We are now living in an imperio mendacium
, Latin for a government of lies.
The much vaunted Mueller Report chronicles a White House purportedly given to dissembling, to misleading the press, to concealing motives, and featuring a president occasionally directing subordinates to disseminate misinformation. The president denies this, dismissing this part of the Mueller report as “total bulls***.” This possibility cannot be gainsaid, given the partisan nature of the Mueller team, if not Mueller himself.
A much more troubling question, now crucial for the Justice Department and the Republicans in the Senate to answer, is whether, indeed, the accusation of collusion with the Russians on the part of the Trump administration — now thoroughly exploded by that same Mueller Report — was itself a product of the grossest and most nefarious fraud ever perpetrated in American politics.
Many years ago, in an extraordinary purportedly fictional political thriller, "Primary Colors" (1996), written by veteran reporter Joseph Klein, and based on the campaign of William Jefferson Clinton, Klein compellingly revealed how his protagonist used mendacity and dirty tricks to achieve success, and eliminate opponents.
This was the pattern, we are now learning, employed by Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, in cooperation with consultants, lawyers, and the Obama administration, to plant fabrications implicating Donald Trump and his associates with clandestine activities in cooperation with Russian officials wrongly and corruptly to steal the election from Mrs. Clinton. That Mrs. Clinton and her associates would engage in such chicanery should have been no surprise given her pattern of outright lying about the purpose of her “home-brew” server, and her failure to use her official state department e-mail account, the better to conceal the activities of her and her family to leverage her official position to acquire extraordinary wealth. The fact that Mrs. Clinton was permitted to escape criminal liability for her cavalier treatment of classified information ought to be recognized as a far greater travesty than anything Mr. Trump may have done.
Mrs. Clinton presented herself as a candidate of change, and as the person who could break the “glass ceiling” preventing any woman from becoming president. She (and her predecessor) claimed to be champions of the people. Still, Mrs. Clinton would have continued the policies of the Obama administration, which by its overregulation of the economy, its foreign misadventures, and its undermining Constitutional precedents and the rule of law generally caused many Americans in swing states and the heartland to turn to Mr. Trump.
Whatever the temptations to prevarication on the part of Mr. Trump (a businessman who knew that strategic behavior is essential for success), an objective observer ought to recognize that Trump faced the most hostile press and a the most coordinated campaign of unscrupulous and illegal machinations of official government actors ever encountered.
In spite of that, knowing that he was innocent of the crimes of which he was accused by those nefarious actors, Trump actually thoroughly cooperated with the tainted Mueller investigation. He waived executive privilege, he offerred millions of pages of documents, and hundreds of hours of White House official testimony. This is a much better indication of his good faith than any tendency of his to dissemble.
The sheer audacity of Ms. Pelosi, Messrs. Schumer, Nadler, Schiff, Comey, Clapper, and Brennan to continue incorrectly to claim that the president “obstructed justice,” when he actually did precisely the opposite, is the best indication that if the Democrats were in charge an imperio mendacium would be achieved, and democracy would die.
Those who pushed the Russia collusion canard claimed that Mr. Trump was a venal puppet of Vladimir Putin, out only for personal gain and to enhance his commercial brand. When the history of his presidency is objectively written, however, it will demonstrate that the Trump businesses declined in value during his presidency, while the country’s economy dramatically improved because of his administration’s policy.
It is profoundly sad that both Democrats and Republicans engage in spinning facts to shape a narrative to persuade their partisans.
Until we have a press which can free itself from hostility to the current administration, and until the American people once again can exercise their sovereign prerogative to select their president and their representatives, we can expect the misrepresentation that now dominates our politics.
We are a nation of idealists, but we fundamentally differ on how to achieve those ideals of freedom, prosperity, opportunity, and dignity for all. Bridging our differences will not be accomplished by dishonesty, manipulation, fraud, and criminality. It is time for the President and his Attorney General to bring the perpetrators of the Russia Hoax to Justice, it is time for the Press honestly to report the facts, and it is time for the American people maturely to demand honesty of their leaders.
Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). Presser was recently appointed as a Visiting Scholar in Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado's Boulder Campus for 2018-2019. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.