“The greatest gift that our founders gave to us is the freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat and toil and imagination, and the imperative to strive together, as well, to achieve a common good, a greater good. For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation. It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom. It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande. It’s what pushed women to reach for the ballot. It’s what powered workers to organize. It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima, Iraq and Afghanistan. And why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs, as well. So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional—not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change and make life better for those who follow. Yes, our progress has been uneven. The work of democracy has always been hard. It’s always been contentious. Sometimes it’s been bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all and not just some.” – Excerpt from former Pres. Barack Obama’s farewell speech.
Headlines on Halloween 2017, October 31, read: ”Former Trump aides charged as prosecutors reveal new campaign ties with Russia”(New York Times), “Ex-Trump adviser pleads guilty to making false statement” (CNN), “In Russia probe, Mueller’s first charges a show of force” (U.S. News World & Report), “Trump finds Russia investigation ‘very distracting’, says John Kelly (The Guardian), “Forget Paul Manafort – these are the men who are cooperating with the FBI who Trump should be really afraid of.”
Three days later, the headlines were: “Paul Manafort has three passports, is a ‘serious’ flight risk, Robert Mueller says,” (The Independent), “Ex-Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort, deputy indicted on 12 charges in Russia probe” (Chicago Channel 5).
Further, Chicago Channel 5 reported that Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty in federal court in Washington on Monday, October 30 to accusations.
Both men funneled more than $75 million in payments to foreign companies and bank accounts, with Manafort laundering more than $18 million and Gates transferring more than $3 million from the accounts to ones he controlled.
“Manafort used his hidden overseas wealth to enjoy a lavish lifestyle in the United States, without paying taxes on that income,” Special Counsel Robert Mueller alleges in the indictment. These are serious charges, which were reviewed by a grand jury panel, and the charges were affirmed.
Paul Manafort was granted bail at $10 million. Readers, would you happen to have 10 homes to your name, worth $1 million each, or two mansions worth $5 million each? There lies the inequality gap, as this alleged defendant would enjoy the comfort of his own home, while someone from the working class, if similarly situated, would be in jail. Just imagine what it took to have $10 million to afford this privilege of a house arrest?
To pro-Trump supporters, they dismissed it as fake news and called on their fellow colleagues to read Rush Limbaugh and deflect the blame to Hillary Clinton. Except, she did not run Trump’s campaign nor was she elected president, and was disfavored by the hackers in Russia.
Trump’s foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, secretly pleaded guilty. His settlement was unsealed, charging him with lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian, during the 2016 presidential campaign, as reported by Vox’s Ella Nilsen on October 30.
Mueller’s team unsealed the documents. It remained sealed for about three weeks, as there was a concern that Papadopoulos who agreed to be a “proactive cooperator” meaning, wired in his conversations, might be hampered.
In an interview with CNN, Nada Bakos, a former CIA analyst whose former assignment was to cultivate targets, informed the television audience about her agency’s practice of identifying targets, with traits of malleability. She said that Manafort is a perfect target, given his contacts, and so was Papadopoulos, who was malleable.
According to the prosecutor’s statement of facts, Papadopoulos met with a Kremlin-linked professor in London and introduced him to a woman possibly close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He continued to meet with Russian operatives and Papadopoulos aggressively sought meetings for Kremlin with the Trump administration, including an admonition from Manafort that Donald Trump be spared from the meeting, so as not to create “signals.” Papadopoulos’ supervisor supposedly complimented him in his efforts. News sources are now reporting that Papadopoulos’ supervisor is Jeff Sessions, the current U.S. Attorney General, who recused himself from the investigation.
Steve Hall, a CNN panelist, offered a likely cover response from the Trump’s circle, to provide deniability: perhaps to downplay the indictments, and to categorize Papadopoulos as a volunteer campaign staffer.
Predictably, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders described Papadopoulos as an unpaid volunteer to the campaign. News sources disputed her claim by showing a photo of a March meeting attended by Sessions, Papadopoulos, and Trump.
As these events unfold, a Gallup presidential approval poll, based on interviews with 1,500 individuals, registered the disapproval rating of Trump from 47 percent on January 9, 2017, to now at 60 percent, after 282 days in office. Other news sources put it at 65 percent, since the indictments were announced.
Comparatively, Richard Nixon had a 5 percent disapproval rating on January 23, 1969 and 66 percent on August 2, 1974, when he resigned from the presidency. Trump’s disapproval rating is inching toward Nixon’s at the time of the latter’s resignation.
And as to Barack Obama, whose quotes I cited above, his disapproval rating was at 13 percent on January 19, 2009 and after the end of his term of eight years, it was at 37 percent on January 16, 2017.
As to how this process will fare out, it will now be up to our American justice system and its process of enforcement.
This justice system, I believe, is currently staffed by enforcement and judicial professionals who swore to uphold the U.S. Constitution and who serve the public, cognizant of the rule of law and the need to establish what is true, what is fair, using credible evidence. They, I believe, will ultimately be the guardians of U.S. democracy.
The last time America self-corrected its democracy, which was tainted by the White House’s Watergate activities, Pres. Richard Nixon resigned from his office.
When the truth of the 2016 presidential election is fully revealed, we will move two steps forward, even if our nation had been taken several steps backwards, with these indictments of the presidents’ men, and with fake news from Russian sources, affecting 120 million people according to Facebook, close to half of America’s population.
May both houses of Congress have the political will to right what’s wrong, including convening another presidential election if need be, to reflect the genuine will of the American voters. This, I believe, will constitute another form of guardianship over America’s democracy. May God bless America and may this be the beginning of a new chapter based on truth, justice and righteousness!
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Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 9 years now. She contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Mexico and 22 national parks in the US, in pursuit of her love for arts.