To my knowledge, nothing that has been made public proves that the current occupant of the Oval Office, President Donald Trump, colluded with agents of the Russian government to subvert the last election. But, to put it minimally, I do not have confidence that Trump wants the truth to come out about interactions between his campaign and the government of Russia.
Call me a skeptic, a cynic or worse names than that. But given the current situation and the past week’s events, it’s hard not to believe that the president has something to hide. Everything he does and says suggests that he is hiding something pretty bad and hiding it pretty desperately.
Maybe that’s not fair. In our system, you are innocent until proven guilty, and Trump has not been charged with any crime, let alone proven guilty. However, as I said above, he is acting as though he has something to hide. But what if that is not the case?
As a thought experiment, and as a generous gesture to our chief executive, I have drafted a statement he should make that would eviscerate those suspicions — if Trump could make this statement and if we could believe him. The trouble is, in order to have the salutary effect described above, he would have to get in a time machine and go back one week, and ask for national television, to say the following:
My Fellow Americans,
I have been fortunate my whole life. Fortunate in the circumstances of my birth, fortunate in business, blessed with wonderful children. Of course, being your president is the greatest and most humbling honor of my public life.
Until last year, I was focused, perhaps too focused, on building my wealth. Now, I am focused on preserving and trying to build upon, the greatness of America that was bequeathed to us from previous generations.
But some Americans are skeptical of both my intentions and of some of the factors that led to my election. I understand that and I understand that the work before us requires me to do all I can to win the confidence even of those – perhaps especially of those – who didn’t support my candidacy. I speak to you tonight in hopes that I can gain some of that confidence, especially from some who didn’t support me last year.
As you know, the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that elements associated with Russia interfered in our election, mostly by distributing illegally hacked information into our public discourse. And the intelligence community found that, among other motives, Russians engaged in these actions to undermine the likelihood of my opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, winning the election.
I’m proud to have won the election, but, of course, that pride is undermined by the knowledge that the actions of a foreign power – a power that does not have the best interests of the United States at heart – may have helped my chances by undermining hers. I condemn and repudiate any such actions and any foreign interference in our elections.
I did not collude with the Russians in their interference. I very much regret that on one occasion I publicly encouraged Russia to find more of Secretary Clinton’s emails and make them public. That was wrong, obnoxious and stupid. It was not meant seriously but I still shouldn’t have said it and I apologize for it.
But, overall, the events of the campaign have left many of you wondering whether your president won the election, in part, by colluding with a hostile foreign power to influence the election.
I did not.
If anyone working on behalf of me or my campaign engaged in such acts of collusion, they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
But, given the suspicions and allegations that exist, it is of vital importance that you understand that I am telling you the truth about this. And given the totality of the circumstances, I cannot expect all Americans to take my word for that. I know that, for some of you, I have yet to earn your trust.
Therefore, knowing that the FBI is already investigating some matters relating to this concern, I want to assure the FBI that they will have my full support in following their investigation wherever it might lead. I want to say now, publicly, that if anyone in my administration gives anything less than full cooperation with this investigation, they will no longer be part of my administration.
We are fortunate, in this matter, to have as the director of the FBI a man, James Comey, who has demonstrated by his actions throughout the election year that he is capable of rising above any partisan or political loyalties in pursuit of the truth of such matters.
During the course of the campaign, Jim Comey has made decisions that annoyed both my opponent and myself. Although Director Comey has Republican roots, his actions have shown that he understands the importance following the truth wherever it leads without regard to party.
There have been occasions during the past year when I have been unhappy with some of Director Comey’s statements and decisions. I know Secretary Clinton felt the same way about a different set of his statements and actions. That’s bound to happen in the heat of a campaign. But the fact that he managed to annoy both of us is at least the beginning of the argument that he is no partisan hack but is committed to finding the truth and making it know to the bosses of all of us in politics or in government: the American people.
So, today, I want to say publicly to Mr. Comey:
“Keep up the good work. Follow the truth wherever it leads and when you have found the truth, tell it to the American people, for whom you and I both work. If you follow the facts fully and faithfully, you will have nothing to fear from me.
“You will have my full cooperation. I say this with confidence, knowing that I have nothing to hide. And if you find evidence of collusion with Russia’s efforts to interfere with our democracy, on the part of anyone involved with my campaign or my administration, they will be out of a job. And, if you recommend it, they will face prosecution.
“I am aware that, as a technical matter, Jim Comey works for the president and the president has the power to fire him. I am also aware that, for very good reasons, Congress has tried to insulate the FBI from political pressure by giving its director a 10-year term. This was done to insulate the position from partisan or political pressure. I’m on board with that.
“Jim, you owe no loyalty to me personally. Your job is special and requires you to give all your loyalty to the people of the United States and the rule of law. Find the facts whatever they are, put them before the American people, and you will have nothing to fear from me.
“It is vital that the truth be found and, if necessary, prosecuted in this matter. Therefore, if the situation arises in which a nonpartisan special prosecutor needs to be appointed, either by the Justice Department, a court of law, or by Congress, I will do nothing to impede such an appointment. In fact, I will support it and cooperate fully with any such special prosecutor. My attitude will be the same if the leaders of Congress decide to empanel a bipartisan committee to investigate these matters or to consider the findings of such a special prosecutor. Such a committee will have my full cooperation.
“That’s because, my fellow Americans, you are entitled to, and you vitally need to know the truth about any efforts to subvert this great democracy.”
I am not asking for any remuneration in exchange for my efforts and President Trump is free to accept my draft as a gift.