Washington Hugger Mugger

The press is so anxious to nail down the basis for a Trump impeachment that they run around trying to make matters that are inconclusive or even irrelevant seem definitive of treason. So one top national security official says that Jared Kushner did nothing wrong while another, who served in the Obama Administration, said a warning light went on for him when Kushner was said to be seeking to establish a back channel to the Kremlin that used Russian communications links. Maybe yes; maybe no. Maybe establishing a back channel is OK because other administrations in waiting have done so and maybe not if it is the case that Kushner kept that plan out of the reach of American intelligence officials, which we don’t know happened. On another matter, was Russian Ambassador Kislyak telling this story of Kushner’s offer to his people back home so as to disinform the Americans who he knew were listening in? All of this is out of “Homeland” But most of us, including me, don’t well enough know the customs that guide high level diplomacy and intelligence operations to pass judgment on these matters and neither do most of the press that feels called upon to opine on these matters.

What we do know, so far, is this, and we have known it for a while. A lot of Trump people, such as but not limited to Flynn and Manafort and Tillerson, had good ties to Russia, and that there were any number of contacts between top Trump people, like Kushner and Sessions, with the Russians both before the election and before the inauguration, as well as attempts to keep those contacts secret. We don’t know about Trump’s connections to the Russians because he won’t reveal his tax returns, but we do know that he never has a bad word to say about Putin. We also know that he, his son-in law and his daughter all have currently ongoing business dealings with the Chinese. It all smells fishy, more than coincidence, but there is as yet, as the expression goes, no connecting of the dots. People who hang around government seem to imply they think there is something there.

So the media are left to wait for something to happen. Meanwhile, they trot out the same information and try to make every new development, such as the fact that Trump is securing outside counsel, seem as if it were a major piece of breaking news. In fact, nothing much has happened in the past two or three weeks. Trump’s legislative agenda, if one assumes he has any other than what Paul Ryan suggests, is bogged down in Congress and Trump cozies up to dictators on his foreign trip while giving the back of his hand to traditional European allies. It doesn’t really matter because the Europeans know they can outlast Trump and that then America will return to its usual pro-European policy. Remember when the French got in hot water for opposing the Iraq War and “french fries” were relabelled “freedom fries” for a while? It all will pass. Even the reversal on the Paris Accords concerning climate change will not last and climate change is an issue for the long haul, if you dismiss the alarmists who say we are all doomed because we did not control carbon emissions a decade ago. (You could tell by his labored reading of his Rose Garden speech that he did not understand what he was reading, and does anyone trust the statistics he read off, anyway? For one thing, Trump says there will not be enough energy but blackouts instead if economic growth reaches four or five percent, something that is not going to happen). What is going on in his Administration, however, is the dismantling by the agencies of Obama era policies on drug and border enforcement and perhaps on education. But those too will not likely last as changes because Trump needs Congressional action to do much more, and Trump has not staffed up the executive branch well enough nor has he enough legislative clout to get much done.

The next thing that is going to happen is Comey’s testimony on Capitol Hill. As Ricky used to say to Lucy, he has plenty of “splaining” to do. Was it fair to drag Hillary over the coals twice, first by clearing her but maligning her as “reckless”, and then reopening the investigation of her e-mails, which was always a nothing charge, and so reminiscent of “Benghazi!, Benghazi! Benghazi!”, all the time knowing that there was an ongoing investigation of a much more serious matter, which was Russian involvement with the Trump campaign. Not much balance there. He might also shed light on an important piece of circumstantial evidence: would the Russians have been able to infiltrate the stolen information into the American media system without American help?  But Comey’s history shows he will pick and choose the issues about which he will make comments.

In short, I had thought Trump would do much more damage to the American system than he has so far accomplished and that I chalk up to his general incompetence as an administrator and a thinker and a communicator, but I have my fingers crossed because I don’t know what lame-brained idea about North Korea or domestic policing he will get into his head and that his staff will not be able to prevent him from carrying out. I don’t want him impeached, mind you, although it may come to that, should the FBI and the various Congressional investigations hit paydirt, because Mike Pence, who is much more to the right than Trump, and is coherent about it, knows how to work Congress, and could impose really serious damage on the system of government programs that have been in existence since the Thirties. But Trump alone is someone that we, like the Europeans, can outlast-- if we are lucky. That is where things stand now and are likely to remain till Mueller reports. So, if we can, let us ponder other things than Trump.