This is our favorite festive season. We are decking our halls, trimming our trees, lighting our candles and festooning everything that doesn’t move. Just so we can display, for all to see, our holiday spirit – and something more.
We like to think we are also displaying the values by which we are living our lives. Not just during the holidays, but during all days.
So how are we doing?
Well, this week we received several gifts that, when unwrapped on our news screens and dead-tree news pages, have enabled us to take the measure of our adherence to our patriotic values that transcend petty politics.
One of the gifts was just delivered to us by a stranger in a dark robe. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan yanked us sternly back to reality by putting into proper perspective the actual crimes that have been committed against America’s interests and in support of the interests of America’s born-again enemy that has put us in their bull’s-eye, once again. Russia’s government, with which the United States forged a mutually urgent partnership after the Soviet Union fell – so we could safeguard their poorly secured weapons of mass destruction before they fell into terrorist hands – has recast itself as America’s enemy. President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin began cyber-attacking America to mess with our 2016 U.S. presidential election by helping defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton and elect Republican Donald Trump.
On Tuesday, the judge was presiding over a hearing to determine a criminal punishment that fit the crimes of former three-star Army Gen. Michael Flynn, who admitted lying to the FBI when he was Trump’s first national security adviser. Flynn was being interrogated about his talks with Russia during the campaign and presidential transition, and his work for Turkey as an undisclosed paid lobbyist during the campaign – when he famously led the Republican National Convention in an anti-Hillary Clinton chant of “lock her up.”
Lying to the FBI is a felony offense; but prosecutors had recommended leniency because Flynn cooperated with special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation of Trump’s campaign and presidency. But just before the sentencing hearing, Flynn’s attorneys claimed the FBI failed to warn Flynn it was a crime to lie to them. That claim infuriated the judge, who got Flynn to admit that of course he knew it was a crime when he lied to the FBI.
“This is a very serious offense,” said the judge. “A high-ranking senior official of the government making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation while on the physical premises of the White House.”
At one point, the judge mistakenly asserted Flynn’s lobbying for Turkey continued into Trump’s presidency, asserting: “I mean, arguably, that undermines everything this flag over here stands for. Arguably, you sold your country out.” Then, realizing Flynn’s lobbying stopped when he entered the White House, Sullivan apologized for that assertion.
But wait – while the judge’s assertion didn’t apply to Flynn, it could prove relevant to the acts and assertions of his boss. Because we now know that during his entire 2016 campaign, Trump and his organization actively sought a deal with Putin’s officials and oligarchs to build a Moscow Trump Tower. And for years before, Trump received massive millions from Putin’s oligarch pals when Trump’s businesses were near bankruptcy and desperate.
Bottom Line: Trump was working on his art of the Moscow Trump Tower deal even as he kept insisting during the campaign he saw no proof that Russia interfered with America’s 2016 election. Even as president, Trump rejected U.S. intelligence verdicts of Russia’s cyber-attack.
All the above poses a most un-Christmassy conundrum for patriotic Americans who proudly live according to faith-based values, yet also proudly supported Trump’s candidacy and now his presidency.
You know at once how these patriotic Americans would respond if we brought them to a huge convention hall, and asked them:
What would you be saying if Hillary Clinton was president and her business (or maybe the Clinton Foundation) received hundreds of millions of dollars from Russian oligarchs? And she swore to us for two years she had no business ties to Russia, but we just learned Hillary, Bill and Chelsea sought to build a Clinton Tower in Moscow throughout the 2016 election she won? And the CIA and all other intelligence agencies agree she won with Russia’s secret cyber-help? And then Hillary met with her best bud, Vladimir Putin; she said he strongly assured her Russia didn’t cyber-sabotage the 2016 campaign – and certainly didn’t help her win the presidency?
You can hear their answer, echoing through our convention hall: “Impeach her up!”
Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send him email at email@example.com.