Tag Archives: Donald Trump

The Impeachment of Donald Trump

I’m sitting here in the first week of the public impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump in the House of Representatives. With so much news and commentary flying around in today’s fast-paced world, it’s hard to capture how we’re actually feeling in a given moment. Rather than adding to the noise, I’m hoping to just capture my thoughts in this moment.

Momentous

First, it’s hard to come to grips with how momentous this moment really is. Impeachment gets thrown around a lot and it’s been threatened against nearly every president. But it’s usually pretty fringe and not taken very seriously.

So to have an impeachment inquiry supported by a majority in the House and public hearings happening, that’s big. It’s only happened with three presidents before, so—as we might expect—Trump is really in a unique class here. Which is not a good thing.

Continue reading The Impeachment of Donald Trump

Thoughts on the Mueller Report

So I read the Mueller Report. Or technically, Report on the Investigation Into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. I came away with a few key lessons:

  1. Trump and his campaign did not conspire with Russia.
  2. Russia absolutely did attack our election.
  3. Trump tried to obstruct the investigation.

Reading the Report

With all the talk about the report and possible impeachment, and all the lies about the report, it seemed worth reading it for myself.

It’s very long and took me a while to get through—and I read a lot. It wasn’t so much the legalese that made it hard, but the incredible amount of detail. Mueller basically laid out every single rabbit hole they chased down and gave a report on everything, whether there was something there or not. So in many cases there’s a lots of detail about what happened, lots of detail about the laws involved, and lots of detail about why the evidence does or doesn’t support criminal charges.

It’s an exercise in covering your ass.

Thorough and detailed. And that’s what it should be. We’re talking about our democratic process, the very institution that defines our government. It has to be thorough so we know, once and for all, whether something bad happened.

And something bad did happen, regardless of your political leanings.

I don’t know if everyone needs to read the report. It’s so involved, it’s probably not worth it. The legal language mostly isn’t too bad, but there were a few times when it does get intense. The redactions didn’t seem excessive to me either (though it was hard to tell in my ebook version). It is probably worth reading the summary sections, just to know what it says for yourself.

1. Trump Didn’t Conspire With Russia

So the first conclusion I came away with is that Trump and his campaign did not conspire or coordinate with Russia (collusion is a made up word and not a legal thing, as the report explains, so let’s stop using it). At least this report found no evidence of that. And they dug pretty deep, so I think we can have reasonable confidence in the conclusion.

And even though I do not like Trump at all, I’m very happy with this conclusion. What a sigh of relief. The idea that the president of the United States would conspire with a foreign power to get that job—that’s terrifying.

I think this conclusion is good for America, no matter where you are politically.

Trump continually touts this conclusion, as he should. But it’s far from the end of the story.

2. Russia Attacked Our Election

The next big conclusion from the report is that Russia attacked our election. This came in two forms:

  1. Creating social media disinformation campaigns. More than just bots, these included fake social media profiles that organized real life political rallies. These fake accounts were quoted in the media and used to show what “real voters” think. Facebook estimates these fake posts may have been seen by 126 million people. (As propaganda campaigns go, that’s shockingly effective.)
  2. Hacking the computers and emails of campaign officials and election officials. More than just stealing information from candidates (which is still illegal, though Trump seems to endorse this idea), this included trying to break into and comprise our election system. While you might laugh at a silly campaign manager gullible enough to fall for a phishing attempt, it’s a lot more serious when it’s an election official in charge of safeguarding out ballot boxes.

The fact that this happened is startling. Not so much that hackers exist and they do bad stuff, but that the U.S. was specifically targeted and attacked by a foreign government. This wasn’t just ‘fat kids in their mom’s basement,’ this was the Russian government. That’s outrageous.

But what’s really mind boggling about this is the complete lack of a response from Trump. He’s denied that Russia has attacked us for so long, whether it’s back in Helsinki when he took Vladimir Putin’s word over our own intelligence agencies or even now that the report is out and he still jokes about it. He recently met with Putin and joked about how he told him not to hack us.

The president joked with a foreign leader about their attack on our democracy.

Just take a moment to wonder at the madness of that. Imagine any other president doing that. The cavalier way that Trump just dismisses this attack on democracy should be chilling.

I think Trump’s failure to protect and defend American democracy is the real high crimes and misdemeanors in the Muller Report that he should be impeached for.

3. Trump Obstructed the Investigation

The final conclusion is that Trump repeatedly tried to obstruct the investigation. There are a ton of examples of this, some with more evidence or weight that others.

This section of the report got a little hard to follow because there were so many egregious examples and so much legalese analyzing what was required in each case to bring charges or make a case.

It’s mostly Trump trying to cover his butt and get out from under the cloud this investigation cast on his presidency. And his own actions only made it worse.

In some ways I get how people can argue that this is a process crime, and it’s not that big of a deal. Trump personally didn’t do anything wrong with Russia (except for that whole failure to defend the country thing), so who cares if he wanted the investigation over?

Of course there’s that whole rule of law thing. You can’t lead a ‘lock her up’ chant about Hillary Clinton’s emails and then ignore all the actual crimes of your own people (the “best” people, remember?).

But aside from that, what really gets me is that Russia attacked the U.S. and Trump tried to kill the investigation.

The word ‘treason’ has been thrown around a lot in these arguments, but those are actions that might actually deserve the word.

When a foreign government attacks our country, you investigate and get to the bottom of it, no matter how bad it makes your people look. To do anything else is treasonous. To actively try to stop that investigation to cover your own ass—those are not the actions of a president who defends the country, they’re the action of a selfish man worried about his own image.

What’s Next?

So what happens next? Based on my conclusions above, I think Congress should open impeachment hearings.

Of course that hasn’t happened (yet).

Instead everyone is playing politics.

The Republicans are sticking by Trump and claiming there’s nothing in the Mueller Report. They’re clearly deluding themselves. It’s fair to say they’ve neglected their oath of office. And since Republicans control the Senate, even if the House files charges of impeachment, the Senate will never convict.

Meanwhile the Democrats are afraid of public opinion. There’s not enough public support for impeachment yet, so they’re too afraid to go down that road (especially if it will fail in the Senate). They want to win, whether by impeachment or election, and losing impeachment could endanger winning the election. So House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has this strategy of building support over time with an onslaught of investigations, but the White House refuses to cooperate and it all just drags on so slowly that the public loses interest.

I’m not surprised this whole thing has become so political.

But what’s buried in all the arguments, theories, strategies, and fake news is doing what’s right. Screw public opinion. Screw whether or not it’s successful.

Integrity means you do what’s right, no matter the result or public opinion.

Neither party seems to have much integrity right now.

And that sets a terrifying precedent. We’re allowing a vanity president to ignore attacks on our country. The message this sends to the world is that you’re welcome to attack our democracy, and we’re too politically immobilized to do anything about it.

The United States has to be more than Democrats or Republicans, each trying to win no matter what. The country has to come before party, and right now both parties and the president seem to be obsessed with themselves.

I’d love to see Donald Trump lose the 2020 presidential election by a huge margin, to have an electoral repudiation of his presidency and his policies. That would be cathartic.

But I also think Trump has neglected the duties of his office, and failing to hold him accountable for that is to be guilty of the same crime.

Hold Trump accountable. Make Republicans vote for Trump over country, and then win or lose you’ve done the right thing.

Trump’s No Collusion Is Good, Obstruction Is Bad

I’ve tried to stay mostly quiet on national politics of late, because it’s proved so divisive but also from feeling like I’m not adding anything original to the conversation. I’m still not sure if I’m doing that, but sometimes you just need to speak up.

With the summary of the Mueller report, the actual Mueller report, and President Donald Trump’s constant tweets and statements, it’s sometimes easier to just ignore it all.

But I’ve got two main conclusions from all of this:

1. No “Collusion”

The Mueller report did not come up with any evidence that Trump conspired with the Russian government to influence the election.

That’s good. I’m thrilled with that.

As much as I dislike and disagree with Trump, it would be catastrophic for this country to have a president—any president—conspire with a foreign government to win an election. It’s very good news that it does not appear that Trump himself did that.

Trump repeatedly dismisses the entire investigation by saying “no collusion” (let’s just ignore the fact that “collusion” is not a legal term, something Mueller quickly spells out). While Trump is right about this single point, that’s not a justification to dismiss the rest of the investigation.

While this investigation did not find that Trump conspired (which is good), it did find all kinds of wrongdoing (which is bad). Multiple people who were close to Trump (remember that he picks the “best people) have gone to jail.

So this is not a report anyone should dismiss as a witch hunt or a waste of time or resources. Doing so indicates a serious misunderstanding of the nature of the report.

2. Obstruction

The Mueller report makes it very clear that Russia attacked our election:

“There were multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election. And that allegation deserves the attention of every American.”

Robert Mueller, May 29, 2019 statement

Trump has repeatedly denied this fact. Remember Helsinki, when Trump literally took the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies.

Not only did Trump deny Russia’s involvement, but he repeatedly tried to obstruct the investigation. The Mueller report outlines multiple cases of this happening. And that’s a big deal. Again, Muller’s statement:

“When a subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of their government’s effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable.”

Robert Mueller, May 29, 2019 statement

So a foreign government interfered with our democratic election, it benefited Trump, he denied any interference happened, and when his administration began an investigation into what happened, he repeatedly tried to obstruct that investigation.

Trump tried to stop us from finding out what Russia did.

In my mind, that’s high crimes and misdemeanors.

Do What’s Right

Of course now we turn to the highly political question of impeachment. I heard House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat in charge of the House who will ultimately decide whether or not to pursue impeachment, say:

“We want to do what’s right and what gets results.”

-Nancy Pelosi (Fox News)

That’s an odd statement, because those two things don’t necessarily go together.

You can do what’s right and not get any results. That’s called integrity. You do what’s right not because it gets you results, but because it’s what is right.

In the current political climate, the U.S. Senate is unlikely to impeach Donald Trump.

So what?

If he has obstructed justice, then it is the duty of the U.S. House to impeach him. Let the Senate do what they will, but you still do what’s right.

Many Democrats are arguing about the potential political fallout of a failed impeachment. They’re looking for the maximum political gain, going for the crass political win of what gets results.

I think that’s gross.

If Trump has done wrong, hold him accountable. To hell with the political fallout. (And frankly, I think seeing negative political fallout is a miscalculation, but whatever, that’s not why you do it.)

Are National Politicians Talking About West St. Paul?

Maybe I’m self-absorbed, but when I hear some of our U.S. Senators talking, it sounds like they’re talking about West St. Paul. Obviously they’re not, but I hear it. Anybody else?

Minnesota Senator Tina Smith tweeted last week about President Trump’s visit to Minnesota:

“Hope he doesn’t get too comfortable. We may be ‘nice’ in Minnesota but when people like him attack us and our values, we rise up, we fight hard, and we don’t back down.”

She could be talking about West St. Paul with our sexism controversy (started by a mayoral candidate who changed his story), another candidate who is a bully, and a string of harassment. Continue reading Are National Politicians Talking About West St. Paul?

We Should Offer Universal Empathy Instead of Relational Empathy

Today I was reading the quick book, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (it’s actually a great little parenting guide), and came across this line:

“Teach her to question men who can have empathy for women only if they see them as relational rather than as individual equal humans. Men who, when discussing rape, will always say something like ‘if it were my daughter or wife or sister.’ Yet such men do not need to imagine a male victim of crime as a brother or son in order to feel empathy.” (29)

This sort of response happened over and over again in reaction to Donald Trump’s “pussy grabbing” comments last year. Men (politicians in particular) were outraged on behalf of wives, daughters, mothers.

Somehow they couldn’t just be outraged. Their outrage only mattered if it had a relational component.

I know others made similar criticisms at the time, but Adichie summed it up very succinctly.

All people are human beings and worthy of dignity and respect. It’s sad and frustrating that we’re more willing to give empathy when we connect to people. I suppose that’s only practical.

But it cheapens our humanity.

It means we can withhold empathy when we hold people at an arm’s length. It’s how we justify lynching and genocide, or simpler things like ignoring homeless people.

In talking about racism and #BlackLivesMatter, I’ve been tempted to use my son as an example. But I realized I’m doing the same thing: I’m asking people to be empathetic because it’s my son, when empathy should be extended regardless.

We should care about injustice to black people because it is injustice, not because it could happen to my son.

We should fight “pussy grabbing” because it is always wrong, not because it could happen to our wives or daughters or mothers.

We need to learn how to practice universal empathy.

Coming to Terms With President Trump

Today is a bizarre day in American politics. In a few short hours, Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States.

I say it’s bizarre because I think people need to understand how far removed we are from politics as usual. A lot of conservatives tell me that now I’ll know what it was like for them to live under Obama.

But I don’t think that’s the case. I know what that was like. We had eight years of George W. Bush. Most of us have disagreed with presidents in the past. Maybe we didn’t like the person or we didn’t like their policies (Iraq, economy, healthcare, gay marriage—pick your issue), but there was still a sense of this is our president, and I can voice my complaint and we’ll move forward.

Donald Trump is something else.

A lot has been said about all his antics and the way he antagonizes so many minority groups. I could go on and on. But I think this Politico piece talking with Trump’s biographers offers a fascinating look into his psyche.  Continue reading Coming to Terms With President Trump

Love Trumps Hate

A lot has already been written and will be written about Donald Trump’s stunning victory yesterday, and I don’t imagine I have much to add. But I’m also a writer and need to get it out of my head.

The one thing I keep coming back to is how divided we are as a country, and not just that we’re divided, but that we don’t understand each other.

I shared this quote when I explained why I voted for Clinton:

“If two smart and logical people disagree, it’s most likely because they are acting on different information.” -Bill “Billo” O’Donnell (A Truck Full of Money by Tracey Kidder)

I think we’ve been acting on different information. If we’re going to overcome that division, we need to reconcile that information (not an easy task). I wish candidates did a better job of this (they rarely do because it doesn’t fire up their side), but now it’s time for us to do a better job of it.

So let me explain some information as I see it.

Today my social media feed is full of fear.

My minority friends are scared. People of color, LGBT friends, Muslims, immigrants, the disabled—scared.

And they’re sharing examples of harassment, intimidation, hate. (Those are just a few examples. Ask a teacher. Talk to a minority.) They’re justifiably scared.

Trump may say he’s not a racist, not a misogynist, not a xenophobe, not a homophobe, not an Islamophobe, but his words and actions—whether intentionally or through mere carelessness—bring hate out in people. (And it’s not just my liberal friends saying this. Many of my conservative friends refused to vote for Trump because of this.)

This political campaign has given license to hate. The rare few (I hope) who are racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic and/or bigoted have been emboldened to speak and act their hate.

And that’s not OK.

I know we disagree on a lot, but I have to assume that’s not OK with Trump voters either. I know we disagree, but I have to believe you don’t support hate. 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump, and I know faith in Jesus shouldn’t spread hate.

So prove it. Don’t endorse hate with your silence. Let’s make sure Love Trumps Hate is not just a campaign slogan tossed around as an insult. Reclaim it, bring unity across the aisle, and reject what I must hope are isolated acts of hate and violence.

Prove to my minority friends that there is a place in America for them, that you will defend them and stand up for them, even if you disagree with them.

Because otherwise, what are we doing?

These hateful acts are not America. I don’t believe that. But if we let them continue because they don’t impact us personally, then we’re enabling hate.

I can’t believe all Trump voters are hateful. Maybe we don’t understand each other, but that’s something we can work on.

I’m naive and idealistic and probably foolish, but I think love truly can trump hate.

Update: Maple Grove Students Respond (Nov. 10, 2016)

This is how we need to respond to hate. (And let it not just be warm, fuzzy words, but real action. May those kids love and protect one another.)

Election 2016: Why I’m Voting for Hillary Clinton

Every presidential election year since I started blogging I’ve talked about who I’m voting for and why. I do this not so much to convince other people, but for myself. Sometimes I think it’s helpful to have a snapshot of what we were thinking at a certain moment in time. My views have changed over the years, so I think it’s interesting to see that over time.

And oh the 2016 presidential election is one worthy of a snapshot. Or two.

Before I dive too deep, let me give the disclaimer that I don’t like blogging about politics. I did a lot of that in 2008 and ended up alienating some folks, myself included. It’s a difficult subject to talk about, and I wish we could do a better job. This year I tried to stick to local politics.

“If two smart and logical people disagree, it’s most likely because they are acting on different information.” -Bill “Billo” O’Donnell (A Truck Full of Money by Tracey Kidder)

Sometimes I think that’s the crux of division right now.

All that to say, this is what I think right now. If you disagree with me, that’s fine. But before you think I’m a jerk or an idiot or something, maybe we should examine our underlying positions.

I’m voting for Hillary Clinton for president. Continue reading Election 2016: Why I’m Voting for Hillary Clinton

Is How I Feel About Trump How You Feel About Obama?

The presidential candidacy of Donald Trump scares me.  Like more than just the usual disagreement with someone with opposing political beliefs. This isn’t just pro-life vs. pro-choice or tax policy or foreign policy. It’s his proud racist/misogynistic/xenophobic views and his ‘I’m Trump, you suck’ demeanor.

And I’m not the only one scared of Trump.

This will be the fifth presidential election I’ve followed, and while I’ve disagreed with and spoken out against candidates, I’ve never been afraid of the possibility of one winning.

Maybe the scariest thing is that people are voting for Trump.

So here’s my honest question for my Republican friends: Is this how you feel about Obama?

I get being passionately opposed to Obama, but except for the crazies (He’s a Muslim! He’s wasn’t born in the U.S.! … and who led that crowd? Oh yeah, Trump.), I would guess that opposition is mostly policy based. Or do you find Obama that odious?

Trump just feels like something different. I keep expecting his campaign to deflate as people come to their senses, but it just isn’t happening. (Yet. Lord, let it be ‘yet.’)

So are Republicans just as horrified by Trump? Even though we disagree on a lot of issues, is being anti-Trump something we can all agree on?

Or is Trump saying things that a lot of conservatives agree with and he’s just doing so with brashness and bluster that pisses off (and scares) someone like me?

I guess I’m asking if this is a fringe, splinter movement like George Wallace in 1968 (the pro-segregation campaign that captured 13% of the popular vote and carried five states for 46 electoral votes, possibly swinging the election—though I’m no political historian, so that last bit is uninformed speculation)? Or is this relatively mainstream GOP, just in a brassier packaging?

We’re a pretty polarized country right now. But one of those options means we have some hope. The other means it’s just going to get worse.

(FYI: I don’t like writing about politics. It usually starts Internet fights and I bristle when other people do it, so I hate doing it myself.  But sometimes you can’t sit there wondering about it anymore.)