(Rich Galen, Mullings) – Let’s put the best possible face on all this by looking at a couple of instances of Trump-Speak that have been repeated thousands of times on cable chat shows, in newspapers, on social media, and just about everywhere else you can think of.
James Comey, the former Director of the FBI, is reported to have created memos of his conversations with Donald Trump. One of those memos, apparently written after an Oval Office meeting between Comey and President Donald Trump, had to do with the investigation of Michael Flynn.
Flynn, for those of you who don’t spend all day every day watching, listening to, and reading about this scandal, had been tapped to be the President’s National Security Advisor.
It turns out that Flynn had not been as forthcoming as he should have been regarding contacts with Russian officials and carried that lack of forthcoming-ness into a discussion with Vice President Mike Pence.
Lying to the Vice President is not an issue for the Department of Justice or the FBI. If Federal government employees lying to one another were actionable, the traffic problems in Our Nation’s Capital would be over.
However, lying on official forms and being untruthful to investigators (either by commission or omission) is likely to get you into some big, big trouble.
According to the NY Times, the President wanted Comey to drop the FBI’s investigation of Flynn. Comey’s memo is reported to quote the President as saying, “I hope you can let this go.”
Let’s pretend, just for discussion purposes, that this was not a conversation between a President of the United States and a Director of the FBI about a former National Security Advisor.
Let’s pretend, instead, that this was a discussion between a golf course developer and the head of a county planning and zoning committee over his having put in a curb cut without county authorization.
The planning and zoning chairman is furious because the developer knew he needed a permit, yet went ahead and put in a driveway to get his trucks onto and off the golf course without applying for one.
The developer, after hearing the perfectly valid complaint of the planning and zoning chairman, might very well say something like, “I hope you can let this go.”
Is the developer hinting at a bribe? Maybe, but tough to prove. Might just be one Rotary Club member asking another to see the value of having that driveway where it is to get heavy trucks off local roads as quickly as possible.
It is possible that Trump was thinking – and talking – like a golf course developer (which, as luck would have it, he is) without understanding the legal jeopardy he was creating for himself.
Later, in an Oval Office meeting with Russians (admittedly not the smartest thing he could have done the day after firing Comey), the President said that Comey was “a real nut job” and that “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
First of all, for a New Yorker to call another human being “a real nut job” is like someone from Mississippi saying, “bless her heart.”
As to the “pressure” being “taken off” let’s go back to the Presidency of Barack Obama. At a meeting in Seoul in March of 2012 (eight months before his re-election), Obama leaned over an open mic and said to then-Russian President Dimitri Medvedev (via RealClearPolitics):
“This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.” [To deal with nuclear defense issues.]
“I understand,” Medvedev is recorded replying. “I will transmit this information to Vladimir.”
Whoa! Check, please!
Is that another way of Obama saying “the pressure will be off?”
It is possible to suggest that everything the Russians did in the 2016 Presidential election was a direct result of “Vladimir” coming to believe that Obama’s sucking up showed extreme weakness?
Sort of Obama offering his lunch money to the school bully so as not to get beaten up at recess.
Happily, for Presidents Obama and Trump, stupidity is not illegal.
It’s still stupid.
Mr. Galen is a veteran political strategist and communications consultant. He blogs at www.Mullings.com.