Frederick Hall: Trump’s contempt for the truth
May 19, 2017
Democracy, though often tumultuous and messy, carried us safely through severe challenges and well into our third century as a nation.
Will it — can it — also survive the current massive assault? I certainly hope so. President Trump's firing of FBI director James Comey in the wake of his previous actions puts that in serious doubt.
The White House cited Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's critique of Comey's handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation as the reason. Let's get real. Both Trump and Attorney General Sessions praised Comey for his handling shortly before the election. I'm not arguing for or against Comey's action. I am certainly saying that the official reason simply didn't ring true. Trump, the candidate who boasted that he would show his power on Day One, did nothing about Comey until now … months after the events and well over 100 days into his presidency.
White House sources offered a series of conflicting explanations in the furor that followed. Trump himself said that he merely accepted Rosenstein's recommendation to fire Comey. Rosenstein, however, only collected facts without saying what to do about them.
A White House statement issued several days after the firing made sense: Trump wanted to end the distraction of attention from healthcare and tax reform. No doubt that's true, but he also wanted to end the investigation. What supports that belief? Start with the fact that multiple intelligence agencies confirmed Russia's meddling with our election. Let the seriousness of that sink in. Then ponder the horrible implications for our future if — and I emphasize if — our president's campaign team colluded with those meddlers. Then think of what a cynical farce his slogan "Making America Great" would become.
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Finally, put all that in the context of other Trump actions that are well documented. He:
Admired Putin and Assad for their strong style of governing;
Warned journalists that they would pay a price for criticizing him;
Installed family members in his Cabinet and inner circle;
Installed Cabinet members who epitomize of the Wall Street he vowed to rein in;
Installed Scott Pruitt — a man who made his living suing the EPA — to head it;
Successfully pushed the Senate to change its rules in order to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court;
Browbeat House Republicans to pass, on a second vote, a health-care bill that reneges on three of his campaign promises;
Insists still that it's none of our business who his businesses owe money to;
Blatantly overstated the number of supporters demonstrating in his favor.
That litany defines a man obsessed with both his public image and getting his way. He shows himself willing to say or do whatever it takes to do that … or at least present the false image of having won. Imagine his anguish as a sitting president yet under investigation for possible collusion with a foreign power hostile to our values and interests. How timely that a smiling Trump was photographed (by Russians) shaking hands with Russia's foreign minister and ambassador the day after he fired Comey!
In that context, how can we not suspect that Trump specifically intended to hamper the FBI's ongoing investigation? For the sake of our children and generations on end, I wish fervently that the truth — whether absolving or damning — will be exposed and justice served.
We must not forget this footnote: Realizing that outcome for the investigation only counters the threat this time. The firing is another Trump action that shows contempt for truth and for separation of powers in government and for trustworthiness. All are essential elements of democracy. His voracious appetite for getting his way will put them under attack again and again.
Frederick Hall lives in Grass Valley.