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Bill Straub: President Trump hides in plain sight, while Mitch McConnell provides the cover he needs

WASHINGTON – It was left to Senate Republican Leader Hugh Scott and a couple of senior members of the upper chamber to make the short trip down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House in August 1974 to tell the second-most corrupt president in the nation’s history – Richard Nixon – that the jig was up.

Scott, a pipe-smoking, mustachioed, moderate from Pennsylvania, didn’t exactly blurt out that it was time for the president to scram. Rather, the message was something along the lines of “Sorry, big fella, can’t help ya,” since dozens of GOP lawmakers were frantically grabbing the closest microphones they could find to publicly declare that the man called Tricky Dick needed to resign over the Watergate scandal.

Nixon turned tail within a couple of days and resigned before he could be impeached, helicoptering off to wherever disgraced politicians tend to settle. Scott and those who accompanied him realized the Republican Party was headed for a pummeling at the polls that November but giving Nixon the 23 Skidoo was in the nation’s best interests, and they acted appropriately and, it should be said, patriotically.

A reminder: The Constitution of the United States of America

Which brings us to the situation now confronting congressional Republicans over a contretemps involving the man who displaced Nixon as the most corrupt president in the nation’s 242-year history, Donald J. Trump, aka President Extremely Stable Genius (ESG).

The House of Representatives has initiated an impeachment inquiry over Trump’s shenanigans involving Ukraine, raising an uneasy question — if ESG has indeed been playing fast and loose with the Constitution as many suspect, who’s going to play the Hugh Scott role and deliver the news to the president that it might be time to consider another line of work? With Senate Republican Leader Mitch “Root-‘n-Branch’’ McConnell, of Louisville in the saddle, a man who has earned a reputation for consistently placing party before country, it’s highly likely the job will remain vacant and the United States will be left swaying in the breeze.

After all, to a great extent, Donald J. Trump is Moscow Mitch’s creation, his Frankenstein monster. And McConnell ain’t going to be the one chasing him with a torch as he runs totally amok.

Trump has, during his first three years in office, done plenty to generate questions about his fitness to serve and the need to oust him for the nation’s sake. The latest, and perhaps most significant event, centers on his dealings with the newly-elected president of Ukraine.

The record shows that old ESG had a phone conversation with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky last July, during which he made Zelensky what Vito Corleone would characterize as an offer he could not refuse.

A summary of that conversation – a verbatim transcript is not available – had Trump ask the Ukrainian leader “to do us a favor” and speak with both Attorney General William Barr and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and launch an investigation into the activities of former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat hoping to secure his party’s presidential nomination next year.

As vice president from 2008 to 2016, Biden had sought the dismissal of Ukraine’s top prosecutor for failing to root out corruption, ultimately succeeding. But ESG has maintained Biden was motivated by self-interest, moving against the prosecutor only because he was investigating a gas company, Bursima, with connections to Biden’s son, Hunter, who also was the subject of a probe.

None of the claims against Biden have been substantiated – he was not alone in calling for the prosecutor’s ouster. But ESG is not to be thwarted.

“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great,” Trump said, according to the summary. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.”

During this conversation, Trump reminded Zelensky that “we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time.” Left unsaid was the fact that, just a week before, the ESG administration withheld almost $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, a U.S. ally that has been a recipient of American foreign assistance for more than 28 years.

With neighboring Russia breathing down his neck, Zelensky would be a fool to ignore any request for “a favor” from the president of the United States.

So it appears the sitting president of the United States, for the second time, is relying on the kindness of strangers to guide him through the political thicket. The first instance, of course, came when Russia, to Trump’s pleasure, intervened in the 2016 election in his behalf, resulting in an investigation by a special prosecutor who was unable to uncover sufficient evidence of a conspiracy. Now this.

If ultimately proved – and it should be noted that Trump has acknowledged asking Zelensky to okay an investigation – it will be the very essence of corruption, which should come as no surprise. ESG has been, as Sherlock Holmes might note, hiding in plain sight for three years now. And the powers that be, led by McConnell, have simply chosen to ignore the ruins in order to retain power and fill federal judgeships.

Moscow Mitch has stood by stoically as Trump has ripped this nation asunder, allowing him to operate in the manner of an outlaw without imposing any standards to restrain his corruption or obvious abuses of power. He has pointedly refused to use his position to criticize the outrages ESG has foisted on this nation or jawbone to curb his behavior. There have been no real Senate investigations into issues like Trump’s overt violations of the Constitution as it regards emoluments. If anything, he has propelled Trump forward.

McConnell has done nothing but insulate ESG from any manner of accountability. Is there any question, regardless of how overwhelming the care turns out to be, that he will protect this man-baby running the country from any form of culpability? To Moscow Mitch it’s all about power. He and his Frankenstein monster practice it ruthlessly. Nothing else matters.

McConnell has afforded Trump carte blanche to operate in a despicable and corrupt manner. It’s no wonder the nation now faces a constitutional crisis. Trump has been driving the car. But Mitch has been there in the passenger seat, road map in hand, providing directions as they blithely head north in the southbound lane.

The whole thing is sickening.

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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