Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Creators.


“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.” — Matthew 7:17

There is one apparent reason the president of the United States was not indicted Tuesday in the same case that yielded a guilty plea from his longtime personal lawyer. It’s not because prosecutors think he is innocent. It’s because he is president.

The U.S. Justice Department has long taken the position that a sitting president is exempt from indictment. Only after he leaves office are prosecutors free to pursue criminal charges against him. Unless that policy changes, Donald Trump will serve the remainder of his time in office under the specter of prison.

Let that sink in a moment. Prosecutors may postpone his indictment. Congress may refuse to impeach him or convict him. But Americans will be living under the administration of someone who has been implicated in a crime by a close associate — and who they may eventually learn is guilty of one or more felonies. The nation is being governed by an unindicted co-conspirator.

Trump’s defenders deprecate the importance of the campaign finance violations that Michael Cohen admitted. They make much of the absence of any connection to Russia. They take vindication from a jury’s failure to convict Paul Manafort on 10 of the 18 charges that he faced.

It’s tempting to call such defenders slavish. But slaves were often unenthusiastic and slow in performing their assigned tasks. Trump’s defenders need no whips to motivate them.

They are better described as cultlike in their fervent willingness to believe whatever they have to believe to remain faithful. They would rather eat the foul fruit than recognize the nature of the tree.

If we know nothing else about Trump, we know that he finds the company of criminals as warm and inviting as a Jacuzzi. No president in history has shown such a fondness for employing people of felonious character. So far, five of his associates have been convicted of crimes or pleaded guilty.

It is people of firm probity who make Trump uncomfortable — James Comey, who wouldn’t agree to “go easy” on one of those confessed felons (Michael Flynn); Robert Mueller, who has served his country as a decorated Marine, federal prosecutor and FBI director, all without a hint of scandal; Rod Rosenstein, who has refused to fire Mueller as special counsel; and a host of journalists whose sole sin is to report unflattering facts about Trump.

Let’s not forget his deep animus for Barack Obama, who served two terms without any credible allegation of corruption against him or anyone in his circle of aides or associates. The closest thing to a major criminal case in that White House involved CIA Director David Petraeus, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of giving classified documents to his biographer.

It is not impossible that Cohen committed his campaign finance crimes — paying hush money to keep two women from making public their claims of having sex with Trump, to help him win the election — without the knowledge or approval of his boss.

But Trump hasn’t earned the benefit of any doubt. At every stage, he has told lies that were later exposed and acknowledged. The president denied that he knew of the payment to Stormy Daniels, only to later admit it. He also had to admit that he personally reimbursed Cohen, who originally insisted that he bore the cost.

Speaking of people willing to make financial sacrifices out of their devotion to Trump, his former campaign manager was convicted on eight felony counts Tuesday. Trump said the convictions “had nothing to do with Russian collusion,” but Manafort had extensive ties to a Russian oligarch and Russian businesses — and owed them millions of dollars.

At the time he took the job with Trump, his defense lawyers admitted during the trial, Manafort had no income. Yet Trump was happy to let him run the campaign. Did Trump not know that his unpaid campaign manager was in financial trouble that gave pro-Russian foreign interests leverage over him? Or did he not think to wonder why Manafort was so eager to work for nothing?

Manafort is just one of the noxious products of a corrupt tree. Tuesday was a bad day for the president and the country. But our experience with Trump suggests that the worst is yet to come.

Steve Chapman blogs at Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Actor as Donald Trump in Russia Today video ad

Screenshot from RT's 'Trump is here to make RT Great Again'

Russia Today, the network known in this country as RT, has produced a new "deep fake" video that portrays Donald Trump in post-presidential mode as an anchor for the Kremlin outlet. Using snippets of Trump's own voice and an actor in an outlandish blond wig, the ad suggests broadly that the US president is indeed a wholly owned puppet of Vladimir Putin– as he has so often given us reason to suspect.

"They're very nice. I make a lot of money with them," says the actor in Trump's own voice. "They pay me millions and hundreds of millions."

But when American journalists described the video as "disturbing," RT retorted that their aim wasn't to mock Trump, but his critics and every American who objects to the Russian manipulations that helped bring him to power.

As an ad for RT the video is amusing, but the network's description of it is just another lie. Putin's propagandists are again trolling Trump and America, as they've done many times over the past few years –- and this should be taken as a warning of what they're doing as Election Day approaches.

The Lincoln Project aptly observed that the Russians "said the quiet part out loud" this time, (Which is a bad habit they share with Trump.)