Robert F. Jakubowicz: Just the facts, not the spin

PITTSFIELD — "Just the facts" is a phrase made famous by Jack Webb playing the character of detective Joe Friday in the popular 1950s and '60s television show "Dragnet. The facts are what this nation needs to receive from a credible source at this point about the claims and counterclaims of the extent of any Russian connection with President Donald Trump's administration. The appointment of a real life Joe Friday-type in Robert Mueller III as a special investigator is a good step in that direction but more is required.

Political paralysis is overtaking this nation. The president`s penchant to lie and contradict his staff has placed him and his spokespersons in a position in which more than half of Americans cannot tell whether a statement from any of them is a lie or the truth.

The president now claims that he is being subjected to a witch hunt. Is he? Congressional Democrats are prematurely talking about impeachment. Meanwhile, the Republican congressional majority, with the exception of a few like Senators Lindsey Graham, John McCain and John Cornyn, are not talking about the Trump problem. Trump supporters are angrily asserting that Trump's political enemies are just trying to undo his election.

Unfortunately the congressional check the Founding Fathers put on a president is not working. They did not anticipate the role that partisan party politics would play in their system of government. The just about insurmountable partisan divide in Congress/ today has immobilized the Republican congressional majority from doing its constitutional duty of oversight regarding the executive branch. It is apparently hoping that the questions, concerns and fears about the president and his actions will somehow simply go away.

This tolerance of the president's foibles so far is seemingly a cynical political trade-off to have Trump in office to simply sign an Affordable Care Act replacement law and a large tax cut which would mainly benefit the very wealthy 1 percent of Americans. These Republicans are not likely to change their minds unless Mueller uncovers facts about the Trump administration's relationship with Russia that convinces them otherwise. As for those Democrats and Trump critics calling for impeachment, they too should await the facts before pushing this political action.

Will Mueller be fired?

For these reasons, Mueller's investigation is critically important. But there are two important points to be made.

Under the regulations covering his appointment as special prosecutor, Mueller can still be fired by Trump. The president is constitutionally in charge of the executive branch, including the attorney general's office and the special prosecutor will be working under the authority of that office.

President Richard Nixon took such action to fire the special investigators who were looking into the Watergate scandal because he was concerned they were getting too close to the Oval Office. That caused his eventual downfal. Whether Trump would do this remains to be seen, but based on his problematic actions so far it could happen and this country would become embroiled in a serious constitutional crisis.

The other point about Mueller's investigation is that it mainly is a search for criminal behavior that violates the nation's laws. This means that otherwise problematic and inappropriate action by a president, such as declassifying secret information and telling the Russians about it, would not be a focal point of the investigation unless it was relevant to the commission of a crime. The omission of facts about such non-criminal but highly questionable actions by Trump would allow for a continuance of the claims of fake news, witch hunts and destruction of democratic rule.

What is needed in addition to Mueller's investigation is the creation of a commission like the one that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks. Its charge would be to look into all aspects of this problem, including the presidential campaign, the Russian hacking, the financial connection between foreign countries and president and his family, the appointment of Michael Flynn, and the firing of James Comey. In other words, this would be a complete report on the facts that have been part of the national debate since the election of Trump.     

This matter is the overriding public issue of our time. Americans need to know the facts instead of arguing with each other about what is going on. It is a time for everyone to become a Joe Friday and insist on knowing "Just the facts."

Robert "Frank" Jakubowicz is a regular Eagle contributor.


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