As we recall now, it was James McCord, our nation’s 37th president, who in 1974 famously said, “People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook.”
Oh, right; James McCord wasn’t president. He was just the first name of note – a campaign committee schlemiel arrested for a third-rate burglary – in a chain of offenses ultimately tied to the man who profited politically from a vast dirty tricks campaign: 37th President Richard Nixon.
Mike Flynn isn’t our president, either. National security adviser for a hiccup, Flynn is just the person to whom investigators want to talk at the moment. He is our James McCord in a scandal bigger than Watergate.
It involves Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election, acts acknowledged by FBI director James Comey, acts dismissed with a smirk by Trump.
It involves Trump’s attempts to cow Comey before canning him. It involves Trump’s attempts to intimidate former acting attorney general Sally Yates with threatening tweets the day she testified before Congress. And of course, it involves that time-honored tradition: a cover-up.
So, we are talking here of one of two impeachable offenses: (1) obstruction of justice, the Trump way, and (2) obstruction of democracy, the Russian way.
On the first count, Harvard constitutional superstar Lawrence Tribe calls Trump’s dealings in Comey’s firing “vastly more serious” than anything Nixon did.
We appreciate the president explaining that on three occasions he solicited assurances from Comey that the FBI wasn’t investigating him. Code for you and me: “I am not a crook.” Code for Comey: “You’re fired if I don’t hear what I want to hear.”
Why in the world, if it were investigating Russian meddling in the election and collusion involving the Trump campaign, would the FBI ever take Trump’s role off the table?
This brings us back to the other act of obstruction, an act many are forgetting at the moment, the one pertaining to our democracy.
As Comey said unequivocally before a congressional committee, the Russians did a whole bunch of things to try to influence the 2016 vote. We all know the horse which horse they placed their bets.
Trump’s blank-look bemusement about this has been impeachable on its face.
Much evidence has been assembled about the Trump team’s interaction with the Soviets before he assumed office. Most curiously, Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s met with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner (and not the president-elect?) at Trump Tower in December.
When such things were revealed, what did Trump say the issue was? The issue, he said, was surveillance of his people. He hasn’t denied the meeting in question.
How unbelievable it is that the Russian ambassador could have been in Trump Tower without at least a handshake with the man Putin most wanted to congratulate for his beefy conquest? It can’t be believed.
As Rachel Maddow said the night of Comey’s firing, we’re listening closely, and the White House cannot offer an explanation thus far about just about anything is has done from Day 1 that “has the benefit of being true.”
Trump apologists blow off the Russian story. It had no actual influence on the 2016 result, they say. That’s not the issue. Neither is the assertion that rogue “Trump surrogates” did suspect things. This is about Trump and no one else.
The 1799 Logan Act forbids civilians from engaging in diplomacy with nations with which the United States has a dispute. Conceivably, we don’t even need proof that Trump assured the Russians sanctions would be lifted. All we can assume is that Team Trump jumped the gun to deal with Russia before it had any such authority.
Mike Flynn isn’t the story. “Trump surrogates” are not the story. Just as he’s insisted all along, Donald Trump is the story.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: email@example.com.