Op-Ed: Trump Leaves the Stove On before Going to Vietnam by Steve Parks


As President Donald Trump heads to Vietnam for denuclearization talks with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, he leaves a few loose ends on the table back home.

Never mind Wednesday’s public congressional hearing featuring Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, or special counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report on possible conspiracy involving Russia, Trump’s 2016 campaign and his post-inaugural administration. Forget a virtual life sentence for his campaign manager Paul Manafort, or The Donald’s political sidekick Roger Stone’s struggle to comply with a new gag order while awaiting trial on charges of linking Wikileaks to Trump’s campaign. Put aside, for now, even federal court rulings on the president’s declaration of a national emergency because Congress declined to fund a border wall that he promised Mexico would pay for.

What concerns me right now are, other than giveaways Trump might surrender to Kim in quest of a Nobel Peace Prize nomination, are three startling issues the president has chosen to ignore or dismiss as he flies to Hanoi:

1). After Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson of Silver Spring was arrested for stockpiling weapons and drugs while displaying threats on his workplace computer to assassinate Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, four Democratic presidential candidates and journalists for MSNBC and CNN notably critical of Trump, the president’s near silence has been thunderous and entirely predictable.

But what about Republican congressional leaders? Where’s the collegial support Democrats showed GOP Rep. Steve Scalise when he was shot by a liberal-leaning gunman during softball practice? Can you imagine the Trump tweet storm had the native-born Coast Guard officer been an illegal Muslim or Latino immigrant? Or even a legal one? Trump has next to nothing to say about this arrest, not even a shout-out to law-enforcement officers who thwarted a potential domestic assault on democracy. Yet he’s found time to tweet about actor Jussie Smollett’s truly fake hate-crime accusation.

2). Hillary Clinton’s popular-vote “victory” over Trump, of course, was pyrrhic: The Electoral College rules. But it annoyed Trump enough that he claimed with no evidence that three to five million illegal aliens from south of the border voted for Hillary. He even appointed a commission to investigate widespread voter fraud, which fizzled because states refused to cooperate in what they deemed a charade. Now we have proof, not of voter fraud but election fraud, so patently illegal that North Carolina ordered a do-over in the Ninth Congressional District.

This hasn’t happened in four decades. Mishandling of absentee ballots exclusively on behalf of the Republican candidate was too blatant to survive scrutiny. The “winner” of the now-discredited November election likely won’t run for “re-election.” But Trump is tweet-less regarding Republican fraud. If you think he’d spare a Democratic cheater, then you’d believe Vladimir Putin’s assurance that North Korea has no missiles that could reach the U.S.

3). When Alex Acosta was nominated for Secretary of Labor his role in the sweetheart deal that let serial child-rapist/sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein get away with a sentence of 13 months in Palm Beach County jail was a matter of public record. Mostly Epstein just slept behind bars with his days spent in work release—maybe at bars. Cursory vetting would’ve revealed this travesty of justice. But #metoo and Miami Herald reporter Julie Brown (fake news, Mr. President?) caught up with the billionaire financier’s obscene perfidy. Epstein directed girls he’d raped to recruit other girls for his abuse and that of well-heeled rapist buddies. Epstein was caught in Palm Beach, but his sex-traffic map extended to New York, New Mexico, his private Virgin Islands isle and Europe. Why then-U.S. attorney Acosta apparently violated the law by not informing victims of his Epstein deal is one question.

But another is why Trump gave Acosta a pass and remains aloof regarding the rich sex trafficker his cabinet enabler protected. Or why the president is thumb-silent about longtime supporter Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, charged with solicitation in a sex-trafficking ring that imprisoned Chinese girls in a south Florida massage parlor. If sex-trafficking is such a national emergency, why not wall off Florida instead of the Rio Grande? Let’s guess Trump’s tweet: “Wall stops crime and sin but would block my view @Palm Beach.”

Meanwhile, good luck in Vietnam, Mr. President. You’ll need it. So will we. Does anybody take notes?

Steve Parks is a retired journalist living in Easton

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