Best columns: The U.S.
The coming Mueller-Trump showdown
The Washington Post
The Trump administration is “about to be hit by a legal tidal wave,” said Michael Gerson. Virtually every week, the president’s insistence that he and his campaign had “nothing to do with Russia” is undermined by new evidence that Trump’s family and aides “believed that Russian espionage could help secure the American presidency, and acted on that belief.” We discovered last week that Donald Trump Jr. exchanged several direct messages with WikiLeaks as it prepared to distribute Democratic emails stolen by Russian hackers and shared these exchanges with other key campaign aides; this week, it emerged that Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner failed to disclose an overture from a Putin ally for backdoor communications. It’s already been publicly proven that Team Trump had dozens of Russian contacts and meetings, and then lied about these interactions on disclosure forms, at confirmation hearings, in public statements, and in tweets. For special counsel Robert Mueller and his crack team of investigators, the lies will serve as leverage: Trump aides facing perjury charges will be more likely to cooperate. More indictments are surely coming. “A showdown” between Mueller and Trump is inevitable. When it comes, the character and integrity of our nation will be at stake.
Congress’ dereliction of duty
Congress should “stop writing a blank check to wage war,” said Rachel Bovard. Since 2002, Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump have relied on the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress in the wake of 9/11 to authorize 37 U.S. combat operations in 14 countries, including current counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Niger, and elsewhere. Under our Constitution, Congress has the sole authority to declare war. But to dodge political responsibility for military actions that might go wrong, Congress has hidden behind the 2001 AUMF, which authorizes the president to use force against any nation, organization, or person who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks” of 9/11. As a result of Congress’ “dereliction of duty,” three presidents have had unchecked authority to put U.S. soldiers in harm’s way without any real oversight or public debate. A bipartisan group of House lawmakers recently introduced a new AUMF that would authorize the use of military force against the Taliban, al Qaida, and ISIS for five years and require periodic progress reports on any actions taken. Congress should pass it, and “take back its constitutional war-making mandate.”
The bogus stories that millions believe
If you want to know just how much trouble we’re in as a country, said Michael Tomasky, all you need to do is visit Snopes.com. The website, founded in 1995 to fact-check urban legends, is largely devoted today “to debunking fake news”—utterly bogus stories that circulate on Facebook and fringe websites and are believed by millions of people. One recent Snopes story, for example, examined the question “Was the Texas church shooter an antifa member who vowed to start a civil war?” He was not, but on right-wing websites, the fringe lefty group is depicted as a massive movement working to overthrow the government and enslave God-fearing Americans. Another much-shared story that Snopes debunked relied on a doctored photo that showed one of those ungrateful black NFL players burning an American flag in the locker room—an event that didn’t happen. Every day, Americans who shun the “mainstream media” are taken in by doctored photos, conspiracy theories, and phony stories concocted by a mix of partisan propagandists and pranksters who enjoy stoking their outrage. “Another five or 10 years of this, and we’ll have a class of millions of citizens who get ‘news’ only from fake sources.” ■