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Trump is no Nixon — yet — but his critics already look like Earl Landgrebe

Impeachment talk among Trump critics started long before President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Notice the winter coats and ear muffs. (AP photo)
Impeachment talk among Trump critics started long before President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. Notice the winter coats and ear muffs. (AP photo)
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Thursday, May 18, 2017 12:01 am

President Vladimir Putin has now offered to give members of Congress records of Donald Trump's meeting with the Russian diplomats to whom the president supposedly disclosed classified information. That means one of two things:

  Members of Congress will now have to investigate themselves for sharing secrets with the Ruskies, or;

 It will "prove" once and for all that Putin and Trump conspired not only to defeat Hillary Clinton but have now teamed up to subvert the rule of law, the Constitution and even our very way of life.

Given Putin's insistence that Trump revealed no classified intelligence during a recent meeting with Russian diplomats, which do you think congressional Democrats and most members of the media will choose? The growing chorus of people talking about impeachment — talk that began as wishful whispers just days after Trump's election — make the questions purely rhetorical.

All of which reminds me of the late Earl Landgrebe, a Valparaiso Republican who represented Indiana's 2nd Congressional District during the Watergate hearings. Confronted by mounting evidence of President Richard Nixon's complicity and the necessity of impeachment, it was he who famously remarked: "Don't confuse me with the facts. I've got a closed mind."

Today, it's those who demand impeachment without facts who deserve to be known as latter-day Landgrebes.

Could that change? Of course. Should James Comey's assertion that Trump fired him as FBI after asking him to drop an investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's alleged ties to Russia, that would be serious indeed and, perhaps, impeachable as an example of obstruction of justice. For now, however, assertions are all we have. Trump fired Comey to block an FBI investigation into his campaign's ties with Russia; he shared intelligence with Russia; Russia obtained classified information by hacking his private email.

No, wait: That was Hillary Clinton. Never mind. Not important.

Do such things deserve a serious, non-partisan investigation? Yes. But are they also a dangerous and unfortunate distraction from the important work Trump was elected to do, which is no doubt why so many of are enthusiastically jumping on the impeachment bandwagon.

Conservative columnist Ann Coulter, an early and prominent Trump supporter in large part because of his pledge to stem illegal immigration, recently suggested the "never-Trumpers" may have been right all along. The Republicans control the White House and Congress, but they can't seem to build a wall, pass tax reform, reform health care, reduce the deficit or do many of the other things they have promised but so far failed to deliver. If that continues, Republicans will pay a heavy price at the polls next year, and should.

Certainly Trump deserves his share of the blame for deepening the Washington swamp he was supposedly elected to drain. His often-contradictory statements undermine his credibility while confusing and embarrassing allies and staff; he has made political enemies gratuitously, hurting his ability to pass legislation and encouraging harmful leaks from within the so-called "deep state"; he has even more aggressively sought conflict with an already unfriendly press, thereby encouraging the hyperpartisan journalism that seems to relish the thought of impeachment instead of merely reporting on it.

That partisanship was on full display this week when Trump defended himself by explaining presidents have the authority to declassify information should they choose to do so. The president insists he merely shared information about potential terrorism threats, not the methods or sources by which the information was obtained. It was the Washington Post that linked the information to Israeli intelligence — not Trump.

The truth is presidents and their administrations share classified information all the time. There have been few things more secret than the atomic bomb, but President Harry Truman told Putin's predecessor, Joseph Stalin, about its existence before the weapon's use against Japan ended World War II. Now as then, a common foe — terrorism in this case — can require  even adversaries to cooperate.

By all means, Trump should be held to a high standard of conduct. For now, though, we need fewer Earl Landgrebes and more Joe Fridays, the detective on the old Dragnet TV show who constantly reminded his witnesses: Just the facts, please.

 This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news-sentinel.com or call him at 461-8355.


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