I wrote this for the Urban News in February 2019.
Donald Trump, our president, shut down the government for five weeks in order to distract us from multiple ongoing investigations.
The shutdown made no sense on a number of different levels. Republicans held both houses of Congress for the last two years. Yet Donald Trump did not make a big deal out of not getting his funding for his “big, beautiful” Mexican wall. He did not take his best chance of getting funding by pressuring Paul Ryan, then the Speaker of the House. Yet now that Democrats control the House, he wants funding for a wall that most Democrats—and for that matter, most Americans—do not support.
So he invited the new Democratic leadership—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer—to the Oval Office and threatened them with a shutdown if they didn’t give him his wall. Unfortunately for Trump, 58% of Americans oppose building the wall. So the Democrats refused to cave to his threats, and after 35 days, President Trump backed down and allowed the government to reopen, without wall funding. To hold 800,000 government employees hostage over a diversion is despicable.
So why did he do it?
Trump’s inauguration committee raked in more than a hundred million dollars but spent only a fraction of the total. Investigators are trying to figure out where the money went.
Trump’s over-the-top opulent hotels have been packed full of diplomats and private money- and power-brokers from all over the world ever since he was elected. This seems to be an obvious conflict with the emoluments clause in the Constitution, which prohibits the president from profiting from his high office. This is being investigated by federal attorneys, and House Democrats have also promised to investigate this as well.
Trump’s son and son-in-law and his campaign leadership are being investigated for colluding with the Russians to get him elected. His former and present cabinet secretaries are being called before the House for investigative oversight hearings. And Donald Trump’s biggest worry was what convicted felon Michael Cohen has said to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team—and what he will say to investigators.
Michael Cohen was Donald Trump’s inside man, his personal lawyer, his fixer—his consigliere. Nancy Pelosi’s House is going to question him. Maybe it was time to distract the public with a shutdown.
Roger Stone is the political insider’s insider. He has worked behind-the-scenes for years in the bowels of the Republican machine. I had never heard of him before a couple of months ago—though he was one of Richard Nixon’s fixers and “dirty-tricksters” in the 1970s. In fact, he and Nixon’s other henchman, Paul Manafort, formed a lobbying and political consulting firm called Black, Manafort, & Stone in the late 1970s to do dirty tricks for other Republicans—beginning with Ronald Reagan’s campaign in 1980.
The reason that Roger Stone is more interesting than almost all of the other characters indicted by Robert Mueller is because Stone sent out tweets that oddly foreshadowed what was to come. His tweet, “It will soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel” (Podesta was Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman) would have meant nothing—if WikiLeaks had not released John Podesta’s emails just days later.
How did Stone have that knowledge? Where did his information come from? Was it just a lucky guess, as he told the Senate Intelligence Committee?
It appears from the indictment that Roger Stone tried to contact WikiLeaks. It also appears that a high-ranking official in the Trump campaign was in contact with Roger Stone and asked Stone to reach out to the Russians. This appears to be the collusion that we have long suspected.