If you’re at all like me, you see and hear a bunch of people complaining that with the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency, the world has gone mad and anything could happen. The New York Times today published a column by a former assistant attorney general in the George W. Bush administration, Jack Goldsmith, that should act as a tonic.
Goldsmith points out an important fact about the Trump presidency: The system appears to be working. The Trump presidency is just two months old, and already Trump’s seemingly remarkable connections to Vladimir Putin’s Russian government are being investigated by the FBI. And with attorney-general Jeff Sessions recusing himself, that investigation is being led by a respected career prosecutor who is now deputy attorney-general, Rod Rosenstein.
Meanwhile the Senate and House intelligence committees are both doing their own reviews, and Republican members of Congress like John McCain are needling Trump pretty sharply. You remember McCain. He’s the former presidential candidate and POW of whom Trump quote: “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
If you’re as cavalier as Trump seems to be, your deeds and statements catch up with you.
… While there is no doubt that partisan politics will inform what many in both congressional parties do in this matter, one should not overlook what is truly remarkable here: In the second month of a new presidency, several bodies in a Congress controlled by the president’s party are conducting high-profile, politically fraught and hard-to-control investigations that potentially implicate current and former administration officials and former campaign officials.
All of these actors and institutions are holding the Trump presidency to account. They are endeavoring to uncover the truth about the manifold Russian mysteries. And they can, if they see fit, take action with effects ranging from publicity and embarrassment to political damage with electoral consequences to criminal prosecution to impeachment if appropriate.
It’s true that the process of accountability is halting and frustratingly slow. But this is as it should be. The stakes could not be higher for our democracy …
I could be wrong (as I was about the chances of Trump winning) and a year from now this will all have gone away. But don’t dismiss the possibility that systems of checks and balances work.