Doug Thompson: Gnats, camels and a blue dress

Blind faith is not a good plan

Posted: February 3, 2018 at 1 a.m.

Do not believe anything coming out of Washington, D.C., until and unless someone can back it up.

Republicans in particular need to be skeptical. They trust their presidents too much. During the last GOP administration, the majority party in Congress gave the president the wheel with no real checks and balances. He drove the party over a cliff. Now the resurgent Republicans are barely a year back into power. They are giving too much unquestioning support to a far more reckless president for far less visible reasons.

Consider this week. While various members of Congress were calling each other and the U.S. Justice Department liars, something indisputable happened. On Monday, the administration announced it will not impose new sanctions upon Russia by a deadline set by Congress. The administration also turned over a list of Russian power players, as the sanction law required. People on the list could eventually be sanctioned individually. All this was over Russian meddling in our elections.

The presented list was a farce. The administration took much of it out of a business magazine's list of Russia's richest people. The "list" includes far too many random people to use in picking sanction targets.

Somebody wants to do business with Russians. Scrutiny and sanctions would get in the way.

Congress passed that sanction bill 517 votes to 5 in July. The president could have vetoed it. He did not because he knew Congress would override him. So he waited until the sanctions were supposed to take effect. Then his administration -- apparently deliberately -- botched the job. On that same day, his allies in Congress voted to release a memo that attacks the investigation into the president's connections to Russia.

What people do matters more than what they say.

The FBI is already under fire. The president clearly wanted the memo released, overriding the warnings of his own appointees to do it. On Wednesday, the bureau still defied the president and his allied members of Congress and warned the public that this incoming mud pie has "material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy."

The FBI and the special counsel's Russian connection investigation are biased, the president's allies insist. And the president's allies, laying this smokescreen, are not?

I remember Whitewater. That investigation was by independent counsel Kenneth Starr when Bill Clinton was president. Starr was also a hatchet man from the get-go -- but, eventually, he found a blue dress with stains on it. He proved the president committed both adultery and then perjury about that adultery.

As far as bias goes, consider the memo's chief writer. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., was caught red-handed last year coordinating with the president over other investigation "findings." Any evidence behind -- or against -- his memo is classified. Only a few members of Congress have seen the documents this memo is based upon. Those who have spoken out call the memo misleading at best. Others are conspicuously quiet.

A hyper-partisan congressman writes a memo in which all the proof -- or disproof -- is classified. That is a gnat. The president guts sanctions passed by a veto-proof margin by Congress while openly trying to discredit a criminal investigation seeking to find out why he does such things. That is a camel. If the president fires, demotes or restricts anyone base on Nunes' work, that would be a camel wearing a blue dress.

Speaking of camels, here are a few more. The president's first national security adviser was a Russian informant who has pleaded guilty to lying under oath. The president's campaign manager is under indictment for Russia-connected money laundering. So is the manager's partner. The president's son and son-in-law went to a meeting during the campaign where they were promised dirt obtained by the Russian government. They were caught lying about it.

So no, I do not believe we should stop and wait for St. Peter to come down from Heaven borne by a jury of angels who bring along the Book of Life for evidence before investigating the Russian connection any further, as Rep. Nunes seems to suggest. Special counsel Robert Mueller is a good as or better than anyone we are likely to get. Even with him, wait to see what he finds -- if he is allowed to keep going. And if he is not allowed to keep going, or his investigation is curtailed and its findings suppressed, that would become the most powerful evidence of serious wrongdoing.

Commentary on 02/03/2018