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A thought experiment: What if Trump could time-travel back a week and say this

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
President Donald Trump waving before delivering keynote address at Liberty University's commencement in Lynchburg, Virginia, on Saturday.

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.

Comments (22)

  1. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/15/2017 - 09:33 am.

    Well . . .

    It’s a nice idea, but it rests on the flawed premise that Trump is capable of admitting mistakes, regret. It also requires the assumption that he values qualities in subordinates other than personal loyalty to Donald J. Trump.

    As far as being “humbled,” I think that one speaks for itself.

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/15/2017 - 10:06 am.

    Why should Trump travel just in time

    when he has shown that he can inhabit alternate universes/realities?

    • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 05/15/2017 - 03:01 pm.

      when has he shown otherwise?

      This is a silly premise for an article for no other reason than that Trump has admitted that he has never had to ask God’s forgiveness for anything ever.

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/15/2017 - 10:11 am.

    In the vivid fantasy world that Trump inhabits, it may entirely be within the realm of possibility. He could say something like this in the future–after all, his mind seems to resemble a couple thousand monkeys all banging away at typewriters–sometimes it approaches reason. On occasion, he invents a brilliant phrase like “priming the pump”–who can argue with genius ?

    “Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just … I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good.”

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 05/15/2017 - 10:11 am.

    Color me skeptical

    I’d be amazed by even the first paragraph, much less the rest of the “statement.” As far as I can tell from having lived 70+ years and trying to pay attention the majority of that time, the capacity of the privileged to convince themselves that they both “earned” and “deserve” their privileges is more or less without limits. Even in those cases where someone admits that their fortune is largely due to good fortune, I’m not aware of many instances where that realization has led to either humility or a strong desire to use that good fortune for the benefit of those who, largely due to circumstances beyond their control, have been less fortunate.

    Sadly, it appears that Mr. Trump has much in common with many other garden-variety autocrats down through the centuries, including the shallow education, massive insecurities, and, to fall back on an old psychological reference I’ve used before, “the illusion of central position,” a personality trait characteristic of young (i.e., preschool) children. The apparent emphasis on loyalty to Trump personally, rather than to the country, is simply one manifestation of this collection of characteristics. All of these traits, by the way, were quite evident during the campaign, and millions of voters were either oblivious, or were willing to dismiss any concerns about those traits they might have had about Trump as human being, as well as Trump as President. Lots of angry, resentful people saw what they believed to be a kindred spirit, and they voted for him. Many of those voters are still angry and resentful, and still support the emotional and intellectual child they’ve put in the White House.

  5. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 05/15/2017 - 10:17 am.

    Please. Stop.

    Meaning no disrespect, but why do you devote your short time on earth to this “alternate universe” series, in which you craft words Donald Trump might have uttered, were he not Donald Trump? It is logically absurd.

    There is not a sentence in your lengthy fantasia of thoughtfulness that Trump is capable of uttering, let alone uttering sincerely. Were this otherwise, he would not be Trump. He would not be entangled in the web of sociopathic self-dealing and self-dealers that defines him, the figures in his administration would not be the subject of multiple investigations, and there would have been no motive for him to have discharged the FBI director.

    In short, your series of discourses might be titled: “What someone who is not Trump might say to rise above a situation that person would be in only if he were Trump.”

    • Submitted by Cameron Parkhurst on 05/15/2017 - 10:45 am.

      I agree. Please. Stop.

      The if only Trump had said something else series does not work for me. No amount of wishful thinking or hand-wringing or angst is going to make him go away.

  6. Submitted by Misty Martin on 05/15/2017 - 12:06 pm.

    Eric, so well written, as usual.

    It would be nice to have a time machine, and it would be nice to have a President who could rise above what he deems to be personal insults and criticisms and not be so prone to “strike back” with words and tweets. It’s hard not to “compare” the current President with other past Presidents who always seemed to have dignity and common courtesy at their very core. Such attributes go a long way, especially when addressing the country on what can be a weekly, if not a daily basis.

    I have always thought that it showed one to have great character to be able to sincerely apologize for one’s mistakes or rude remarks, when necessary, instead of just brushing them aside, as if such hurtful things spoken or potentially harmful actions shown were not important enough to be recognized and amends for doing or saying such things were not necessary. It IS necessary no matter what station one holds in life, and having such prestige and power as President of the United States of America, makes it all the more important to teach our children that neither kindness nor “chivalry” are dead, but that they can exist in the very hearts of men and women everywhere, and should do so, especially when it comes to leadership, and especially when the leadership is in a country so blessed and so powerful as this great land we live in.

  7. Submitted by Pat Terry on 05/15/2017 - 12:36 pm.


    Why do you write these pieces? What good is pretending that Trump is something that he isn’t?

    I recommend calling out Trump for exactly what he is and then acting accordingly. Fantasizing that it isn’t as bad as you think is only going to make things worse.

  8. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/15/2017 - 01:21 pm.

    Eric’s rewrites

    demonstrate by contrast just how irrational Trump’s statements are.
    That can be more effective than just pointing out the error’s in Trumps verbiage, which boils down to ‘How do you know he’s lying? His lips are moving.’

  9. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 05/15/2017 - 02:25 pm.

    I think it’s fun, and a relaxing sort of intellectual exercise, to read through Eric’s “contrary-to-fact” Trumpian apology and touching base with the many Trump statements and character weaknesses that make Eric’s essay a total unreality. Trump could never say or write this–for one thing, the guy can’t put words together that way; Trump is a short-burst speaker, with no nuance.

    Many Americans long for the sort of President who is capable of self-reflection, humility, and recognition of the existence of others who do not agree with his views. The big factor for me in Eric’s piece, that makes all of it fantasy, is its assumption that Trump cares at all about the majority of Americans. He doesn’t. He can’t abide the fact that most of us voted against him, and he’ll be damned if he’ll pay any attention to us. Instead, he seems to want to annihilate us, make us disappear.

    So Sad!

  10. Submitted by Nick Foreman on 05/15/2017 - 02:25 pm.

    Does he have to come

    Back? Perhaps Baron Trump will be available

  11. Submitted by Carolyn Jackson on 05/15/2017 - 02:31 pm.

    Too many syllables

    The “if-only” Trump would still speak in monosyllabic words and simple sentences. The challenge is, can a statement like this be written in 3rd grade language? And still sound like a winner?

  12. Submitted by Roy Everson on 05/15/2017 - 04:34 pm.

    Art’s the thing

    Find an artist to create a rendition of “Bizarro Trump.” Make him a character. Have fun with it. Feed him the words that your detractors find hard to swallow. Bizarro Trump is a better messenger.

  13. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/16/2017 - 07:14 am.

    “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.” Couldn’t this be said about Clinton as well? Was it? On the other hand, even if he said all this, he would have been condemned by the left. For example, Trump didn’t fire Comey, who “lost all credibility,” and was condemned; he did fire Comey and now he is condemned again. Just like that poor lamb in Aesop’s fable, eaten by the wolf even after that wolf ran out of excuses to eat the lamb..

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 05/16/2017 - 06:14 pm.

      Sorry, your tale falls apart in the next news cycle–Trump tries to quash FBI/Flynn investigation…

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/18/2017 - 07:30 am.

        Now your story falls apart – an independent investigator has just been appointed… But anyway, what’s “my story” you were talking about?

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/19/2017 - 09:15 am.

          It’s Story Time!

          Trump did not appoint the special counsel, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein appointed him, and Trump thinks the whole investigation is a “witch hunt.”

          After all, he is so unfairly persecuted, more than anyone else in history.

          • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 05/19/2017 - 02:43 pm.

            Deputy Attorney General works under Attorney General who is appointed by, and works at the pleasure of, the President. Doesn’t it mean that the system is working and Trump is no Hitler? But, on the other hand, he is scrutinized more than any other president…

  14. Submitted by Patricia Ward on 05/16/2017 - 03:43 pm.

    Ever thought of running for office?

    Beautifully written!

  15. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 05/17/2017 - 07:21 am.

    What next?

    Trump is an absurdity, a negative abstraction, a dangerous man running this nation into the ground.

    The time machine is a scene that allows one to forget or maybe offers comic relief from what we dare not accept or believe. even as we watch another chaotic policy coming down the avenue?

    But Trump is, will be gone soon; He is like a temporary figurehead who will be requested to step down soon I assume by his own administration aides, handlers and then comes Pence to replace him?

    We have to think of the future that will come after Trump rides his Time kiddy car into some fantasy sunset? But…

    I do wonder…should we be not worried finding this nation under a second power broker Pence…we aint seen nothin’ yet…another authoritarian head of state panting and waiting : waiting to actuate his presidency ?

    We are in one chaotic mess and I don’t see any positive future under this presidential scene considering the candidates – winners or losers- waiting in the wings?

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