Rethinking America

Trump’s Woes – But No Fatal Evidence So Far

There is no “smoking gun” yet.

Credit: Gage Skidmore www.flickr.com

Takeaways


  • American political scandals only move to a conclusion when bold evidence exists of wrongdoing.
  • Stark proof of wrongdoing by President Trump has not surfaced – yet.
  • Only Trump now seems to dispute there was serious official Russian intervention in last year’s US elections.
  • Trump came into office pledging to “clean the swamp” of dirty Washington politics. The opposite seems the case.

American political scandals only move to a conclusion when bold evidence exists of wrongdoing. This has yet to emerge in the Trump family’s ties to Russians and allegations of collusion between the 2016 Trump election campaign team and Russian intelligence. But the trail is getting hotter.

Richard Nixon resigned as President when disclosures from White House audiotapes amounted to a “smoking gun.” Bill Clinton faced impeachment hearings when “smoking gun” evidence surfaced to prove that he had lied about his sexual encounter with White House intern Monica Lewinski.

Stark proof of wrongdoing by President Trump has not surfaced – yet.

However, prominent Republican Senators are refusing to give TV interviews to defend the President. National conservative media columnists are starting to be brutal in their criticisms.

For example, discussing a secret meeting that the President’s son, Donald Junior, had with Russians, prominent journalist Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News: “I don’t think it’s illegal. I don’t think anybody’s claiming that it’s illegal, but it does one thing – it totally undermines a six month story from the White House, to which I was sympathetic, that there wasn’t any collusion.”

An evolving crisis

A crisis is evolving with two key components. First, the Russian imbroglio is now a giant political distraction, wrecking the President’s influence on the agenda of the U.S. Congress, weakening his leverage with a rising number of Republican Congressmen on healthcare policy, while setting back hopes of tax reforms and infrastructure programs.

Second, the entanglements with the Russians daily become more confused and suspicious, and the White House and Donald Junior continue to issue contradictory statements.

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said Donald Junior met Russians to talk about Russia’s child adoption policies, later Donald Junior admitted it was set up to get reputation-damaging information about Hilary Clinton); and, who really was involved in secret talks with the Russians and were any deals made?

Only President Trump now seems to dispute that there was serious official Russian intervention in last year’s U.S. elections. The question now is whether the President is covering up the involvement of his election campaign team in its possible collusion with Russians tied to the Kremlin who sought to boost Trump’s election prospects by damaging Mrs. Clinton’s credibility.

Enthusiastic reception

The New York Times recently reported that a British publicity agent for celebrities, Ron Goldstone, sent an e-mail to Donald Junior on 6 June 2016, suggesting that he meet with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya who had negative information on Hilary. Donald was enthusiastic and the meeting took place at Trump Tower in New York eight days later.

Donald says that the lawyer provided none of the promised damaging information. But his story keeps changing.

President Trump claims he was never told about the meeting even though Donald was accompanied by then Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who for years had business ties to wealthy and politically connected Russians, and President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Four weeks after the mysterious meeting, on 12 July, Wikileaks published a large number of e-mails from the U.S. Democratic National Committee, which may have come from Russian computer hackers. And on 27 July, candidate Donald Trump stated publicly: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you can find Hilary’s missing 30,000 e-mails.”

Kushner and Russia

Jared Kushner, who holds an official senior advisor position in the White House, increasingly emerges in the rising number of stories in the U.S. press about meetings between Russians and the Trump team in the second half of 2016.

So far, it is unknown whether his involvements have to do with securing Russian help in smearing Hilary, or are related to the financing of his major real estate developments in New York.

I say unknown, but then The New York Times and The Washington Post, which daily are publishing leaked information on these matters, are probably far behind the investigations that special counsel Robert Mueller is pursuing.

As these investigations move ahead, so President Trump, Donald Junior and Jared Kushner are all hiring private lawyers to represent them. The President’s lawyers are publicly explicit that they only represent him and cannot speak for Donald Junior or Jared.

President Trump came into office pledging to “clean the swamp” of dirty Washington politics. The opposite seems to be the case. A few more months of Russian-related revelations and even stalwart Republican Party leaders will be publicly distancing themselves from the President in order to help their 2018 reelection campaigns.

A smoking gun?

The President denigrates the media as purveyors of “fake news;” he decries the investigations as a “witch hunt;” he refuses to listen to the high paid lawyers he has hired as he constantly Tweets comments that in time could deepen his legal problems – but only if a “smoking gun” is found.

And as I write these words, so dozens of investigative journalists, teams of investigators reporting to Robert Mueller, and other teams of investigators reporting to U.S. Congressional committees are searching desperately for the “smoking gun” that would open the door to launch the impeachment process against the President.

Increasingly distant and silent about all matters to do with the Russians is Vice President Mike Pence – the man who would replace Trump if indeed he is forced from office.

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About Frank Vogl

Frank Vogl is co-founder of Transparency International and author of Waging War on Corruption: Inside the Movement Fighting the Abuse of Power. [Washington D.C., United States]

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