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American politics is fraught with danger. The most dangerous thing of all is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. I think that President Donald Trump made a rare error on social media when he put out a tweet commenting on the sentencing recommendations in the trial of Roger Stone. I believe there are many reasons why it would have been better if the President had held back and let Attorney General William Barr manage the process.
The first week of February 2020 had been a fantastic week for President Donald Trump. It started on Monday with a total pooch screw in Iowa where the Democratic Party caucus had a complete melt down on live television while the President handily won 97% of an unusually well attended Republican caucus. Tuesday saw the delivery of one of the most crushing winner take all State of the Union addresses by President Trump ending with an exasperated Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tearing the President’s speech in an ungainly rage in front of one of the largest live television audiences. Wednesday saw the abrupt end to the impeachment drive by House Democrats resulting in a scathing acquittal on both Articles of Impeachment by the US Senate. Republicans were celebrating openly.
The vacuum in the aftermath of a triple home run for the President must have been boring for a workaholic like Trump. I wondered whether such an error would occur that week. For the first time in a while, people were taking a breather. Americans processing the events of the prior week; some in celebration, some in shock. And people were turning their attention to other pressing matters. People were more concerned about the Chinese coronavirus becoming a worldwide pandemic.
This was a test by observation week for me to see whether the President would let the country have its vacation from being forced to watch Washington’s bickering. He didn’t. I think the President got sucked into re-engaging the Democrats when he didn’t have to. He could have just ignored the Democrats and let them beat their dead donkey until nobody cared to listen to them anymore. Instead, he decided to give Nancy Pelosi a talking point by commenting on the severity of the Department of Justice’s sentencing recommendation to punish Roger Stone.
Roger Stone, one of Washington D.C.’s long-time brazen political operators, was convicted on all seven felony counts against him including obstruction of justice, giving false testimony, and witness tampering on November 15, 2019. The legal team at the Department of Justice submitted a recommendation for sentencing on this conviction commensurate with the crimes committed. The sentencing guideline formula called for 7 to 9 years of incarceration. The next step in the process would be a review of mitigating circumstances to reduce the guideline recommendation.
While Mr. Stone, like many other hard driving Washington advocates, is not exactly the most likeable character inside the Beltway, he is technically a first-time offender in the eyes of the federal justice system. He is also an old man for whom a sentence approaching a decade is the equivalent of a death sentence. These are things that would be taken under consideration by the sentencing judge. Frankly, openly commenting on the matter by anyone other than Mr. Stone’s attorneys at that stage was premature.
But when it’s a slow week at the White House and Nancy Pelosi is tearing up the airwaves with sour grapes about her prior week’s 3 strikes and you’re out experience, that’s when impulse and access to a keyboard will get you every time.
Following the president’s tweet, I totally got it when Attorney General Barr responded that the President was making his job harder to do; but he was going to do it anyway. It was a most adult response. I think there are very good reasons why the President may want to consider publicly reverse course and support the Attorney General in letting the process play out in the Roger Stone case.
There’s a lot more at stake in letting justice prevail here then just Mr. Stone. Attorney General Barr and the Department of Justice have active investigations into other transgressions by members of the Washington DC establishment.
There is corruption, conspiracy and action that must be brought to account. Roger Stone won’t be the only old man or woman who will have to fall from hubris before this is reckoning is done.
It is very important to the process of restoring trust in the American justice system to let the outcomes of each of these cases emerge. And it is vital the sword of punishment strike where it must.
How can one expect the Department of Justice to go after the other people that did wrong, some of whom are on the other side of the political aisle, if the DOJ has its hands tied on sentencing before any indictments are ever leveled?
There is no sense whatsoever in introducing political spin into a process whose mission is to expose and eliminate a mountain of political spin that got this country into this mess in the first place. It’s just not right to hamstring the system. It makes it that much harder to restore balance. That is something that the President needs to consider carefully as he ponders how he will comment using the very powerful tool of Twitter on these matters going forward.
This is my next observation test for this presidency.
Will President Trump set the example for focus and behavior on how the rest of the Washington insiders must comport themselves? Or will be sucked into descending into the petty lowest common denominator behavior that spending too much time in D.C. infects too many good people with?
My respectful recommendation is that President Trump find the patience to let the poisons in the mud hatch out. The only way to bring all the people that have caused so much turmoil to this country to justice is to let the justice system work. Let Barr and his team do their jobs. Be the one that explains why the harsh medicine that must be given to the Beltway circus is vital to draining the swamp.
Leading a nation back to greatness isn’t just about winning materially with strong militaries, strong economies, secure borders, and international prestige. It’s also about bringing a fragmented people back together so they can believe in each other again. This is the human resources side of managing a complex system that will either make America truly great, or truly mediocre.
America doesn’t just need a good boss; it needs a good father. There’s no Democratic contender for the presidency that even wants to take on the mission of restoring America’s culture. It’s literally a question of whether Donald Trump can focus on the job he needs to do for America over the next five years starting today.
Personally, I believe he can. I wish you good luck Mr. President.
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