Washington Post reporter Greg Miller, also the author of “The Apprentice — Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy,” has an obvious agenda in recycling old news that President Trump wanted time alone with President Putin and took precautions to make sure that nothing said during their private meetings would leak. As Democrats in the House prepare to begin their relentless investigations of the Trump administration, Miller wants his story to help re-ignite the anti-Trump narrative that President Trump is in cahoots with Vladimir Putin.
“We will be holding hearings on the mysteries swirling around Trump’s bizarre relationship with Putin,” promised House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.). Representative Engel is so obsessed with President Trump that he has decided to replace his committee’s terrorism subcommittee with a panel focusing on investigating matters related to President Trump. It says something about the skewed sense of priorities of the new Democrat majority in the House that the serious threat of terrorism against American citizens is no longer worthy of special attention by a subcommittee. Instead, they want to create yet another redundant panel to go after President Trump.
Although President Trump said that the claims in Miller’s article were ridiculous, so what if the claims turn out to be true? President Trump’s critics need to take a deep breath and read up on the Constitution, which vests the executive power individually in the president of the United States. The Founding Fathers rejected the notion of a plurality of rule in the executive branch. “Decision, activity, secrecy, and despatch [sic] will generally characterize the proceedings of one man in a much more eminent degree than the proceedings of any greater number; and in proportion as the number is increased, these qualities will be diminished,” wrote Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 70. Hamilton warned against vesting executive powers “ostensibly in one man, subject, in whole or in part, to the control and co-operation [sic] of others, in the capacity of counsellors to him.”
The president of the United States, as the nation’s single chief executive under Article II of the Constitution, would have no obligation to invite his secretary of state, national security adviser, or anyone else in his administration to attend his own private discussions with his foreign leader counterparts. He also has no obligation to share any of the contents of such discussions with members of his administration or have his translator retain any copies of transcripts or notes for disclosure to third parties. After the Deep State leaks from President Trump’s private meetings and telephone conversations intended to embarrass the president that occurred earlier in his term, President Trump has good reason to keep his own counsel.
Congress would be violating the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches if, as is most likely, the Democrats in the House were to demand testimony or documents from the president’s translator pertaining to his private meetings with President Putin. Executive privilege protects the confidentiality of the president’s private conversations from disclosure to the legislative branch. While there is no absolute right of executive privilege, the Supreme Court has declared that “military or diplomatic secrets” are amongst the “areas of Art. II duties the courts have traditionally shown the utmost deference to Presidential responsibilities.”
Gamal Helal, an Arabic interpreter and senior adviser to four presidents and seven secretaries of state, said he knew of no precedent in which Congress had ordered a translator to appear before it. “It would be a horrible precedent if a president wasn’t free to talk one-on-one with a head of state,” Helal said. “He uses the translator to communicate because he cannot do so in a certain language. The principal uses the interpreter to communicate. Therefore the interpreter is an extension of the principal…Sometimes you prepare the notes at the request of the president. Once you have the notes, you give them to the president and he does what he wants with it. It is not up to the interpreter to reveal what he says. Only the principal has the right and privilege to control the fate of those notes.”
If Presidents Trump and Putin did concoct something favorable to Russia during any of their private meetings, President Trump has not exactly fulfilled his end of the bargain. The president’s decision to impose tough sanctions against Russian individuals and organizations, his expulsion of Russian diplomats, his attempts to entice Western European countries away from over-dependence on Russian energy, his call for sharply increased spending on the military, and his decision to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine are certainly not the actions of a Russian agent. “When you actually look at the substance of what this administration has done, not the rhetoric but the substance, this administration has been much tougher on Russia than any in the post-Cold War era,” said Daniel Vajdich, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
In short, Greg Miller may have intended his Washington Post article, with the blaring headline “Trump has concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin from senior officials in administration,” to stir up a hornet’s nest. Instead, he has only served to make a mountain out of a molehill.
Miller’s article followed on the heels of a New York Times story last Saturday that the FBI had opened a counter intelligence investigation into whether President Trump “had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.” The FBI investigation began in the days immediately following the president’s firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director. While revelation of the full scope of the investigation itself, if true, is newsworthy, the examples of allegedly suspicious behavior by President Trump cited in the New York Times article are recycled old news. It was a lame attempt to re-ignite the Russian collusion narrative.
CNN too is seeking to keep the FBI’s Trump investigation story alive, citing portions of transcripts of two FBI officials’ closed-door congressional interviews that CNN had obtained. CNN quoted James Baker, then-FBI general counsel, as having said that the FBI was investigating a whole range of possibilities involving the relationship between President Trump and the Russians, including the “theoretical possibility” that President Trump was “acting at the behest of and somehow following directions, somehow executing their will.”
When President Trump was asked Saturday night by Jeanine Pirro on her Fox News show whether he now or ever has worked for Russia, the president scornfully replied that “I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked.” Referring to the New York Times article, he added that “if you read the article, you’d see that they found absolutely nothing.” On Monday the president came out swinging, flatly denying that he has worked for Russia. “I never worked for Russia, and you know that answer better than anybody,” he responded to a reporter’s question. He said that the FBI officials who launched the investigation were “known scoundrels” and “dirty cops.”
More than one and half years after the FBI investigation of a “theoretical possibility” was reportedly launched and then carried forward by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the New York Times and CNN chose to go back to the future. One would think that they had unearthed significant new evidence of President Trump’s wrongdoing that would move the “Russian agent” story from the realm of “theoretical possibility” to the realm of hard facts. But they didn’t.
The hate Trump media’s non-stop vitriol against the president has become tiresome. President Trump has every right to hit back hard at the kind of fake media reports we see too often by the likes of The Washington Post, New York Times, and CNN.