Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trump Incidents lead to Frightening Conclusion

by Tom Maertens

Tom Maertens served as National Security Council director for nonproliferation and homeland defense under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and as deputy coordinator for counter-terrorism in the State Department during and after 9/11.

Less than four months into Donald Trump’s administration, a special counsel has been appointed to investigate whether the president colluded with Russia’s interference in the US election.

All 17 US intelligence agencies agree that Putin intervened to help Donald Trump get elected. The issue is whether Trump campaign officials committed crimes by cooperating with Russia.

Robert Mueller, the former FBI Director, will conduct the first investigation ever of a president and his staff suspected of colluding with a hostile foreign power, a charge that former Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz termed “the most serious charge ever made against a sitting president of the United States." House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy was recorded saying that even he believed that Putin was paying off Trump.

Among those suspected of colluding was Trump’s national security advisor, Gen. Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign over his Russia ties — one of five Trump campaign officials who lied about their Russia contacts.

Trump admitted to Lester Holt that he fired FBI Director James Comey over his refusal to stop the investigation of Flynn. Comey made a record of their conversation, which confirmed Trump’s attempt to impede the investigation.

Laurence Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, has written that the Lester Holt interview is the Nixon tapes and the “18-minute gap” on steroids: that there is enough right there to start drafting several Articles of Impeachment. Tribe concluded that Trump’s interview itself constituted a series of high crimes and misdemeanors, in other words, an impeachable offense. It was subsequently revealed that Trump also attempted to use the director of national intelligence and the NSA director to refute Comey’s statement.

Trump compromised both the House and Senate Intelligence Committee investigations by enlisting their Republican Chairmen, Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), to rebut press stories about Russian interference. Earlier, he fired Preet Bahara and Sally Yates who were also conducting investigations into Russian interference.

Subsequently, Trump revealed top secret information to the Russian foreign minister, which threatened another country’s sensitive source, in violation of one of the more that 100 intelligence exchange agreements we have.

This is not Trump’s only problem. Sources within the White House report that Trump is displaying a noticeable mental decline, according to several national outlets including NPR and MSNBC. The New York Times reported from two advisers that Trump’s mood has become sour and dark, and he has turned against most of his aides — even his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — describing them in a fury as “incompetent.” We have seen him lash out at foes, his repeated lying, including contradicting or denying past claims, and his peddling of conspiracy theories, including about Obama.

Trump recently complained that he has been treated more unfairly than anybody in history, giving credence to a comment from a White House source quoted in the Washington Post who questioned whether Trump was “in the grip of some kind of paranoid delusion.’”

David Roberts in VOX suggested that “Trump is a hopeless narcissist with the attention span of a fruit fly, unable to maintain consistent beliefs or commitments from moment to moment, acting on base instinct, entirely situationally, to bolster his terrifyingly fragile ego.”

Others have cited symptoms of cognitive decline in Donald Trump's forgetfulness and use of filler words (“believe me") and non-specific nouns (like "thing" – over 100 times in a single press conference) his discomfort in reading, strange rants with limited and repetitive vocabulary or disjointed speech, and his short attention span. Some of his interviews, as with David Muir of ABC, have been almost incomprehensible word salads. He has demonstrated mood swings and irritability, as cited above, and lack of restraint. He can’t remember his own statements or what he told his staff to say, and ends up undermining them, as he did with the Comey firing. Some of Trump’s senior advisers reportedly fear leaving him alone in meetings with foreign leaders out of concern he might speak out of turn, according to the New York Times.

A petition at Change.org now has signatures from 55,000 mental health professionals who have declared that Trump is mentally ill and should be removed from office under the 25th amendment. They have cited an ethical “duty to warn” about Trump’s dangerous instability as reason to ignore the so-called “Goldwater Rule” of the American Psychiatric Association which calls for a physical exam before making a diagnosis.

As Andrew Sullivan wrote recently, “We can’t maintain the pretense that Trump is a sane and balanced adult, however much we’d like to.”

Also published in the Mankato Free Press.

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