“There has never been anyone who has defended us and who has fought for us, who we have loved more than Donald J. Trump. No one!”
This recent statement by religious-right activist Ralph Reed is objectively true, at least when it comes to sloppy kisses for the president. Considered purely as a political transaction, religious conservatives have gotten two appointments to the Supreme Court who set their hearts aflutter. They, in return, have shifted from the language of political realism to the language of love.
Trump has not gone back on the conservative promises of his 2016 campaign. More than that, he has not let up in his attacks against liberal elites who disdain religious conservatives. Reed is correct that Trump has “defended us” and “fought for us.”
But this language itself should raise warning signs. Is this really how most conservative Christians view the political enterprise — as the vindication of their own interests rather than the good of the whole? Were Christian political activists of the 19th century — such as William Wilberforce , Frederick Douglass , Charles Grandison Finney and Harriet Beecher Stowe — primarily concerned with the respect accorded to their own religious community? No, they were known for taking the side of the oppressed and vulnerable.
It now seems like a different world. Maybe even a different conception of God.
Religious conservatives are now firmly allied in the public mind with a leader who practices the politics of exclusion. And there is every indication that this community will hold Trump in an ever-tighter embrace. Even if the Democratic nominee is Joe Biden, the process of securing that nomination will push him further to the left on social issues (which he demonstrated in his about-face support for federal funding of abortion). This will make the contrast between Trump and his eventual opponent all the more dramatic on social issues.
Even as evidence mounted last week that a Saudi Arabian hit squad had murdered and dismembered his friend, Jamal Khashoggi, Washington operative Ali Shihabi took to Twitter to do what he does best: defend the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“Leaders and governments make mistakes, sometimes horrible ones,” the suave 59-year-old wrote in a 13-part Twitter thread on Oct. 20. “At present, the Saudi government has been humbled and chastened … But one horrible murder cannot and will not be allowed to put the country further at risk.”
Although the former mayor says that he is acting as Donald Trump’s outside legal counsel, it’s increasingly clear that his main role is that of attack dog. His principal assignment: to bloody Mueller, and, if possible, disable him.
.. During his sitdown with Ingraham, Giuliani extended this argument, arguing that for “the same reason they can’t indict him, they can’t issue a subpoena to him.”
These statements raise an obvious question: If Mueller really has nothing on Trump, and if, in any case, he is barred from bringing an indictment or issuing a Presidential subpoena, why are the President and his attorneys so concerned about the investigation?
.. As the Republican congressman Trey Gowdy remarked to Trump’s former lead attorney, John Dowd, after he called on Mueller to wrap it up, “If you have an innocent client … act like it.”
the special counsel’s team has proceeded methodically for the past twelve months on at least five distinct but connected fronts:
- Russian trolling and voter-targeting on social-media platforms;
- the hacking and release of Democratic e-mails;
- direct contacts between members of the Trump campaign and individuals connected to the Russian government;
- Trump’s business dealings with people and entities connected to Russia; and
- possible obstruction of justice.
.. Strictly speaking, that is a separate probe. But nobody on Trump’s team doubts that if and when Cohen decides to coöperate with the prosecutors, Mueller’s investigators will be all ears.
.. as early as last fall, Mueller’s team demanded information from some of the companies that hired the Trump fixer as a consultant after the election. This suggests that the investigation is running many months ahead of the media, and also, perhaps, ahead of the White House’s knowledge of its activities.
.. we know, courtesy of a leak to the Times by Trump’s lawyers, is that Mueller wants to pose at least forty-nine questions to the President himself. Despite Trump’s constant refrain that there was no collusion with Russia, many of these questions also relate directly to what happened before the 2016 election.
.. “During the campaign, what did you know about Russian hacking, use of social media, or other acts aimed at the campaign?” and
“What knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign, including by Paul Manafort, to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign?”
.. if Mueller found evidence of a serious crime involving the President, and he believed it should be prosecuted in an ordinary court of law, he could go to Rosenstein, who in this case would be the acting Attorney General—and the ultimate decision would fall on Rosenstein’s shoulders.
.. Most people in Washington don’t expect Mueller to bring criminal charges against Trump. If he doesn’t, and Trump doesn’t fire him before he completes his investigation, the key issue—whether or not to impeach Trump—may well be left to Congress. And since Congress operates in the court of public opinion, this would ultimately be a political decision.
That, of course, is another reason that Trump brought in Giuliani—to stick up for him and his family in public, even if that involves defending the indefensible
.. we can rest assured that they won’t be put off by Giuliani’s bluster.
The president’s attempted ouster of Mr. Mueller seems plainly to have been intended to squelch Mr. Mueller’s investigation. Moreover, Mr. Trump’s attempts to conceal the obvious with a rank, virtually comical explanation provide additional evidence of guilty intent.
Mr. Mueller, the president argued, could not serve because, years before, he had resigned his membership at the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia because of a dispute over fees; or he needed to be fired because he had worked at the law firm that previously represented Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Why strain to concoct such feeble rationales unless the truth is indefensible?
.. The threat to resign carries with it the possible implication that he saw more: a crime, even a continuing conspiracy, that he wanted to distance both Mr. Trump and himself from.
.. It’s also consistent with the Washington tradition of self-serving conduct with an eye toward ensuring that you don’t go down with the ship.
.. Mr. McGahn’s pushback starts to look like a John Dean moment in the Trump administration: the juncture when actors in the White House, including the White House counsel, began to realize that there is, in Mr. Dean’s famous phrase, “a cancer on the presidency.”
.. And they know that there is more to come, beginning with Steve Bannon’s interview with the special counsel.
.. The events it details happened over six months ago but are only now coming to light. For whose benefit? The Times report is sourced to four people
.. Some number of people in the know have decided, perhaps in concert, to drop a bombshell now, one they kept to themselves for many months.
.. Perhaps from their insiders’ perches, they see that Mr. Mueller is wrapping up a case of obstruction that the president probably cannot defend against, because he is guilty. And perhaps they are jockeying to position themselves favorably, in the belief that Mr. Trump may be impeached (if not removed from office) and that there will be a broad reckoning,
.. he has every reason to think as he looks around him that his staff is wondering who will be next to go — by discharge or criminal charge — and there is nobody whose loyalty he can be sure of