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OTHER VIEW
Other View: What is President Trump's motive?

Jennifer Rubin

If Democrats and Republicans agree on very little these days, at least they are in accord on this: President Donald Trump is a raging narcissist. And that makes just about everyone curious as to why he was so darned concerned about Michael Flynn.

Norman Eisen and Eric Bookbinder write in the New York Times:

“Perhaps the most important of the outstanding questions concern President Trump’s motives. Why did the president want the Flynn case dropped? Was it simply to do a favor for a friend? Or was it because that friend had information that would be damaging to the president—such as about his potential ties to Russia? What evidence is there of such ties, including in the statements of the president and his sons, or the president’s tax returns? The uglier the motive, the stronger the obstruction case.”

Trump was concerned enough about Flynn that he waited 18 days to fire him after then-acting attorney general Sally Yates told the administration he was compromised and therefore a national security danger. He was concerned enough that the day after Flynn got canned, he leaned on the FBI director to let him go. He was concerned enough publicly to call him a good man. “This man [Flynn] has served for many years, he’s a general, he’s a—in my opinion—a very good person,” he told NBC News. Trump was concerned enough to tell Flynn to hold out for immunity. He tweeted: “Mike Flynn should ask for immunity in that this is a witch hunt (excuse for big election loss), by media & Dems, of historic proportion!”

I am hard-pressed to think of another person, even a relative, he has so strenuously and consistently defended in public—well, other than Russian President Vladimir Putin.

This is all the more odd because Trump does have the pardon power. It’s not like Flynn would ever have to face jail time—or even a conviction on his record—if Trump wanted to spare him through the pardon power.

It therefore is hard to escape the conclusion that Trump was desperate to spare Flynn not from conviction, but from trial and threat of conviction. That is the reaction of someone terribly concerned about what a potential criminal defendant might have to say.

What did Flynn know or what had Flynn done that should have so deeply concerned Trump? We might find out if the intelligence community has the contents of, not just the fact of, calls between Flynn and Russians. We might find out if we knew more about Flynn’s and Trump’s finances, which the special prosecutor can certainly subpoena. We might find out if Jared Kushner tells investigators (including Senate staff with whom he is to meet this month) about the meeting he and Flynn had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at Trump Tower in December to establish a line of communication—that is, a secret back channel that would be concealed from the American intelligence community. (The Washington Post reported: “Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.”)

In sum, Flynn connects the collusion case to the obstruction case. Figure out what Flynn was saying to whom and why he was having so many contacts with the Russians, and we may nail down precisely why Trump was leaning on Comey. I cannot think of anyone better than Robert S. Mueller III to figure it out.


Columnists
OTHER VIEW
Other View: Mr. Comey, what were you wearing?

Thursday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing was riveting in its own right. But at times, James B. Comey’s grilling on the stand recalled nothing so much as a sexual-misconduct trial, with the former FBI director playing the role of barely believed plaintiff. The proceedings brought to mind the patronizing, painful back-and-forth that victims have been conditioned to expect should they dare lodge a complaint about harassment or assault. From the exhaustive rehashing of every encounter between the president and the former FBI director to the performative disbelief of many of the questioning senators, the uncomfortable parallels were hard to ignore.

Asked Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., perhaps trying to be understanding: “You’re big. You’re strong. . . . Why didn’t you stop and say, ‘Mr. President, this is wrong?’ “

Then Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.: “At the time, did you say anything to the president about—‘That is not an appropriate request,’ or did you tell the White House counsel, ‘That is not an appropriate request, someone needs to go tell the president that he can’t do these things’?”

There was Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.: “You said . . . ‘I don’t want to be in the room with him alone again,’ but you continued to talk to him on the phone. . . . Why didn’t you say, ‘I’m not taking that call’?”

And Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., ostensibly trying to be helpful: “A lot of this comes down to, who should we believe? Do you want to say anything as to why we should believe you?”

The only thing missing was a question about what the FBI director had been wearing at the time.

Just as in many of the most public sexual-assault proceedings—think Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas, or even the Bill Cosby trial underway in suburban Philadelphia—we have an alleged perpetrator with an established power structure at his disposal and an accuser who is asked to explain why he didn’t do more to stop things from happening. And Comey’s answers mimic the confusion and guilt that often mark victims’ responses to such situations. “I was so uneasy.” “I was so stunned.” “Maybe if I did it again, I would do better.”

That said, Comey is a 6-foot-8 man in healthy middle age, not a female college student or Fox News employee fighting to keep her career on track—this situation was nowhere near as perilous as those faced by most victims of unwanted sexual advances. The FBI director may have implored Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to leave him alone with President Trump, but it wasn’t because he feared for his safety. Trump might have asked Comey to compromise his professional principles over the course of a Green Room dinner; he was at little risk of being, say, “grabbed by the p—-y.” Comey was fired for not acceding to his boss’s demands, but that is not at all the same as having his bodily autonomy stripped away. And the former FBI director, a practiced speaker and seasoned prosecutor, was given the opportunity to defend and even vindicate himself in court—something most victims of sexual misconduct will never get.

The deeper question here, however, is why we’re willing to extend our forbearance to a figure such as Comey but not to so many of the survivors of abuse around us. Sympathetic observers of this hearing rushed to say that the lines of inquiry were nonsensical and that Comey’s explanations sounded credible—the way any person might react in real time. Why do questions like these senators’ strike us as insulting and ridiculous in this case but par for the course in others?

Perhaps it’s because taking down a not-so- sympathetic president feels more palatable than potentially ruining a promising young athlete’s career. Maybe it’s that Comey, respectable government official and folksy, stand-up guy, is a more easily trusted figure than a nervous-seeming temp worker.

Comey humbly admitted that he wasn’t “Captain Courageous” in his dealings with President Trump, yet he still got the benefit of the doubt. Shouldn’t others who tell their stories in even more difficult circumstances be given the same?


Columnists
KRAUTHAMMER
Krauthammer: You can't govern by id

WASHINGTON — Having coined Bush Derangement Syndrome more than a decade ago, I feel authorized to weigh in on its most recent offshoot. What distinguishes Trump Derangement Syndrome is not just general hysteria about the subject, but additionally the inability to distinguish between legitimate policy differences on the one hand and signs of psychic pathology on the other.

Take Trump’s climate-change decision. The hyperbole that met his withdrawal from the Paris agreement — a traitorous act of war against the American people, America just resigned as leader of the free world, etc. — was astonishing, though hardly unusual, this being Trump.

What the critics don’t seem to recognize is that the Paris agreement itself was a huge failure. It contained no uniform commitments and no enforcement provisions. Sure, the whole world signed. But onto what? A voluntary set of vaporous promises. China pledged to “achieve the peaking of CO2 emissions around 2030.” Meaning that they rise for another 13 years.

The rationale, I suppose, is that developing countries like India and China should be given a pass because the West had a two-century head start on industrialization.

I don’t think the West needs to apologize — or pay — for having invented the steam engine. In fact, I’ve long favored a real climate-change pact, strong and enforceable, that would impose relatively uniform demands on China, India, the U.S., the EU and any others willing to join.

Paris was nothing but hot air. Withdrawing was a perfectly plausible policy choice (the other being remaining but trying to reduce our CO2-cutting commitments). The subsequent attacks on Trump were all the more unhinged because the president’s other behavior over the last several weeks provided ample opportunity for shock and dismay.

It’s the tweets, of course. Trump sees them as a direct, “unfiltered” conduit to the public. What he doesn’t quite understand is that for him — indeed, for anyone — they are a direct conduit from the unfiltered id. They erase whatever membrane normally exists between one’s internal disturbances and their external manifestations.

For most people, who cares? For the president of the United States, there are consequences. When the president’s id speaks, the world listens.

Consider his tweets mocking the mayor of London after the most recent terror attack. They were appalling. This is a time when a president expresses sympathy and solidarity — and stops there. Trump can’t stop, ever. He used the atrocity to renew an old feud with a minor official of another country. Petty in the extreme.

As was his using London to support his misbegotten travel ban, to attack his own Justice Department for having “watered down” the original executive order (ignoring the fact that Trump himself signed it) and to undermine the case for it just as it goes to the Supreme Court.

As when he boasted by tweet that the administration was already doing “extreme vetting.” But that explodes the whole rationale for the travel ban — that a 90-day moratorium on entry was needed while new vetting procedures were developed. If the vetting is already in place, the ban has no purpose. The rationale evaporates.

And if that wasn’t mischief enough, he then credited his own interventions in Saudi Arabia for the sudden squeeze that the Saudis, the UAE, Egypt and other Sunni-run states are putting on Qatar for its long-running dirty game of supporting and arming terrorists (such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas) and playing footsie with Iran.

It’s good to see our Sunni allies confront Qatar and try to bring it into line. But why make it personal — other than to feed the presidential id? Gratuitously injecting the U.S. into the crisis taints the endeavor by making it seem an American rather than an Arab initiative and turns our allies into instruments of American designs rather than defenders of their own region from a double agent in their midst.

And this is just four days’ worth of tweets, all vainglorious and self-injurious. Where does it end?

The economist Herb Stein once quipped that “if something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” This really can’t go on, can it? But it’s hard to see what, short of a smoking gun produced by the Russia inquiry, actually does stop him.

Trump was elected to do politically incorrect — and needed — things like withdrawing from Paris. He was not elected to do crazy things, starting with his tweets. If he cannot distinguish between the two, Trump Derangement Syndrome will only become epidemic.


Mailbag
Letter: Call your congressman

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S. Mowers

Board member

Big Sky Ames Medical Equipment Association