Recently, Donald Trump has captured the media attention due to some of the investigations that he is facing by various federal and state entities of the United States.
Two of them are deeply striking: the search carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the Department of Justice, at the Trump’s Mar-a-Lago mansion in Florida, from which documents were confiscated to contribute to an ongoing investigation of which few details are known, but apparently touches the boundaries of national security.
In addition to this, there is the civil process that the Trump Organization is being confronted in New York for allegedly having deceived banks and tax authorities about the value of its properties in order to obtain loans and other benefits at a time when Trump was President.
Some other controversies may be added. They may not enjoy the same spotlight but are relevant. First, there is the controversy generated in the state of Georgia, where, as one may remember, the 2020 Presidential election was very close between Trump and Biden. The 16 votes of the Electoral College that Georgia has eventually went to Biden. In that context, Trump called the Secretary of State of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger asking him to “find” the necessary votes to win over his rival Joe Biden. Currently, the Georgian authorities are contemplating a subpoena for Trump to testify in what may be the beginning of criminal proceedings against him.
The other highly controversial event is the attempted seizure of the Capitol by Trump supporters on January 6, 2021, as part of the actions undertaken to contest the November 2020 election results. This is why both the Department of Justice and the United States Congress are carrying out investigations, to determine to what extent Trump is responsible for the riots and the attacks to institutions.
Other events come to mind as well. The first is the intervention of the Russian Government in the presidential elections of both 2016 and 2020 to favor Trump.
Another is the telephone conversation between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart in the year 2020 prior to the U.S. presidential elections where the former asked Volodymyr Zelenski to provide him with information about the activities of Hunter Biden, the son of the then Democratic Party pre-presidential candidate, in Ukraine.
Trump’s idea was to use this information to incriminate Joe Biden. It is known that Hunter is a headache for the Biden family and that he has a history linked to prostitution, drugs and other excesses in Ukraine. But he also had businesses with a leading gas company in the Slavic country. Added to this is the fact that, in 2015, Joe Biden, then vice president of the United States, pressured – according to Trump – the Ukrainian government to cease investigations on Hunter and his “businesses” in that country. Whether what Trump says about Hunter Biden is true or not, the fact is that his phone call with Zelensky to conspire against the Democratic candidate Joe Biden was illegal and, for instance, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for impeachment.
In United States history, only Richard Nixon left the White House under the threat of impeachment, although impeachment has been on the country’s political agenda twice: in the cases against Andrew Jackson in 1868 and William Clinton between 1998-1999, although both presidents were acquitted.
The cases against Trump, of course, are peculiar since they reflect the crisis of institutions and liberal democracy in the United States and the world. Washington has always claimed that [its] democracy is the model for the world and has long sold that narrative. Yet, it is difficult to imagine that under current conditions the United States has the perfect political system at a time when social polarization is feeding the repudiation of institutions, not only by broad sectors of the population but even by key political figures like Donald Trump himself. The irony here is that those institutions attacked by Trump are the same institutions that made him President.
Although some compare the controversial businessman with Nixon, the reality is that they are very different characters and faced different circumstances. The context in which Richard Nixon had to leave the White House was, at least partially, attributable to the Vietnam War, which now it is known – in part thanks to the work of Daniel Ellsberg – led the President to lying to the Congress and to the entire nation. But that was not the worst of it. The Watergate scandal, which was the one that determined the fate of the Nixon presidency, occurred as a result of the mission that Nixon himself entrusted to members or former members of the CIA to place microphones and spy on rivals of the Democratic Party in the context of the 1972 elections. The “plumbers” who were arrested while trying to break into the headquarters of the Democratic Party in Washington D.C., triggered a political scandal, widely documented by most important media outlets and that sealed the destiny of Nixon, who resigned from office on August 9, 1974, and was replaced by Gerald Ford.
Forty eight years later, it is worth asking if the presidents of the United States lie while in office. Obviously and unfortunately, yes. The WikiLeaks scandal, for example, illustrates the lies of the U.S. authorities about other countries and their leaders – and in the case of Mexico, what Wikileaks revealed about the views of the U.S. authorities on the then Mexican President Felipe Calderón generated a terrible political crisis that ended with the departure of Ambassador Carlos Pascual. Tensions with President Calderón arose as a result of the WikiLeaks release of diplomatic cables in which the US Ambassador questioned the Mexican military’s ability and the President’s willingness to fight the Mexican drug lords. For the record, this happened during the administration of Barack Obama, who was considered an “honest” President.
It could be argued then that, although it is true that all U.S. leaders lie, there are half-truths and “white” lies – well, more or less – and others that are hard and unsustainable. For example, William Clinton lied about Monica Lewinsky and ended up apologizing to American society to prevent his impeachment. If a President lies, then, it is considered a very serious offense, regardless the situation or the context. Yet Donald Trump broke the mold when it comes to lying and cynicism. The point is not only what Trump asked Zelensky over the phone. The avalanche of lies and the disgraceful behavior of this character goes beyond what the country that sells its democracy as the best in the world can afford.
It can be argued that the United States today is very different from the times of Nixon. To start with, many of the accusations for which Nixon faced impeachment, today in the 21st Century, would not be a crime, since after September 11, 2001, the Patriot Act allows for authorities to reserve information for national security reasons. Had Nixon been President in this century no one could have judged him. Therefore, justice is dynamic, and thus changes and transforms.
But Trump is different. In this case, he is not only an alleged offender. Not since President Richard Nixon, or perhaps the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, has any President – or, say, former President – been more embroiled in controversy. Trump’s acts and behavior may have had consequences both for public and national security. Surprisingly, the impeachment process did not proceed due to the refusal of the Senate to carry it out. On the other hand, Trump is currently taking advantage of all these scandals and investigations to present himself to his followers as a victim of political persecution. The media coverage has received thus far, regardless of the outcome of the investigations, gas overshadowed that of the Biden Administration, showing that politically he is more alive than ever as opposed to an increasingly unpopular Joe Biden. At the end of the day, there is a lot of talk on Trump, which is good for his personal ambitions – and for the Republicans.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by María Cristina Rosas, a professor and researcher at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Rosas (pictured above) can be reached via email at:[email protected]
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