One enduring aspect of the Trump presidency since it began is the recurring series of damaging and embarrassing leaks about the inner workings of the administration.
Less than four months into Trump's tenure, the leaks had already begun to mount. By May of 2017, when a number of leaks came to light about President Trump's comments to Russian officials during a White House visit, I wrote that it was really looking like this revelations were part of some kind of coordinated effort to terminate the Trump presidency.
Fast forward 30 months to this week. Late Wednesday, we learned that the attorney for the reported whistleblower whose concerns launched the current impeachment inquiry tweeted on January 30, 2017, that the "coup" against President Trump that would lead to impeachment had started.
On Thursday that same attorney, Mark Zaid, issued a statement defending the tweet and others like it saying the following:
"Those tweets were reflective and repeated the sentiments of millions of people," Zaid said. "I was referring to a completely lawful process of what President Trump would likely face as a result of stepping over the line, and that particularly whatever would happen would come about as a result of lawyers. The coup comment referred to those working inside the Administration who were already, just a week into office, standing up to him to enforce recognized rules of law."
This is certainly not definitive proof that Zaid's whistleblower client or any of the people he's referring to in his statement provided the leaks about the meeting with the Russians at the White House back in 2017. But it does seem to establish the important fact that efforts meant to undermine President Trump have been going on all along.
The first problem with all of that is there's a fine line in politics between righteous vigilance and a "gotcha" campaign to catch and burn political opponents.
Remember that January 30, 2017, was just 10 days after President Trump took office.
Additionally, what guarantees do we have that those administration employees who were "standing up to him" were doing so in a fair and just manner? Presumably no single White House staffer is privy to every decision a president makes, so how do we know any one of them has a full picture behind any policy? How can we know that anonymous and unelected bureaucrats are acting any more responsibly that the elected leader who's been very publicly-scrutinized by the public and the news media since day one? The disturbing questions about this are endless.
President Trump spoke out against the implications of the Zaid tweet at a rally in Louisiana on Wednesday night and also tweeted that he believes the revelation exonerates him.
The idea that the impeachment process should end immediately because of Zaid's revelation is a complete stretch. But at the same time it should give any fair-minded House members and senators some pause about the spirit with which the evidence against President Trump was gathered. There's a big difference between evidence that falls into someone's lap and evidence that may be sought out by an overzealous group of insiders hell-bent on removing the president.
There's another big problem with this scenario when it comes to the functionality of any presidential administration.
Let's face it, presidents make many tough and controversial decisions every day. A president's ability to act decisively at any given time is essential. Having vigilant subordinates is one thing, but acting as an effective president with a multiple number of White House staffers actively seeking to find and report that president's missteps is an untenable position for any president and the nation as a whole. As the old joke goes: "Just because I'm paranoid it doesn't mean everyone isn't out to get me."
Having a president who is quite justifiably unable to truly trust the people working around him is no laughing matter for America.
Because the impeachment inquiry has so far been dominated by closed door hearings and selective leaks to the media, it's hard to get a real handle on exactly what the full facts are in the president's dealings with Ukraine. Perhaps we'll get a fairer and fuller picture next week when public hearings begin.
If there are still White House bureaucrats actively working to end Trump's presidency, there's no reason to believe this potential Ukraine scandal is where it will end. A full purge of every White House staffer doesn't sound possible, so the suspicions and intrigue are here to stay.
The funny thing about all of this is that it's playing out just as we enter the 2020 election year. Instead of leaks and impeachment proceedings, those seeking to remove President Trump have their opportunity to do just that in a much more legitimate and public way.
As the election process moves along, those who want a new president should seriously start thinking about whether these clandestine efforts are seriously undermining the work to make that happen at the ballot box.