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  • Ashok Dhillon

The On-Going Saga of Senate Hearings (#39)


Last week, the fired FBI Director James Comey’s testimony was a major league event in American politics. Large segments of the American and international audience were giddy with anticipation and excitement, and Comey didn’t disappoint as he gave a riveting testimony. Yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Session’s rebuttal to Comey’s testimony was looked forward to with the excitement of the next episode of an exciting television series. In reality, Session’s testimony and rebuttal had none of the intensity or drama of the former episode.

Logically, the lesser chance of great drama was to be expected as Sessions is a legal and political veteran who knows how to answer questions without giving away much of the incriminating, juicy, but potentially damaging stuff. Without those exciting details the hearing quickly sank into a partisan affair with the Senators sniping at Sessions, or each other, with the Attorney General looking relieved for the respite from any real difficult questions.

Nevertheless, there were serious underlying issues that the Democrats tried to bring to the fore and focus on, with the Republicans equally determined to emphasize the positives that cleared President Trump of any wrong-doing so far, that would bring some sense of closure to the aggravating on-going investigation that has been seriously hampering the Presidency, and lift the cloud that has been hanging over Trump.

From a by-stander's perspective, the Democrats are right in emphasizing the gravity of the Russian intervention in the 2016 Presidential Election, and they are also right in wondering what exactly has been the relationship between Russian officials and the Trump camp (campaign), during the many contacts between important Trump surrogates and prominent Russians. The public of course is now amply aware that there is an awful lot of ‘smoke’ that has been billowing in this investigation, as has been commented on by the investigators, even though no ‘smoking gun’ yet seems to have been found.

A couple of facts are certain though, up to this point: the Russians did actively try and influence the 2016 Presidential Election in Donald Trump’s favor, and to a significant degree succeeded by maligning Hillary Clinton at crucial points of the campaign; and, Trump seems to have an unnatural relationship, and 'the Russians can do no wrong’ attitude, that goes far beyond any other U.S. President in any other time in U.S. history towards the Russians. His affection for Putin and Russia borders almost on treasonous, as to-date, he has not criticized or condemned the Russian anti-American or anti-democracy activities with any conviction, while he constantly lacerates Western leaders, including the former President Obama, mercilessly. Any mild condemnation of Russia that has been offered by him has been forced by peer pressure.

A number of Trump’s team members have had verified contacts with various Russians over the past months, or even years, with the former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn having been fired by President Trump for lying to the Vice President on his contacts with Russian officials. It became apparent that apart from Flynn not being quite forthcoming about his Russian contacts and meetings, neither were Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law, or even Jeff Sessions in his Confirmation Hearing. So, with all the contacts with the Russians, and the mystifying soft spot that Trump has openly and consistently displayed towards Russia, regardless of any criticism from any quarter, including the senior Republican members in government and the U.S. Intelligence community, it is no wonder that the Democrats and the majority of the public expect some serious damaging disclosure, somewhere down this road to Perdition.

And while, so far, the Republicans are right that there is no proof of any collusion between the Russians and Trump, and his team members past and present, after months of investigations, yet there is no guarantee there never will be any proof, ever, particularly as the investigations aren’t anywhere near over yet, and the Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s has just got started.

Now, to lift the 'cloud’, Trump could clear things up quickly and in a big way, if he came forward and disclosed whatever relationship he has with the Russians, financial or otherwise, and along with that disclosure, if he would submit his current (full) Tax Returns. But he refuses to do either, and keeps insisting that there is nothing there at all, but won’t give any details. This denial coupled with his uncharacteristic (for an American President) love for the Russian high officials makes the whole smoking mass incredibly stinky and suspicious, and hence the endless inquiries.

And then there is the almost constant improper behavior of ‘President Trump’ himself that exacerbates the entire situation. The firing of James Comey on the self-admitted raison-d’être - the pesky ‘Russia investigations’ - was a gravely improper thing to do for this President. The letters of recommendation for the firing, as a flimsy cover, by the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, just added fuel to the speculative fire. And then, the shaming of Comey in the media, coupled with the unusual invite to the Oval Office of Russia’s high officials, the next day, just heaped more anger, and more coal on the raging fire. These and more, almost daily infractions and indiscretions have led to more questioning of the motives and ill considered actions of this President, and added new venues of explorations for the Senate Committees and the Special Prosecutor.

Donald J. Trump is an incredibly unsuitable and incompetent President. His greatest promises to the American people during his incendiary campaign are almost all undoable, and his first 6 months in Office are proving it.

He has failed with his much ballyhooed ‘keep America safe’ pitch through his pet ‘travel ban’ initiative, which has been shot down by the Courts repeatedly. He has added to the Swamp. His ‘Repeal and Replace ObamaCare’ initiative has turned into a showcase of careless, incompetent planning and legislative no-show. Now as the Republican Lawmakers scramble to hobble together some unacceptable, shameless version of a replacement plan, it only highlights the overall incompetence of this President and his administration.

The ‘Great Tax Reform’ initiative is no better handled, and the numbers are comically out of whack and don’t add up. The ‘Wall’, so far, is an equal non- starter with an equally unavailable money problems for the rapid execution, as promised. And so it goes. And to add insult to injury, the jobs aren’t coming, and are in fact leaving, making Trump fume helplessly at the Corporations. And then there's China - instead of being pushed back by the 'Great Negotiator’, it is now more than ever in-charge of Global Trade and Leadership. Over all things are looking really gloomy.

And while one can empathize with the Republicans for getting ever more frustrated with the lack of credible progress in spite of having control of all three main branches of government, they and Trump can’t blame the Democrats, or anyone else, as they are the ones in total charge.

But there is a dubious silver lining given the vaudevillian nature of this Presidency, more daily entertainment is sure to follow, for quite some time yet.

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