Stone Cold Corrupt

Stone Cold Corrupt


Leonard Zwelling

       You don’t have to be a Democrat to be enraged at President Trump’s commutation of the 40-month jail term of his long-time friend and political ally Roger Stone. Mr. Stone was convicted by a jury of seven felonies including lying and witness tampering. He’s obviously a bad guy and a long-time dirty trickster in the mold of his hero Richard Nixon whose face is tattooed on Stone’s back.

       Why this is so troubling is that if Mr. Trump was going to drain the swamp, as he said he would, this simply throws another alligator back in with the snakes and other reptiles. But remember, Trump vowed to shake up Washington and this he has not done. Many presidents have used their power to return favors to their guilty friends including Bill Clinton. Republicans are not the only ones. Heck, the pardon Gerald Ford gave Richard Nixon might have cost him the 1976 election. Even today, the full story of Richard Nixon’s misdeeds is as elusive as who actually killed Jack Kennedy. Nixon died shamed, but never found guilty of trying to undermine the Constitution despite having done so.

       No, what is so troubling is the blatant corruption that Trump has brought with him from New York from not revealing his taxes (that may eventually occur, but not for many years), breaking the emoluments clause of the Constitution, and shredding any appearance of putting the welfare of the American people above his own.

       What I think the Stone episode reveals is that long before his last day in office, Trump was willing to override the advice of his own Attorney General and upend the judicial system for a convicted felon. And, by the way, as Robert Mueller points out in the attached op-ed, Stone is still a convicted felon even if he’s not going to jail. My guess is that Michael Flynn is next and he even confessed to his crimes of lying and now may get a pass. Trump will pardon him and who knows who else like the war crimes committing Navy Seal.

       Mr. Trump has tried to fulfill his campaign promises. He has alienated the immigrant community while vilifying them at the same time. America wanted conservative judges and Trump and Mitch McConnell made that happen though the Supreme Court has as in the past demonstrated a mind of its own—even Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.

       But if Mr. Trump was truly going to change the way business is done in Washington, he has not fulfilled that promise. On the contrary, he appears to be falling in line with the trend of modern presidents to pay back political debts to people who have gotten in trouble with the law by pardoning them or commuting their sentences.

       In this, as in so much else, Mr. Trump is all hat and no cattle, as my boss Senate Mike Enzi (R-WY) might have said. Why the Republicans in the US Senate, who I know know better won’t call Trump out as Mitt Romney thankfully has done, is beyond my understanding. Are they that afraid of his Tweeting thumbs? Apparently so.

       Mr. Trump is just as corrupt as he claimed Hillary Clinton to be. He does a good job of protecting his friends while biting those who disagree with him like the revered Dr. Fauci. Has Fauci made some bad calls? Yes, he has. Has he done it in the name of the best available data at the time when he had to speak? Yes, he has. Has Trump? No. No wonder Fauci’s approval rating is twice Trump’s.

       The manner in which the federal government led the American response to the novel coronavirus has been a textbook case of mismanagement and Keystone Kops coordination. The virus has done what not even the Cold War could do. It unmasked the vulnerabilities of the American democracy and the people’s mistaken belief that the power of the individual is all that matters in America so if I don’t want to wear a mask, so there! That was not what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they pledged their fortunes and sacred honor to each other at the end of the Declaration of Independence. Like it or not, when it comes to the virus, we really are all in this together and the fact that other countries, especially those in Europe, have figured that out may account for the fact that their contagion is abating as ours chugs merrily along.

       It is a sad day in America when a man as evil as Roger Stone gets the benefit of the Constitution when Colonel Vindman has to resign and a long list of formidable people have left the Trump orbit to save their names and their sanity. Those left are the worst of the worst. How did we come to this and can Joe Biden lead us out? More later.

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