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Guest Editorial: Trump must avoid 'the beginning of the end'
When Donald Trump entered the race for president, he was introducing a new component into our form of government.
He was making the leadership of the executive branch practically out of whole cloth — a non-Washington element that had appeal for many of his supporters.
After all, too much of Washington hadn't been going over well across the country.
One characteristic of that new element was his way of communicating with his constituents — by tweet rather than solely via the news media.
Those tweets have been among his most controversial strategies. That's because he has been unrestrained in his eruptions.
Last weekend, he erupted with one of his most controversial yet, assailing Robert Mueller, who is conducting a deep probe into alleged Russian interference with the 2016 election campaign that put Trump into office.
Last week, the New York Times reported that Mueller has now subpoenaed the Trump organization, presumably to determine whether it had a role in collaborating with the Russians.
Trump has avoided making public his personal financial information for the American people — in contrast to all his predecessors — so it's not surprising that any review of his own, his company's or his associates' illegal connection with Russia to influence the election outcome is repugnant to him.
Yet he must resist resisting. If he is to retain the trust of enough Americans to remain in office, he must let Mueller's investigation wander in whatever direction it takes.
And if he truly had no role in the Russian interference, as he insists, he has nothing to fear from the investigation.
As influential Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, "If he tried to (get rid of Mueller and his investigation), that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency."
Those are the words of a Trump ally.
North Country Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik has said she would oppose any effort by the president to short-circuit the Mueller probe.
Although the House Select Committee on Intelligence, on which she sits, ended its investigation, Stefanik said she believes Russia tried to interfere with the 2016 election and sought to hurt the Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Of the Mueller probe, she said: "I believe that they're uniquely positioned. They have access to all witnesses and information; they haven't had to deal with executive privilege claims; and they haven't had lapses in confidentiality. I support the Muller investigation for this reason, to make sure we have an apolitical outcome."
Democrats, of course, are issuing warnings, as well. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said Trump "is engaged in desperate and reckless conduct to intimidate his law-enforcement agencies of this country and to try and stop the special counsel. That is unacceptable in a democracy."
If Trump is to be an effective executive, he will have to abide the investigative process and live with the results. Like every other American, he is not above objective scrutiny, president or not.
For him to try to interfere with the investigation would be to forfeit the trust and confidence of the American people.
Graham is right: That would be the beginning of the end of his presidency.
The Plattsburgh (New York) Press, March 20