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Editorial: Gov. Scott right to defy Trump; president's first 21 days

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Posted on February 16, 2017 |
By Angelo S. Lynn



Vermont’s Republican Gov. Phil Scott should be commended for his willingness to defy President Trump’s recent immigration order that seeks to deport undocumented immigrants that have long been allowed to remain in the country under Republican President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama.

A bill unveiled last week stipulates that Vermont would not actively help the federal government carry out the new immigration order, nor would the state aid the federal government in creating a registry about Vermonters, such as listing their political or religious preferences. Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan led the effort to draft the bill, calling Trump’s initiative “federal overreach.”

Specifically, the bill permits only the governor to enter into agreements allowing Vermont law enforcement to assist the federal government for such purposes, which Scott said last week he does not anticipate any circumstances that would encourage him to do so. The bill addresses a particular aspect of Trump’s executive order that would give state and local law enforcement agencies the power to “perform the functions of an immigration officer.”

The bill would also preempt any federal action that might require Vermont to collect information about its residents, such as religious affiliation, for the federal government. Such information, Donovan said, could be used to create a federal registry of all Muslims in the state.

Though Scott received some Republican criticism for his support of the bill, Scott was right to warn Republicans that such federal overreach could be used against causes they hold dear under a different president, such as targeting the right to bear arms. Republican House leader Don Turner, R-Milton, refused to sponsor the bill, but Republican Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, known as more of a moderate, signed on as a Republican sponsor.

Hopefully the bill will see swift passage.

Trump’s first 21 days 

Forget Trump’s first 100 days; consider the first three weeks.

Michael Flynn’s firing as national security adviser to Mr. Trump after just 24 days in the post captured headlines as the most titillating political news of the week (so far), along with the fact that Trump’s campaign team had been having frequent contact with Russian officials during the same timeframe that Russia was hacking into the Democratic Party’s emails (despite previous denials of any such contact from Trump and others right down the line). But neither item was the most important news of the first half of the week.

Rather, Russia’s escalating invasion of the Ukraine through its “rebel forces” and Russia’s secret deployment of a new cruise missile that violates a 1987 arms control treaty are far more important challenges facing Trump’s chaos-prone administration. Military experts say the deployment of the cruise missile system this December, which had been closely monitored by the Pentagon in recent years, poses a threat to our NATO allies — an international alliance with the U.S. that Trump has continually undermined since the start of his presidential campaign.

With Russian President Vladimir Putin testing the boundaries of Trump’s stated admiration of him, the question now is whether Trump will play a stronger hand as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has been championing or will he fold and allow Russia to begin the destabilization of Eastern Europe? Trump buckled last week when China challenged the president on his relations with Taiwan, forcing Trump to embrace support of the United State’s “one-China” policy. The reversal earned Trump an early reputation of being able to bully those weaker than he is, but backing down to stronger foes.

The stakes are also escalating as domestic and foreign intelligence officers have announced months of surveillance of Trump’s campaign exchanging communications with Russian officials, including a few NATO allies concerned that Trump would abandon America’s support of NATO and leave them open to Russian aggression. That information is sure to be released as Trump’s unsteady hand threatens their national security, and which could be the source of damaging connections that congressional Republicans are unable to ignore.

Amazing what can happen in just three weeks of Trump becoming president.

Flynn’s fired; Trump’s judgment 

Americans’ concern over President Trump’s sudden dismissal of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is not just that Flynn may have suggested to the Russia government that sanctions imposed by President Obama for invading Crimea might be lifted once Trump was in charge, but that Trump knew about Flynn’s misdeeds for several weeks and did nothing about it.

Trump also allowed Flynn’s lies to mislead the Vice President, so the Vice President was caught up in the lie that would — a few days later — erode trust in Flynn, put Flynn in jeopardy of being blackmailed by the Russians, and lead to Flynn’s ouster. 

Making matters worse, Americans now are learning that Trump’s campaign team had connections and frequent communication with Russian officials during the time Russia was hacking into Democratic emails — despite the fact they had denied such connections numerous times leading up to the election and since then. Odd, too, that FBI Director James Comey chose not to investigate those suspicious activities with Trump’s campaign (though he knew about them at the time) but rather, at the 11th hour, reopen the prospect of Hillary Clinton’s emails. Comey, of course, was Trump’s pick to remain as director of the FBI and is now reviewing the evidence of Trump team’s collusion with Russian officials.

But the biggest concern is that Trump’s choice of Flynn was inherently flawed. Flynn, after all, had been previously dismissed from a post at the Defense Intelligence Agency for erratic management, and during his brief 24-day stint as national security adviser, he failed, as the Washington Post’s editorial board wrote, “to prepare Mr. Trump for conversations with foreign leaders, inadequately vetted executive orders and staffed key positions with military cronies even before he lied to the media and vice president about the content of his conversations with the Russian ambassador.”

Not only did Flynn add to the swamp of cronies in Washington, but Mr. Trump showed particularly bad judgment in making the appointment and then sticking by him as long as he did.

The continuing dysfunction in the White House is not just Trump’s chaotic way of doing things, but rather a disorganized team vying for their boss’s favor regardless of the harm it might do the nation. Look for more disruption over the coming weeks, and a continued decline in the public’s confidence in this administration.

— Angelo S. Lynn

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