Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Infantilism of Donald Trump

      Over 20 years ago, a neighbor of mine once told me a story about a middle school-aged boy who'd brought a knife to school. When caught with the clearly prohibited weapon and questioned by school officials, the boy explained that he knew the knife was outlawed on school property but that breaking the law was OK because he hadn't intended on using it. My friend's intent in relating this anecdote was this was the perfect delineation between the juvenile and the adult mind.
     Not concerned with consequences, the more insular juvenile mind will happily break laws and rules because they honestly believe good intent makes them immune to punishment. And this is really one of the hearts of the matter: the civic infantilism of Donald Trump, an infantilism he inspires in his voters and supporters.
     Former FBI Director James Comey's highly anticipated and heavily-watched testimony before the US Senate today underscores that peculiar brand of political infantilism in Donald Trump that we've never seen in any other president. And Director Comey even attempted to cover for Trump up to a point by saying his peculiar brand of obstruction was rooted more in ignorance than criminal intent.
     A future jury, hopefully, will literally be out on that one. However, the statutes (such as 18 U.S. Code § 1505 and 1512, for instance) regarding obstruction clearly do not make distinctions of intent. Obstruction is obstruction. Even Major League Baseball understands that- If the batter (Ed Armbrister aside), however unintentionally or accidentally obstructs the catcher as he's trying to throw to a base, it is still obstruction and the runner is automatically out.
     In a civic sense, Donald Trump is palsied or infantile. What he thought was clever, sophisticated methods of persuasion were, in fact, criminal. Director Comey said in no uncertain terms today that Donald Trump was not the focus of the Russian investigation. But in light of the Director expanding upon his now famous notes of a January meeting with Trump (after which the 6'8" former Director asked Jeff Sessions not to leave him alone with Trump again) in which the latter hoped the investigation would end, it should be all but obvious to anyone, regardless of party affiliation, that Trump, if he isn't already, ought to be included into the main thrust of such an investigation.
     Ana Navarro, the Republican CNN commentator and Trump gadfly, made an excellent distinction when she'd said on TV that when a private citizen hopes for something and the President of the United States hopes for the same thing, it is two vastly different things. She nailed it.
     And in Trump's Mr. Bill/Sluggo mentality, intent is everything. He should have known, as had his 44 predecessors, that Presidents shouldn't even broach federal investigations, especially when that same President is even tangentially involved in such a probe. And Trump telling Director Comey in that winter meeting that he hoped the latter would make the investigation go away already skirted, if not outright fractured, the laws prohibiting obstruction of justice.
     And then, there was this:
“He told me repeatedly he had talked to lots of people about me, including our current attorney general and had learned that I was doing a great job and that I was extremely well-liked by the FBI workforce, So it confused me when I saw on television the president saying that he actually fired me because of the Russian investigation and learned again from the media that he was telling, privately, other parties that my firing had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation.”
     Those "other parties" were, of course, Russian diplomats he entertained in the Oval Office after kicking out the US media. Trump was also quoted as calling Director Comey "a nut job" and that firing him "eased the pressure" the Russian investigation was exerting on his administration.
     Calling an FBI Director who's well-respected and well-liked on both sides of the aisle a "nut job" reveals more about Trump's tenuous grasp on how government actually works than on how it does Mr. Comey. And a month ago, in a now-infamous interview with NBC's Lester Holt, Trump actually admitted he fired Comey because of the Russian investigation, despite the furious denials by his flacks and that he crossed the line by asking the FBI Director if he was under investigation.
     Of course, anyone in such a position, and one personally spearheading an investigation of such enormous import, would never answer that question (Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe reminded us and the US Senate that it is not the FBI's or DOJ's policy to discuss ongoing investigations with those involved or not in such inquiries).
     Former Director Comey's statements to the US Senate today contradict almost radically with Trump's personal statements, his tweets and the public pronouncements by his surrogates. In fact, Comey even admitted that he was so concerned that Trump would lie about the dinner meeting and the phone calls (which he did), that he was inspired to take more detailed notes than to which he was accustomed.
     And one of the biggest takeaways from the three hour-long testimony was when Comey was asked by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) if Trump had ever asked him if the federal government was doing anything to prevent Russia from meddling in our electoral process and Comey simply answered, "Never."
     What Trump did instead ask him, improperly if not illegally, was if he was the focus of the investigation regarding Russia's role in the last elections. Which is quite believable and even expected from someone trying to quash an investigation into a hostile nation's meddling in our sacred electoral process, someone who enormously benefited from such interference.
     And these were just some of the revelations, some surprising, some not, that were brought to light during the open hearing. I'm sure that everyone who has a stake in this, meaning every American citizen, would give anything to be a fly on the wall for today's closed session.

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