Presidency in Crisis 1/12/19

By Richard E. Bleil, Ph.D.

Although I doubt that I’ll be able to say a lot that you haven’t already heard, I would like to take a moment to synthesize some of the recent developments over the presidency. Whether or not you are a supporter, it’s important to understand these developments if you are to speak of them competently. The sad reality is that these issues are not just a problem for the president, but for all of us. Any controversy with the Office of the President soils all of us, both in the view of the world, but also in our ability to function effectively.

The New York Times reported that, shortly after the firing of James Comey, the FBI launched an investigation on the president for his actions. Their concern is whether or not the President of the United States was acting in the interests of Russia, or was merely being unknowingly manipulated. This report was followed up with independent reports on CNN, which verified the sources and their statements, and the BBC which, as an external news source, should be unbiased. What concerned me the most was that the investigation gave two options, namely, knowing cooperation or ignorant manipulation.

It might be worth reminding the reader of the Comey controversy. James was the Director of the FBI from 2013 (from the Obama presidency) until he was fired by the Trump in 2017. He had been registered as a Republican for most of his life (he changed his registration to “Independent”) and drew considerable ire when he re-opened the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of private email at a time during the presidential campaign that cost her considerable support. This investigation had been opened and reopened several times, but never resulted in a conviction. Comey’s action was questioned as whether or not it was timed to help the Trump campaign, but nobody could justly claim he supported the Democratic party. The reasons for his dismissal included handling of the Clinton investigation (which Trump felt was poorly done and should have resulted in charges) and Russian interference in the election (which Trump stated was unfounded).

There was no resolution to the FBI investigation. It was handed off to Robert Mueller, with an investigation that continues. This investigation, called a “witch hunt” by president Trump, has so far resulted in thirty-three indictments or confessions. These include former lawyers for the president, highly ranked campaign personnel, highly ranked presidential transition team members, high ranking former Trump cabinet members and more. While some might argue that, so far, it has not touched the President himself, this is still a critical concern. To have so many members that were so close to the president indicted for obstruction of justice, collusion, and other charges, it’s certainly not looking good for the man who appointed them. Criticism that the president is, so far, untouched is ignorant of the office. The reality is that there will be no charges against the president until the investigation is closed, even if there is sufficient evidence already for the indictment. This is a highly sensitive issue, which means that any professional (like Mueller) would not leak details from the investigation, or bring charges until there is both absolutely no doubt, and the investigation is complete. This is to protect the entire country, not the president.

The Mueller report is due soon, but the investigation has been extended an additional six months. Those who feel it has gone too long is forgetting the length of the investigations into Bill Clinton (that resulted in nothing except sexual misconduct) and Hillary Clinton that resulted in no charges at all. If it is released soon, it will likely be incomplete, but will cover obstruction of justice, collusion and other problems. Unfortunately, these charges have already been substantiated, if not by Trump himself, then at least by his cabinet and choices for high positions. Whether there are any more indictments or not, whether the president is subjected to impeachment or not, the damage has already been done, not by the investigation, but by the current presidential administration.

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