Trump the wrong face of the fight against crime

The Kansas City Star - - Opinion -

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump vis­its Kansas City Fri­day, to ad­dress the Project Safe Neigh­bor­hoods Na­tional Con­fer­ence. As al­ways, we wel­come the pres­i­dent to our city and ex­tend our best wishes for a safe and fruit­ful trip.

Trump will speak to law en­force­ment of­fi­cials, lawyers, com­mu­nity lead­ers and oth­ers about vi­o­lent crime. Kansas Ci­tians are no strangers to that curse, and we hope the con­fer­ence can move the nee­dle on fix­ing the prob­lem.

At the same time, we’re deeply wor­ried Trump is pre­cisely the wrong per­son to push an anti-crime mes­sage. Trump’s as­so­ciates may be among the most lawless in the na­tion’s his­tory.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s one-time cam­paign chair­man, has been found guilty of sev­eral fed­eral felonies. The pres­i­dent’s for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Michael Flynn, is also a con­victed felon. For­mer cam­paign ad­viser Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los ad­mit­ted ly­ing to the FBI. Rick Gates, a cam­paign aide, did the same.

Trump’s per­sonal lawyer, Michael Co­hen, has ad­mit­ted fed­eral crimes — some re­lated to the pres­i­dent’s hush money pay­ment to an adult film star.

And, of course, the pres­i­dent, his fam­ily and his cur­rent aides re­main un­der scru­tiny by spe­cial fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor Robert Mueller. Soon, Democrats in the U.S. House may be­gin their own in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

All of this is bad enough. But the pres­i­dent him­self — who pro­fesses great ad­mi­ra­tion for po­lice of­fi­cers and pros­e­cu­tors — has also done his best since tak­ing of­fice to erode pub­lic con­fi­dence in the rule of law.

For months, Trump sharply crit­i­cized for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions as in­suf­fi­ciently loyal — to him. Ses­sions had the temer­ity to re­move him­self from the Rus­sian col­lu­sion in­ves­ti­ga­tion, an act the pres­i­dent con­sid­ered a be­trayal.

“The Rus­sian Witch Hunt Hoax con­tin­ues, all be­cause Jeff Ses­sions didn’t tell me he was go­ing to re­cuse him­self … I would have quickly picked some­one else,” Trump tweeted in June.

Trump fired Ses­sions af­ter the midterm elec­tions. In his place is an act­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral who may or may not be in of­fice legally.

Trump fired for­mer FBI di­rec­tor James Comey. He has sought to un­der­mine Mueller’s cred­i­bil­ity at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity. At the same time, he has praised po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant Roger Stone, who ex­er­cised his right against self-in­crim­i­na­tion in the Sen­ate’s Rus­sia probe.

Trump once said the Fifth Amend­ment was a fa­vorite tool of or­ga­nized crime. “If you’re in­no­cent, why are you tak­ing the Fifth Amend­ment?” he asked. That state­ment it­self re­flects a dis­re­gard for the law, and the Con­sti­tu­tion.

The pres­i­dent has crit­i­cized a fed­eral ap­peals court, draw­ing a re­buke from the Chief Jus­tice of the United States.

It would be easy to char­ac­ter­ize this as typ­i­cal Trumpian blus­ter. That would be dan­ger­ous and wrong. How can Kansas Ci­tians, or any­one else, re­spect the rule of law — and re­spect law en­force­ment — when the pres­i­dent trashes the law and the courts over and over again?

Per­haps some­one in the au­di­ence Fri­day will re­mind the pres­i­dent that, in Amer­ica, no one is above the law. If not, Trump may soon learn that les­son on his own.

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