Revelations linking the Russian affair, and suspicions of collusion are gaining momentum. Even if there isn’t an unmistakable demonstration of collusion, the White House has, with Michael Flynn’s indictment, given off clear panic signals.
Donald Trump’s decisions to fire his newly appointed national security advisor in February and then to oust FBI Director James Comey in May have not and will not stop haunting this presidency.
By acknowledging his guilt in making false statements and by agreeing to collaborate with the law, Flynn potentially exposes Trump, if not his entire team, to all sorts of harmful revelations. There are, after all, limits to the amount of attention this president wants to be given. By dismissing Comey’s inquiries, the president might have thought he was helping to derail the police inquiry into Russian interference in the presidential election and suspicions of collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign team. But this turned out to be wrong, as the president soon found himself weighed down by suspicions of obstruction of justice for apparently asking Comey, while he was FBI director, to leave Flynn alone.
The White House’s reaction to Flynn’s indictment on Dec. 1 by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was particularly virulent. So virulent that it raised suspicion. It was the sign of a president who feels trapped. Comey is a “liar,” and the FBI is in “tatters,” the president tweeted last week. These tweets weren’t without irony, considering that Trump ran for president as the law and order candidate.
By denigrating the “institutions” as part of his war against the deep state, which he claims is persecuting him, he is in fact reinforcing their credibility and damaging his own as he plummets in poll after poll.
No less crazy was the reaction of his lawyer, John Dowd, who said that the “president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer.” As The New York Times noted, this surely must have astonished Congress, which has passed laws criminalizing obstruction of justice and which has agreed twice in the last 40 years, first in the case of Richard Nixon and then with Bill Clinton, that a president who violates these laws is subject to impeachment.
With every week comes another harvest of clues: Accused of lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, Flynn said he had acted on the instructions of a “senior official” from the presidential transition team — which could be Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law; or Mike Pence, vice president-elect at the time; or Trump himself. Other revelations surfaced about Donald Trump Jr. concerning his exchanges in the summer of 2016 with “Russian intermediaries” who were supposed to give him information detrimental to Hillary Clinton, exchanges that ultimately proved to be much more numerous than what Junior had said.
Moreover, Mueller’s complicated investigation has a broad reach, including the financial and business activities of Donald Trump and his entourage. The investigation is painting a portrait of a world where business relations and political influence intertwine, an opaque world that is obviously too entrenched — let’s not be Manichaeans—to consist only of Trump and the Republicans. Our democracies are sick, and this president is just one, monstrous, symptom among others.
Also, saying that the worst has been uncovered and that nothing prevents his presidency from surviving this investigation is quite singular. In fact, nothing prevents it from surviving, even if it is a government that shows a particularly dangerous contempt for the rule of law. Nothing prevents it from surviving even though, from closing the border to Muslims to hacking down national parks in Utah to demolishing former President Barack Obama's health care law and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Trump takes an unhealthy pleasure in preventing the world from moving forward.