By D. Allan Kerr
Donald Trump ran for president in 2016 on a promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington.
Those paying attention recognized the preposterousness of this claim. Imagine a weasel promising to watch over your baby chicks.
Over the past couple of weeks it’s become especially clear Trump hasn’t drained the swamp, but rather expanded and remade it in his own image. He now IS the swamp.
He is essentially the Swamp Thing, for those who remember the old DC Comics character – a slimey creature who was once a man but became part of the muck surrounding him.
Except in Trump’s case, he plunged into an already corrosive environment and managed to contaminate it further. This is the true revelation of the much-discussed Mueller report – and the White House response to it.
I won’t claim to have read the entire report – it’s nearly 450 pages long and largely written in legalese. But I have perused segments of it to get my own sense of the contents rather than relying on the interpretation of others.
There are many “pick em” moments to choose from to illustrate how sleazy this administration has become, but here’s a particularly good one.
During a June 2017 weekend, Trump told then-White House Counsel Donald McGahn to call Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and have Robert Mueller removed as special counsel, claiming conflicts of interest.
“In interviews with this Office, McGahn recalled that the President called him at home twice and on both occasions directed him to call Rosenstein and say that Mueller had conflicts that precluded him from serving as Special Counsel,” the report states.
McGahn knew he couldn’t do this.
He had told Trump a month earlier his office should play no such part in the ongoing investigation, “and that he would suggest that the President not make such a call either.”
“He and other advisors believed the asserted conflicts were ‘silly’ and ‘not real,’ and they had previously communicated that view to the President,” according to the report.
Trump persisted on the phone, telling McGahn, “Call me back when you do it.”
After hanging up the phone, McGahn believed he would have to resign rather than follow thru on Trump’s directive.
He actually called his own lawyer and his chief of staff to advise them of his decision.
“He then drove to the office to pack his belongings and submit his resignation letter,” according to the report.
Trump wanted him to “do crazy shit,” he told Priebus without citing specifics.
They talked him into staying, McGahn returned to work that Monday and when he next saw his boss Trump didn’t even bring the topic up.
But Trump did talk to other advisors and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie about the possibility of firing Mueller. They advised against it.
When the story came out in the media the following January, Trump repeatedly tried to convince McGahn to deny it. First Trump sent the order thru his lawyer and aides. Then he took a more direct approach.
“The President later personally met with McGahn in the Oval Office with only the Chief of Staff present and tried to get McGahn to say that the President never ordered him to fire the Special Counsel,” according to the report.
“Each time he was approached, McGahn responded that he would not refute the press accounts because they were accurate in reporting on the President’s effort to have the Special Counsel removed,” the report states.
Trump contended he merely wanted McGahn to share with Rosenstein his own perceptions of a conflict in Mueller’s role. So instead Trump did his own lying. When reporters asked about news stories claiming he tried to have Mueller fired, he flatly denied it.
“Fake news, folks. Fake news,” he said. “A typical New York Times fake story.”
McGahn ultimately did leave his post more than a year later.
Now, here’s a funny thing – those weekend phone calls to McGahn occurred immediately after published media reports announced Trump himself was being investigated by Mueller for obstruction of justice.
So the man now occupying the Oval Office tried to get his subordinates to fire the guy who was investigating him, then he tried to convince at least one of them to lie about it, and then he lied about it.
A wide array of slimeball shenanigans by Trump and his team are reported in this document.
The lies claiming Rosenstein, not Trump, had pushed to fire James Comey as FBI director are thoroughly documented. Trump’s claim Mueller had been rejected as Comey’s replacement was also a lie.
And you’ve by now heard Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ admission she committed a “slip of the tongue” when she alleged they had heard from “countless members of the FBI” who didn’t approve of Comey’s performance.
In fact, there was no factual basis for the claim. She lied.
In the aftermath of the report’s release, Trump’s recently appointed attorney general told Congress some lies of his own.
William Barr claimed he had no idea what Mueller thought of his four-page summary of the 448-page report, but as we know now Mueller was so concerned with the summary’s misrepresentation he sent Barr a letter about it.
Legal scholars can argue over whether there’s enough in this report to press charges against a sitting president, but the pages merely confirm what I already knew about Swamp Thing.
I actually agree with Sen. Lindsey Graham, who made this observation about Bill Clinton 20 years ago:
“You don’t even have to be convicted of a crime to lose your job in this constitutional republic if this body determines that your conduct as a public official is clearly out of bounds in your role,” Graham told his fellow congressmen that day.
“Because impeachment is not about punishment,” Graham said. “Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.”
(May 10, 2019)