Over the last two years, I’ve had a running correspondence with a couple of readers who are avid Trump supporters. We text, email, and sometimes use funny emojis—all in good spirit. They zealously believe that Trump is the best thing since “white bread.” I like raisin pumpernickel and have a keen distaste for the Pillsbury “doughboy.”
On several occasions, I’ve questioned Trump’s patriotism, which, I know, is a sore spot for them and brings about a flurry of comebacks: “Clinton is a liar and a thief … Obama is a Muslim and a socialist … Warren is a loudmouth and a fake …”
On Monday, Jan. 14, the president of the United States, in an impromptu news conference conducted on a snow-covered White House lawn, declared: “I am not a Russian agent.”
Mr. Trump was responding to a question regarding a New York Times report, published the preceding weekend, that the FBI had opened a counterintelligence investigation into whether the president was “knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.”
This came on top of several inquiries already underway by the intelligence community into Mr. Trump’s business and political connections to Russia. Trump denied working on Russia’s behalf, and he referred to the FBI officials who launched the inquiries as “scoundrels” and “dirty cops.”
“I never worked for Russia,” the president responded acrimoniously. “You know that answer better than anybody. I never worked for Russia. Not only did I never work for Russia. I think it’s a disgrace that you even asked that question, because it’s a whole big, fat hoax. It’s just a hoax.”
Let’s step back for a moment. Trump fired James Comey, the director of the FBI, and stated, categorically to NBC News journalist Lester Holt on national television that he did so to end the Russia investigation: “I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.”
According to The New York Times, Trump laughingly told the Russian foreign minister and ambassador to the U.S. in a meeting in the Oval Office on May 10, a few days after he fired Comey, that he fired him to ease the pressure of the mounting investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia. “I faced great pressure because of Russia that’s taken off,” he’s heard saying to them.
Trump’s rhetoric has continued to defend and praise Russian President Vladimir Putin, while making sure to hide details of their conversations. Trump has taken away the notes of his own interpreters and, according to the Washington Post, directed the linguists present not to discuss what had transpired with anyone.
According to the Post, “the constraints Trump has imposed are part of a broader pattern by the president of shielding his communications with Putin from public scrutiny and preventing even high-ranking officials in his own administration from fully knowing what he has told one of the United States’ main adversaries.”
As a result, the Post reports, “there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years. Such a gap would be unusual in any presidency, let alone one that Russia sought to install through what U.S. intelligence agencies have described as an unprecedented campaign of election interference.”
The presidential oath of office encompasses one core principle: to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Since Trump took that oath two years ago, he has only shown disregard for its meaning. He has constantly put his own interests above those of the country; he uses his office to promote his business interests; he’s accepted financial gifts from foreign countries; he’s hidden from the American people details of his relationship with an antagonistic foreign government; and he has appointed officials who have used their positions to enrich themselves.
Trump has worked hard to shield himself from accountability. He has sabotaged and demoralized both federal law enforcement and America’s investigative community; called for the prosecution of his political enemies (and the protection of his allies); attempted to obstruct justice; and tried to degrade one institution after another, especially the free press and the federal judiciary.
Is this America first?