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A Russia to Judgment

Ever since the special counsel investigation into the “Russia thing” ended without any indictments of President Donald Trump, with  just his campaign manager and deputy campaign manager and and personal lawyer and national security advisor facing prison time,  Trump and his allies have been gloating about complete exoneration regarding everything they’ve ever been accused of. Alas, it’s starting to look like yet another case of Trump starting his end zone celebration a few yards short of the goal line.
Even the four-page summary of the nearly 400-page report on the investigation by Trump’s own Attorney General explicitly states that “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Now several of the investigators are telling The New York Times that the summary excluded evidence of actions by Trump and his associates that might not rise to the level of a indictable crime but are pretty embarrassing nonetheless, which seems not only plausible but downright probable to us.
The Democrats in Congress are naturally calling for the public to see the report in its entirety, and even as the Republicans claim the report utterly vindicates Trump they’re trying to keep the report under wraps. Our guess is that the Democrats will eventually prevail, either through court decisions or press leaks, and even if they don’t the Republicans will look bad for withholding information from the public. Perhaps the best argument for keeping the report secret is that it includes grand jury findings regarding investigations that are now ongoing in various state and federal jurisdictions, but that’s bound to come out eventually in some court or another, so the Republicans might as well start spinning it as no big deal right now.
Meanwhile, the Democratic majority on the House Ways and Means Committee is requesting six years of Trump’s tax returns, which he kept under wraps and will surely prove interesting, the Democratic majority on the House Oversight Committee is looking into why presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner was granted a top secret security clearance despite the concerns of the national intelligence agencies about his business interests and personal conduct, and they’re both likely to get that information. Even if they don’t, Trump and the Republicans will once again be in the awkward position position of arguing that the public doesn’t have a right to know about a report they assure us exonerates them of everything..
There’s also an ongoing investigation by the Justice Department’s Southern District of New York about Trump’s hush-money payments to a pornographic video performer and and a Playboy Playmate, which is already sending Trump’s longtime lawyer to prison and clearly identifies Trump as the un-indicted co-conspirator “Individual One.” It’s also a sure bet the pesky press will continue to come up with something or another about Trump’s private businesses and presidential administration that’s hard to explain. That four-page summary of a nearly four-hundred page report clearly excludes something that Trump doesn’t want the public to know about, so a certain suspicion should linger past the 2020 elections.
At this point we don’t have any rooting interest in either the Democrats or the Republicans, but we’d advise our once-Grand Old Party to go right ahead and let it all hang out. The damned Democrats are going to believe the worst about Trump in any case, and the damned Republicans don’t much care what laws Trump might have broken so long as he cuts taxes and appoints conservative Supreme Court Justices and otherwise upholds law and order. The Democrats will probably come up with someone who’s y crazy left yet squeaky-clean on taxes and foreign-business dealings and porn star dalliances and the campaign finance laws concerning such affairs.
How that turns out is anyone’s guess, but we don’t see it working out well for anyone in any case.

— Bud Norman

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God and Man in the Age of Trump and Those Gosh-Darned Democrats

President Donald Trump recently had a closed-door meeting with a group of prominent evangelical Christian pastors, and of course a surreptitious tape recording of the proceedings was quickly leaked to the media, and of course yet another Trump controversy ensued. The quote that provoked the most outrage from Trump’s secular critics was a warning that the Democratic party will become violent if it wins a majority in the House of Representatives in November’s mid-term elections, but from our evangelical perspective here on the political sidelines the meeting had more worrisome quotes than that.
Trump didn’t attempt to explain why the Democrats would start brawling it out on the streets if they win, which strikes us as rather counterintuitive, as it’s usually the losing side that’s itching for a fight after an election, but at least he wasn’t threatening that his die-hard supporters would take to the streets with pitchforks in hand if they lost. Such desperate measures might yet become necessary if Democratic-run congressional investigations start delving too deeply into Trump’s finances and foreign dealings and a couple of alleged sexual affairs that involve possible campaign finance law violations, but for now we’re satisfied that Trump isn’t mobilizing the pitch fork brigades he no doubt has at his disposal.
Trump is quite right that a Democratic majority in one or especially both chambers of Congress would quickly undo all that he’s done, although it’s still worth noting they wouldn’t need to do so violently, but even to ears jaded by our off-key singing on Sunday mornings it’s still jarring to hear Trump on verified audiotape telling prominent evangelical pastors that “This November 6 election is not only very much a referendum on me, it’s a referendum on your religion.” At this point we have little trust in anyone anywhere on the political spectrum in the secular world, but we retain our faith in the prayers we say and the gospel songs we badly sing and the scriptures we read from during the sermons on most on Sunday mornings at a small but scrappy Church of Christ over in the rough Delano neighborhood, and we don’t worry for even a nanosecond will that our faith will persist no matter how Trump fares against those godless Democrats on the any-day-now date of Nov. 6. The gates of hell cannot prevail against the church, as the scriptures tell us and so far as we’re concerned, and as crazy as this latest crop of Democrats might be they don’t seem nearly so scary as that.
We try our best not to judge. lest we be judged, in accordance with scripture, and happily leave it to God to judge a man’s everlasting soul, but other scriptures acknowledge that down here on earth the Christian community can rebuke its members for certain character flaws, and that sometimes a sane society should take stock of a man’s general moral character before appointing him to a position of power. As the most craven sinners of the congregation we worship with we always sit in the back most pews of our small church on the rough west side of Wichita, although we occasionally take to the pulpit for an opening prayer or communion message, but in these blunt-talking times we’ll come right out and say that we’re not counting on this Trump fellow to defend the faith.
So far a we can tell from our secular position here on the political sidelines it’s going to be a very interesting midterm election, and we expect the Republican party to get the worst of it, with whatever that might lead to, but we’ll still try our best to be up on time for the Sunday morning worship services at the West Douglas Church of of Christ. We’ll hope and  be sure that what we find there is something more promising than either that godawful Trump or whatever that godless Democratic party might devise.

— Bud Norman