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Jim Vibert: If Trump’s lies succeed, then what’s next?

Donald Trump Jr., left, is interviewed by host Sean Hannity on his Fox News Channel television program, in New York Tuesday, July 11, 2017.
Donald Trump Jr., left, is interviewed by host Sean Hannity on his Fox News Channel television program, in New York Tuesday, July 11, 2017.

So this is it, right? The jig is up? Not so much.

The Trump presidency has been a six-month battle of lies over truth, and so far the lies are more than holding their own. At least five Trump confidants have been caught out, but so far only one has fallen.

This week, proof emerged of the eager intent of Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign manager Paul Manafort to collude with the Russians in the presidential election. So the bar was raised from collusion to successful collusion.

According to the House of Trump, nothing came of the meeting between the three central players in Trump’s campaign and the Russian femme fatale bringing the dirt on Hillary. No harm, no foul.

“We went in to rob the bank but the vault was empty, so we left,” is the essence of the defence offered up by Donald Jr., a cadre of Trump apologists, lawyers and White House fabulists.

Donald-the-younger released emails confirming the campaign’s willingness to work with Russia because the New York Times had them and, in the finest traditions of journalistic fairness, gave him advance warning.

Young Donald’s voluntary release of the humiliating material was his one and only chance to salvage a scrap of honour before he was shown to be the serial and habitual faker he is. A lesson no doubt learned at the knee of his doting daddy.

The president’s misrepresentations of the relationship with Russia are written off because he has deniability, however implausible. Americans are asked to believe his son, son-in-law, campaign manager, attorney general and former national security chief all kept the boss in the dark.

If this proves false, like everything else these guys have said about the Russia intrigue, the question becomes, is it an impeachable offence and will the world be spared something less than four years of President Trump and his train-wreck administration?

Treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors are cause for impeachment. Current interpretation is that high crimes and misdemeanors mean whatever Congress decides it means.

Constitutional scholars disagree, and while that is probably irrelevant, it is worthy of consideration because it illuminates what the Framers of the Constitution — the conservatives’ last word on all things constitutional when it suits their purposes — meant by the phrase.

High crimes do not refer to their seriousness or legality, but to the special obligation owed by those who hold high office. In the case of the president, betrayal of the oath of office was clear and indisputable cause for impeachment in the minds of the Framers, as read by the scholars.

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States.” The first words of the presidential oath bind the president to tell the truth as necessary to the faithful execution of the office. That standard has already disappeared in the rear view mirror of the presidential limousine.

Astute students of the constitution won’t decide Trump’s fate. That will be left to a congress with its own share of snake oil salesmen.

If Trump survives the full four-year term, the damage inflicted by his administration and the lessons it teaches will haunt America and many of the rest of us for generations.

The damage so far is environmental, geopolitical, renewed racial, ethnic and religious hatred in America and abroad, and widening inequality between the wealthy and the impoverished.

The lessons even a one-term Trump administration will teach future political aspirants may prove his most destructive legacy. A second term would spell the virtual end of honesty and honour in American public life, because it will prove the opposite works.

Politics being politics, it has been possible for politicians to lie their way into high office long before Trump arrived. But to remain in office based on little more than a veil of lies has never before been accomplished.

Trump’s presidency depends on the successful execution of that strategy and, if he is successful, he will not be the last.

It is hard enough to include his name in the pantheon of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Roosevelt and Kennedy. But after Trump, who? After Tiberius, Caligula.

 

Jim Vibert spent 10 years as a political reporter and editor with the Halifax Herald, and 14 years with the Nova Scotia government where he set up Communications Nova Scotia.

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