Will The Swamp Ever Be Drained?
With the confirmation of Wiliam Barr as the next Attorney General and Rod Rosenstein’s recent announcement that his time in law enforcement is “coming to an end”, the country can begin to put behind the disaster that was Jeff Sessions. He will easily go down as the worst cabinet appointment in modern American history. The Mueller investigation, on the other hand, shows no sign of ending. Recent articles stating that the Special Counsel would be issuing a final report in this week turn out to be more fake news. At this point, it really doesn’t matter whether Mueller shuts down his operation or continues until Trump is out of office, the damage to the administration cannot be undone.
Trump’s failure to act decisively allowed Mueller the time to create the impression his election, in the minds of many, was aided by Vladimir Putin. The technique used is very simple: generate a constant stream of headlines tying Trump to Russia. Most people never bother to read the accompanying articles and, thus, will never learn that the indictments Mueller has racked up are either process crimes or related to matters dating back to before Trump ran for office. As long as the headline states “Russia Collusion Investigation Results In Indictments” that is all most of the public will ever hear or read. Two years of headlines have resulted in a segment of the American electorate that has accepted as gospel truth that Trump is a Russian agent. In their eyes, his election will never be legitimate and they will never change their mind.
Whether Donald Trump will face impeachment or be allowed to hobble along until the end of his term, also doesn’t matter. The Mueller investigation has successfully blocked the populist agenda he ran on. It has forced Trump into becoming another conventional Republican president bragging about tax cuts, military spending and Wall Street getting richer. The bold talk about draining the swamp and returning power to the people has been replaced with advocating for regime change in Venezuela. The status quo has re-established its firm grip on Washington while Trump is busily trying to fool his supporters into believing that bollard fencing paid by our taxes is the same as a concrete wall paid by Mexico.
The Jeff Session saga perfectly encapsulates the incompetence and indecision that has marred the Trump administration from the beginning. The president stated several times that, had he known Sessions was going to recuse himself, he would have never appointed him to lead the Department of Justice. However, saying “had I known” doesn’t explain why he chose not to remove Sessions from DOJ upon learning about the recusal. All he had to say was: “I’m sorry Jeff but I need a full time Attorney General. Would you like to head Department of Homeland Security or go home?” Instead, Trump opted to do what he does best: invent a nickname and whine on Twitter.
More importantly, no one at the White House was paying close attention to the Senate confirmation hearings? The Democrats repeatedly demanded recusal and Sessions left open the possibility. Moreover, Sessions declared his intention to recuse himself from any investigation or matter involving Hillary Clinton. No one at the White House noticed? For 18 months Trump supporters chanted “Lock her up” at campaign rallies. During a debate, Trump declared that Hillary “would be in jail” if he were president. No one at the White House found Sessions’ testimony problematic? To Trump’s credit, he did try to fulfill his campaign promise to investigate Hillary but he was told by his General Counsel, Don McGahn, that doing so would be seen as an abuse of power - Trump being Trump, he immediately backed down.
If McGahn is correct then the swamp will never be drained. If investigating a previous administration amounts to abuse of power, then everyone in Washington is free to swim in the swamp and never face any consequences. Nearly every election cycle, the party out of power pledges to clean up Washington and yet the cleaning never happens. Barack Obama accused the Bush administration of committing war crimes, torture and violating the Constitution. Yet, once in office, Eric Holder found no grounds to prosecute anyone.
The inescapable conclusion is that there is unspoken agreement between the two parties that they will not dig for skeletons in each other’s closets. Both sides use allegations of law breaking to raise money and drive their respective bases to the polls filled with righteous indignation knowing that nothing will change no matter who wins. It is my sincere hope that Barr will break this vicious cycle. That he will determine, once and for all, whether the Clinton are the criminals the Republicans say they are. That he will fully investigate whether the FISA courts were used to conduct illegal surveillance on the Trump campaign. It is my sincere hope that the swamp finally begins to be drained.