FILE - In this Friday, March 27, 2015 file photo, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson delivers remarks on the release of a report by the National Petroleum Council on oil drilling in the Arctic, in Washington. On Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016, President-elect Donald Trump moved closer to nominating Tillerson as his secretary of state, meeting privately with the business leader for the second time in a week. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

The Optics Of Trump’s Russian Problem Demand That Tillerson Withdraw

If Tillerson is truly looking out for America’s interests, he should withdraw himself from consideration

It doesn’t take a Picasso to paint the ugly picture of President-elect Donald Trump’s Russia problem.

  • Trump continually praised and accepted praise from Russian President Vladimir Putin throughout his campaign.
  • Trump appointed Paul Manfort to run his campaign–a man with deep ties to the Russians.
  • DNC campaign emails were hacked and leaked by Wikileaks, while Russians were implicated in the hacking.
  • Trump appointed retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his National Security Adviser. Flynn has appeared on Russia’s RT network and attended a gala with Putin.
  • The CIA concluded that the Russians wanted Trump to win the election (there’s certainly no doubt about that), and that desire motivated their actions in hurting Clinton.
  • Trump may appoint Rex Tillerson, a man who received the Russian Order of Friendship in 2013, as secretary of state.
  • Trump ripped the CIA for concluding the Russians made a material effort to support his candidacy.

It really doesn’t matter how much the Russians actually hurt Clinton, or helped Trump. It’s totally unclear that many (or any!) voters switched their votes because of the Wikileaks revelations, but the slow trickle of damage against Clinton was certainly evident. Clinton supporters would rather believe that FBI Director James Comey sunk her than the fact she is simply that irredeemably flawed.

Statements like Nate Silver’s “Clinton would almost certainly be President-elect if the election had been held on Oct. 27” only make the picture uglier for Trump.

For Republicans to maintain the level of maximum outrage over the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s quid pro quo arrangements with foreign governments (including the Russians), and let this prima facie picture of favor-trading sail by won’t do much to build confidence in our government.

Donald Trump, on the force of his own personality, can weather this, simply because he’s–Donald Trump, the man who can weather any scandal and emerge with a smile. But as Erick wrote, this is not about Trump, it’s about our government.

Unfortunately, this is a partisan issue with the press, who come at it from the premise that Hillary should have become president. When viewed through that blue-hued lens, the impetus to convince electors to dump Trump, to magnify the scandal, and to continue this throughout the next four years (“he’s not my president”) will be almost irresistible. And if the left is pushing it, the right will naturally push back.

If Trump is really a statesman in any sense of the word, he should not nominate Rex Tillerson, despite whatever stellar qualifications the man has in dealing with foreign governments. And if Tillerson is truly looking out for America’s interests, he should withdraw himself from consideration.

No administration should start its term of office with such terrible optics hanging over itself.

About the author

Steve Berman

The old Steve cared about money, prestige, and power. Then Christ found me. All at once things changed. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

I spent 30 years in business. Now I write and edit. But mostly I love. I have a wife and 2 kids and a dog and we live in a little house in central Georgia.

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