What does one call its opposite? Donald Trump and Binyamin Netanyahu?
The opposite of courage’s grace is the President of the United States’ and the Prime Minister of Israel’s inadvertent self-incrimination under pressure.
First, the voice of the guilty five-year-old was heard in the land. “I didn’t do anything wrong.” Or as Mr. Trump put it in his Tweet: “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”
Let’s break this paragraph in half and consider the second, pleading half first.
Consider both components, the assertion that conducting negotiations with a hostile foreign power that directly subvert the policies of the serving President is lawful, and so kosher that “There was nothing to hide!”
First off, what Flynn did was not only unlawful, but so uniquely awful, that the Logan Act which explicitly prohibits “negotiation by unauthorized persons with foreign governments having a dispute with the United States” has hardly ever been invoked since it was passed by Congress in 1799. Two indictments, no actual prosecutions in 218 years.
The applicability of the Logan Act here is pretty clear, given that, as Wikipedia continues, “the intent behind the Act is to prevent unauthorized negotiations from undermining the government’s position.”
Which is exactly what Gen. Flynn did.
Perhaps the President, or his lawyer John Dowd who is taking the fall for publishing this stupidity, is contending that Flynn’s negotiations weren’t “unauthorized” because a President-elect did the authorizing. If this is his argument, fuhgeddaboudit, there is no President but the President and waiting in the wings doesn’t qualify as a credential to authorize anything.
Besides, all the hair-splitting over whether Trump encouraged Flynn to cozy with the Russkies before or after he was President-elect will only survive until Flynn actually testifies that his contacts with the Russians go back well before Election Day, and that they were “authorized.”
By whom? My guess is Flynn will truthfully testify, “By him, the Boss, the Candidate, the President-Elect and now the President. Donald J. Trump.”
And my guess is, there will be more than Flynn’s word to back this up. I expect Special Counsel Robert Mueller to detail who was in on, and who was kept out of the “nothing to hide” — Flynn’s backchannel to Vladimir Putin through his Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Names like Jared and Don Jr immediately come to mind as being on the inside. Think they made this clear in their interviews with the FBI? Indictments ahead.
Of course, Trump more or less confessed that the Logan Act violation was all his caper in the first sentence of his catastrophic Tweet. He “had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.”
“Inadvertent self-incrimination” all over again, only this time the crime confessed to is obstruction of justice. Trump knew Flynn had lied to the FBI, and he knew this was something he had to hide. So, he did hide it, outing Flynn only for fooling poor old Mike Pence.
President Trump also knew that Flynn’s lies were no secret from the FBI, the Department of Justice or the Kremlin. He’d been told all that by Acting Attorney General Sally Yates before he fired her, and before he pressured FBI Director James Comey to let Flynn off the hook.
And if anybody had missed that connection, a new Trump Tweet cleared it up. “After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters – worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness.”
Our familiar pre-schooler is back: Not only, “I did nothing wrong,” but my accusers are “all a bunch of liars.”
It’s a noisy, Twittery race against time: Can Trump impeach the FBI before Mueller presents the evidence it has gathered that should lead Congress to impeach him? I don’t think so.
Sometimes stillness and quietness can seem such a blessing, or at least a better choice than mouthing off.
No such blessings are evident for Trump’s pal (and counterpart) in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As here, leaks and public announcements from the criminal justice system indicate that Netanyahu is likely to face criminal charges from two separate, ongoing investigations of corruption.
As the noose has tightened with each announcement that another Bibi funder or fund-raiser or confidant or crony has “turned” against him as a prosecution witness, Netanyahu’s fear has only grown more evident.
A couple of weeks ago, his allies in the Likud Party proposed legislation to prevent Police authorities from ever recommending that prosecutors indict a suspect. To their shame, the Netanyahu coalition actually passed this “gag the cops for Bibi” bill on the first of 3 required votes on it.
The reaction across Israel was instantaneous and vehement. As Herman Melville almost said, “What like a bulletin can undeceive!” Before the “Netanyahu Bill” as opponents were calling it, got to its second reading, the PM asked that it be pulled and re-written so that it could not be applied to his cases. It is now a Netanyahu bill without Netanyahu and, I’ll bet, without much chance of passage.
Just as Trump claims he has “nothing to hide,” Netanyahu says he has nothing to fear. “It is clear to all,” he says, “that the recommendations of the police in the case pertaining to me are meaningless.”
Because he says, echoing Baby Donald, they’re all against me. At least he’s not saying the Israeli Police’s “reputation is in Tatters – worst in History!”
Netanyahu’s relative restraint and realization of his own overreach should be lessons for The Donald, since they’re as close as either one is likely to get to “Courage… grace under pressure.”
We’ve got a very interesting week ahead. Monday, we hear from investigative reporter Heath Haussamen of NMPolitics.net about NM’s multi-billion dollar investment in Spaceport America. Tuesday, AP’s Gillian Flaccus talks about the huge spike in homelessness on America’s West Coast. There’s a whole new homeless population without shelters to live in.
On Wednesday, Timothy Heath of the RAND Corporation examines the rise of Xi Jinping to self-anointed Mao status in China, while Thursday’s HERE & THERE features investigative reporter Robert Anglen detailing his long series of reports on how a former Mafia leg-breaker-turned con-man operated under the shelter of the Federal Witness Protection Program.
Amy Marash’s editorial illustrations for this week are especially brilliant. We love the “space passenger” best of all.