John Colson: Is 2018 a fiery stew in the making?
Hit & Run
It’s a brand-new year, and it is shaping up to be just as hot as the old year, at least in presidential terms.
That’s because, in case you missed it, our country still is being run by a real-estate hustler, President Donald J. Trump, a man who is infantile, at best, in his understanding of how to do the job he’s been elected for.
On top of that, he is determined to run our country just as he has his business empire (which he still controls, in contravention to all sorts of rules and norms) — by bullying anyone who gets in his way, firing those he can’t bully, and generally acting as though the nation is his personal plaything.
When I refer to “plaything,” I mean exactly that.
Trump regularly proves he has no concept regarding how government works, other than a highly specialized knowledge about how it has worked for him in his business career.
Specifically, he knows how government can be played and manipulated by lawyers and hirelings to allow Trump to skate free whenever one of his business deals goes south, so he is insulated from any nasty repercussions when he treats the world like a Monopoly game in which he can change the rules to suit his mood.
The most telling arena for his peculiar approach to his job concerns the ongoing investigation into Russia’s apparent moves to undermine and influence the 2016 presidential election, with the goal of ensuring that Trump would win and Hillary Clinton would lose.
I’m still not sure what Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, hoped to gain by having Trump in the White House, other than giving substance to Putin’s well-known detestation of Clinton and his hope that by helping Trump win he could maneuver the U.S. government into a more friendly position where Russia is concerned.
Interestingly, there have been stories in the national media lately about how, despite Trump’s seemingly sincere interest in being friendly and accommodating with Putin, the U.S. government has not followed suit in ways that Putin might have hoped for.
According to published reports, the administration has increased the budget for something called the European Deterrence Initiative, started by former President Barack Obama, which is designed to bolster allies’ defenses in response to some aggressive move by Russia aimed at the European Union.
In addition, the administration is about to announce more sanctions against Russia, presumably in line with a deadline imposed by Congress and unhappily signed into law by Trump last summer. The existing sanctions are punishment for Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and for meddling in the U.S. election.
There’s more, but you get the idea — no matter how chummy Trump wants to be with Putin, the fact is that most of the government, and most of the country, view Russia as an intractable enemy whom we cannot afford to trust.
Robert Mueller, the man in charge of the Russia/Trump investigation, has been the target of blistering attacks by Trump and his minions in Congress, whose only aim at this point appears to be undermining the people’s trust in the investigation and the investigator.
This is kind of odd, given the fact that the Party of Trump (it used to be called the Republican Party) has historically been the party that stood behind law enforcement agencies from the federal level on down. Some Republicans who showered Mueller with praise not so long ago are now calling him a traitor and a pawn of the Democrats.
This whole mess is similar to a huge pot of meaty stew, one where we, the people, are unsure of the ingredients, the temperature of the fire under the pot, and what kind of side dishes we may have to swallow when it comes time to either eat the chili or use it as grounds to prosecute the cook.
The latest line of attack appears to be setting things up so that Trump can either fire Mueller or fire Mueller’s boss, Rod Rosenstein at the Justice Department, either of which would be viewed as a move to pull the plug on the investigation before it gets too close to the Oval Office.
The trouble is, it’s already there — Mueller has indicted two former top aids to Trump, and made plea deals with two others, including the president’s former national security adviser.
All that’s left is for Mueller to come up with evidence of criminal behavior by Trump himself, and if that happens, the fireworks will be truly impressive.
So if Trump fires either Mueller or Rosenstein at this point, what’s the country going to do?
Or, if Mueller comes up with evidence sufficient to support an indictment, how will that work? There is no legal precedent for indicting a sitting president for acts inimical to U.S. national security.
All I can say is, as the New Year starts rolling, get ready to sit down to the hottest bowl of chili you’ve ever dreamed of, and have your spoons and napkins held at the ready.
Finally, before I close this up, I should note that in a column a couple of weeks ago (Dec. 12), I made some factual errors, as was pointed out by an attorney and business consultant in Denver and, I guess, an occasional reader of this column.
First, I reported that the U.S. House of Representatives had approved a bill known as the “SECURE American Energy Act,” an overhaul of the Bureau of Land Management’s energy policy to put vastly more emphasis on production of oil and gas resources than had previously been the case.
Well, the bill was passed out of the House Committee on Natural Resources, but it has yet to be voted on by the full House. So, mea culpa, though I’m fairly certain the bill ultimately will be approved by the House, and then the Senate, and then signed by President Donald Trump, thereby giving the industry even greater freedom to drill and pollute.
Plus, I named Ruth Welch as the Colorado state director for the BLM, when actually she was reassigned to a different federal job some months before I wrote that column, along with other state BLM officials who were deemed too progressive to be acceptable to Trump and his administration.
Again, my mistake, for which I apologize to my readers.
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For the past five-plus years I have sat in a big chair in a small office on Hyman Avenue watching life in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley play out in front of me.