Trump and the Consciousness of Guilt

Vincent Bugliosi was a famed criminal attorney. He prosecuted Charles Manson and defended a handful of clients accused of murder. He documented his exploits in Helter Skelter, And the Sea Will Tell, and other true crime tales. In his book Outrage, Bugliosi turned his gaze toward the O.J. Simpson trial, particularly the failure of the prosecution. Bugliosi claimed, grandiosely, he could have convicted Simpson with only a legal pad and a closing argument. Bugliosi’s critique of Simpson’s prosecutors was very simple. O.J. Simpson’s actions both before and after Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman’s deaths revealed a consciousness of guilt.

Innocent people behave a particular way. They cooperate. They reveal as much information as possible. They tell the truth. Guilty people act differently. They obscure. They are ambiguous and measured in their words. They suppress evidence and influence witnesses. Such actions, either of the guilty or the innocent, can be used to make arguments using only circumstantial evidence. Bugliosi argued the defense could not account for Simpson’s behavior once the police began to close around him. He threatened suicide. He obtained large amounts of cash and a disguise. He went on the run, even briefly, with a friend. Those decisions, reasoned Bugliosi, could not possibly reflect innocence, but only guilt.

Donald Trump’s actions regarding Russia reveal a consciousness of guilt. Guilt of what? I have no idea, but his behavior reveals something beyond innocence. While most of the particulars are unknown, the circumstantial evidence is getting overwhelming. Here is what is beyond dispute:

Trump showed an unusual and unnecessary affinity for Russia throughout the presidential campaign. He was deferential to Putin, reflexively hostile toward NATO (Putin’s most reliable geo-political check), and he went out of his way to equate US and Russian misdeeds.

When the Trump campaign decided to get organized and head off more technical challenges at the impending GOP convention, Trump reached for Paul Manafort, a political operative with extensive financial and political ties to Russian interests.

During the run-up to the Republican National Convention, a GOP delegate attempted to amend the platform to include a passage on the provision of weapons and “lethal” assistance to Ukraine in its struggle against Russian-backed insurrections. This amendment would have squared the platform with recent Republican proposals in Congress, which were squashed by the Obama Administration. Trump operatives, who took very little interest in the platform in general, demanded the language be altered.

Trump taps Michael Flynn as his National Security Advisor. Flynn is forced to resign after concealing his meetings with Russian officials during the transition period.

The FBI opens an investigation into Russian connections to the most recent presidential election. Michael Flynn gets caught up in that investigation due to his previously concealed meetings.

Donald Trump fires James Comey, Director of the FBI.

Donald Trump meets with the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador in the Oval Office. He excludes American media but allows Russian media to be present. There, Trump discloses sensitive information gathered from vulnerable sources. White House officials contact the NSA and CIA to contain any potential fallout from Trump’s disclosure.

There are lots of other hanging threads that are disputed. Did Trump’s revelation to the Russians endanger American assets? Were the Russians the source for the DNC hack that damaged Mrs. Clinton’s campaign? Did Trump fire Comey because of the Russia investigation? Did Comey ask for more resources for the investigation? Did Trump pressure Comey to end the investigation before he was fired? Does Trump have financial connections to Russian investors?

To me, the pattern is disturbing and reveals an unusual relationship between Trump, or his operatives, and Russia, a nation implacably opposed to American interests, even without resolving open questions. The precise nature of that relationship is unknown based on current information, but Trump’s actions more than suggest something untoward.

Consider an alternative scenario. If it were true that Donald Trump had no shady connection to Russia, how would he behave? I think it is quite simple. He would answer any question. He would demand answers to open questions. He would demand an independent, well-funded investigation into Russian activities and he, and his staff, would cooperate with that investigation fully. He would turn over every stone so there could be no question left about any presumed connection he might have to Putin and his henchmen.

Instead, the President, and his team, have engaged in relentless equivocation. They have denied things not alleged. They have questioned the validity of “the news” without engaging its substance.

The smoke that rings the White House has a distinctly vodka-soaked tinge. There is so much smoke now that I fear there must be a fire, of some kind, somewhere. Republicans in Congress have an opportunity right now. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell must stand shoulder to shoulder to demand and fund independent investigations into the White House and its connections to Russia. Congress must begin to demand all relevant documentation from the FBI and White House about Comey’s firing. Congress must demand any recordings, notes, or transcripts of any White House meeting involving Comey, Trump, the Russians, or any topic related to Russia. Congress must subpoena the relevant actors, put them under oath, and question them, relentlessly, about their dealings with Russia.

If Trump is innocent, that will become apparent. If he is not, that will also become apparent. Now is not the time for partisan rancor, but for truth so obvious no one but the most ideologically calloused could call it fake.

19 thoughts on “Trump and the Consciousness of Guilt”

  1. Russia is not only “implacably opposed” to US interests, but also an enemy to religious freedom.

    OF COURSE Congress must begin, subpoena, etc. And a middle-aged man 40 pounds overweight must stop eating so much.

    What price will it pay if it doesn’t? Trump still enjoys near 40% support (at least according to 538), and far too many Trump supporters start blaming Obama and “Crooked” Hilary when Trump gets criticized by the “liberal” media for changing his stories as often as most of us change our underwear.

    Principled conservatism has been just about completely replaced by cult of personality.

    At this point there appear to be no real price for congressional inaction and apathy. As for this nation, it may already be too late, as the thinking engaged voter has been replaced by low-information sheep. And the Donald is wearing many a wool sweater even though it is SUMMER! :-)

  2. Dr. Smith,

    I wonder if you are not confusing “consciousness of guilt” with “refusal to play by conventional Washington rules”. Of course I see where you are coming from. I wish Trump operated a bit differently in some areas and I agree that they need an independent investigation, if for no other reason that to finally get it over with whatever the result, but I am not sure I (yet) see the vodka-tinged smoke around the White House. Time and again we have heard “no evidence of collusion” from sources ranging from Clapper to Feinstein.

    I think I would echo the sentiments of Marco Rubio on the matter. “I’m not saying the news articles are wrong. I’m not saying they’re right. I’m saying they raised an allegation and we have an obligation to look into them, But before we form opinions and advocate for action, we need to know what the facts are.”

    As far as compromising national security or the security of our allies or intelligence sources, President Donald Trump is not the real problem. General McMaster is absolutely correct that the real problem is the leaker(s) sending out this stuff to the media.

    1. Nathan–I agree with Rubio’s statement as it relates to the news articles recently. However, those leaks have nothing to do with the already disturbing pattern that exists. He behaves like a man that has a loyalty to Russia or as one who must consider Russian interests. In fact, it has been the one constant in his campaign and his administration. An investigation is a must. I am not yet convinced Trump has harmed national security. I agree with McMaster the leaks are an outrage, but condemning the leakers is not sufficient to deal with the substance of the problem.

      1. So my question is what exactly do you expect an investigation to look for and how long should it take, if nothing sinister is found, before we say “enough, time to move on”? Like I said, I agree with the investigation, but not if all it does it float around for his whole Presidency and tell me “be patient, just wait, it’ll come”. We’ve already had four months (longer if you count from election day rather than inauguration day) of “no evidence of collusion… …yet”. How long do we let the “yet” go?

    2. President Trump is not the real problem?

      Who was it who before firing FBI Director James Comey asked him to stop investigating former National Security Adviser Flynn, who was just forced out for lying about his meetings with the Russian ambassador?

      You see nothing wrong with this kind of obstruction?

      Need I go on with numerous other examples?

      The White House staff that contradicts, with Metamucil-like regularity, the president?

      It would be funny if it weren’t so potentially tragic.

      Wonder if Israel will be sharing secrets again?

      That right there is the problem with conservatism: party over principle, and party over nation. Anything for upper-class tax cuts. Even the integrity of the office of the president, and even our reputation worldwide.

      Trump: Making America Watergate Again!

      1. No, Jeff, President Trump is not, at this time, in my opinion, a real problem. Firing Comey will do nothing to stop the investigations and has not stopped the investigations. They continue. If Trump believed it would have stopped them, then he is an idiot. I am sure that is your conclusion. Maybe, one day, depending on what evidence is or isn’t found, it will be mine too. But not yet.

  3. “No, Jeff, President Trump is not, at this time, in my opinion, a real problem. Firing Comey will do nothing to stop the investigations and has not stopped the investigations. They continue. If Trump believed it would have stopped them, then he is an idiot. I am sure that is your conclusion. Maybe, one day, depending on what evidence is or isn’t found, it will be mine too. But not yet.”

    It seems pretty clear that DJT fired Comey because he would not squash the investigation into Flynn. Trump’s own words point to such a mindset.

    I would agree with you the DJT would have to be an idiot if that were his thinking, which it seems to be.

    I think having an idiot as president is a real problem. The real problem, in fact.

    We should all be scared. How many so-called evangelicals are responsible for putting this dangerous man in office? They may want to pray now, but they should have prayed before.

    1. Well, as I often point out, what is “pretty clear” to you is in many cases not that clear to me. And really, I don’t care the specific reason why Trump fired Comey. It’s his prerogative and Comey needed to go anyway. And my point, though I acknowledged you probably think he is an idiot, was that I, at least for now, do not. I think Trump needs to make major changes to the way he operates, but an idiot? Sorry, don’t see it.

      “We should all be scared.”

      Yeah well, I am not. If Trump is innocent, and at this point I think he is, that is that. If he is not, well, President Pence sounds fine to me. Whatever will be will be. Not sure why you feel it necessary to worm in another attack on evangelicals, though for you, rather predictable. For the record, I prayed before the election, after it, and still do. You would do well to drop the witless insinuation that Trump voters, evangelical or not, were/are, well, witless and if they do not agree with you then they must have failed to pray or are somehow less a Christian than you.

      Good evening :)

    2. I don’t have many nice things to say about Trump. Ever

      But I think he’s actually a lot more intelligent then he lets on.

      He asked Comey to stop the investigations and Comey refused, firing him doesn’t stop the investigations but it does send a message that the president doesn’t want these investigations to go on and maybe the next director will be more willing to play ball.

      1. Doesn’t matter who the next director is. With Mueller as special counsel it is out of the FBI’s hands. It is Mueller’s decision now when to end, or not end, the investigation. The only action Trump could take to stop the investigation is to order the Deputy Attorney General to fire Mueller, something I think is not likely to happen, at least in the short term.

        Honestly, as it stands right now, my opinion is that Trump wants this to end not because he has something to hide but because it is hamstringing his governing agenda. Maybe I will be proven wrong. We shall see.

      2. Nathan…the President stated in no uncertain terms, to Lester Holt, that one of the reasons Comey was fired was due to his handling of the Russia investigation. I’d be happy to show you the transcript. :) I think we also agree that it was foolish for him (if not potentially illegal) for Trump to (1) fire him for that reason, and then (2) watch as the White House covered up the actual reason for firing.

      3. Jonathan… I know what Trump said and I do not require you to educate me with transcripts. Changes nothing that I have said anyway. And no, we do not agree.

      4. BTW. The transcript of the interview I read does NOT show Trump in no uncertain terms saying what you claim he said. He said he was unsatisfied with Comey’s handling of the FBI in general and specifically denied having asked Comey to end the investigation. And “unsatisfaction” is all the excuse any President needs to fire an FBI director. Nothing illegal about it.

  4. “Honestly, as it stands right now, my opinion is that Trump wants this to end not because he has something to hide but because it is hamstringing his governing agenda.”

    WHAT agenda? Seriously, we still don’t know what that is. I don’t think even his staff knows what it is.

    Evangelicals deserve criticism now and for the years to come for their culpability in putting an unqualified, bigoted, ignorant, immoral narcissist who brags about grabbing women by the genitals in the White House. And for their continued support of him. Especially the support coming rom that so-called Christian whose father founded Liberty University.

    I am speaking the truth, Philippians 4:8-style. Sorry if you do not like it.

    1. “WHAT agenda?”
      He wants to build the border wall, rebuild the military, combat ISIS, he already got his supreme court pick, tax reform, health care reform. Agree with him or not about his policies and success, that sounds like an agenda does it not?

      Does it not sink in to you that many evangelicals who voted for Trump did not do so because they think highly of him but because it was a choice between him or Mrs Clinton? If Mrs Clinton had been elected would you say the same thing about evangelicals who voted for her? There was simply not a good choice with a realistic chance of winning. It is pathetic to call someone a ‘so-called’ Christian just over a political candidate they supported.

    2. Well, as Daniel said… border security, national defense, supreme court, tax reform, trade, infrastructure. Sounds like an agenda to me, agree with it or not.

      As for Philippians 4:8… under that logic, evangelicals definitely couldn’t have voted for Hillary. Probably not for any of the third partiers either cause I am sure you will go there if I don’t go ahead and say so. I’ll just leave it at that.

  5. “Innocent people behave a particular way. They cooperate. They reveal as much information as possible. They tell the truth.”

    Mark, I disagree with this. Why would you think this to be true? And if this is not true, much of your argument falls apart. Perhaps Mr. Trump simply thinks that is in his interest to be uncooperative, especially with the people who want to destroy him under any pretense. I’m not saying his behavior is correct in the sense of being the wisest course of action, but it may be a rational response to the incentives that he sees himself in, without at all being guilty.

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