Commentators on both ends of the political spectrum are voicing alarm over President Donald Trump’s first 25 days in office. The big story recently is the administration’s coziness with Russia. Since the campaign, Trump has been trying to dodge his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, but the issue has followed Trump into the White House like a faithful dog.
Since the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, following a series of misstatements to the press and to Vice President Mike Pence about Flynn’s contacts with the Russian Ambassador to the United States, the Democrats, the press, and even some of the GOP establishment are asking: What did the president know and when did he know it?
Did Trump direct the conversations between Flynn and the Russians? Was he informed about the details of these calls? And why did it take Trump so long to get rid of Flynn after a January 26 intelligence briefing on the matter by none other than acting Attorney General Sally Yates (who was subsequently fired for refusing to defend Trump’s executive order on immigration)?
The president is trying to draw attention to the anonymous intelligence officials responsible for the leaks that brought down Flynn—and he has a point. This is not normal behavior by the intelligence community, but nothing about this presidency is normal.
From the start, the Trump administration has obscured with propaganda and falsehoods. Double-speak is the norm, as Trump’s advisers have inundated the media with alternate narratives for what is happening.
From his inaugural speech’s demagogic vision of American blight, to having his press secretary lie about the size of the crowd at the inauguration, this administration seems hell-bent on running roughshod over anyone who stands in their way. Most recently, Trump used his Twitter account to attack the district and federal judges who dared to question his hastily constructed executive order on immigration.
He seems unhinged, but is all this blustering part of a bigger plan to keep his critics off-guard as he dismantles the Obama legacy and abandons his populist base to cater to the rich and powerful?
While the Flynn spectacle was unfolding, Trump signed legislation repealing a securities rule that requires companies to disclose taxes and fees paid to foreign governments—just the start of what he promises will be a complete rollback of the 2010 Dodd–Frank Act, which ended the kind of corporate bailout by taxpayers that contributed to last decade’s recession. The big banks got rescued; the people got screwed; and now it begins again.
The biggest ethical issue I see is Trump’s continued refusal to completely and transparently divest himself of his international businesses with ties to foreign governments. His refusal to release his tax returns—which every major presidential candidate has done for decades—is a red flag. Without his returns, the American people have no way of knowing their president’s financial entanglements.
The biggest moral issue I see is his continued use of an unsecured phone (after he spent the campaign battering Hillary Clinton for using a private email server), and his daily inflammatory tweets and falsehoods. On February 5, he used Twitter to encourage the American people to blame the federal courts for terrorism because they dared to block his executive order on immigration, resulting in “people pouring in. Bad!” In a related tweet, he suggested that the judiciary has no authority to block his orders. Both comments are demonstrably false, but that’s the Trump administration for you: Deceive and deflect while they give away our public lands and strip away our private rights.
Thomas Walchuk has been a lifelong political junkie since the summer of 1972, when he traveled to his rustic family cabin in Grandma’s VW camper bus, listening to the Watergate hearings on the van’s tinny AM/FM radio console. His grandmother, a forceful and deliberate woman who was one of the first female lawyers in Minnesota, was an incredible influence on the young Mr. Walchuk. As a result, he is an advocate for the oppressed, and appalled at our current government on both sides of the aisle. His focus here is on the president’s ethical and moral shortcomings.