Frederick Hall: Trump’s drive to be the only one with power
July 31, 2018
Trump vowed to "Make America Great Again." Statements during the campaign and since give clues to what his catchy phrase means to him.
Restoring the respect America once commanded in the eyes of the world is of first importance. He says he would reverse the shameful weakness of previous administrations regarding Russia and fix our disgraceful trade policy that allows other countries to rip us off while stealing our jobs and secrets.
Ditto the spineless attitude that guarantees our coming to the aid of allies that don't meet their NATO spending commitments.
How, then, can Trump explain his behavior in Helsinki?
But each new indictment, guilty plea or piece of documentary evidence made Trump doubters more suspicious.
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Secretary of State Pompeo and National Security Advisor Bolton backed up the intelligence community's emphatic statement that Russia interfered in our 2016 election. Also in Helsinki, Putin confirmed that he himself ordered the meddling. Given that golden gift of solid evidence and on the grandest possible international stage to show that America deserves respect, our president proved himself both liar and coward.
Saying that he was told that it could be Russia or could be other countries that meddled was an outright lie. Why did he need to lie? He was a coward to meekly claim a convincing denial in privacy from a dictator who acknowledged — on international television — personal responsibility for the meddling. Why was he so weak-kneed? The bulwark that smaller nations have counted on since World War II sold out. Respect for greatness indeed!
Back at home, special prosecutor Mueller's investigation has sparked spirited and often bitterly partisan disagreement. Supporters accepted Trump's twin mantra — "witch hunt" and "no collusion." But each new indictment, guilty plea or piece of documentary evidence made Trump doubters more suspicious. Think of these individual events as resembling a scattered island chain extending from Trump toward Putin and from Putin back toward Trump.
New information added new islands and made the possibility of a link between the presidents more visible, yet their significance remained ambiguous. Supporters could say there was only circumstantial evidence maliciously cobbled together to tar Trump with false charges, i.e., call it "fake news." The burden of proof correctly lay on his accusers.
Specifics in the indictment of Maria Butina as a Russian agent changed that. They include the proposal for Putin's disinformation project and identities of the Russian intelligence officers and the computers and aliases they used to carry out his order. They also cite specific Republican Party officials involved at this end in 2015. The onus is now on Trump to show that there was no collusion.
That documentary evidence of a connection between Russia and the Trump campaign turns ambiguous actions into reasons for very serious concern about our national security. Notice that each of these actions strengthens Putin's position and weakens America's. Trump:
Upgraded Russia from decades-long strategic threat to competitor.
Praised dictator Putin for his strong leadership.
Excluded both Pompeo and Bolton (who accuse only Russia) from the summit.
Blamed the U.S. for worsening relations with Russia.
Defended staff members who lied about contacts with Russia.
Called NATO obsolete, threatening to ignore attacks on members.
Labeled European Union nations our foes.
Described Canada as a security threat.
Given clear evidence of a Russia-Trump connection, it is dangerously foolish not to see Trump's stream of tweets as a bullfighter's cape bent on diverting attention from something very significant and very negative for America. What is he hiding? If Trump threatens our security and democracy, Americans deserve to know. Finding that out is the goal of the Mueller investigation and the reason why it must continue to completion.
Sadly, though, Trump remains a threat to America's democracy even if Mueller shows that Russia is not a clear and present danger. In a 1980 Rona Barrett interview, Trump lamented America's loss of respect and said that government doesn't work because capable people don't run for office. Then this key statement: "One man could turn this thing around." Subsequent actions illuminate both that philosophy and his desire for unchecked power:
Praising tyrants like Putin, Erdogan and Kim.
Boasting that "only I can fix it."
Claiming, as chief law enforcement officer, immunity from subpoena or prosecution.
Asking Supreme Court candidates for loyalty.
Intervening to manipulate the Department of Justice.
Calling our independent press "enemies of the people."
All are contrary to democracy and the rule of law. We must not let the current flurry obscure Trump's drive to be the only one with power.
Frederick Hall lives in Grass Valley.