Trump’s Universe

It is a testament to the creativity of the human mind that it can identify patterns in the random distribution of stars in the night sky. As a heuristic device to identify the location of stars and planets such patterns are helpful. To believe, however, there is some intelligible logos to the distribution of the stars and that indeed they contribute to our understanding of events on earth, nay help predict them is, at best, mistaken.

Over the years many people have made a living out of  interpreting what is written in the stars. Soothsayers, oracles, priests, astrologers have all claimed to discern the shape of events from their careful observation of celestial movements. A more enlightened time has dismissed such claims as nonsense.

However, our own time does have a new priestly cast, they sit around the Trump cabinet table, inhabit the Whitehouse press office and some of the global media. They all claim to be able to discern a strategic direction to US policy on defence, the economy, international relations, immigration and a great deal more from the random tweets and off-the-cuff pronouncements of the Commander in Chief. Some of these are paid to do it, some are ideologically determined to do it but some are just falling prey to the natural human desire to uncover patterns in random observations whether they be of tea leaves, hens entrails, clouds or the disposition of the stars in the sky.

Of course Newton was able to describe a force that shapes the course of the stars in his theory of gravity. In the Trump universe the equivalent is money. If you really want to determine the logic behind the random acts of Trump follow the money. Clearly, the multi-billionaire never loses site of the money he has, refusing to effectively divest himself of his business interests, using his own properties to host government events, allegedly using foreign policy to secure loans for his son-in-law and securing patents for his daughter.

However, just as theoretical physicists could not identify enough gravity to explain the movements of galaxies it seems there does not appear to  be enough visible money to explain all Trumps behaviour. The physicists came up with dark matter. They are sure it is there but they haven’t been able to find it yet. In the Trump universe the equivalent is dark money. Money which has been laundered by Trump for a price. People are pretty sure it is there and Special Councel Mueller is busy searching for it. Many think it emanates from the Dark Star of Putin’s Russia, in a whole range or real estate investments by Russian oligarchs. We will see.

Of course our universe is animated by a force which overwhelms gravity and matter which again is invisible and labeled by the scientists as dark energy. This is a force which is making our universe expand at an accelerating rate. The animating force in Universe Trump is of course the man himself, Dark Tump. Dark Trump has the same single, self regarding purpose as dark energy. He has the same moral consideration and empathy for others, for the avoidance of doubt – none.

Just as dark energy pushes all before it with mindless abandon and disregard so Trump, the man, barges around the world expanding the realm of chaos from which he expects to profit. He has one focus of interest which is himself and his wealth and he does not, and indeed cannot, distinguish between them. They are one and the same.

With Trump, it seems that presence makes the brain go softer. Seventeen months in to his Presidency people are still trying to make sense of him, or still hoping that “adults in the room” will eventually tame him. His campaign was outrageous and Dark Trump has been accelerating that outrageousness ever since he got elected. He has increased our tolerance of venality and corruption with his appointment of like minded people to major offices of state. The sacking of Scott Pruitt should not be seen as a high water mark more a way station to further excess.

Trump is an existential threat to the US and worse. He is currently propped up by a supine GOP which is beholden to the providers of dark money who gain from Trump’s tax reducing agenda. If his actions in relation to the global economy trigger a financial crisis he will be dropped like a hot stone. However the Democrats need to reach out to the so called “basket of deplorables” with credible policies to address their real concerns if Trump is not to be replaced by Trump 2 who may be slightly less boorish but no less divisive.

I mentioned earlier that there some of the new priestly caste are in the global media and some of these are people who should know better. One who does is Martin Wolf of the FT who started a recent article about the growing trade wars with, “The leader of the world’s most powerful country is a dangerous ignoramus.” Clear sighted as ever Wolf sees the the essence of Dark Trump.

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A tale of two people.

The political turmoil in the States has thrown up the best of people and the worst of people. James Comey’s autobiographical reflection on leadership presents a picture of the both.

Obviously, autobiography is a partial view, which it would be foolish to accept uncritically. Reassuringly perhaps, the self Mr Comey is willing to reveal to us is not without fault. He confesses to weaknesses, sins of omission and commission including bullying a fellow student when at University and lying about playing basketball in high school.

He makes no claims to infallibility, indeed quite the contrary recognising that key decisions he has made in his career may have been wrong. He appreciates how difficult it is to understand how motives shape decisions consciously or unconsciously particularly his own. If there is one thing he is keen to convince the reader, it is that, in his professional career he has always tried to act in good faith according to the law and the Constitution of the United States. He presents himself as a fallible human being but a deeply patriotic person who aims high in his professional behaviour.

The book considers the events and people in his life he believes shaped him as a leader. Whether or not he genuinely absorbed those influences and lived up to the high standards he describes only those he led would be able to answer. However his descriptions of what good leadership looks like are compelling and worth reading.

Whilst the leadership style of President Trump is not addressed directly until the end of the book one cannot but feel the first 210 pages create, consciously or not, a sharp point of contrast. Its elements include the ability to listen actively, to seek out the opinions of others and see the value of those that contradict your own. It understands the difference between intelligence and judgement. Intelligence being the ability to “…master a set of facts.” Judgement on the other hand being the ability to “…say what those facts mean and what effects they will have on other audiences.”

Comey, a Republican voter, describes what he thinks are characteristics of good leaders but his examples  are absent of partisan bias. He describes characteristics and behaviours of President Obama he thinks are important including a good sense of humour which he believes to be a good indicator of a persons ego. The ability to laugh at someone else’s joke reveals a degree of self confidence in a willingness to look a little silly as you laugh and an appreciation of others.

Central to Comey’s view of a good leader is personal confidence. Being comfortable in your own skin, knowing yourself, including your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Such confidence facilitates the ability to be humble. To recognise that a good leader does not have to pretend infallibility, rather they recognise others may have more to offer on certain matters and indeed provide better insight into an issue. A good leader blends confidence and humility in a mutually reinforcing whole.

Comey is clear a leader cannot take respect it has to be earned. Earned through consistency of words and actions. Living the values you espouse. He understands that as a leader you are constantly under scrutiny. Some will be willing you to exhibit actions which contradict your words, the vast majority will be looking for examples of what you value. Your words and actions are signposts, you constantly have to take care are pointing in the right direction.

Access to truth, for Comey is seen as fundamental to good leadership. Loyalty of those around you means having people who will challenge you with vigour when they think you are making a mistake. Helping you discover the uncomfortable truth as opposed to reassuring your convenient prejudice.  Loyalty expressed through flattery magnifies errors when whatever “the boss” says is agreed to as right. This is the loyalty offered to  the Mafia boss.

There are lots of textbooks on leadership but if you want a passionate guide from someone who at the very least has occupied some very senior leadership positions you could do a lot worse than read this book. Comey sets the bar high and from his autobiography you do get the impression he measured himself against it. He clearly reflected a lot on leadership and thought deeply about it.

And then of course there is President Trump. Clearly, the fact that President Trump sacked him will have shaped Mr Comey’s views about the man. However, the manner of his sacking, reported live on TV speaks volumes to the leadership style of the man who now ‘leads the free world”.

In summary, Comey was in the FBI’s Los Angeles field office speaking to a room full of staff when he saw the news of his sacking being reported on the TV screen running across the back of the room. Once it had sunk in that this was not a joke he got onto his assistant back in Washington who had been given a letter which she scanned and emailed to Comey which fired him with “immediate effect”.

If Comey had been guilty of some act of gross misconduct this would have been a shocking and deplorable way to handle his dismissal. The ostensible reasons in the advice given by the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were, ironically, about his handling of the Hilary Clinton email investigation which had been conducted 6 months previously, before Trump had been elected to the Presidency.

Whilst this manner of sacking might seem unprofessional it does not plumb the depths of the sacker. The issue of how Comey would get home arose. The Deputy Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, who had suddenly become the Acting Director of the agency, decided it was appropriate to return Mr Comey to Washington in the official plane with his security detail.

Millions saw the return of the sacked Director live on TV, including, it seems, the President. Many would have thought this national coverage of his return a public humiliation. It was, but seemingly not enough for the President. The next day Trump rang the new Acting Director and asked how Comey had been allowed to use the official plane to get back to Washington. When McCabe explained he had authorised it, “The President exploded.” He ordered that Comey should never again be allowed into any FBI property anywhere. This meant his staff had to box up his personal effects and take them to his home.

Are we at the bottom yet? No. The Deputy Director’s wife had once run unsuccessfully as a democrat for the Virginia state legislature. Apparently in his fury with McCabe Trump asked “Your wife lost her election in Virginia, didn’t she?” When McCabe replied “Yes, she did.” Trump said “Ask her how it feels to be a loser.”

Confidence, humility, judgement? No. Petty, spiteful, vindictive? Yes.

In the epilogue Comey manages to maintain a sense of optimism. Whilst he deplores those who stand silent and provide tacit assent to Trump’s outrageous behaviour, he believes after the forest fire which is the Trump presidency the United States will refocus and restore the balance between the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government. We can only hope his optimism is well founded.

Having read this book I think about the lift test. Would I want to be stuck in a lift with Comey. He sounds genuine and interesting so the answer is yes. If it were Trump? I’d jump.

 

A Higher Loyalty: Truth Lies and Leadership. James Comey. Flatiron Books 2018

McMafia strike in Washington?

In the wake of what appears to be an assassination attempt on Sergei Skripal sponsored by Russia there is renewed interest in the death of other Russian exiles, including that of one Mikhail Lesin found dead in his hotel room in Washington in November 2015.

Mikhail Lesin had been a very prominent Russian figure with close links to Putin having been responsible for setting up Russia Today (RT) the international television station funded by the Russian government aiming to provide a Russian viewpoint on major global events. He went on from there to head up Gazprom Media the largest Russia media holding company which, in 2000, controversially acquired the last nationwide independent television network.

In 2014, quite suddenly and without explanation, Lesin resigned from Gazprom Media and left Russia for a home he had set up in the United States. What happened after that is not all that clear.

Following his death, in March 2016 it was concluded the cause of his death was “blunt force injuries to the head”. However other “blunt force injuries” were also identified on his neck, torso, upper extremities and lower extremities. This sounds like he had “blunt force injuries” all over his body.

There followed a 12 month period of investigation to determine the manner of his death. This included a Grand Jury investigation local police and the FBI. The Department of Justice concluded that his death was “accidental” following heavy drinking. He had apparently got so drunk he kept falling down until he killed himself. Not a common cause of death even in Glasgow.

The plot thickens when you discover that the hotel room in which Lesin was staying was paid for by the US Department of Justice. The reason for this being he was due to meet with the officers from the Department of Justice the following day to be interviewed about the operation of RT.

In summer 2017 three FBI agents spoke to BuzzFeed claiming Lesin was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat. Perhaps it could be argued that, in his drunken stupor, he had beaten himself to death with a baseball bat. Not a view the FBI agents favoured saying no one in the FBI thought this was anything other than murder. This generated a fair amount of interest at the time although no change in the official conclusion about the manner of death being accidental.

Then late last week BuzzFeed revealed a secret report had been produced in 2016 which had indicated that Lesin had fallen out with a Russian oligarch. The oligarch, who had close links to Putin, had then commissioned the Russian secret service to frighten Lesin. Whether they had been over enthusiastic in their work or the mission had been changed in the light of his impending discussions with the FBI is unknown.

Interestingly the author of that report was Christopher Steele. The same Christopher Steele that produced the report on Russian attempts to influence the US election in Trumps favour. Incidentally, the Same Christopher Steele who is now alleged to be on a Kremlin hit list according to ex KGB spy Boris Karpichkov who is now in hiding in the UK. All of this may have sounded like conspiracy theory 10 years ago but now it is difficult to see as anything other than an extra-judicial state killing.

For me there are two interesting questions if the stories about Lesin are true. Firstly, how on earth did the Department of Justice come to the conclusion that it did about the death? Even if you rule our Russian involvement Lesin would have had to have been one of the most accident prone people in the world to keep falling down until he killed himself, however drunk he was.

The second question is about the Steele claim that Lesin fell out with an oligarch who then used the forces of the Russian state to deal with the matter. If true this betrays an integration of personal, criminal and state power which reinforces a picture of the world where crime and politics are increasingly interlinked. Where the economic resources of the state are plundered by rapacious politicians and state power is used to protect and sustain outright criminal behaviour.

The evidence against Mr Putin mounts every day. He is clearly no friend of democracy, doing what he can to undermine the process in the west as he subverts it at home. The latest diplomatic response to the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal has been impressive. It must however be followed up by actions on the finances of Russian oligarchs with links to the Kremlin. For some time now there have been calls for the City of London to look much more closely at the sources of money flowing through the capital from Russia and a range of other locations. These must not be seen as alarmist propaganda threatening the global finance centre’s future. On the contrary failure to take urgent and substantial action will put at risk the long term credibility of the City. Ultimately losing that credibility will cost dearly.

Yes, John Bolton Really Is That Dangerous – The New York Times

The good thing about John Bolton, President Trump’s new national security adviser, is that he says what he thinks.

The bad thing is what he thinks.

There are few people more likely than Mr. Bolton is to lead the country into war. His selection is a decision that is as alarming as any Mr. Trump has made. His selection, along with the nomination of the hard-line C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, as secretary of state, shows the degree to which Mr. Trump is indulging his worst nationalistic instincts.

 

Just when you think it can’t get any worse President Trump shows he can still shock. The only hope is that his latest appointment will last as long as the two previous ones although sadly that is plenty of time for him to engage the US in a conflict with North Korea or Iran or both.

The Case for Impeachment

It is a sad but unsurprising comment on the Trump Presidency that in April this year (2017), less than three months into his term of office, an American professor of history, Allen J Lichtman, should think it worthwhile publishing a work entitled “The Case for Impeachment”. The book considers Trump’s behaviour generally and specifically in his first few weeks in office to present the “… foundation for building a case for his impeachment”.

He makes the point that impeachment proceedings are not confined to the actions of a President in office. Politically unlikely, but constitutionally possible is the impeachment of Trump for actions which were committed before he became President. More likely such actions may be considered as evidence of his character and propensity to behave in particular ways as part of an impeachment hearing for things related to his campaign for the Presidency and his time in office.

Professor Lichtman summarises a whole series of areas which he believes provide grounds for action to impeach Trump. A key one is his attitude to the law. He summarises the various laws that Trump has broken over the years: racial discrimination in housing; illegal use of charitable funds; failure to pay taxes; sexual discrimination against female  employees in his casinos; establishing a fraudulent “University” (one which offered no course credits, conferred no degrees, did not grade students and did not submit to outside review); and, perhaps most ironically, the exploitation of undocumented immigrants in the construction of Trump Tower in 1980.

Whilst impeachment may not be instituted because of any of the above transgressions they provide evidence of his attitude towards the law. Details of the above cases betray an attitude which sees it as a tool to gag and intimidate people who oppose him but to be ignored or subverted where it stands in the way of what he wants to do. His modus operandi is to spend his way out of trouble by, for instance, paying $25m to settle the case relating to his bogus university whilst at the same time claiming this as a victory. He has certainly had plenty of practice finessing the law it being reported he has been plaintiff in 1,900 legal actions, defendant in 1,450, and involved in bankruptcy or third-party suits 150 times.

The book catalogues the various and multiple conflicts of interest created by Trump’s ongoing business interests around the world and makes the point that the high level of debt many of his companies rely upon creates real leverage for the holders of that debt if something goes wrong and his businesses cannot repay their loans. The only way to avoid these conflicts and risks would be by selling all his assets, liquidating his debt and putting the proceeds into a blind Trust operated by a third part not reporting to the President. He has refused to do this rather handing over control of his business empire to his two sons!

Trumps propensity to see the truth as whatever serves his purpose is considered. The independent fact-checker PolitiFact reviewed all the presidential candidates at the end of the nomination process and found Trump had more “Pants on Fire” ratings than all twenty-one other candidates… combined! The point is made that lying under oath about his relationship with Ms Lewinsky was a key driver of the impeachment of Bill Clinton. A series of outstanding lawsuits against Trump could result in his having to testify under oath and create a similar risk for him if he failed to tell the truth.

Of course the big issue is the Russia connection and the book provides a summary of the nature of the pro-Trump Russian intervention in the election and the many links Trump has to Russia, and oligarchs close to Putin. It charts the pro-Russia interventions made by the Trump administration and the links going back to the 2013 Miss Universe pageant which Trump took to Moscow. It also mentions the fact that, at the time, Trump had tweeted “Trump Tower Moscow is next.” Since the book was published in April evidence has emerged that Trump Tower Moscow was more than a vague dream. It appears, despite statements to the contrary, that Trump Tower Moscow is a live project. Indeed in 2016 Mr Trump signed a letter of intent about the project.

Given what we know about the actions of Trump since the election the question arises, why has he not been impeached already. The cold reality according to Prof. Lichtman is that the Republican Party has a programme of change they want to see through. It involves, tax reform, de-regulation, eviscerating climate change laws, repeal of the affordable care act, shifting investment towards the military away from social programmes, and generally reducing the role of the state. Whilst it is judged Trump is capable of delivering on this the Republicans will not move against him and their control of the House and Senate means therefore impeachment would not succeed.

Given Trump’s spectacular failure to deliver pretty much anything since he came into office the GOP may well be starting to think about plan B. If they were to impeach Trump then, theoretically, Mike Pence, as Vice President, should take over which may have looked an attractive option at some point. However, this may not be so appealing if there is a risk that the investigations of special counsel Bob Mueller finds that Mr Pence has, in some way, colluded in the Russia connection or, even worse, the cover up of the same.

It is difficult to see how President Trump can survive to the end of his first term. His propensity to dig  when he is in a hole is spectacular. Whilst it is a comment on the times a book could be published 4 months into his Presidency making the case for impeachment it is even more instructive that 6 months later the book looks significantly out of date as to the weight of evidence mounting and pressure building on this presidency.

There is a sense President Trump has created a new standard for shock. He has set the bar much higher for outrage. However, in the background the prosaic investigations of the Mueller inquiry grind on. The President may find at some point the civilised standards of ordinary people reassert themselves and that no one is above the rule of law. If he does not – God help America.

The Case For Impeachment. A J Lichtman. Harper Colllins 2017

 

That Fight is Ours Too…

Politics in the United States is not the obvious place to look for inspiration at the moment however Senator Elizabeth Warren’s book “This Fight is Our Fight: The Battle to Save Working People” is like a shaft of light in  a dark cave. Ms Warren is the senior US senator for Massachusetts and a Democrat. Her book provides an analysis of how the US has been transformed over the past four decades from a nation characterised by a stable and growing middle class optimistic about its future to a society riven with insecurity and fear.

She is a genuine patriot, particularly proud of the amazing growth of the middle class in the states following the Great Depression driven by FD Roosevelt’s government which took on the multi-millionaires of the time. Promoting trade unions, breaking monopolistic practices, regulating competition, investing in education for all and creating a nascent welfare state.

Warren BookAll of this meant that over the period from 1935 to 1980 some 70% of all the income growth went to the bottom 90% of the population and 30% went to the top 10%. It meant that an enormous middle class was created whose experience was of steady employment, with good pensions to look forward to and a faith their children would be able to build on the foundations they had laid and gain a better future through education and their own efforts.

Do not think Ms Warren looks back through rose tinted spectacles however, at “the good old days”. Her personal experience as a child of how precarious existence could be when her father had a heart attack and could not work prevents that. When her mother became the only breadwinner in the house and got a minimum wage job at Sears things were tight, however, in the mid 1960’s, that one minimum wage kept a family of three afloat paying the mortgage and keeping food on the table.

It is not that everything back then was perfect, it was just that there was a sense the arc of history was bending in the right direction. Since then however the arc of history has been pushed in a different direction. Whilst the cost of living has increased significantly the value of the minimum wage has plummeted in real terms and the idea that a single minimum wage, could keep a family of three afloat is laughable. The current Federal minimum being $7.25 although in many states higher rates are paid up to $15 (£9) per hour. Worse, median wages have stagnated so that over a thirty year period working Americans have seen virtually no real increase in their pay. Why is this?

One of the reasons is that in the period since 1980 to 2015 the income growth of the country mentioned above got shared out differently. The amount received by the bottom 90% was a large round number – zero. And for those who struggle with maths this means the top 10% have taken 100% of the growth. How could that happen?

Well not by accident. Back in those crazy communist days of the 1960’s the 10% started to become discontent with the mere 30% of the wealth they received. This discontent was channelled in 1971 by a confidential memo written by a corporate lawyer named Lewis Powell which was essentially a call to the rich to transform themselves in to the rich and powerful.

To do this they were encouraged to invest their wealth in gaining control of the political agenda. Whilst this included funding supportive politicians in increasingly costly election campaigns it was more insidiously about capturing the realm of ideas. To do this they should fund research, think tanks, media shows, anything which promoted their ideas. Ideas which could be boiled down to low taxes for the rich and an ever reduced role for the state in the provision of services, regulation and, worst of all, transfer payments.

Ms Warren draws on her own experience and that of a number of individuals to illustrate what that process has done to people and their life chances. She talks about Gina, the woman whose family income has halved over the past 20 years from $70k to $35k. “No crisis. No Accident. No tale of woe. Juts the grinding wear and tear of an economy that doesn’t work for families like Gina’s”

She talks about Kai a young woman who worked hard through school and wanted to work in design. She paid to go to a private University but after the first year could not afford the fees so decided to return to her home state and complete her degree there only to find the credits from the Private University were not recognised so had to repeat a year. The upshot is she now has $90k of the $1.4 trillion US student loan debt and is repaying it out of her job as a waitress.

Finally, Michael who worked hard at his job at DHL for 16 years securing a house with  a mortgage and what he though was a solid middle class life ahead. Then 2008, DHL eliminated 14,900 jobs including Michael’s. He then got a call asking if he wanted his old job back. Not his full time job with benefits though, a part time job with no guaranteed hours and no benefits. He had to take on two jobs but even then he could not pay the penalous mortgage he had been mis-sold so lost his home.

Even then he did not give up but just kept on eking out jobs here and there until he got work in a Nabisco factory putting the cream in Oreos. Just when he thought he was getting back on his feet the factory was closed and production relocated to Mexico.

The real life stories of individuals trying to live up to the myth that hard work is all that is needed to secure a reasonable living are heartbreaking. They translate debates about trade deals, de-regulation and labour rights into a increasingly depressing reality for millions of American. As “the economy” and Wall Street does well and the stock market booms the 90% get left further and further behind.

Ms Warren is under no illusion about the implications for working people of a Trump presidency backed by a Republican Congress. However she draws strength from the millions of Americans who want to stand up against bigotry, for a fairer economy and most of all for Democracy. Her battle for Democracy has implications far beyond the States. Democracy there has been infected most by the “greenback virus” but it is happening in many other places including the UK where election expense rules are starting to be challenged by being ignored. We have a common interest in Ms Warrens fight.

If this book is a kite being flown to test support for a 2020 campaign run it gets my vote. Ms Warren comes across as intelligent, incisive, authentic but most of all humane. If voters want a choice of opposites in the 2020 election she would provide it.

 

Elizabeth Warren. This Fight is Our Fight: The Battle to Save Working People. Harper Collins. 2017.

Trumping Democracy

Right now in Washington DC there is a battle in progress for the soul of American democracy. An increasingly embattled President Trump is making comments and exploring actions which, if followed through, would undermine one of the pillars of any democratic society, respect for the rule of law and the independent administration of justice.

The President gave an interview to The New York Times earlier this week in which he criticised the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, both of whom he appointed, and threatened to sack Special Counsel Robert Mueller who is investigating the links between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia.

In relation to the Attorney General, his sin was that he recused himself from anything to do with the investigation into the Trump campaign’s links with Russia. As head of  the Department of Justice his recusal from anything to do with the investigation was inevitable given his previous role as a top advisor to Mr Trump’s campaign. Who could not understand this…? President Trump. He argued if Mr Sessions had told him he would recuse himself from the Russia investigation he would not have appointed him to the post of Attorney General.  The only inference you can draw from this is the President wanted someone as head of the Department of Justice who would do his bidding, thus transforming the rule of law into the rule of the Executive!

In normal circumstances the kind of comments made by the President would have led to the automatic resignation of the Attorney General. It is testament to how far we are from normal times that two days later and their has been no resignation. The President can, however, fire the Attorney General and he may do just that in order to clear the way for him to get at Robert Mueller who is appointed by and sackable by… the  head of the Department of Justice, or when he has recused himself from issues Russia, his Deputy Rod Rosenstein.

Mr Mueller’s sin is that he is investigating the links between the Trump campaign and Russia’s attack on the 2016 election focused on securing a Trump win. But worse than this it is thought he may have extended his investigation into the Trump family finances including those of the President. If this is the case is it this just a prurient desire on the part of Mr Mueller to know about the business dealings of a billionaire? Or is it perhaps, given the increasing evidence of Trump/Russia links, that it is a reasonable suspicion there may be some material business connection here which creates a security risk for the United States.

Will President Trump sack Attorney General Sessions? Who knows, but it is far from inconceivable, which is where it should be. Would he then go on and get a more compliant Attorney General to sack Robert Mueller? One suspects there is little point in taking all the heat that would arise from the former without going on and doing the latter.

The architecture of government established by the founding fathers with its separation of powers and the norms of democratic behaviour evolved over 200 years are currently wrestling with a President who is using all the power and authority accrued to his office over generations to destroy the very foundations upon which it stands. The bureaucrats in the front line of this battle should be recognised for the vital job they are doing.  There should be no misunderstanding  about the gravity of the situation. The fact Trump is a buffoon and a boor should not distract from his naked exploitation of power in office for personal interest.

President Trump and his family seem incapable of seeing any distinction between their interests and those of the office of President. What’s good for Trump is good for the USA might be their credo. It seems they are genuinely incapable of seeing the issues and conflicts their behaviour generates. The recent revelations about Trump Junior and his meeting with Russian lawyer Veselnitskaya is typical of what has happened throughout the past 6 months. A meeting initially described as with four or five people about the process of adoption becomes, over time, a meeting about Russian hacked data of Hilary Clinton’s, with 6 then 7 and now 8 people. One a “former” agent of Russian Military Intelligence.  Another suspected of having links with Russian intelligence and one with self confessed links to Yuri Chaika, the Supreme Russian Prosecuter.

Perhaps, if President Trump does start to scythe through the Justice department, the partisan anchors within the Republican party will start to be pulled up and the Legislative arm of the government would at last take action against what, it is increasingly clear, is a rogue President. If they do not then there is a genuine threat to democracy in the United States and that is a matter of global concern.