Your Excellency President Trump,
I hope you don’t mind my addressing you that way. It was the original honorific for U.S. presidents, starting with Washington, although it has fallen out of use in favor of the more democratic sounding “Mr. President.” I won’t pretend that I think your presidency has produced much excellence so far, but I’m buttering you up in hopes you will consider my main point and consider making the statement I’ve roughed out for you below. (And, of course, I’m well aware that you aren’t reading this. It’s a sort of literary device.)
Also, please forgive my presumption in offering you some unsolicited advice. Obviously, you understand many things about politics that I never will. As you like to remind people, you are the president and everyone else (including me) is not. And you got the gig by, among other things, figuring out something about how to appeal to a particular 46.1 percent of voters by doing and saying things that self-appointed experts said were political suicide.
For example, when you said John McCain wasn’t a hero because he was captured, when you got into a public argument with the “Gold Medal” parents of a dead soldier, when you bragged about your special ability to grab women by their genitals and get away with it, on those and other occasions the self-appointed experts said you had crossed a line that was politically unsurvivable, and yet, survive you did.
Given which of us is president and which of us is not, you might feel justified in ignoring my presumption in offering you some thoughts about how to quiet down some of the dogs barking at your heels. Anywhere, here goes:
Maybe you already know this. Maybe everyone sees it. But I don’t hear it discussed as frankly as it should be. Every day, your Excellency, you seem to many if not most Americans to be virtually confessing that you are guilty of serious, perhaps even impeachable crimes. This is so blatant and obvious I can’t believe you (and those who defend you) don’t see it. Or perhaps you do see it but are so brilliant that you have a plan beyond the understanding of most of us, for turning that apparent problem into a non-problem.
You are suspected, by many Americans, including many in positions of authority, of a great many misdeeds, including some that might be serious crimes and a longer list that are merely shameful displays of bad character, misdeeds that render you unsuited to your current position. Many who harbor those suspicions are never-Trumpers who dislike you and always have and there is nothing you can do to win them over. Screw them, right?
But surely there are many others who once had hopes for your presidency or were at least willing to give you a chance, but who cannot ignore the sirens that are going off in their common sense, telling them that you are a crook and a liar and a cheat and a bully and an irredeemable greedhead.
Many of them (who were once willing to afford you the benefit of the doubt) have that feeling for one main reason: You won’t cooperate with any of the inquiries that seek to determine whether you are indeed a crook and all that other stuff.
Your blanket denials with no evidence to back them up, your unwillingness to give straight answers to straight questions, and your non-cooperation with perfectly legal and appropriate investigations come across as the actions of a person who has something, or a lot, to hide. Sure, the Fifth Amendment guarantees your right not to incriminate yourself. No one is asking you to incriminate yourself.
But we aren’t talking about whether you are going to jail. We are talking about whether the American people can believe that you are working for them and not for yourself. And we are talking about whether you colluded with the leading geopolitical foe of the United States to help you become president (which raises troubling questions about why such a foe would want to help you become president).
You are the first president or even serious presidential candidate in many years to refuse to release your tax returns. You’re hiding something — or quite possibly a great many things. Your excuse, that you can’t release the returns because they are under audit, never made any sense. So what if they are under audit? There’s no law against a person under audit releasing the returns they filed. The IRS knows what you filed, and (since it’s under perpetual audit) they apparently suspect you of cheating. Let’s see what you filed. We’ll listen to your explanations of your disagreements with the IRS.)
But it’s obvious not only to me but to everyone who is not besotted with your shtick that you are hiding something at least disreputable if not illegal. You haven’t even bothered to give a reason other than the transparently false one above. Keeping the returns from us doesn’t help you with the auditor, it only keeps us from knowing what shady or sharp business practices you’ve been pursuing. You insult the intelligence of even those willing to give you the benefit of the doubt when you act like you have much to hide, and your explanation/excuse for acting that way makes no sense. What goes for your taxes and your financial dealings goes for many other things as well.
You stand accused, in the court of public opinion, of many suspect acts. Your instinct in all cases is to not only deny but also refuse to cooperate with legitimate investigations. Let’s focus on the big one, which is, of course, the Russia stuff.
I don’t claim to know whether you or your son or your son-in-law or any of your hirelings literally committed crimes in their contacts with Russia. Maybe there are innocent explanations for all the things that have raised suspicions. But instead of offering those explanations, you fire the investigators (here, I’m thinking of James Comey) if they decline your request for a pledge of “loyalty,” which to all ears other than yours sounds like a request to disregard any evidence of wrongdoing on your part. That is the behavior of a Mafia don, not a president of a democracy.
Luckily (in my view), as he departed, former FBI Director Comey was able to create circumstances that led to the appointment of a special investigator/prosecutor to consider your possible crimes. And fortunately for our dear nation, a man of such integrity that – even though he is a lifelong Republican, as was Comey – was willing to take the job. Of course, I’m talking about Robert Mueller.
On the planet where I was raised, you have an obvious, easy play here, if you have nothing impeachable to hide. You say something like:
My Fellow Americans:
I have nothing to hide. I regret that circumstances have arisen that cause many Americans to doubt that. So I’m grateful that a man of unquestioned non-political professionalism and integrity like Robert Mueller has agreed to take on the task of investigating the allegations that have arisen about some of my associates and myself.
I did not collude or conspire or cooperate with the government of Russia or any of its agents to affect the outcome of the presidential election. If I did, I should be impeached. But I didn’t, so I have nothing to worry about and everything to gain by getting out the truth on all these matters.
I pledge full and complete cooperation with Mr. Mueller and encourage all of my friends, associates, appointees and supporters to likewise support his efforts to find the truth and share it with the American people. I do so in the full confidence that I have nothing to fear from the truth. If Mr. Mueller finds that anyone working for me has committed a firing offense, they will be fired. If he finds that I have done anything wrong, I will follow his recommendations for corrective actions. If he decides I have broken any laws, I will defend myself as any American is entitled to do. But I can assure you now that I didn’t knowingly or intentionally break any laws.
I hereby publicly ask all of my friends and associates to cooperate fully with Special Counsel Mueller. With the level of cooperation that Mr. Mueller will receive from me and my administration, I look forward to the earliest possible resolution of all matters.
Instead of that, you are publicly berating your own appointed attorney general for recusing himself from any authority over the investigation of the Russian matters, which was an honorable decision he made after it came out that he had publicly (if perhaps unintentionally) misled a congressional committee about his meetings with Russian officials when he was member of your campaign team.
Instead of thanking Jeff Sessions for taking that honorable route, you berate him for doing the honorable thing, you call it “very unfair to the president” (that would be you). How is it unfair to you for him to do the honorable thing unless what you mean is that you have much to hide — which will only add to the public suspicions that you are hiding guilty knowledge in this matter.
Recently we read (and in your own tweets, among other places) that you are contemplating your pardon powers and apparently asserting that you have the power to pardon yourself. Are you really so divorced from ordinary human perceptions that you cannot see that this greatly inclines even those who have supported you to being to assume that you have committed a crime?
An American citizen over whom you preside and who would prefer, but finds himself unable, to believe that his president is not a crook.
p.s. This Washington Post story discusses a lot of methods and arguments that Trump’s legal team is contemplating to counter, frustrate and challenge his obligation to cooperate with the Mueller inquiry.