A Tale Of Two Dons

My Sunday article tradition is to write about the big political story of the preceding week. Last week I feel there was two of equal importance. One got a lot of press; the other flew largely under the radar. They had to do primarily with the actions of a Donald, Jr. and of Don McConnell along with the reaction of Don Trump. Let’s explore.  

The one that got all the attention was the whole fiasco surrounding the revelation that Donald Trump, Jr. met with an envoy of the Russian government in his capacity as a campaign official during the 2016 campaign. Included in that meeting were his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and senior campaign official Paul Manafort. The press has made this way too complicated and President Trump has made excuses that will play well with Bubba but not anyone with even an elementary knowledge of American campaign laws.

I have worked a presidential campaign albeit at the lowest levels of the paid staff. Plain and simple, one of the first things you are taught (and probably already knew) is that you cannot take anything of value from a foreigner. Not money, not any good or service. It is that simple!

If a foreigner were to contact me with an offer of help I would be faced with a series of binary decisions. The first would be rather to say “No” or “No, thank you”. The next would be whether to call the FBI or my supervisor or both in the order of FBI and then supervisor. How I would handle the latter series of decisions would be determined by the nationality of the foreigner (friend or foe; i.e. Canada or Russia) and the confidence level I had in my supervisor. (During the 2012 Obama campaign I had the utmost confidence in my immediate campaign superior who would have contacted the FBI if I hadn’t already done so.)

While opposition research, or oppo as it is known in politics, is common it is also something certainly of value. Normally campaigns spend significant money on it. If you accept it free of charge from a domestic source you must list it as an in kind donation.

Simply attending a meeting with a foreign national in anticipation of receiving oppo is a campaign violation if nothing else. Whether they are an agent of a foreign government and whether their oppo was any good are both simply irrelevant.

Donald Trump, Jr. will probably get off scot free unless he becomes trapped in something further in the Mueller investigation because the agency that is charged with primary jurisdiction over campaign finance violations is the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). The FEC is close to dysfunctional and has almost no enforcement budget or mechanism. If I ever have to be investigated by a federal agency I want it to be the FEC.

It is President Trump’s defense of the incident that is both troubling and revealing. In France he again stated that, “Most people would have taken that meeting.” That is inaccurate. The accurate statement would have been: Most criminals or politically ignorant people would have taken that meeting. From that statement we see that Don Trump operates like a Mafia Don and assumes that everyone else is like him.

While ignorance – including ignorance of the law Donald, Jr. – is no excuse I see it involved in the President’s decision making process again. Remember this is the guy who said “Who knew health care was so complicated.” Don Trump appears to think most Americans are as ignorant of history as he is. Remember this is the guy who didn’t think most people knew that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. Thursday in France he said that most people don’t know that France was our first and oldest ally. I learned that in grade school and so would have Don Trump if he was paying attention.

During the Paris “news conference” Trump continued to make a fool of himself by mispronouncing French President Macron’s surname four times. Perhaps if he filled the open positions at the State Department somebody could have told him how to pronounce his host’s name. When confronted by past statement about his friend Jim (who doesn’t appear to exist) not wanting to come to Paris anymore because “Paris is no longer Paris.” Trump talked about how great Macron (whose name he couldn’t pronounce) was. This is the same Donald Trump who endorsed Macron’s radical right wing opponent in the French Presidential election earlier this year.

Now to the other Don in Washington: Don Mitch McConnell. Earlier in the week Don McConnell announced that he was cancelling the first two week of the Senate’s traditional August recess. This is in an effort to get some sort of Obamacare repeal and replacement bill through his chamber. On Thursday the text of the latest version was released and immediately it was in very real danger of not having the procedural votes to get to the floor for discussion let alone passage. Don McConnell is the best master of the Senate since Lyndon Johnson. If he can’t get a bill passed nobody in today’s Senate can. He extended the time to both give himself some more time and put pressure on Senators who in many cases are more interested in their planned August vacations or fund raising activities than legislation.

If anyone can broker a deal to get something out of the Senate it is McConnell. Playing with the vacation is a huge move. I thought the bill was dead in the Senate. Now I give Don McConnell a fifty-fifty chance of getting something passed in the Senate just to uphold his end of the bargain with Don Trump. I’m getting way ahead of things, but whether a Senate version will either be passed in the House or something will make its way out of reconciliation are open questions. For the moment McConnell wants to deliver in order to give Trump a “victory” so they can move on to an infrastructure bill where McConnell can “get his beak wet”. It is more than a coincidence that McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, is Secretary of Transportation.

Donald Trump, Sr. has to decide whether he wants to be President Trump or Don Trump. The two roles are incompatible.

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One thought on “A Tale Of Two Dons”

  1. Today Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) said, on Meet the Press, “Health care is difficult”. I get so sick of hearing this. Health care is not difficult! It’s real simple. SINGLE PAYER GODDAMMIT! And get rid of the insurance companies altogether. The hard part isn’t health care. The hard part is money in politics.

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