Back in the heyday of quiz shows in the 1960’s and well before the “Apprentice” with it’s game show host Donald J. Trump appeared on TV there was a game show by the name of “You Don’t Say” hosted by Tom Kennedy. The object of the game was for contestants to convey the name of a famous person by giving clues, leading to words that sounded like part of the person’s name but without actually saying the part of the person’s name. The famous tag line was “It’s not what you say that counts, it’s what you don’t say!”
Well, that was then and this is now. When it comes to Donald J. Trump, presidential candidate and president: thou speaketh too much!
Donald J. Trump is like no other president before him in one very significant sense. While previous presidents had varying degrees of wealth, none had as limited experience in government than Donald Trump. John F. Kennedy, for example, entered the presidency with a goodly amount of personal wealth but he also brought with him experience as both a Congressman and Senator. Any financial conflicts would have been addressed prior to entering the White House.
Donald J. Trump? Not even close! It is almost understandable that a candidate for president, especially one that by all estimates was unlikely to win in the general election, would be hesitant to divest himself of all business holdings prior to the election. It would also be almost understandable that, if he really did not believe he had a chance of winning, he would not abandon the pursuit of business deals that he had been pursuing for close to thirty years.
However, regardless of whether certain actions may be understandable under a specific set of circumstances, for any individual pursuing the presidency of the United States, certain actions are inappropriate at best and lying about them only serves to confirm knowledge of that inappropriateness. What you do say does indeed “count”.
What the recent sentencing memoranda for former Trump longtime lawyer Michael Cohen filed individually by both Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York reveal is how often people close to Vladimir Putin approached people close to Donald J. Trump and how willingly, if not outright gladly, the two camps connected and then lied about that interaction. It is the constant denials that establish knowledge of the inappropriateness of that interaction during a presidential campaign.
Trump’s initial reaction to just about anything that may place him in a questionable light is to simply deny it outright. His problem is that, in this age of 24 hour media coverage, his conflicting claims of having no dealings with Russia or Saudi Arabia or the like are almost immediately compared to his bragging of having major business dealings with both. How many rooms have the Saudi’s purchased at Trump hotels, Mr. President?
The sequence usually goes something like this: (1) Trump initially denies unequivocally anything that may be perceived as questionable activity then (2), when it is revealed that the action did indeed happen, he next claims that he didn’t do it but, if he did, it would not be illegal, then (3), when it is made clear that he did, indeed, do it, he simply sticks to his claim that it is not only not illegal but it made good business sense.
A prime example of this common practice by Trump is the June 9, 2016 so-called Trump Tower meeting between Russian operatives and members of Trump’s campaign. This one went something like this: (1) There was no meeting with the Russians. (2) There was a meeting but it dealt with adoptions. (3) All right, it wasn’t about adoptions, but the president had no knowledge of it. (4) All right, but even if he knew about it, nothing came of it so there was no collusion. (5) All right. Even if there was collusion, collusion is not a crime. (6) All right, even if collusion with a foreign entity to influence an election is a crime, the president can’t be indicted and if he is he can pardon himself.
The Cohen sentencing documents are clear that Trump violated campaign finance laws by directing Cohen to pay off two women with whom Trump had extramarital affairs for the purpose of preventing this embarrassing information from reaching the public at the time of the 2016 election. Unlike the John Edwards case, these payments by Trump occurred just a week or two within the election; moreover, the “embarrassing” events occurred more than a decade earlier. The logical question is “Why now?”
Trump’s denials, like all the other denials by Trump during both his presidential campaign and well into his administration, only serve to establish that he is intentionally hiding the truth from the American public.
Saying “I didn’t know, I’m new at this” doesn’t cut it when you are deliberately hiding the true nature of your actions. Sure, it makes sense that someone running for president would not find it beneficial for information about extramarital affairs or business dealings with foreign entities that could be construed as those entities having leverage over the candidate making it into the public consciousness. However, deceiving the public is not the answer. Lying about inappropriate if not illegal behavior is unacceptable in a candidate and even more so in a president and should not be tolerated or excused.
Ignorance is not an acceptable excuse for wrongdoing by a president and lying is even more unacceptable. There is a responsibility for anyone running for the highest office in the land to understand the rules to ensure that our president is not subject to compromise by outside entities. Moreover, it is also incumbent on anyone running for the highest office in the land to understand the importance of a president divesting him or herself of financial holdings when entering the presidency to avoid any appearance of conflicts of interest.
Anyone who does not concur with these requirements or understands that with the office of president comes scrutiny of the individual holding that office by the public, the press and Congress may want to reconsider the decision to seek the office. If being president is not the single focus of the individual holding that office then that individual should consider a different line of work. Being president is not a part-time job.