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Suppose, for the sake of argument, the FBI proves the president is the tool of a foreign dictator. I doubt it would make much difference to his core supporters. They regard this investigation and others as political hatchet jobs.

Let that sink in: Even if the president is provably a tool, a powerful voting bloc will not care.

How powerful? The president locked down his party's nomination with a plurality. He was nominated by his core supporters because enough other Republicans feared a party split. Since then, the whole party has largely fallen into line.

This, by the way, is one reason the president's supporters believe they can have anything the want if they just refuse to budge. The approach works less well outside of GOP primaries, but I digress.

The FBI suspects the president is under the thumb of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. Today's topic is whether the recently revealed counterintelligence investigation is justified. Then I will speculate on what it would take for any findings to make a difference.

Since everything else is supposedly a "deep state" conspiracy, consider the president's own words as a candidate.

"I will tell you this: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press," the president said July 27, 2016. He referred, of course, to emails of a former secretary of state of the United States.

That is not something someone unquestionably loyal to the United States would say, whether he liked the former chief national diplomat or not.

Those remarks also came shortly after a previously undisputed pro-Ukrainian plank in the GOP platform disappeared. The nominee had just openly questioned both the value of and our commitment to NATO. He also called for the lifting of sanctions on Russia for invading Crimea. By the way, someone had just hacked Democratic campaign headquarters. Investigation concluded the hackers worked for Putin's government.

All of that was out in the open 10 months before the FBI counterintelligence investigation began. Yet the president and his supporters still holler "hoax" whenever anyone raises suspicion he might be Putin's boy.

I am just a wiseguy from Arkansas, but my response on the FBI starting a counterintelligence investigation can be summed up as: What took so long?

To answer my own question, investigating a sitting president is no small thing. Accusations of playing politics were a certainty. Still, plenty of grounds for such an investigation existed on July 27, 2016. I said so three days later, my first column after those remarks.

"There's enough grounds for suspicion here to fuel a dozen Clinton or Obama conspiracy theories," I wrote. "I wish a Clinton or Obama had been involved. We'd have a House select committee investigation by now." I referred, of course, to then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, her husband, Bill, and then-President Barack Obama.

I strongly suspect a pile of hard evidence must exist to convince the FBI to take the drastic step of investigating the president. Maybe I am wrong, though. For all I know, that investigation has already cleared him. As I have said in print, it is possible the president was not directing things but being manipulated. He is plausibly that clueless.

But an investigation is justified based just on what we know.

Some will want to dismiss all this as biased, fake news. Criticism of bias does not sting much when coming from people who nominate someone for president without even looking at his tax returns. Any bias in the special counsel's team or the FBI does not hold a candle to that.

Everyone would be better off if the remarks of July 27, 2016, were taken seriously at the time.

As I have said many times before: The question of what Putin did and who helped him is not a red thing or a blue thing. It is a red, white and blue thing.

So now what?

We wait for the investigations' results. Then we weigh the findings. Then we vote in 2020.

I am not one of the "impeach him" crowd yet. The real problem is not the president, even if he is a tool. The great problem is a voting bloc that does not know, want to know or, perhaps, even care if he is. The only place to beat that is at the ballot box. If the voters as a whole do not care, there is no hope anyway.

Commentary on 01/19/2019

Print Headline: What took so long?

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