Will Trump be able to finish first term?

By The Herald-Dispatch

Odds in London and Las Vegas are now no better than even money that Donald J. Trump will be able to finish his first term as president of the United States.

Bookmakers tightened the odds from one in 10 to 50/50 after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and admitted the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election was at least partially a factor. Online news site Politico had chances of Trump being impeached at 62 percent on its “Impeach-O-Meter.”

Ways in which Trump might leave office include: Impeachment by the House of Representatives and subsequent trial by the Senate for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Resignation due to threat of impeachment (the way Richard M. Nixon left office). Resignation due to health reasons (including emotional health). Decision by his own cabinet members that he can no longer execute the functions of the presidency (as spelled out in the 25th Amendment to the U.S.Constitution).

Trump and a number of his campaign associates and current aides are now the subjects of several investigations into Russian meddling, possible collusion or acquiescence by the president or his people, and possible obstruction of justice.

The investigations are: U.S. House intelligence committee, U.S. Senate intelligence committee, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, appointed by Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

These investigations are apparently weighing heavily on not only Trump himself but also on his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a top aide, and others who rendezvous daily in the Oval Office. Trump, Kushner, Vice President Mike Pence and other White House regulars have hired lawyers to defend themselves in case of impeachment proceedings or even criminal indictments.

Fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, a former Army general, is said to be cooperating with Mueller’s investigators, meaning he may be giving evidence against others, including Trump, in exchange for a lighter sentence in a criminal trial. Meanwhile, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has gone on trial in Alexandria, Virginia, on charges of tax evasion, money laundering and failure to register as an agent for a foreign government (Ukraine).

For just over one year now, Mueller has had 17 lawyers delving into the Russian meddling question, the possibility that Trump or others may have aided and abetted the Russians or committed obstruction of justice.

For virtually the entire span of his presidency, Trump has claimed dozens of times that neither he nor his associates “colluded” with the Russians in an effort led by Russian President Vladimir Putin to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election.

Nonetheless, the Trump strategy, now apparently led by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, underwent a dramatic shift last week.

Giuliani, in an interview July 30 with CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota, said that “Collusion is not a crime.” The next day Trump echoed Giuliani’s statement. The word “collusion” indeed does not appear in the language of the U.S. Code of Criminal Justice.

However, former U.S. federal prosecutor Chuck Rosenberg told MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace that “collusion is a synonym for conspiracy and conspiracy is a crime.” Conspiracy may include “aiding and abetting” those engaged in committing a crime, or even remaining silent while knowing of the crime – not reporting the crime to the authorities.

Mueller’s team is interviewing witnesses who say Trump had advance knowledge of a meeting held in Trump Tower in June 2016 during which agents of Putin met with Trump’s son Don Jr. and other Trump aides with the aim of providing “dirt,” damaging information, on the Democrats’ candidate, Hillary Clinton. Such collusion with Russian operatives may well qualify as criminal conspiracy.

John Patrick Grace is a book editor and publisher based in Huntington.

This article provided by NewsEdge.