“I hope you can let this go”

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Fired FBI director James Comey has reportedly kept a paper trail of President Trump’s inappropriate efforts to influence investigations of his administration’s Russia connections.

The New York Times reported on a memo that Comey wrote the day after the president’s national security director Michael T. Flynn resigned.  It recorded a conversation in which the president told Comey what a “good guy” Flynn is, concluding “I hope you can let this go.”

The White House denies the account.  According to another report, Comey’s notes show that he felt pressured to drop the investigation.  CNN’s legal analyst says this could be an obstruction of justice, what Nixon was impeached for.

There are those building a case for impeachment.  Comey is in a position to strike back.  The implication of these stories is that Comey made other memos and notes, so those may be coming out too, eventually.

Does the president’s “hope” really rise to the level of obstruction of justice, or are his critics over-reacting?

All of these controversies, even if overblown, are hurting President Trump’s ability to enact his agenda.  Republicans in Congress don’t seem afraid of him anymore and some are trying to distance themselves from the Republican president’s plummeting approval ratings.  That could jeopardize the repeal of Obamacare, immigration actions, tax reform, etc.

Realizing that Democrats won’t, should Republicans, the media, and Americans in general “let this go”?

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Trump changes his story on the Comey firing

donald-j-trump-1342298_640President Trump’s order firing F.B.I. Director James Comey said that the action was taken because of how he handled Hillary Clinton’s e-mail case.  Then we were told that the F.B.I. Director was fired because of recommendations by Justice Department Officials.

Now in an interview with MSNBC’s Lester Holt,  President Trump says that he was going to fire Comey “regardless” of what the Justice Department had to say.  He also called Comey a “showboat” and a “grandstander.”

In the interview, the president kept returning to the F.B.I.’s investigation of Russian influence in the U.S. election, insisting that Comey told him three times that he was not under investigation.  And, indeed, looking into Russian efforts to influence the election does not mean that the president himself is under investigation, as such.  Meanwhile, accounts from inside sources within the White House–leaked by somebody–say that the president was indeed pre-occupied and “enraged” over the Russia investigations.

But firing the head of the F.B.I. does not make those investigations “go away.”  Agents assigned to that investigation will keep on doing their work.  The interim head of the agency, Andrew McCabe, said as much.

This is why I think President Trump’s action is not equivalent to Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre,” in which he fired the Special Prosecutor investigating him.  Even if that were Trump’s intention, the action would not squelch the investigations.  (And we see how well Nixon’s more calculated action worked for him.)

I think we are just seeing, again, the results of President Trump’s impulsiveness, his undisciplined words, his dysfunctional staff, and his governmental inexperience.

Those things can be fixed or compensated for, but they need to be addressed soon lest they fatally damage his presidency. [Read more…]

Donald Trump, diplomat

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The liberal Moon Jae-In was elected president of South Korea on a platform of improving relations with North Korea.  This at a time when President Trump wants to get tougher with North Korea.  Moon’s party defeated the conservative, pro-American incumbents.

President Trump reportedly played a role in bringing down our ally’s government and replacing it with one that may be harder to deal with.

Charles Krautthammer tells about how Moon’s opposition party gained big ground over his opponent because of Trump’s trademark off-the-cuff comments about South Korea.  While we were in the midst of talks over co-operation against North Korea, Trump opined that the U.S. should renegotiate its trade deal with South Korea.  He then called for South Korea to pay for the missiles that we want to place there.

This infuriated South Korean voters, who rallied around  Moon, who wants a more arms-length distance from the U.S., as well as a more conciliatory stance towards North Korea.

Read Krautthammer’s account after the jump.

Now Trump wasn’t the only factor in bringing down the government:  the current president had been impeached.  It would be natural for the country to vote out the party that had been so discredited.

But it would certainly help Trump’s presidency if he would learn to govern his tongue.  I know that supporters like it that he says what he thinks.  But now that he is president, his words carry a different weight than they did when he was just a candidate.  Especially in the field of diplomacy, every word must be carefully calculated and nuanced.  And that is not Trump’s style.

He will soon set off on his first set of international visits, meeting with Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Pope.  The theme will apparently be interacting with representatives of three major world religions, a fraught atmosphere if there ever was one!  Let’s hope the president has learned something about diplomacy from the South Korea fiasco.

Photo:  Moon Jae-in, the liberal beneficiary of President Trump’s spontaneous comments on South Korea, from the Korean Wikipedia, Wikipedia Commons

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Trump fires FBI Director Comey

James_ComeyPresident Trump fired James B. Comey, the director of the FBI.

The reason given was his off-again, on-again investigation of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal, which Democrats blame, in part, for their presidential defeat.  But why would Trump make an issue of that, long after his election?

Democrats are claiming that the real reason is Comey’s investigation into the Russian involvement in the election and the connection between the Trump administration and Vladimir Putin.  (See this and this.)  And, indeed, if President Trump thinks that Comey had anything to do with Trump Tower being bugged, that could be a factor.

But I suspect it had more to do with Comey’s poor performance at his recent congressional testimony, in which he made inaccurate statements about Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s e-mails that he had to take back.  The White House released a memo from the Justice Department saying that the FBI’s reputation has been hurt by Comey and that a new start would be helpful.  President Trump makes decisions spontaneously, and he doesn’t like his administration to look bad.

But much of the media is playing this like Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” when he fired the people investigating his misdeeds.  You would think that the Democrats would cheer the firing of Comey.  But they have another agenda now. [Read more…]

The Republican defeat on the spending bill they passed

3237249328_4313b14e58_z (2)Republicans control the presidency, the House of Representatives, and the Senate.  And yet, in passing the spending bill to keep the government funded through September, Republicans gave away just about everything they stood for in order to get Democratic votes.

President Trump had proposed major cuts to make up for increased spending in defense and a few other areas.  The spending was increased, but the proposed cuts were dropped.

President Trump wanted to cut out funding for the arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  These survived.  So did funding for Planned Parenthood.

Some agencies that Trump wanted to cut actually had their funding increased.

Are Republicans incapable of governing?  Is their party effective only when it is in opposition?

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The French set-back for global Trumpism

2014.11.17_Emmanuel_Macron_Ministre_de_l_economie_de_lindustrie_et_du_numerique_at_Bercy_for_Global_Entrepreneurship_Week_(7eme_CAE_conference_annuelle_des_entrepreneurs)Many observers thought that the ascendancy of Donald Trump and Great Britain’s vote to leave the European Union heralded a new movement in global politics, with nationalism and anti-immigration sentiment casting out establishment governments.

But in the French presidential election on Sunday, the anti-immigrant, pro-nationalistic Marine LePen was defeated in a landslide by centrist Emmanuel Macron, who won on a pro-immigrant, pro-European Union platform.

And yet there still may be something to the notion that Trump heralds a new anti-establishment political movement.  Macron won as an independent, without the support of any of the established political parties.  Both the leftwing and the rightwing parties that have dominated French politics for decades were shut out of the election.

Maybe the real contribution of the Trump phenomenon is the repudiation of conventional party politics.

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