Donald Trump has left the country for his first foreign trip as president and what he has left behind is a brewing crisis that appears to deepen by the day, and even the hour.
There is a sense that blood is in the water, that Trump’s erratic, self-destructive behavior, aversion to honesty and authoritarian desire for absolute control may in some way, at some point, lead to his undoing and that the pace of that undoing is quickening.
Last week Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein took the extraordinary step of naming former F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee the investigation of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”
This was a significant ratcheting up. This is a criminal inquiry, by an independent operator who is well respected. The investigation is now largely insulated from politics. This investigation must now run its course, whether that takes months or years, and go wherever the facts may lead.
But that has not stopped Trump from whining in a tweet, “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” and saying during a commencement address:
“Look at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly.”
Not only is this a laughable assertion that could only be uttered by someone who isn’t a student of history or a reader of books, but it also resurfaces one of Trump’s most vexatious qualities: perpetual wallowing in self-victimization and the shedding of his own tears for a spurious suffering that only exists in the muddle of his mind.
Grow up! Just correction is not jaundiced crucifixion. Any hell you’re in is a hell you made. You are the author of your own demise. You are not being unfairly targeted; instead your above-the-rules, beyond-the-law sense of privilege is being tested and found insufficient. It will not immunize you against truth and justice.
There are very serious questions here, ones that include but are not limited to collusion. They also now include the possibility of treason, obstruction of justice and making false statements.
It is increasingly clear that there is more to know than we now know.
There is more to know about former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn’s activities, and who knew what about those activities and when. There is more to know about the president’s interactions with James Comey and the reason for Comey’s firing. There is more to know about the true extent of contact between Trump associates and the Russians.
Did the president have inappropriate conversations with Comey, then director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in an effort to exculpate himself and mitigate inquiries about Flynn?
Trump’s and Comey’s accounts, at least as they are being reported, conflict on these counts. One of these men is lying. And while I am no fan of Comey — his buzzer-beating hijinks with Hillary’s email just before the election helped hand this country over to Trump and his cabal of corruption — I am more prone to believe him than Trump, a proven, pathological liar.
The crisis isn’t limited only to Trump.
Did Vice President Mike Pence not know that Flynn was under investigation by the F.B.I. for lobbying on behalf of Turkey until “March, upon first hearing the news”? How can that be when, as The New York Times reported last week, Flynn “told President Trump’s transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case.” Pence led the transition team.
How can Pence claim ignorance when Representative Elijah E. Cummings, ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent Pence a letter on Nov. 18, explicitly spelling out:
“Lt. Gen. Flynn’s General Counsel and Principal, Robert Kelley, confirmed that they were hired by a foreign company to lobby for Turkish interests, stating: ‘They want to keep posted on what we all want to be informed of: the present situation, the transition between President Obama and President-Elect Trump.’ When asked whether the firm had been hired because of Lt. Gen. Flynn’s close ties to President-elect Trump, Mr. Kelley responded, ‘I hope so.’ ”
It isn’t possible Pence knew nothing. I believe Pence is a liar like his boss.
We knew that Pence was a liar when during the vice-presidential debatehe repeatedly claimed that Trump had not in fact said things that he was recorded on television saying.
The only difference between the two is delivery. Trump is bombastic and abrasive with his lies. Pence cleverly delivers his with earnestness and solemnity. But a lie is a lie.
The whole White House crew must be fully investigated and held to account. It is time for justice to be served and honor restored. The dishonest must be dislodged.
This piece was originally published at the New York Times.