American Democracy on trial: Will the new US Attorney General cover up crimes by his President? | Sunday Observer

American Democracy on trial: Will the new US Attorney General cover up crimes by his President?

Some people in Attorney General Jeff Session’s home state were hesitant to condemn comments attributed to President Trump in a new book about White House infighting.   Pic. Tom Brenner / TNY / Redux
Some people in Attorney General Jeff Session’s home state were hesitant to condemn comments attributed to President Trump in a new book about White House infighting. Pic. Tom Brenner / TNY / Redux

If you are the (elected) head of s state in which the national crime investigation agency is probing a whole lot of criminality including possible treason that may implicate yourself, who would you keep as the overall head of that agency – someone who will help cover-up or, an officer who will ensure that the crimes would be thoroughly prosecuted?

If, as elected national leader, you want your nation’s security preserved, then you would want someone who ensures that the investigations will fully reveal all wrong-doing and redress it. It is only if you are implicated in any way or your associates (including kin) are implicated would you want someone who will cover it all up or, limit the prosecution to save yourself and some closest partners in crime.

Anyone who followed the election of super-rich socialite and TV personality Donald Trump as President of the United States of America would know that in his own election campaigning Trump had implicated himself and close associates in a range of possible election law violations, commercial crime and national security transgressions.

Money laundering

Thanks to some brilliant American investigative journalism during the election campaign, we learned more about his predatory sexism (affirming his previous reputation as a rich philanderer), and were informed of his blundering attempts to buy off illicit lovers to hide it. The US news media also exposed possible income tax evasion by his family and business empire and, worse, the role of his businesses in money laundering by Russian oligarchs and Russian crime syndicates.

Misdemeanours and possible misdemeanours by key campaign officials were also exposed by news reportage resulting in a series of resignations by successive campaign chairmen and managers. This included evidence of covert and shady dealings with Russian, Ukrainian and Arab politicians, businessmen and even Russian and Ukrainian intelligence agencies.

Thus, it was not at all surprising for us to learn that even before Trump won the election, America’s array of intelligence and security agencies were on the job of checking all this out. After all, long before he ever thought of entering politics, Trump had a reputation as one of the country’s more unscrupulous, deceitful and decadent businessmen.

The probable truth of many of these allegations and real security agency suspicions is betrayed by, firstly, the successful prosecution, of over a dozen top election officials and none other than his newly appointed National Security Advisor. Trump’s long time personal lawyer, his campaign chairman and vice chairman, among several other associates, have not only been convicted of serious financial crimes and criminal misleading (perjury) of the investigation agencies, but they are now busy disclosing more to the investigators about their criminal activity. Others, such as his most loyal family business finance chief and, one of his personal tycoon friends, are busy also disclosing things to the investigators to avoid criminal prosecution.

Most significantly, the investigating agencies, such as, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and several state-level government prosecutors, have indicated to court that much of the disclosures by these suspects and convicts implicate Trump. That all this may be true is betrayed by Trump’s own actions and statements since he came to power. He has been caught lying about his role by subsequent confessions by those same collaborators and by evidence produced in court by the investigators.

He rushed to sack the head of the FBI within a few months of coming to power, even though that the FBI chief had an impeccable professional record and there seemed to be no direct reason for the sacking. Trump even publicly boasted that the sacking was because of the FBI’s probes against him!

Trump then went on to serially sack several top officials of the Department of Justice which oversees the FBI for no apparent reason other than his own claims that they were politically biased or were under-performing. Ultimately this included his own appointed, and most loyal (the very first Senator to endorse his presidential candidacy), Attorney General, Jess Sessions.

Trump publicly abused Sessions and, revealingly, accused him of disloyalty for recusing himself from direct supervision of the FBI probes (because Sessions had overtly criticised the probes before assuming office).

Trump’s choice of temporary acting Attorney General to replace Sessions also betrays the President’s possible guilt. That official, Mathew Whitaker, has had no prior federal level legal experience whatsoever, but only a brief tenure as a state prosecutor at state level. What drew public attention to Whitaker was solely his public pronouncements dismissive of the FBI probes against Trump!

In fact Trump was in such a hurry to appoint him as Acting A-G that the White House waived – on a flimsy technical excuse – the usual vetting by Congress (the US national legislature) for such top appointments. Does this not betray something fishy?

Today, Trump’s new choice of permanent Attorney General has similarly been critical of the FBI probes. What is most significant is that during last week’s Senate vetting procedure, nominee William Barr, refused to rule out possible complete suppression by the Justice Department of any final report of the FBI probes on the grounds of national security. Will this legal cover-up be allowed to happen? Will Congress, the news media and the American people allow this?

That the American President can do all these highly questionable (if not already criminal) things must surely show up serious weaknesses and faults within American national institutions. And if this is not enough, the failure of Trump’s own Republican Party government, which still controls the all-powerful Senate, to impose checks on the President’s misdoings or even strongly criticise him, must powerfully indicate the serious failure of American democracy.

This domestic crisis in the USA is complemented by the Trump administration’s blunders and crudely forceful behaviour in the international arena. The US’ closest allies and civilisational partners have been betrayed (and with such swiftness) by several Trumpian actions even as the global community’s stability and well-being is threatened. Firstly were Trump’s serial unilateral withdrawals from the Paris Climate Change pact, the budding Trans Pacific Partneship (TPP), the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA), and the Iran Nuclear Pact.

The US has also unilaterally withdrawn from several other United Nations platforms pertaining to human rights, international justice and even international migration, among other mechanisms.

All these withdrawals and betrayals of international trust and expectations surely diminish the stature of the United States of America as ‘the’ world’s leader. Of course, the actual number of global citizens who continue to respect American leadership of the global community has been diminishing for decades, perhaps since America’s atrocities and ruthless hegemonism during the Vietnam war.

If Latin America was already aware of America’s hegemonism in that region since the early 20th Century (when the Monroe Doctrine claimed exclusive dominance of the Americas), it was in the post Second World War era that Asia began to realise the extent of US’s ruthless geopolitics, especially with the military interventions in South East Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Philippines etc).

By the time of the first Persian Gulf invasion by President George Bush Sr. in the 1990s and, certainly by the crude pretence (the ‘weapons of mass destruction’) with which President Bush Jr. invaded Iraq subsequently, the world had begun to realise the hollowness of America’s claim to be “Leader of the Free World”. In Iraq, the real ‘mass destruction’ occurred at the hands of the invading Western alliance.

As always, real life is more rewarding and hence, more entertaining, than fiction. In the fiction of Hollywood, the world’s most powerful nation (to which Hollywood belongs) is the ‘greatest’ beacon of human civilisation.

Racism and social violence

But real American life, society and politics, including some awful geopolitics, reveal a depressingly harsher, murky, national profile. And if the bloodiest, cruellest, most conspiratorial depths are exposed, not only is that real-life exposé far more dramatic than anything Hollywood can produce, but its exposure, in alerting the rest of humanity, provides the global community with some relief from further such perfidy.

Hollywood may entertain us with American heroism in war (fighting Hitler’s racist dictatorship and Stalin’s totalitarianism), adventurous national expansion (cowboys in the Wild West), scientific prowess (Moon-landings, Silicon Valley) and even flamboyant culture (rock music).

But our impressions of such ‘greatness’ are balanced by what we learn of equally great depths of depravity, like the racism and social violence in America itself and, cruelly interventionist and hegemonic geopolitics across the globe.

For me, the true beacon of America’s greatness is, on the one hand, America’s own honesty and moral sophistication in acknowledging its own transgressions, local and global. On the other hand, there is the remarkable capacity of its institutions, social and political, including the news media and Hollywood, to enable such civilizational integrity.

It took military defeat by other nations to reveal the depths of Nazi depravity and the bravery of Soviet dissidents to reveal the caricature of ‘socialism’ under Stalin.

In America’s case, however, it is the Americans themselves who are self-confessing, as it were, their own civilisational failings. What better demonstration of sophistication than the courage and intelligence to admit one’s own faults?