The Elbert Files: The next 578 days
One of my favorite movie scenes is at the end of “All the President’s Men,” Robert Redford’s 1976 movie about how Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward covered the Watergate scandal.
Just before the credits roll, we see Woodward and Bernstein at work in the Post newsroom. In the background, a television screen shows Richard Nixon being sworn in for his second term.
As the reporters work, a teletype machine pounds out headlines listing the developments that will lead to Nixon’s resignation 566 days later on Aug. 9, 1974.
The recent completion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election reminded me of that scene.
Not because I think President Donald Trump will be impeached or be forced from office. At this point, neither scenario is likely.
The connection I see is that the Post’s pre-inaugural reporting about Nixon’s malfeasance is like current Trump investigations, which are ongoing and far from finished.
Many people today would like to put all Trump investigations behind us and move on. Heaven knows we have enough problems in the real world without chasing Trump scandals.
But the investigations are not over. Nor should they be.
We now know that Mueller’s inquiry was much narrower than most of us expected.
We’ve learned in recent days that the special counsel’s questions were limited by law and Justice Department policy to Trump-related interactions with Russia, which could have, but reportedly did not, affect the outcome of the 2016 election.
The thing we need to keep in mind now is that Mueller’s narrow focus did not touch on the piles of potentially illegal and unethical practices Trump is believed to have engaged in throughout his career, and which would have been nice for voters to know before the 2016 election.
Also, we should not be surprised that Trump’s antics do not fit into narrow definitions of what constitutes an impeachable offense. He’s spent a career avoiding prosecution. Why should impeachment be any different?
Trump’s career as a developer is replete with questionable actions, including accusations of not paying contractors, stiffing banks, threatening competitors and lying on loan applications.
His Trump University was shut down last year and ordered to pay $25 million to students who were duped by false advertising and high-pressure sales techniques.
Trump has been accused of treating his charities like a private checkbook and has been linked to numerous extramarital affairs.
Since becoming president he has continued to operate his hotels and golf courses in a way that many believe is a blatant violation of the emoluments clause to the Constitution, which was created to prevent laundering bribes through private businesses.
Trump’s lying is so infamous that his own lawyer advised him not to be questioned under oath by Mueller because, the lawyer believed, Trump would perjure himself.
This is all well-documented and acknowledged by Trump supporters who argue that much of it doesn’t matter.
And from a strictly legal standpoint, it may not.
Not even Trump’s sexual promiscuity offends his voter base, which includes a strong contingent of conservative Christians.’
That I’ll never understand.
But apparently, as long as Trump appoints anti-abortion judges, his conservative Christian supporters don’t care about his dystopian personal life.
So be it.
Today, we are 578 days away from the 2020 election, which is roughly the same amount of time there was between Nixon’s inauguration and his resignation.
As I said, I don’t expect Trump to be impeached. But I do hope that Congress will conduct a solid string of pertinent hearings between now and Election Day.
And then, along with Woodward and Bernstein, we’ll see what a majority of voters say once they’ve heard from people who know the real Donald Trump.