The decline begins

Will this scandal eventually cost Donald Trump the presidency? Inquiring minds want to know.

In the past two days we have learned that Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, was in communication with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election campaign at the same time Russia was conducting an illegal espionage operation to help Trump win he presidency. Whoa. What? Isn’t that illegal?

Well, yes. Until Trump took the oath of office on January 20, both he and Flynn were not officials of the U.S. government, just plain citizens like you and me. The Logan Act specifically prohibits citizens from negotiating with other nations on behalf of the United States without authorization. Penalty is a fine and three years in prison or both.

The New York Times reports that U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted these communications about the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee. The intelligence agencies obviously want to know whether the Trump campaign was colluding with Russians on the hacking or any other efforts to influence the presidential election. So do we all. This morning, CNN reports that “high-level advisers” close to Trump were in “constant communication” with Russian officials during the American election season. Investigators were struck by “the frequency and the level of the Trump advisers involved.”

As we might expect, the Trump team denies everything.

Deniability became an often-used term during the Richard Nixon scandal in the 1970s. When several people working to re-elect Nixon were found to have broken into the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate office complex, Americans wanted and needed to know whether Nixon himself was involved and if so, to what extent. What did he know and when did he know it? became the key questions. As the Congressional investigation closed in on the president, he resigned in disgrace rather than face impeachment.

Nixon had a big ego, but even he lost his battle with the truth. Trump has a big ego, too, and he struggles with truth regularly. This time, Congress is stacked in his favor. Will enough of its members have the moral courage to actually represent America and get to the bottom of this?

My dear bride is fond of remarking that we are in for a long four years. My usual response is that he won’t last four years. Maybe this prediction is on a path to becoming reality. At minimum, Americans deserve leaders who obey the law and will not put us at risk. Now. Respect for the truth would be nice, too.

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