- - Monday, June 26, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

How is this for a strategy? Concoct a conspiracy to explain an unexpected election loss, put a cloud over the head of the elected president and his agenda, drag out an investigation for months, stir up hopes of impeachment, and then charge obstruction of justice when the subject of the mudslinging attempts to clear his name.

The strategy has now morphed into an investigation of what the president did or said in response to an investigation of an underlying crime that never existed.

After months of digging there is not a shred of evidence that President Trump colluded with Russia. He was told by FBI Director James Comey three times that he was not a subject of investigation. Nevertheless, for months a collusion was occurring. Anonymous leakers, left-wing media and Democratic politicians colluded to promote a false narrative to smear the president and obstruct his agenda from moving forward.

It is hardly surprising that the president, knowing the Russian collusion story was false, asked Mr. Comey and perhaps others in the intelligence community if they could tell the public what they were telling the president privately and remove the cloud.

Mr. Comey refused to go public with what he knew to be true. Instead, he stood silent in the face of a barrage of fake media stories that he later admitted to a congressional committee were “dead wrong.” He was willing to let the president of the United States dangle in the wind while others continued to lob lies at him. Mr. Comey revealed his motive to continue damaging the president by telling the congressional committee that he leaked a memo about his conversation with the president to the media, in order to achieve appointment of a special counsel.

Failing to find evidence of collusion, Democrats during a public hearing hardly raised a Russia question but instead shifted their fire to obstruction of justice. And what are the charges leading some to call for impeachment and worse?

• After facing months of leaks and false stories, the president had the temerity to ask for loyalty. Wow, now that is really grounds for obstruction of justice.

The president hoped for leniency for a general who had given a lifetime of service to this country, had been fired and who, after an FBI review of communications with the Russian ambassador, had already been found to have committed no wrongdoing. Though it was within Mr. Trump’s constitutional right to end the investigation of Michael Flynn altogether, he did not do that. Was this obstruction, or not wanting to kick a man who was already down?

• The president fired the FBI director, as Mr. Comey acknowledged he had every right to do constitutionally. Mr. Trump could have handled the firing more diplomatically, but there was no good time to fire Mr. Comey, who had to go. Many of those who are howling for the president’s scalp for that decision were calling for Mr. Comey’s head just a few months ago.

As Mr. Trump tweeted, “They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story.” A frustrated president, convinced of his innocence, has reacted in a very human way that has sometimes been unwise, but certainly not criminal.

If the shoe was on the other foot, Democratic officeholders, from sea to shining sea, would be defending their president and demanding an end to the partisanship and waste of the taxpayer’s money on a phony investigation.

And where are the Republicans? Hiding in the bushes or, like Sen. John McCain, taking potshots at their own lawfully elected president. The best way to protect their seats in the next election is to cancel their recess and demonstrate some urgency in addressing the key issues that Americans voted for last year — tax cuts, growing the economy and fixing the broken health care system.

This investigation is just a fishing expedition to take down a president and prevent the passage of his agenda. It is a witch hunt, and it is time to end it.

• Ellen Sauerbrey is a former minority leader of the Maryland House of Delegates.

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