The political climate is changing. After Friday, temperatures are rising higher and the leading denier, of course, is Donald Trump, who after last week’s bombshells could only turn to social media.
“Totally clears the President. Thank you.” Tweeted @realDonaldTrump.
But the release last Friday of those federal prosecutor’s memos about President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, does anything but clear the president. For the first time the memos link Trump to real criminality, the organizing of hush payments to two female companions so as not to hurt his presidential campaign, a violation of campaign finance laws.
One memo by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York says Cohen “acted in coordination and at the direction of Individual 1”.
Individual 1? It was an obvious reference to Trump.
If your jaw didn’t drop at the news, then maybe it’s because we’ve gotten used to bombshells during the Trump era. But let me assure you, it is not an everyday thing to see the president of the United States, the leader of the free world, implicated in an illegal scheme.
A law-breaking president and commander- in-chief isn’t an example of an innovative positive disruption in governance.
The second memo, by prosecutors in Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, said Cohen had dealings with Russians as early as November 2015, far earlier than first thought. It also mentions Cohen’s work in the “Moscow Project,” Trump’s dream of a Trump Tower in Russia. Mueller’s memo talks about the goal of creating a “political synergy” with Russia.
Creating “political synergy” with a known foreign enemy in order to enrich oneself with a hotel project is also not normal.
A third filing on Friday by the special counsel accused former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort of more lying about Russia and his continued connections with the Trump administration after he was indicted. Lies, unfortunately, are standard with the Trump administration.
Trump continued to deny it all in another tweet Saturday.
“This is collusion illusion, there is no smoking gun here. At this late date after all that we have gone through, after millions have been sent, we have no Russian Collusion. There is nothing impeachable here. Time for the Witch Hunt to END.”
But the filings show the investigation into Trump is definitely not a witch hunt. To borrow from the president’s favorite analogy, Friday’s memos are just the tip of the witch’s hat.
We find our country at a new low.And the memos indicate there is so much more that has yet to be revealed by prosecutors.
For historical perspective, David Gergen, a former presidential adviser who served under Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, and currently a professor of public service and co-director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School, was asked on CNN if he’d seen anything like last Friday. Ever.
His answer was simple. No, he hadn’t.
Harry Litman a former U.S. attorney and assistant attorney general who teaches at UCLA and UC San Diego, writing in USA Today, said the reveals on Friday show Trump is a “baby step away from the flat conclusion that the president is a felon: it does not specifically assert that Trump acted ‘knowingly and willfully,’ but it would be peculiar to try to suggest that the president both directed the scheme and acted innocently.”
Litman concluded the Friday memos were no less an indictment of a president than the article of impeachment against Nixon or The Starr Report on Clinton.
A Republican Senate is the only thing that keeps impeachment talk tamped down. But how long can they take the heat? Or continue on with a compromised Trump?
Even Democrats have tried to downplay the “I” word, saying they want to focus on doing what’s right for all Americans.
Still, with a new, diverse House of Representatives coming to power in January, the little that has been revealed in the Trump investigation may be enough to begin talks of a removal for real.
Trump, the anti-diversity president, has empowered White House extremists resulting in increased incidents of hate crimes and intolerance. In his two years, we’ve seen homophobic and xenophobic Trump moves in everything from military service and immigration to voting rights. In higher ed, we’ve seen rollbacks on affirmative action guidance and on sexual harassment policies.
But that’s merely bad policy. Friday’s memos reveal potential criminality.
How much longer can we continue to entrust the leadership of our country to a man Friday’s memos referred to as “Individual 1”?
Can the country afford to keep a man in the White House who may deserve to be in The Big House?
In some ways, George H.W. Bush’s death served as a tremendous reminder for our country. Presidents can have bad policies, but can still be decent people. 41 had some bad policies, but was there ever a doubt he believed in the American people? And in the institution of the American presidency?
During the Bush state funeral, in that pew of living presidents, people noticed that Trump was the only president who did not say the “Apostle’s Creed.”
Maybe because Trump’s creed starts, “I believe in Don, the father almighty.”
He’ll have to pray extra hard to stave off what’s looking to be a dark and wicked winter.
Emil Guillermo is a veteran journalist and commentator. He writes for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. You can follow him on Twitter @emilamok.