By Robert A. Vella
Yesterday, America reached a critical point in its torturous experience under President Trump. We all knew a moment of crisis was coming. Now, it may be upon us in just a matter of weeks. The increasing cascade of political missteps, unfolding scandals, and personnel departures have crippled the White House and left the President denuded and cornered. He has left himself no other choice than to lash out aggressively in self-defense. We are in a very dangerous time.
Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdrawal U.S. forces from Syria, and a similar move planned for Afghanistan, caught everyone by surprise including his own military leaders. After unsuccessfully urging the president to reconsider, Secretary of Defense James Mattis – perhaps the last remaining voice of reason in the administration – submitted a letter of resignation to the president which was essentially a hard slap to his face. From: Read Jim Mattis’s Letter to Trump: Full Text
… I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions — to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.
My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.
Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.
While that was happening, Trump reacted impulsively to criticism from the far-right media by reversing his acceptance of a continuing budget resolution passed by the U.S. Senate to avoid a government shutdown before Christmas but which didn’t include funding for his border wall. Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives then rallied behind the president and passed a competing resolution which did include that funding. Senators who were leaving the capitol had to be called back to consider the House bill today, although there aren’t enough votes to pass it. Consequently, a government shutdown will likely begin tonight.
Meanwhile, news broke that Trump’s acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker had rejected a recommendation by a senior Department of Justice ethics officer to recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation due to prejudicial statements he had made about the investigation in public prior to his appointment. The news again raised concerns that Whitaker plans to protect Trump from the investigation by constraining Mueller’s activities such as preventing him from releasing a report due as early as mid-February which could detail criminal collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election campaign. It was revealed yesterday that Trump’s permanent AG nominee William Barr has also made prejudicial statements about the Mueller investigation. Any such interference of the Special Counsel’s office would be tantamount to obstruction of justice.
The ongoing national nightmare of the Trump presidency will quicken and intensify over the coming weeks. This impetuous and incompetent man in the White House is now isolated with only his family and closest associates at his side while being pushed from the rear by his rabid political base. That impetus is thrusting Trump headlong towards a barrier of opposition comprised of recently empowered Democrats, the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, numerous federal judges, state attorneys general, a growing list of Republican politicians and officials, and a clear majority of the American people. Something will have to give.