Both good and bad news for President Donald Trump in Washington this weekend …
The good thing is the vote in the Senate, by the smallest margin (51-49)—though all the same, for a budget that will clearly reduce the taxes of the richest, and deepen, in a staggering way, inequalities and the public deficit in the United States. But who cares?! In the short and medium term, the president will be able to present the fact that he has managed to pass this budget as a great political success—that is, if there is a final ratification vote in the next few days.
First, by making his base of unconditional supporters — and a few people beyond that — believe that it will heal the U.S. economy and public finances, reduce taxes and free up entrepreneurship. In the eyes of many naive people in the United States, Trump always passes for a Robin Hood, an “anti-elitist” who speaks on behalf of the people. In fact, he is precisely the opposite: a “reverse Robin Hood,” who steals from the poor and the middle class to give to the rich.
Second, by obtaining rare approval from Congress for a project of his own. That this supposed “sanitation” budget is actually, as The New York Times wrote yesterday, “a historic tax heist,” does not matter. The Senate voted for it, so here is a president “capable” of making things happen!
The bad news for Trump, which has overshadowed the president’s weekend, is the admission of guilt by Michael Flynn, his former national security advisor, and a major player in the 2016 Republican campaign and the transition from November to January.
Flynn admitted to having lied to the FBI about the reality and content of his contact with Russian officials, and promised to collaborate with special prosecutor Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation.
For some, this “Russian business”—the repeated computer interference by Moscow agents; the possible “Russian-Republican” collusion in 2016 to smear Hillary Clinton, then to lift the sanctions against Moscow—is just a tempest in a teapot.
It’s a new case of anti-Russian paranoia, or unsupported allegations, in a context where “everyone is doing it” (see for example Le Monde Diplomatique, December 2017.) To this, we can say, without predicting the details or what will be revealed by the ongoing investigations, that in any case, this affair has the ability to really sting Trump, in a suspicious and revealing way.
“It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up,” as was said in the Watergate (1974) and Bill Clinton (1998) impeachment cases. The lie, something which “the Donald” is supremely practiced at, can indeed become very dangerous when it touches certain areas.
Often a liar, sometimes candidly so, the president suddenly appeared to be aware on Twitter on Saturday of the illegal activities of his dear Flynn, a man he pitied and protected with his words … even after his dismissal in February. This is what Trump wrote 48 hours ago:
“I had to dismiss General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He pleaded guilty to these lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide! ”
With this message, Trump seems to admit that he knew that his former national security advisor had lied … to the FBI, specifically! This is a new and crucial detail, since at the time of Flynn’s departure, only the fact that he had lied to the vice president about the contents of his secret talks with the Russian ambassador had been mentioned.
Beyond the “case” itself — which is potentially scandalous since it involves a foreign power … but the magnitude and effects may be exaggerated by the anti-Trump side — it is his treatment by the highest authorities of the country that is more and more interesting and disturbing.
A budget for the ultra-rich, plus the lies and contradictions surrounding the “Russian scandal”: Here are two soap operas that sum up quite well this first year of Trump in power.
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