving time for felonies is if he strikes a bargain with the prosecutors who are now investigating his behavior. As a consequence of revelations associated with those investigations, we know that Flynn had on-going contact with Russian officials during the campaign and, after he was named national security adviser, had conversations with the Russian ambassador about which he lied to the American people and, ostensibly, to the vice president of the United States. We know these conversations were likely illegal as well.
This is the "genius" who grabs headlines and distracts attention from, well, from Sally Yates most recently, and these are the consequences:

We don’t know what crimes may or may not have been committed — but we do see several patterns of behavior. All are deeply worrisome. Trump has repeatedly shown a reckless disregard for US national security and national interests. He has shown a contempt for the law and for the American legal system. And when challenges to the legality of the behavior of his associates have arisen, Trump has repeatedly acted in ways that appear intended to prevent or impede the ability of those who would seek the truth. (Perhaps worse, he regularly takes to Twitter and other media to do to them what he never does to the Russians who attacked our democracy: denigrate and discredit those individuals for doing their jobs and upholding their sworn duties.) 
And yes, as we used to say in the '60's, the whole world is watching:

This activity is not lost on the rest of the world. They see an America unlike any they can recall and a leader who is clearly not fit for office. Said one diplomat from a close ally in this hemisphere, “We often have discussions at home as to whether Trump is crazy. We think he is. We have had experience with leaders like this in South America. But I never expected to see it in Washington.” It is a sentiment I have heard in one form or another often in the past few weeks. 
If I continue to quote this, it's because I can't say it any better myself:

The brazen firing of Comey is an escalation. If Trump is allowed to get away with this and appoint a lackey as chief investigator into his team’s alleged wrong-doing, the world will see the United States as a failing state, one that is turning its back on the core ideas on which it was founded — that no individual is above the law and that those in the government, at every level including the president, work for the people. Only if an independent prosecutor is appointed will America be seen as being the nation of laws it has long represented itself to be. Only if a thorough investigation takes place that includes an examination of Trump family ties in Russia (and elsewhere) and how these may have compromised the United States will the message be sent that America is the nation that has for so long been seen as an example to the world. 
I remember the argument (I don't know its provenance, which may well have affected its legitimacy) that the rest of the world (i.e., Europe, let's face it) was perplexed that America would oust Richard Nixon for such a minor peccadillo, considering how good he was at foreign relations (going to China was no small feat).  I like to think that, in the end, America taught the world-weary and cynical Europeans something about self-government and integrity and the rule of law.

Are we about to turn our back on that lesson?

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