RICHARD BUTLER. The ring seems to be closing on the Trump Presidency

Dec 13, 2017

Every day brings deeper levels of concern about Trump’s conduct of his office. There is widening and, given American respect for the office itself, uncharacteristically public speculation about his fitness for it. The ring appears to be closing.       

Five actions deserve attention.

First, the concerted and flagrant attack by Republican members of Congress, last week, on Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, and his conduct of the investigation with which he is charged, under law. This together with Trump’s assertion that the investigation is a “witch hunt” and the FBI is “in tatters” signals an attempt to discredit the outcome of the investigation, whatever it might be.

The politics of this are clear, although exactly what Trump fears will be concerning Mueller’s findings is not. More importantly, Trump’s stance challenges the integrity of the US institutional system and the separation of powers so vital to that system. These are not small matters and bear in mind, the investigation addresses nothing less than the prospect that the election of a President was the subject of inadmissible foreign interference.

Secondly, from amongst the large amount of commentary written about what is at issue, an Op-Ed, by EJ Dionne published on December 10th in the Washington Post, encapsulates very clearly, the systemic damage being done. It bears reading.

Thirdly, three members of Congress, accused of sexual harassment have resigned, or have announced that they will resign. It has not escaped notice that: none of the charges against them have been examined in any detail, let alone tried; none of them have conceded that they acted as it has been alleged; yet, each of them have concluded that the appropriate course of action is for them to resign. Reportedly, further such resignations are expected.

Fourthly, it has been fulsomely pointed out that accusations of the same character against Trump have been made by some fifteen women; all denied by Trump, and/or his official spokesperson. Some of these women have re-entered the argument very publicly, and propose to continue with it, including by seeking a hearing in a Court and/or a Congressional investigation.

It is pointed out that in Trump’s case there has been an admission by him, of actions, which constitute sexual harassment, recorded in the “Access Hollywood” video-tape. Indeed he boasted about his actions, able to be taken because of his celebrity. Incredibly, Trump has edged towards claiming that, the tape, is a fake.

Finally, that is, at least for now, two days ago, Trump’s Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, in answer to a question put to her on “Face the Nation” said she thought all women with accusations against the President should be heard, as should all women with sexual harassment grievances.

One can only imagine a ‘phone call Trump may have made to her after that, but presumably even he would have calculated the disaster which would ensue if he chose to use his now legendary dictate; “your fired”.

It is speculated that Haley may be contemplating a run for the Presidency in the future. Was this her opening shot, illustrating her reluctance to be tarred, completely in the future, with the Trump brush? Maybe she has calculated that the threat she made in the Security Council last week, that North Korea would be “destroyed”, if it did not bend to the US’ will, would stand her in good stead, in Republican circles.

  Later today, the people of Alabama will vote in a special election of a US Senator. The Republican candidate Roy Moore is  credibly accused  as a  sexual predator of under-age girls. Trump has endorsed him vigorously, campaigned for him and the Republican leadership after expressing deep concerns about Moore’s candidacy, has moved into line.

The contest is tight, but given Alabama’s attachment to the Republican’s its predicted that Moore will win, if narrowly.

These circumstances have prompted sober commentators to argue that what is now at stake in this is no less than the overall credibility of the Republican Party. That may stretch the boundaries of interpretation of these events a bit far, but the hypocrisy involved in their decision to stick with Moore, for no other reason than that the alternative is that the devil, a Democrat, would be elected, doesn’t say much for Trump’s posture that, if elected President, he would “ drain the swamp”.

Interesting State, Alabama. The pervasiveness of Christian fundamentalists there, leads them to support Republicans and in today’s case, apparently even though the Republican candidate is widely believed to have been a pederast, they may do so again. Presumably they will assume that it’s for the Lord to judge him, not them.

But, 17% of Alabamans live below the poverty line, and it was in Montgomery, Alabama, that in 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus, on the day in which segregated buses were declared to be illegal. The democrats might just prevail in today’s election, if sufficient Africa Americans, who make up a good portion of the 17%, vote.

Richard Butler AC,  formerly Ambassador to the UN; Professor of International Affairs at NYU and Penn State University.

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