bureaucracybusters

HE WHO LIVES BY THE TWEET, DIES BY IT: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 18, 2017 at 12:15 am

Donald Trump’s tweet-first-and-never-mind-the-consequences approach to life has been thoroughly documented.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, he fired nearly 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions. The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

Donald Trump

Among these targets were:

  • His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton
  • His fellow Republican Presidential candidates
  • Actress Meryl Streep
  • News organizations
  • President Barack Obama
  • Comedian John Oliver
  • Obamacare
  • Singer Neil Young
  • The state of New Jersey
  • Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And during his first two weeks as President, Trump attacked 22 people, places and things on his @realDonaldTrump account.

Then, on March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump accused former President Barack Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election:

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!”

“Is it legal for a sitting President to be ‘wire tapping’ a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!”

“I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

Thus, without offering a shred of evidence to back it up, Trump accused his predecessor of committing an impeachable offense.

President Barack Obama

On May 9, Trump abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey.

Reports soon surfaced that his reason for doing so was that Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump.

Trump had made this “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January.

After refusing to make that pledge, Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him.

But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief.

Comey-FBI-Portrait.jpg

James B. Comey

Just 72 hours after firing Comey, Trump issued a threat to him via Twitter:

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

This last tweet may have proved fatal to the man who has weaponized Twitter.

Trump’s implication that he taped his conversation with Comey immediately led White House reporters to ask if he, in fact, taped conversations in the Executive Mansion.

Trump’s response: No comment.

At a White House press conference, Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, was asked three times: Was tape recording occurring in the White House?

Spicer replied: “I’ve talked to the President. The President had nothing further to add on that.”

Asked on Right-wing Fox News–the only major network Trump willingly appears on–if he taped the Comey conversation, the President said: “That I can’t talk about. I won’t talk about that. All I want is for Comey to be honest. And I hope he will be. And I’m sure he will be – I hope.”

By implying on Twitter that he had illegally taped his conversation with Comey–and then refusing to say if this was true–Trump has boxed himself into a no-win situation.

Dead-end #1: If he taped the conversation without Comey’s consent, Trump broke the law.

According to a 2003 Congressional report, “Privacy: An Overview of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping”:

“It is a federal crime to wiretap or to use a machine to capture the communications of others without court approval, unless one of the parties has given their prior consent.

“It is likewise a federal crime to use or disclose any information acquired by illegal wiretapping or electronic eavesdropping. Violations can result in imprisonment for not more than 5 years; fines up to $250,000 (up to $500,000 for organizations); in civil liability for damages, attorneys fees and possibly punitive damages; in disciplinary action against any attorneys involved; and in suppression of any derivative evidence.”

Dead-end #2: If Trump admits he taped Comey, he provides Democrats–and even some Republicans–with reason to subpoena all existing White House tapes.

In the summer of 1973, the Senate was investigating the bugging of Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Hotel during the 1972 Presidential campaign.

In June, 1973, John W. Dean III testified before the Senate Watergate Committee. He had served as White House Counsel for Nixon from 1970 to 1973. And now he outlined a litany of crimes ordered by President Richard Nixon.

The White House adamantly denied these charges by attacking Dean as a malcontent. (He had been fired by Nixon in April.)

So–who was telling the truth: Dean or Nixon?  It was a classic case of He said/he said.

Then–unexpectedly–a way appeared to answer the question: “Who is telling the truth?”

Alexander Butterfield, who had served as the Deputy Assistant to Nixon from 1969 to 1973, was called as a witness before the Committee.

In a private meeting with Senate investigators, he unintentionally blurted out that Nixon had installed a secret taping system to record all conversations between him and Oval Office visitors.

Suddenly, the Watergate investigation took an entirely new direction–one that would prove fatal to Nixon’s Presidency.

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