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May 24, 2022

U.S. in crisis?

Since President D. Trump took office, it has been obvious that a bitter confrontation is taking place in the U.S., between the White House and a widely composite political camp that includes the Democratic opposition but also a great part of the national media (which the President often calls on his twitter account the spreader of ‘fake news’, The New York Times and The Washington Post, but also CNN and other channels being permanently cited from this standpoint).

The episodes of this confrontation are known and not few of them are based on topics that date back to the elections campaign of 2016. Worth mentioning among these episodes are the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn, forced to do so only a month after his confirmation; the expensive trips to Florida’s Mar-a-Lago every week – which sparked fierce criticism and even prompted him to make scarce these “golfing” weekends; the nepotism promoted with the appointment of his daughter and son-in-law to important offices at the White House, which raised the issue of conflict of interest, the incompatible promotion of personal interests being blamed; amateurism in international relations – the Tomahawk attack in Syria on 7 April 2017, the military action lacking a follow-up strategy, etc. A recurrent topic that is visible across all mentioned episodes refers to secret ties with Russia, dating back to the time of the elections campaign. From this standpoint of the relationship with Moscow, the most radical reproaches tend to outline that Trump being elected at the White House was allegedly the result of Russian interference in the presidential campaign, or that his actions as President border on the interested accommodation of Russian interests.

At least a month before winning the White House, the former Obama administration’s official relations with Russia cooled down significantly, Washington even resorting to a measure characteristic of the Cold War – expelling a consistent number of Russian diplomats accredited in the U.S., but a measure which, contrary to expectations and tradition, Russia did not reciprocate. This fuelled the suspicion of an illegal link that the future Trump administration had with Moscow, one that the President did not nip in the bud but quite the contrary (his calls on Russia to continue hacking the emails of his contender). Coming on top of this episode was also the fact that the American secret services placed these links under surveillance, measure that coincided with a definite polarisation of public opinion, the political conflict being copiously commented on and fuelled by social networks, reflecting a profound impact on public opinion.

In the last two weeks, this veritable domestic political crisis was substantially fuelled by President Trump’s sacking of FBI Director James Comey (May 10). Trump’s decision, effectively legal, nevertheless immediately triggered the Opposition’s chorus, which launched strong attacks under the presumption that this is the President trying to obstruct justice, since it prevents the person he sacked from continuing to monitor the presidential candidate’s ties with Russia. Basically, the idea circulated was that in this way the President is protecting himself and, simultaneously, is trying to prevent the probe into Russia’s involvement in last year’s presidential elections and in their result. The unfolding of events meant that the sacking of Comey coincided with Russian Foreign Minister S. Lavrov’s visit to Washington, who was welcomed by President Trump at the White House, however with only the representatives of Russian media being present. The comments that Trump made on this occasion, which came to the press’s knowledge, amplified even more the anti-presidential atmosphere that has rapidly engulfed the American media as well as Congress.

The press got hold of a memo that Comey drafted after a talk he had with the President (February 14). According to it, the President allegedly asked him to stop probing the recently resigned Michael Flynn. According to this memo, Trump allegedly told him: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go,” because Flynn “is a good guy.” The press finding out the content of Comey’s memo was deemed to have its roots, similarly, in a veritable rebelliousness of the FBI, a conflict being presumed between the two most powerful institutions of the U.S. – the White House and the domestic security service. The media started to request – against the backdrop of some similarities between the current situation and the Watergate scandal that resulted in President R. Nixon’s resignation in 1975 – the declassification of the President’s talks in the Oval Office. The Congress, in its turn, mobilised and started an inquiry. Especially since, during the Trump – Lavrov meeting (which was attended by Russian ambassador Kyshlyak, already involved in the Flynn dossier and thought to be the head of Russian spies in the U.S.), the President allegedly stated he sacked Comey because he is “crazy” and had to be removed. The President sought to explain that he acted within his constitutional prerogatives to carry out foreign policy and, thus, to have meetings with foreign diplomats, including from Russia.

On Twitter, Trump wrote on May 16, under the avalanche of criticism that was suggesting the start of an impeachment procedure: “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining… …to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.” On top of the suspicion of ties with Russia came the accusation that during his meeting with Lavrov the President allegedly divulged allied secrets (concerning air traffic security), jeopardising vital sources of intelligence. It’s truly unprecedented that the U.S. President is trying to justify his foreign policy actions in the face of a wave of criticism, especially since not few continued to accuse him, right on his Twitter account, of no less than being… Russia’s agent (here’s an example: “as a Russian agent… you wanted to share with Russia…”).

Of course, the President cannot be easily replaced/removed from office, even though social networks have been red-hot in the U.S. for the past 2 weeks. The White House spokesperson already explained that the President’s position in the Comey case was determined by the difficulty that his actions – surveillance in the Russian dossier – posed for the President’s attempt “to engage and negotiate with Russia.” But, as already noticed, faced with the obstruction of justice accusation that his critics invoke in the Comey case to impeach Trump, the White House is already preparing a consistent defence that is creating a solid point of rejecting such accusations by linking the sacking of the FBI Director with U.S. foreign and defence policy. Some call such defence preparations “a brilliant strategy.”

What is given off from this whole evolution of American domestic policy, which is heading toward a crisis climax, is probably the launch of an impeachment. The Nixon precedent of 1975 shows that such an action has a major impact, particularly domestically (I’m referring to the long-lasting resilience of the Vietnam syndrome, a kind of inward orientation felt in the U.S. until the start of the 1990s and whose end was sought through the First Gulf War). But during this volatile international situation of transition, the world needs, maybe more than ever, a U.S. visibly and energetically present on the external arena.

To counter an evolution toward this climax, it was decided at the White House for Trump to conduct his first trip abroad, visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican, arriving – after 8 days – at the NATO Summit in Brussels. Today, May 25th, D. Trump is in Brussels.


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