President Donald Trump is convinced he can sweep aside all his high crimes and misdemeanors if Robert’s Mueller’s report finds that Trump never called up President Vladimir Putin and enlisted his help in the election. Whenever the Mueller Report comes out, all Trump wants to do is continue chanting, “No collusion.” He knows that Fox News will join the chorus and expects that the sound of all else will be drowned out, certainly for his base and maybe beyond.
I’ve always thought it was a mistake for Trump’s opponents to raise the bar of judgment to the level of “collusion,” which, of course, is not even a legal term. I’ve never thought that someone close to Trump had ever taken an order from his boss and called an ally in the Kremlin to help time the release of emails damaging to Hillary, or anything comparable. The truth is that several in Trump’s high command were thick as thieves in a web of Russian relationships. They didn’t need to tell them what to do. Putin despised Hillary. A wink and a nod over vodka was all that was required. That’s the way Washington normally works, where conspirators don’t want to leave fingerprints.
Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election remains once of Moscow’s most damaging aggressions toward the United States. When discovered by the intelligence agencies during the campaign, it was covered up by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who in October of that year refused to make a bipartisan warning and condemnation of this attack on our democracy. Trump’s people didn’t need to facilitate Russian meddling; it was happening anyway, with adroit timing, and without nonpartisan resistance in the U.S.
President’s Trump attacks on our democratic institutions, and on the fragile fabric of public trust essential to undergirding a viable government, go far behind the bantering over collusion. Beyond any reasonable doubt, he has been guilty of obstruction of justice. It’s very likely he has committed a felony in violating campaign finances laws to influence the course of the election through hush money payments to a porn star. His brazen violation of ethical norms regarding his personal businesses and financial interests, in the judgment of many, place him in violation of the Constitution. Beyond this is his compulsive addiction to lying, his demeaning of political discourse, and his flaunting of minimal expectations for public and personal morality. No president in our lifetime has acted in this manner, even though one resigned, and another was impeached.
The tyranny of news cycles, political echo chambers, and partisan soundbites easily deprive us of more detached perspectives enabling sober judgments. As Lent has now begun, its traditional practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving should be revitalized for our present moment of crisis. Prayer should rekindle our memory of who we are as a people called to embody the presence of Christ, welcoming a liberating way of life in a society corroded by extreme pride, selfish ambition, and the thirst for power. Fasting should nurture detachment from our addiction to the political frenzy of the moment, grounding us in spiritual discernment that yields deep wisdom and truth. Almsgiving should call us to lives of solidarity with the poor, migrants, and the countless vulnerable victims of the Trump administration’s policies.
President Donald Trump has nurtured a culture of contempt in our land while brazenly assaulting the guardrails of democracy in his protection of personal gain and power. Let us allow the disciplines of Lent to nurture the capacity for political judgment based on values and truth, rather than slogans and prevarications. “No collusion” is no answer.