OPINION — Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
And, right now, there is a thick, dark plume gathering over the White House.
I wanted to wean myself from Donald Trump, to separate from the fray and step away from discussions about him or the billionaire boy’s club he has installed as a cabinet unless they crossed a line of reason.
That line of reason was obliterated Saturday when Trump tweeted: “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”
It was the first of a rapid-fire assault on Obama and his administration.
“Is it legal for a sitting President to be “wire tapping” a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!” he tweeted shortly thereafter.
But that wasn’t the last of it.
“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”
He then finished up with: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp (sic) my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” before going on to attack his TV replacement, Arnold Schwarzenegger who, tired of the criticism from his predecessor, quit his job as a reality show host.
So, I guess we’re all drawn back into the fire on the heels of the most serious charges ever leveled against a former president.
The argument is being put forward that Trump’s latest rants were those of a delusional man, incapable of discerning fact from fiction.
While I agree that our 45th president has delusions of grandeur, this isn’t one of them.
He is, in my mind, trying to deflect and discredit the events tumbling down around him – from the embarrassment of cabinet members being caught in lies to the Senate to growing suspicions that not only did his campaign staff have conversations with the Russians illegally and ahead of the election, but there is growing evidence he has had an exceptionally long relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russian money men.
This is clearly a Trumpian ploy.
Before he entered the campaign Trump had a reputation for creating diversionary flare-ups to mute the force of controversy, criticism or charges against him when he ran a couple of failed Atlantic City casinos. It would create an air of confusion and blunt any negativity surrounding him or his methods. Now, as president, the stage is grand and his attempts at dropping the curtain are going to be futile. As a businessman, his antics were viewed as amusing at the least to annoying at their most egregious. As president, they are disturbing.
If you are going to make accusations of the nature he threw at Obama, you had better have the goods to back them up.
So far, all we’ve got is that the Breitbart News folks ran with a conspiracy theory espoused by a conservative radio talk show host.
Of course, Trump has a history of falling for – even creating – incredulous conspiracy theories ranging from his claims that Obama was not born in the United States; that the father of Sen. Ted Cruz was somehow involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy; that Muslims were cheering on the rooftops the morning of Sept.11, 2001, as the Twin Towers burned; the news is fake; the election was rigged; that voter fraud accounted for him losing the popular vote; that those who take to the streets to protest his administration are professionals hired to make him look bad.
He never had a lick of evidence to prove any of those far-fetched conspiracy theories and he has no documentation of any kind to support his latest accusations about wiretaps at Trump Tower.
In fact, representatives from the nation’s intelligence community made the round of Sunday talk shows vehemently denying that Obama had ordered eavesdropping on Trump or any of his minions.
Even FBI Director James Comey, who handed the White House to Trump when he made his misguided statement about Hillary Clinton days before the election, was said to be “incredulous” about Trump’s latest Twitter rant.
By now, even the most casual observer knows that the law prevents the president from unilaterally issuing a wiretap on a U.S. citizen. The restrictions came into place after Richard Nixon sought wiretaps against those on his enemy list – from unfriendly news reporters to John Lennon.
If the FBI decides it needs to obtain a wiretap, investigators and the Department of Justice representatives must petition a federal judge, present their case and offer probable cause.
He is not in this chain of command.
However, as president, Trump could declassify and go public with any report or request made regarding such a request. Why hasn’t he done so?
And that is what makes this accusation so preposterous, so alarming.
Where does that leave us?
With three options.
Congress can do nothing and simply watch the nation implode.
It can begin implementation of the 25th Amendment, triggered when it becomes apparent that the president is impaired and incapable of carrying out his duties. Trump’s unhinged manner certainly suggests he has a disconnect between fantasy and reality.
Or, Congress can work its way up the food chain, picking off the lower-level members of the cabinet for their transgressions and watching them disappear, one-by-one, from the administration, on up to Vice President Mike Pence, who also has pre-election ties to Russia.
That means Congress has the goods on Trump and that he will then be forced to resign or face impeachment.
In that case, the deal would be struck to have him appoint a suitable replacement for Pence – perhaps Ohio Gov. John Kasich or Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. – who would then, upon taking office, pardon him and allow him to slink back into his Trump Tower penthouse.
The Trump administration is clearly at a critical tipping point.
Whether it can stabilize itself, at this point, is anybody’s guess.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.
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