Editorial: China rises as Trump falls

Will Trump fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller? Can he? Or will Trump fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein so his successor can fire Mueller, as Rosenstein, a Republican appointed by Trump, has said he wouldn’t fire Mueller, another Republican, even if his boss, Trump, asked him. Would the obsequious Attorney General Jeff Sessions be allowed to stay? More importantly, will Robert Cohen, Trump’s fixer and one of his personal attorneys, take the fall for his boss or will he squeal in exchange for leniency?
These are the questions that dominate the news cycle in America because of the chaos the ethically challenged Trump conjures.
Meanwhile, on a more professional and strategic level, China is making convincing moves to become the world’s economic power and President Xi Jinping is projecting an image of himself as the stable, rational world leader of a new era that is largely absent of American leadership. While Trump is fuming and hurling angry tweets as he digests Fox news on cable television, President Xi is demonstrating every day how reasonable he can be and how willing he and China are to be the responsible arbiters of power in a world in which Trump’s America is increasingly seen as a bad actor led by an unstable and threatened autocrat.
Trump continues to see unprecedented turnover in his cabinet and staff (as well as his legal team), and Republicans in Congress, including House Speaker Paul Ryan’s announcement on Wednesday, are leaving what political analysts are calling “a sinking ship” as the 2018 mid-term elections near.
On the list of Trump’s few dubious accomplishments, Republicans weren’t able to repeal Obamacare but they weakened it and cut millions of Americans off sustainable health care insurance, and they passed a massive tax cut that grossly favors the rich and creates a burgeoning national deficit that is truly stunning in its hypocrisy after railing against deficit-spending during President Obama’s two-terms.
One thing Trump has right, is that he is doing “the unthinkable” — but not how he means it. Like any adroit dictator, he is systematically tearing down our checks and balances within the justice system, he is attempting to delegitimize his critics — the courts, Congress, law enforcement and, of course, the press — and he has so muddied the swamp with his ethically challenged cabinet choices and family members that we appear to the world to operate as an inept and corrupt third-world country.
And he’s only been in office 15 months.
But back to this week’s news about the FBI’s raid on Mr. Cohen’s office that Trump dubbed as an attack on our very country. Others see it differently.
The New York Timeseditorial put it this way:
“Why don’t we take a step back and contemplate what Americans, and the world, are witnessing?
“Early Monday morning, F.B.I. agents raided the New York office, home and hotel room of the personal lawyer for the president of the United States. They seized evidence of possible federal crimes — including bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations related to payoffs made to women, including a porn actress, who say they had affairs with the president before he took office and were paid off and intimidated into silence. That evening the president surrounded himself with the top American military officials and launched unbidden into a tirade against the top American law enforcement officials — officials of his own government — accusing them of “an attack on our country.”
Oh, also: The Times reported Monday evening that investigators were examining a $150,000 donation to the president’s personal foundation from a Ukrainian steel magnate, given during the American presidential campaign in exchange for a 20-minute video appearance.
Meanwhile, the president’s former campaign chairman is under indictment, and his former national security adviser has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators. His son-in-law and other associates are also under investigation.
This is your president, ladies and gentlemen. This is how Donald Trump does business, and these are the kinds of people he surrounds himself with.
Mr. Trump has spent his career in the company of developers and celebrities, and also of grifters, cons, sharks, goons and crooks. He cuts corners, he lies, he cheats, he brags about it, and for the most part, he’s gotten away with it, protected by threats of litigation, hush money and his own bravado. Those methods may be proving to have their limits when they are applied from the Oval Office. Though Republican leaders in Congress still keep a cowardly silence, Mr. Trump now has real reason to be afraid. A raid on a lawyer’s office doesn’t happen every day; it means that multiple government officials (of his own party), and a federal judge, had reason to believe they’d find evidence of a crime there and that they didn’t trust the lawyer not to destroy that evidence.”
What about the possibility of Trump’s problems going away if Mueller is fired? Won’t happen.
As Paul Waldman writes in the Washington Post:“Mueller didn’t raid Cohen’s office. Instead, the raid was conducted by the Southern District of New York… The privileged information (gathered) will then go to what’s sometimes referred to as a “taint team,” a group of Justice Department officials who will review it and decide whether it shows enough evidence of a crime that it falls outside attorney-client privilege. They will then pass that information on to a judge, who could then permit it to be used by Mueller, the U.S. Attorney’s office, the New York state attorney general, or the Manhattan district attorney. In other words, Cohen — and by extension, Trump — has to now worry about more than just Mueller.”
The poetic justice in what may come is bittersweet, spoiled by the damage done to the country and a once-reputable political party.

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