Op - Ed, Opinion

When our president disregards what it means to serve the public

By Angelo Lynn

There he goes again

President Ronald Reagan coined the refrain, “There you go again,” to disarm President Jimmy Carter’s repeated attacks during the 1980 presidential campaign. The refrain has made a comeback, in a completely different context, with Donald Trump’s numerous outrages since moving into the Oval Office. Adding to his mounting number of known lies since taking office, Trump continues to shock the nation with outrage after outrage.

But last week’s outrage may take the cake.

Lashing out against special prosecutor Robert S. Mueller III for doing his job, Trump has directed his lawyers to search for ways to discredit Mueller or find a shred of evidence they could use to justify his dismissal. Mueller, for those who don’t remember, is a life-long Republican who was appointed by President George W. Bush as FBI director. He served from 2001 to 2013 (having been reappointed by President Barack Obama), making Mueller the second longest serving FBI director in the nation’s history after J. Edgar Hoover.

When nominated for the special prosecutor position, Mueller was universally praised as a man of integrity who would pursue his task without malice. Democrats were pleased that Mueller would expose any wrong-doing, and Republicans were hopeful he would find Trump innocent and remove the taint of scandal that has engulfed Trump’s presidency.

But Trump is noticeably worried and is pushing back against Mueller’s probing eyes.

What is so galling about Trump’s response is that finding the “truth” is not Trump’s concern. On the contrary, his protestations have been the alleged “unfairness” that anyone dare question his relations with Russia — a long-time adversary of the U.S., but with whom Trump has been oddly preferential during the campaign and since the election.

Rather than be open and honest, Trump has now accused his most loyal servant, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, of something short of treason (in Trump’s mind) for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. And much of the information to date, including Trump’s reluctance to reveal his income tax returns, points to a Russian bailout of Trump when his real estate empire was in dire straits 10 years ago. That Russian enterprises, or Putin himself, could hold financial or political leverage over Trump is a serious threat to U.S. interests.

As for Trump’s latest outrage on this issue, he is reportedly having his legal team not only try to discredit Mueller, but also research how to pardon friends, family members and even himself if Mueller finds evidence that would lead to criminal charges. It’s so outrageous it leaves most Americans speechless, or muttering in exasperation, “There he goes again.”

Speaking truth to power

Who is Joel Clement and why was what he did last week so notable?

Clement was director of the Office of Policy Analysis at the U.S. Interior Department working in Alaska to help endangered communities prepare for and adapt to the changing climate. He was appointed to the position seven years ago, and has been working with several Alaska Native villages that are, as he says, “perilously close to melting into the Arctic Ocean.”

On June 15, Clements was one of about 50 senior department employees who were involuntarily reassigned to other unrelated jobs within the agency that were intended to discourage their continued employment. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke confirmed that motive when he testified before Congress a week later that he would use reassignments “as part of the agency’s efforts to eliminate employees.” Clements says he was targeted because he has publicly spoken out about the dangers posed to Alaskan villages by climate change. “It is clear to me that the administration was so uncomfortable with this work, and my disclosures, that I was reassigned with the intent to coerce me into leaving the federal government.”

Clement is now a whistle blower. He is citing, among other things, the foolishness of “removing a civil servant from his area of expertise and putting him in a job where he’s not needed and his experience is not relevant (as) a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Clement goes on to explain that he expects every president has the right to implement his own policies, “but that is not what is happening here. Putting citizens in harm’s way isn’t the president’s right. Silencing civil servants, stifling science, squandering taxpayer money and spurning communities in the face of imminent danger have never made America great.”

What does make America great? Individuals lawfully standing up to government to defend their principles.

“Let’s be honest: the Trump administration …  sidelined me in the hope I would be quiet or quit. Born and raised in Maine, I was taught to work hard and speak truth to power. Trump and Zinke might kick me out of my office, but they can’t keep me from speaking out. They might refuse to respond to the reality of climate change, but their abuse of power cannot go unanswered.”

Mind you, Clements is willing to lose his job in the defense of others, to preserve their homes and livelihoods. That’s self-sacrifice for the public good — a quality sorely lacking in this Trump administration.

Angelo Lynn is the publisher of the Addison Independent, a sister paper to The Mountain Times.

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