President Donald Trump is caught in a spinning wheel that he can’t control. He has every reason to be alarmed at the appointment of a special prosecutor, but not because there was collusion between his campaign and Russia or that he engaged in obstruction of justice. Those allegations have yet to be proved and may never be. The larger issue is whether or not he and some of his aides can withstand the level of scrutiny they are likely to receive. One thing leads to another, as disclosures take investigators from anticipated to unanticipated directions.
With a top-flight team of lawyers and the investigative resources of the FBI now focused on a target-rich environment, Trump should be worried. Given his flamboyant personality, ethical lapses, questionable business ventures, failure to disclose financial information, and conflicts of interest, there is a good chance the special prosecutor will identify misconduct, some of which may rise to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”
Few could withstand the intense examination to which Trump will be subjected without some adverse findings. Given his inclination to make good things bad and bad things worse, he has no one but himself to blame for this situation. His lack of self-control, disregard for the truth, and shallowness have become insurmountable hurdles in his quest for glory.
There is an old Japanese proverb: “The nail that sticks out gets hammered.” Much to his regret, Trump may find that his elevation to the presidency has drawn a level of attention that otherwise would not be problematic. The consequences of his behavior are now far beyond those of a business mogul. What is overlooked in a billionaire is critically examined in a president.
Trump sees himself as either hero or victim; there is no in-between. Without the self-awareness necessary for humility, he is incapable of honestly evaluating his own behavior. Any criticism of him is, therefore, without merit. He is being unfairly maligned by those unwilling to recognize and applaud his big-league accomplishments. Persons with his disability lie, distort, cut corners, ignore boundaries, feel invulnerable, and classify others as friend or foe.
His need for loyalty may not help him as investigators seek to “flip” associates in search of a bigger prize by offering immunity or a plea bargain in exchange for damaging information. Under such pressure, self-interest usually prevails. Had Trump not fired James Comey, this whole thing may have blown over. There should be no satisfaction in bringing down a president.
If Trump believes Robert Mueller is getting too close, he may make the mistake of firing him, too. I doubt that would stop the investigation. It would be viewed by many as tantamount to an admission of guilt. He can only hope nothing significant is unearthed while he’s worrying that some of what he describes as “deals” may turn out to be unlawful. In the meantime, the investigation becomes a major distraction to someone already disinterested in policy.
That we placed our country in the hands of a man so obviously flawed is incomprehensible. As he feels more threatened by the investigation, his behavior may become more erratic. So far it seems as if we’re watching an episode of “Jeopardy.” Let’s hope it doesn’t become “Survivor.” Unfortunately for him and the nation, the monument Trump is building for himself may never be finished or, if it’s completed, it may sink in the sand. As in the poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, the pedestal proclaims:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works ye mighty and despair!”
Nothing beside remains round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
James W. Dolan is a retired Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law.