Before he became president, when he was still governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton and his wife were accused of being involved in a shady real estate deal. The story was that Bill pressured bankers to make unsound loans and lawyer Hillary was behind the slippery legal work that provided the whole thing with a veneer of probriety.
Dubbed ‘Whitewater’, the investigation took years and while neither Bill nor Hillary were ever charged with anything, most of the other people involved in the saga were convicted of crimes.
My how times have changed. Donald Trump’s recent intervention to protect his Washington DC hotel from competition is already old news. In case you missed it, the story goes like this: The FBI’s building is near a Trump hotel. The building is very run down and the FBI needs more space, so it was planning to move. Once it moved, the land could have been redeveloped as a hotel, which would compete with Trump’s.
Trump intervened in the process and now the FBI is pursuing a much more expensive solution. It involves partially staying put so the land cannot be redeveloped into a hotel that competes with Trump’s.
The Whitewater investigation went on for more than 3 years. Trump’s FBI influence was a story for about 3 days. There aren’t any Russians or porn stars involved (so far) to keep it in the news.
Which is good for Trump, because his supporters, who stick with him through almost anything, might actually be bothered by this kind of petty corruption. Even better for Trump is that his opponents are pretty inept at keeping his petty-theft swampiness in the news.
Trump’s opponents need someone who has a demonstrated ability to keep a story in the news and press Trump’s buttons, someone like Stormy Daniels’ lawyer. Maybe they should hire Michael Avenatti to sue Trump. At a minimum, the visibility might kill the FBI deal, costing the Trump Organization a bunch of money.
Donald Trump took another swipe at the FBI last week, calling it ‘disgraceful’. Some people thought he was trying to get the FBI to back off. More likely, he was insuring himself against anything the FBI finds against him.
No matter what the facts of what the FBI uncovers, Trump will say that it is untrue and just sour grapes from an agency that is out to get him because he had the balls to point out its shortcomings. If he can discredit anything the FBI (or Mueller) turns up, he will be way ahead in the court of public opinion. And impeachment is mostly a court of public opinion, which he knows very well.
As the man said, the best defense is a good offense. Discredit your potential accusers before they even start to present their case, and all of the sudden their facts become ‘facts’.
James Comey’s testimony before the US Congress this week will not bring President Donald Trump down. There was a lot of circumstantial evidence, but no smoking gun.
In the long term though, Comey might prove to be very influential. He accused Trump of lying about him and, more importantly, the FBI. This was a call to arms to the FBI and the law enforcement community in general: “Don’t let Trump get away with trying to insult and manipulate us.”
The real danger to Trump is that the FBI will take this to heart and redouble its efforts to uncover the Russia connections to the Trump administration. And it may not stop there. Bill Clinton was being investigated for the Whitewater affair, but after finding nothing the special counsel then turned to whether he had sex with an intern. The House voted to impeach him for lying about that.
The special counsel investigating Trump is a former FBI director. If he and the FBI heed Comey’s call to arms, Trump could be in for a very rough ride.
Anyone who follows politics knows that when it comes to scandals, it is not the transgression that gets you, it’s the cover up. Nevertheless, politicians continue to cover things up rather than just admit to them, face the music and try to move on.
There was some reasonable expectation that Donald Trump would be different. After all, he was the one that claimed he could shoot someone in Times Square and still maintain his support. But it was not to be, and a few days ago Trump succumbed. He fired the FBI director, apparently for digging too deeply into his Russian connections.
By taking this extreme step that was clearly politically motivated, Trump likely achieves a number of unwanted objectives.
- He makes enemies of a whole bunch of FBI personnel that can hurt him with their investigations and, more importantly, their leaks.
- He gives the press renewed incentive to pursue the story
- He gives his enemies in congress more ammo that he is undemocratic
- He encourages more leaking by other members of the executive branch that disagree with politicizing the FBI
Inevitably, Trump’s Russian connections will be exposed. They could be around manipulating the election, they could be around his business empire being financed by Putins’ billionaire friends, they could be around his hotels getting sweetheart deals in Russia. There is a good chance it will be all of the above.
Whatever the connections turn out to be, they will not be the impeachable offense. That will be his efforts to cover them up.