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Every day Democrats spend dreaming of a criminal finding against Donald Trump is a day they could spend more wisely and productively.

Democrats could be talking of real and practical Obamacare fixes, better trade policies for American workers, and a tax system infinitely fairer than what we have, and light years better than the scandal Republican senators and lobbyists penciled out Friday night and Saturday morning.

The Russian investigation is going to be what it's going to be. Michael Flynn's guilty plea gets us closer to ... something yet to be determined. That something won't be affected in the least by all the breathless hoping of MSNBC and all the breathless pooh-poohing of Fox News.

We don't know nearly enough to allege a quid pro quo crime in the Trump administration's solicitations of the Russians.

It is not an expressed crime for President-elect Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to direct the transition operation's main national security person, Michael Flynn, to call the Russian ambassador to try to get the Russians to hold off on a United Nations Security Council resolution. That's called not a crime, but governing, or at least preparation to govern.

The resolution opposed Israeli settlements. The incoming president wanted a deferral until he got into office and made U.S. policy more Israeli-friendly.

Well, let's correct that: The aforementioned is, in fact, a direct crime under the Logan Act of 1799. That law makes it illegal for an American not in the government to interfere with national affairs by engaging with a foreign official. But no one has ever been prosecuted under that law. There is general acceptance that the law ought to be ignored and that an incoming president should be able to talk to foreign officials about issues affecting all of them formally in a matter of days or weeks.

Saying, "Mr. Ambassador, President-elect Trump doesn't want you to vote for that UN resolution because he's going to be changing American policy on that in a couple of weeks" is not terribly different--and entirely less irregular--than U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton rounding up 46 other Republican U.S. senators to sign his letter to Iran's leadership telling it not to be counting on the nuclear deal with the Obama administration because the deal would be soon undone by a new Republican administration.

Lock Cotton up. Or not.

It is, however, clearly a crime to lie to the FBI about a call to the Russian ambassador, or anything, which is what Flynn pleaded guilty to last week.

It's part of a deal in which Flynn will tell Special Counsel Robert Mueller all he knows.

Anti-Trump partisans are excited by the thought that Flynn has indictable goods on Trump or his son-in-law.

He may indeed have those goods. But it is as yet unclear that there is an evident crime in the intersection of a loony incoming American president possessed of a naïve man-crush on Vladimir Putin and Russians who knew a loony swooner when they saw one.

A crime extending to Trump or his son-in-law would have to be of one of these four varieties:

• They have profitable business dealings with Russians that qualify as matters of "value" they have received in exchange for, say, seeking to soften sanctions against Russia.

• Russians hacked emails with the expressed knowledge of Trump campaign officials and, in turn, Trump campaign officials promised some favor to the Russian government.

• Trump or Kushner themselves lied at any point to investigators about anything.

• It was attempted obstruction of justice when Trump took aside FBI director James Comey and asked him to back off an investigation into the now-felonious Flynn, and, later, fired Comey and told Russians things would be better for them now that that blankety-blank was gone.

We don't know yet about the first three possibilities. The fourth, on obstruction ... we know Comey is a meticulously honorable man who says under oath that it happened. We know Trump denies it, but is utterly without personal credibility.

But, in the end, justice was not obstructed, considering that Mueller has now prosecuted and flipped Flynn.

With Trump, the vexing question always will be whether he's more a clumsy lunatic than criminal, and where that line should be drawn.

At this point there are only three things clear.

One is that Mueller knows what he's doing and will get where he's going in due time and without the high public profile that Kenneth Starr couldn't resist.

The second is that it was voter malfeasance to vote Trump, no matter how unappealing the opposition or how strong the economy or how low rich people's taxes can go.

The third is that Democrats are wholly reactive, distracted and behaving as if they think the only way the American people might beat Trump and choose them is if he's in jail.


John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was inducted into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 12/05/2017

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  • WGT
    December 5, 2017 at 7:03 a.m.

    Yep. I do catch myself obsessing from time to time. Oh well. It’s better than being one who has naively supported this clumsy lunatic with criminal tendencies. I am comfortable with what Mr. Mueller eventually concludes because, John, the writing is on the wall. At some point, the truth will arrive for Trump. As oblivious as he is to realty, reality will come to him. I would love to see the look on his face when he realizes he is a sunk ship. Priceless, and, immeasurably sad. What a waste of a life that could have done so much good.

  • EliseSlater66
    December 5, 2017 at 7:28 a.m.

    I just started 6 weeks ago and I've gotten 2 check for a total of $2,200...this is the best decision I made in a long time! "Thank you for giving me this extraordinary opportunity to make extra money from home. This extra cash has changed my life in so many ways, thank you! w­w­w.T­a­g­3­0.c­o­m

  • PopMom
    December 5, 2017 at 7:29 a.m.

    I also think that there is a distinct possibility that the Trump campaign knew that the Russians were helping the campaign with ads etc., an illegal campaign contribution from foreigners. As their efforts were not minor, I find this to be an extremely serious violation of the law. I agree that the Democrats should continue working on solutions though.

  • BoudinMan
    December 5, 2017 at 7:38 a.m.

    Not obsessing, but I am paying close attention. It is somewhat fascinating to watch as this abortion of an administration whirls itself into countless kerfuffles with the constitution, or the law, or with the Russians. It is also discouraging to watch the 30% try to defend the indefensible. Just using the man's own words should be ample cause for those people to abandon him. They've shown that they support re-distributing money from the middle-class to the wealthy; they support deceit and opaqueness in government; they support a so-called president who constantly lies; and they support an admitted sexual predator who in turn supports an accused child molester merely to keep a safe seat in the senate. The whole bunch is morally and ethically bankrupt, yet they look for cover in their bibles. Sad.

  • Jfish
    December 5, 2017 at 7:53 a.m.

    Excellent column John, maybe it will quell some of your rabid readers for a couple of days. The only thing I would disagree with is your comment on Starr. When you are investigating the POTUS you are going to be high profile like it or not. Starr was the not the big bad wolf with an agenda and Mueller probably isn't either as some republicans would have us to believe.

  • TimberTopper
    December 5, 2017 at 8:08 a.m.

    Good one John. The Republican Party may find itself having gone down a road that has no room to turn around and a sign at the end saying Dead End. There is no hope for a group of people that would support and vote for a person like Moore, with as much information out there about and against the man. If a person knows or thinks that an act they are about to do is wrong, and then they do it anyway, that just may close the pearly gates to them upon their arrival there. If not, then Hitler asking for the forgiveness of his sins, might even be there.

  • Whippersnapper
    December 5, 2017 at 8:26 a.m.

    Hey JB, we actually agree on multiple things in your column.
    "It is not an expressed crime for President-elect Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to direct the transition operation's main national security person, Michael Flynn, to call the Russian ambassador to try to get the Russians to hold off on a United Nations Security Council resolution. That's called not a crime, but governing, or at least preparation to govern."
    " was voter malfeasance to vote Trump, no matter how unappealing the opposition..."
    Hey Pop, it's not a crime if the Trump campaign KNEW Russia was doing something of value, it was only a crime if they solicited it or coordinated it.

  • PopMom
    December 5, 2017 at 8:48 a.m.


    They accepted an illegal contribution if they KNEW about it. Campaigns are always liable for accepting illegal campaign contributions. The Trump campaign had a duty to ask the Russians to stop and to alert the authorities with respect to these activities. The constant stream of meetings and lies about the meetings all constitute strong circumstantial evidence that they knew what was going on and knew that it was very wrong. If a Democratic campaign had done this, I would want them prosecuted as well.

  • Packman
    December 5, 2017 at 9:17 a.m.

    WOW! When an uber lib like John Brummett start's dumbing down lib hysteria you know things are bad for libs. No collusion, no obstruction of justice, no Hillary EVER.......
    Hey Pop - There is a distinct possibility a rogue FBI agent and his mistress have screwed the pooch for the entire Mueller investigation. As an attorney, you should better than most understand the concept of "tainted fruit".

  • cliffcarson
    December 5, 2017 at 9:29 a.m.

    So PopMom you think that Hillary was not guilty of anything because she was never convicted of anything and Comey was not guilty of anything and Mueller was not guilty of anything and etc., etc.
    And those who are investigating Trump, the same ones who are were claiming to investigating Hillary for destroying evidence that the investigators called for and who received $145 million for her and Husband Bill's Fund for helping grease the flow of USA' Uranium deposits to Russia, the using of a non-secured mailing system, and on and on,
    and Comey not placing her under oath ( can't lie if your not under oath) and on and on all things far surpassing any thing the Trump Administration has done, finally we find that the FBI Lead Investigator and his cronies are Hillary lovers and Trump haters just wont put with that no good Trump winning the election over their darling Hillary justifies a witch hunt with a Goal of unseating Trump.

    Yeah, I see what your goal is. And what the Democratic Party Goal is. And especially the Swamp Goal.

    And now America is on the cusp of becoming a Country run by criminals who have not been elected. They were appointed by the Swamp and they are going to try anything to secure their position of power.

    That's how I see it and I believe millions of Americans agree with me.