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Remember Archibald Cox? Well, history has repeated itself.

The critical point of the Watergate scandal may have come when President Nixon decided to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox for subpoenaing the Oval Office tapes of Nixon's conversations with key figures in the scandal. When Attorney General Elliott Richardson refused to be a party to something which at least smelled like obstruction of justice, Nixon fired Richardson, too, and appointed a reliable partisan who would fire Cox as directed to be the new Attorney General.

Tonight President Trump fired FBI director James Comey. Why? It's supposed to have been because the president has belatedly decided that Director Comey mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email scandal. And if you believe that, you are merely another victim of the lifelong con man who sits in the Oval Office.

The real reason is that due to partisan Republican stonewalling in Congress, the only serious investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and the Russians was the one the FBI was conducting. Things are getting a bit hot on that front for the administration. It was recently revealed that the Obama administration, which obviously had no investment in protecting its successor, nevertheless cautioned Trump against hiring former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn because he was so deeply compromised by his Russian contacts. Now a Trump loyalist who will have the authority to derail the investigation can be appointed.

Despite all the (ironic) chatter about "crooked" Hillary, there is little doubt that Donald Trump was the most ethically challenged man ever to be elected president, and the most deeply corrupt. There was an amazing lack of publicity for his settling both Federal and state charges of fraud and racketeering between his election and his inauguration. His longstanding habit of reneging on contracts, telling vendors or workers he's hired to accept not being paid or paid less than was agreed upon because suing him would cost more than accepting the loss, is clear and well-established. His pattern of playing fast and loose with the law lead many observers to predict as soon as he was elected that he would be impeached or forced to resign before his first term ended.

During the campaign, he refused to release his income tax returns on the totally bogus grounds that it would be "improper" because he was undergoing an audit. Even Nixon had released his returns without complaint under identical circumstances, and there is no legal reason for a person in Mr. Trump's position to refuse unless he is trying to hide something. Releasing one's income tax returns is standard practice for elected officials. But now it appears that Mr. Trump doesn't intend to release them at all, and he even has the effrontery to complain when American citizens hold him accountable for that refusal, expressing the apparent belief that he is only answerable to the American people during election years!

Mr. Trump's investments were put in an allegedly "blind" trust under the control of his children (!) when he took office. He continues to be in a position to profit from his foreign policy decisions and even to make money from diplomatic receptions and other events held at venues he owns. Both are clearly in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution, But the partisan Republican Congress, whose responsibility it is under the Constitution to enforce that clause, has refused to do so.

The most charitable construction that can be put on all of this is that a deeply authoritarian president who believes that he ought not to be accountable to the American people and far too thin a skin to be in public life is abusing his power to cut himself off from all accountability and minimize criticism, and doing it in such a way as to create extreme suspicion of in any mind that is not completely compromised by blind allegiance to him that he's trying to hide something.  Even if one assumes that all of this is somehow completely innocent, the only possible conclusion is that if Mr. Trump was for some reason intentionally conducting himself in such a way as put himself and his administration in the worst possible light.

Could this all be simply arrogance? Could it be that Mr. Trump is merely thumbing his nose at the Constitution and the American people? That's unlikely, though I suppose that in any case the possibility can't be completely excluded. But the president's actions are making him look guiltier and guiltier as time goes on, and tonight's firing of Director Comey only increases the appearance of impropriety.

Whether the administration's stonewalling is a matter of corruption or mere arrogance, there needs to be an independent investigation by an authority beyond the administration's  control into Russiagate and the president's finances. This sort of thing isn't healthy in a republic. It cannot stand, and it will not,

The time will come, as it came for President Nixon, when even the hyperpartisanship of congressional Republicans will not be able to suppress the truth, whatever it is and for whatever reason President Trump is afraid of our knowing it. The pattern of a lifetime is hard to break, and Mr. Trump still seems to think that he can treat the law and the American people with disrespect and get away with it. But I continue to believe that this most corrupt and arrogant president in our history will be held accountable, and that unless the system breaks down entirely he will be forced out of office before the end of his term.


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