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History has a pretty good way of eventually making sense of the events of a particular era even as they flash by us at the hypersonic speed of our 24/7 news world. But two events in particular will be worthy of chapters of their very own when definitive histories are written of the profound maleficence of Donald Trump.
First is that Trump, as has been copiously documented, asked for and received help from the Russian government in his improbable 2016 election "victory" but has been denying that ever since. Yet despite those denials amidst nonstop claims of a "witch hunt," his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani planned to head to neighboring Ukraine later this month for . . . uh, help from its government in Trump's 2020 reelection bid.
Second, an open letter published online on May 6 that has been signed by more than 800 former federal prosecutors who state unequivocally that Trump would be facing multiple felony charges were he not president and therefore safe from indictment, is hugely significant because so many of the signatories are not merely Republicans but rock-ribbed conservatives appropriately outraged by Trump's conduct.
Under normal circumstances, whatever they may be today, Giuliani's blatantly hypocritical act -- which is yet another ethical lapse in a career full of them -- would be deeply embarrassing to the White House, but instead you had the sight of the reliably if comically repugnant Giuliani blaming it all on Democratic "spin" as he called off the trip after the inevitable shitstorm of bad publicity.
"We're not meddling in an election; we're meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do. There’s nothing illegal about it. Somebody could say it's improper. And this isn’t foreign policy," Giuliani said with his trademark word salad candor in acknowledging that the trip was to push for investigations that could help Trump.
Giuliani freely shared the dirty details of the "help" he was seeking on Trump's behalf: Assistance in determining how the Ukraine government "assisted" Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign by disseminating documents about former Trump campaign chairman and convicted felon Paul Manafort's work in the country, and the "collateral" matter of the claim a Ukrainian energy company that employed Hunter Biden, one of Joe Biden's sons, while the then-vice president was pushing for the removal of a prosecutor who was investigating the oligarch who was running the energy company.
Ukraine did not aid the Clinton campaign nor was Vice President Biden involved in trying to oust the prosecutor.
But both story lines, false as they may be, stoke the sputtering fires that hard-right conspiracy freaks, who with encouragement from Trump, Giuliani and the president's congressional sycophancy, are trying to keep burning by asserting Democrats have been doing all kinds of horrible things at a time when Trump, his family and business are targets of no fewer than 29 federal, state and congressional investigations.
Biden, of course, is being shortlisted for Clintonizing (although "Lock Him Up Joe" doesn't have the same cachet as "Lock Her Up Hillary") because he not only is the first declared Democratic candidate of the 20 or so in the 2020 race whom Trump genuinely fears, but has gone on the attack against the president in early stump speeches.
Meanwhile, to give the feckless news media some benefit of the doubt, that open letter signed by all those former federal prosecutors hasn't gotten anywhere near the coverage it demands because there is so damned much else going on in the Washington swamp, including Trump stonewalling all those investigations and the increasing (we hope and pray) drumbeat for impeachment.
Like Giuliani's trip, the open letter should be deeply embarrassing to the White House and especially Attorney General William Barr, whose whitewash of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on his 22-month Russia scandal investigation and maladroit efforts to keep an unredacted version from Congress and refusal to testify before House committees came as no surprise.
The former prosecutors, who served in the Justice Department from the Eisenhower administration on, make clear that charging Trump because of the severity of his conduct would be an easy call if he were not president: "We emphasize that these are not matters of close professional judgment. . . . The overwhelming weight of professional judgment would come down in favor of prosecution for the conduct outlined in the Mueller Report."
"It seems to me important, especially today, for lawyers to speak with consistency about the rule of law and apply it without consideration of party," said signatory Paul Rosenzweig, an assistant to independent counsel Kenneth Starr in the investigation of President Clinton that led to his impeachment by the House in 1998.
Back to that bit about history having a pretty good way of eventually making sense of current events.
There is the in-progress view of some historians that Trump's presidency is an aggregation of the lesser traits of his predecessors. As in the bullying of LBJ, paranoia of Richard Nixon, incuriosity of Ronald Reagan, shamelessness of Bill Clinton, incompetence of George W. Bush and strategical impatience of Barack Obama.
But that view is premature and peremptory, to say the least, because attributing even those negative traits to Trump is to give him too much credit. When the definitive histories are written, with those obligatory chapters on Giuliani's trip not taken and the former prosecutors' open letter not appreciated, Trump will stand out for what he is -- a one-off president in a league of his own for criminality, crap and corruption.
Click HERE for a summary of ongoing Trump-related investigations.
Click HERE for a comprehensive timeline of the Russia scandal
and related developments.
and related developments.