(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)
During one of their sparse conversations Donald Trump must have said to Rudy Giuliani: “go out there and say the craziest things you can think of, so that I look and sound less insane.” Hizzoner barely needed encouragement and immediately jumped at a memo Trump’s previous lawyers sent to Robert Mueller in January, in which they argued that the president cannot obstruct justice because he has executive oversight over the Justice Department. While they were at it they also stated that he cannot be indicted, that he can pardon himself, and that any subpoena of the president will be challenged. Doubling down on this absolutist concept of presidential power Giuliani declared that Trump could shoot James Comey without being indicted, and added that Mueller and thirteen Democrats are trying to frame the president. Even Paul Ryan contradicted Hizzoner’s blatant nonsense, but his goals are clear: discredit Mueller now to obstruct a possible impeachment in the future, and paint the Special Counsel’s investigation as a purely partisan enterprise, further conditioning Trump’s base for an environment where facts don’t matter.
In two respects the memo didn’t help Trump. His lawyers admitted that he dictated the misleading statement about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, exposing earlier lies by Don Jr., Sarah Sanders and Trump himself, and they didn’t even once mention that the president is not guilty. Bad news for Trump came from the case of his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who has been accused of witness tampering and may have his bail revoked, increasing the chance that he’ll flip. Possibly even more threatening is the anti-defamation suit of Summer Zervos, where Trump can be deposed and questioned under oath about his extra-marital affairs. Stormy Daniels’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, made text messages between Michael Cohen and Stormy’s previous lawyer, Keith Davidson, public, showing that the two were in cahoots managing an on-again off-again appearance of Stormy on Sean Hannity’s show just before the election, where she would have denied her relationship with Trump. It appears that the president weighted in on this as well, and his legal problems are taking such a toll that he cannot stop fuming about Jeff Sessions, whose name he no longer allows to be mentioned.
After he cancelled a White House visit by the Philadelphia Eagles because only two players and eight officials would have shown up, Trump arranged an impromptu event with patriotic sing-a-longs and the Marine Corps band. He exhibited his respect for the national anthem by clearly not knowing its words, and his knowledge of history by saying that Canada, which didn’t exist at the time, burned the White House in 1814. A spokesperson for the State Department, fresh from Fox News, did him one better by using D-Day as a historic example of excellent US-German relations.
It’s obvious that Trump loves the power of pardon because it comes without checks and balances, which he would like to be the case with all aspects of presidential power. Traditionally remorse and rehabilitation have been conditions of a pardon, but of the people Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, Scooter Libby and Dinesh D’Souza have never shown any remorse. Apparently the president is considering dozens more pardons to normalize the process for when it’s Don Jr.’s turn
On his way to the G7 meeting, which is now often referred to as G6+1 because of Trump’s hostile attitude towards America’s allies, the president surprised friend and foe by strongly suggesting that Russia should be re-admitted to the group, as if the invasion of Crimea never took place. Seventy percent of registered voters now believe that Russia did interfere in the US elections, and Putin is definitely getting his money’s worth.
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