Following the explosive news of General Michael Flynn’s pleading guilty to one charge of lying to the FBI and his willingness to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation, one big question remains unanswered. What is Trump going to do next?
We know that his attorneys have managed to keep the volatile president somewhat in check by promising first that Mueller’s investigation would be over by Thanksgiving, then moving the goalposts back to Christmas. But this latest development not only proves that Mueller is not even close the ending his investigation, but he is bringing it right into the inner circles of the White House and the Trump family.
If Trump were a sane and rational individual, he would sit back and let events run their course. But if Trump had been a sane and rational person, he wouldn’t find himself in this mess to begin with. All of his adult life, Trump has had people tell him what a brilliant man he was – because everyone surrounding him were either his family or his employees. None of them were stupid enough to tell Trump the truth – that he is really not right bright.
Lying became so ingrained in Trump’s personality that even his own lawyers would not meet with him alone so they could have a witness to what he said. Yet, except for losing some legal battles that cost him some money, Trump never faced any consequences for his lies. Another aspect of this side of Trump’s personality was his willingness to promise anything to anyone as long as it served his purpose. Once he got what he wanted, he conveniently forgot his promises.
None of this really mattered until Donald Trump decided to run for the office of the President of the United States. The American people did not know what the people of New York City had already figured out. The Don was a con. He couldn’t be trusted. The news media lapped up Trump’s outrageous statements and claims because it brought them ratings. And many voters believed him when he said that he would build a wall and Mexico would pay for it. Or that he would bring jobs back to America. Or that he would save the coal industry.
Some of these broken promises are not a big deal. We don’t need a wall along the border with Mexico, it would be ineffective, and not solve any problems. And Mexico has made it quite clear that they were never, ever going to pay for it. But other broken promises have had tragic consequences for other Americans. Remember Trump’s appearance at the Carrier plant in Indiana, where he told those workers he had personally saved their jobs? Of course they cheered him on. Except that now they are finding out that they are losing those very same jobs, despite what Trump promised.
His promise to the coal workers is even more tragic in its consequences. Instead of taking advantage of programs to train them for other jobs, they believed Trump. And how has he repaid them for their support? By lifting guidelines that provided safety for them on their jobs. And with so many other cheaper and cleaner alternatives to coal as a source of energy, even if the coal industry continues, it will most likely be done by using robots, not live coal miners.
In truth, Trump has not been able to deliver on a single one of his campaign promises. Instead, his administration has been consumed and subsumed by the investigation into ties between his campaign and administration and the Russian government. And Trump is now being held accountable for both his words and deeds in ways he never faced in private life.
He thought that James Comey worked for him, just as the employees of the Trump Organization had reported to him. When Comey didn’t do what he wanted him to do (lay off the investigation of his friend General Michael Flynn) Trump could not foresee the consequences of his firing him. Nor did he see anything wrong using his presidential pardon power to help out one of his supporters, former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, since Trump values loyalty above all else. Because he, along with his advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, rarely faced consequences of their actions. Trump and his family have always been a law unto themselves. But that doesn’t work when you hold public office. You are answerable to the law.
After Flynn turned on him, Trump is now faced with two possible alternatives – either of which could precipitate a constitutional crisis. First, he could have Mueller fired. In a scenario echoing the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre” when Nixon kept going through officials in the Justice Department until he found one (Robert Bork) who was willing to fire the Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, Trump could doubtless do the same. But if he thinks doing that would end the Mueller investigation, he is being delusional. Mueller has craftily aligned his investigation along with that of the New York Attorney General Schneiderman, which not only ensures an investigation would continue but would also preempt Trump’s second option. In addition, if Trump fires Mueller it would ignite a firestorm in Congress, especially among the Democrats, that would overshadow every other issue the Republicans are trying to tackle.
The second option would be to offer proactive pardons to any and all individuals who could possibly be forced to testify against him or other members of his campaign. Again, this could lead to a constitutional crisis as it would be such an obvious attempt at obstruction of justice that even the Republicans would have to sit up and take notice. And, going back to AG Schneiderman’s investigation, Trump does not have the authority to issue any pardons for state offenses.
Of course, all of this is pure speculation at this point, based solely on a personal interpretation of Trump’s character founded on his previous actions and statements. There is a third alternative that is too horrible to even contemplate. That would be that Trump would lead this country into military action against another country such as North Korea or Iran to refocus the country’s attention away from his own misdeeds.
But this we know for certain. Trump is a dangerous narcissist who cannot be controlled by either his family or his staff. He no doubt believes his own lies, no matter how outrageous they might be.
We are entering a critical time for our country, our democracy, and our very way of life. And our fate rests in the hands of a 71-year-old golf addict who cares only about himself.