Sadly, Trump has forgotten presidential oath



President Donald Trump has come up with a novel defense against charges that Russia may have interfered with the 2016 presidential election to help get him elected.

We weren’t criminals, the president seems to be saying. We’re just incredibly gullible nitwits.

Trump’s response to the now undeniable proof that Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin, launched a sneak attack on the way we as free people decide who will lead us shows how little he understands about the problem.

The same goes for the folks who support him.

It’s as if, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt had said:

“No one has found my fingerprints on any of the bombs, so there’s nothing to worry about.”

Or perhaps, if George W. Bush, following 9/11, had said:

“No one can prove that I helped the terrorists learn to fly, so it’s all good.”

The point the president and his devoted followers seem to miss is that Russia and Putin didn’t attack him.

Or Hillary Clinton.

Or Barack Obama.

No, Putin and Russia attacked the United States.

They attacked all of us.

It doesn’t matter if the Russians were trying to help Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or Mickey Mouse. They tried to — and, in fact, may have managed to — take from us a decision that belongs to us.

To us.

I understand the president’s self-absorbed focus on and distress over the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation regarding Russia.

All evidence suggests that Mueller is tightening the circle around Trump.

Mueller already has two of the president’s aides in the bag, two people who have exchanged guilty pleas to lesser charges in exchange, presumably, for damaging testimony about higher-ups. Mueller also has Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, up on criminal charges — with one of Manafort’s underlings ready to testify against his former boss. He has Steve Bannon, Trump’s one-time Svengali, apparently eager now to tell all. He has the president’s son and son-in-law meeting during the campaign with a Russian representative pledging to provide dirt on Clinton’s campaign.

And now Mueller has indictments against 13 Russian nationals — 13 more chances to flip someone, 13 more chances to connect Putin’s efforts to choose our government for us with Trump’s campaign to be president.

With all this going on, the president doubtless feels as though the walls are closing in on him and those near him. As it stands, several members of his official family have been implicated in the Russia probe — and, because of this president’s penchant for nepotism, it’s possible his blood family will be ensnared, too.

It’s easy to grasp why Donald Trump might be preoccupied with questions of his personal safety rather than the nation’s security.

But here’s the thing.

The nation didn’t take an oath Jan. 20, 2017, and pledge to serve Donald Trump. No, Donald Trump took an oath to serve the nation.

It’s his job to put aside these personal worries and focus on the fact that America is under threat.

There were charges at the time of Pearl Harbor — and after, for that matter — that FDR ignored warnings regarding the Japanese attack.

There also were congressional inquiries into his and his administration’s management of war efforts during World War II.

These investigations didn’t distract or stop him from doing his duty and defending the nation from attack.

Similarly, George W. Bush faced charges that he hadn’t paid attention to signals that Osama bin Laden planned to use our own transportation grid as a weapon against us. There also were accusations that he and his family had business ties a little too cozy for comfort in the Middle East. And there also were congressional inquiries into his conduct.

These charges and investigations didn’t distract or stop him, either, from doing his duty and defending the nation from attack.

But, then, FDR and W understood something that Donald Trump does not.

Presidents are public property. What they do or don’t do is subject to scrutiny, criticism and, yes, investigation.

None of that changes the fact that they still have jobs to do, duties to perform, oaths to fulfill.

That’s why another president often investigated and maligned, Harry Truman, kept a sign on his desk that read:

“The buck stops here.”

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. Send comments to [email protected].

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