If Trump’s lies suc­ceed, then what’s next?

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL - Jim Vib­ert Jim Vib­ert spent 10 years as a po­lit­i­cal re­porter and ed­i­tor with the Hal­i­fax Her­ald, and 14 years with the Nova Sco­tia gov­ern­ment where he set up Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Nova Sco­tia.

So this is it, right? The jig is up?

Not so much.

The Trump pres­i­dency has been a six-month bat­tle of lies over truth, and so far the lies are more than hold­ing their own. At least five Trump con­fi­dants have been caught out, but so far only one has fallen.

Last week, proof emerged of the ea­ger in­tent of Don­ald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kush­ner and cam­paign man­ager Paul Manafort to col­lude with the Rus­sians in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. So the bar was raised from col­lu­sion to suc­cess­ful col­lu­sion.

Ac­cord­ing to the House of Trump, noth­ing came of the meet­ing be­tween the three cen­tral play­ers in Trump’s cam­paign and the Rus­sian femme fa­tale bring­ing the dirt on Hil­lary. No harm, no foul.

“We went in to rob the bank but the vault was empty, so we left,” is the essence of the de­fence of­fered up by Don­ald Jr., a cadre of Trump apol­o­gists, lawyers and White House fab­u­lists.

Don­ald-the-younger re­leased emails con­firm­ing the cam­paign’s will­ing­ness to work with Rus­sia be­cause the New York Times had them and, in the finest tra­di­tions of jour­nal­is­tic fair­ness, gave him ad­vance warn­ing.

Young Don­ald’s vol­un­tary re­lease of the hu­mil­i­at­ing ma­te­rial was his one and only chance to sal­vage a scrap of honour be­fore he was shown to be the se­rial and ha­bit­ual faker he is. A les­son no doubt learned at the knee of his dot­ing daddy.

The pres­i­dent’s mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia are writ­ten off be­cause he has de­ni­a­bil­ity, how­ever im­plau­si­ble. Amer­i­cans are asked to be­lieve his son, son-in-law, cam­paign man­ager, at­tor­ney gen­eral and for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity chief all kept the boss in the dark. If this proves false, like ev­ery­thing else th­ese guys have said about the Rus­sia in­trigue, the ques­tion be­comes, is it an im­peach­able of­fence and will the world be spared some­thing less than four years of Pres­i­dent Trump and his train­wreck ad­min­is­tra­tion?

Trea­son, bribery or other high crimes and mis­de­meanors are cause for im­peach­ment. Cur­rent in­ter­pre­ta­tion is that high crimes and mis­de­meanors mean what­ever Congress de­cides it means.

Con­sti­tu­tional schol­ars dis­agree, and while that is prob­a­bly ir­rel­e­vant, it is wor­thy of con­sid­er­a­tion be­cause it il­lu­mi­nates what the Framers of the Con­sti­tu­tion — the con­ser­va­tives’ last word on all things con­sti­tu­tional when it suits their pur­poses — meant by the phrase. High crimes do not re­fer to their se­ri­ous­ness or le­gal­ity, but to the spe­cial obli­ga­tion owed by those who hold high of­fice. In the case of the pres­i­dent, be­trayal of the oath of of­fice was clear and in­dis­putable cause for im­peach­ment in the minds of the Framers, as read by the schol­ars.

“I do solemnly swear that I will faith­fully ex­e­cute the Of­fice of Pres­i­dent of the United States.” The first words of the pres­i­den­tial oath bind the pres­i­dent to tell the truth as nec­es­sary to the faith­ful ex­e­cu­tion of the of­fice. That stan­dard has al­ready dis­ap­peared in the rear view mir­ror of the pres­i­den­tial limou­sine. As­tute stu­dents of the con­sti­tu­tion won’t de­cide Trump’s fate. That will be left to a congress with its own share of snake oil sales­men.

If Trump sur­vives the full four-year term, the dam­age in­flicted by his ad­min­is­tra­tion and the lessons it teaches will haunt Amer­ica and many of the rest of us for gen­er­a­tions. The dam­age so far is en­vi­ron­men­tal, geopo­lit­i­cal, re­newed racial, eth­nic and re­li­gious ha­tred in Amer­ica and abroad, and widen­ing in­equal­ity be­tween the wealthy and the im­pov­er­ished.

The lessons even a one-term Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion will teach fu­ture po­lit­i­cal as­pi­rants may prove his most de­struc­tive legacy. A sec­ond term would spell the vir­tual end of hon­esty and honour in Amer­i­can pub­lic life, be­cause it will prove the op­po­site works. Pol­i­tics be­ing pol­i­tics, it has been pos­si­ble for politi­cians to lie their way into high of­fice long be­fore Trump ar­rived. But to re­main in of­fice based on lit­tle more than a veil of lies has never be­fore been ac­com­plished.

Trump’s pres­i­dency de­pends on the suc­cess­ful ex­e­cu­tion of that strat­egy and, if he is suc­cess­ful, he will not be the last.

It is hard enough to in­clude his name in the pan­theon of Wash­ing­ton, Jef­fer­son, Madi­son, Lin­coln, Roo­sevelt, Roo­sevelt and Kennedy. But af­ter Trump, who? Af­ter Tiberius, Caligula.

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