Day: March 5, 2017
Yesterday it seemed likely to me that there was some sort of truth behind Donald Trump’s allegation that the Obama Administration had wiretapped people at Trump Tower. I still think that possible, but authoritative denials have been fast and furious. The most important comes former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper:
There was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time, as a candidate, or against his campaign.
When asked if he could confirm or deny a FISA court order existed for Trump Tower, Clapper said:
I can deny it.
This still leaves open the possibility of a wiretap directed against Russian agents, not the Trump Tower or its personnel, that happened to record conversations with people there, but let’s assume that is not the case.
What does it tell us if the allegation is completely false?
Nothing new I’m afraid. The main conclusion to be drawn is that President Trump is unreliable: a liar who finds it impossible to control his penchant for telling untruths, especially those that serve his purposes. This one did. It distracted attention from the important issue of whether there was coordination or cooperation between his campaign and Moscow. He is now insisting that any Congressional investigation of that issue also look into the wiretapping allegation.
I don’t have a problem with that. A definitive answer to all these questions is what any citizen should be looking for. I think it preferable that an independent commission do the investigation rather than a committee of the Congress, even a specially constituted one. But any body that is independent of the executive branch and has access to all the relevant materials will satisfy most of us.
In the meanwhile, we have no choice but to endure a government thoroughly compromised by its leadership’s unreliability. We’ve got a president who lies habitually, an Attorney General who lied to the Senate about contacts with Russian officials and has consistently misrepresented his racist career, a Secretary of State who has said nothing in public for weeks even as world events demand his attention and public posture, a Department of Homeland Security that has repeatedly postponed the president’s revised travel ban partly because its own staff can’t find any way to justify it, several cabinet officials haphazardly trying to dismantle the regulatory apparatus their departments are responsible for implementing, and a Republican majority in Congress that can’t figure out how to get rid of Obamacare. While promising to make America great (again), the Trump Administration is about as close to collapse into incoherence as any I can remember.
Moscow has good reason for delight. American credibility is in sharp decline. The Western democratic model is far less attractive today than even a couple of months ago. Trump’s unreliability is proving even more useful to President Putin than any friendship a more competent Trump Administration might have offered. We are in a tailspin. No telling yet where it will end.