Trump, Tillerson, and Elliott Abrams

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Trump, Tillerson, and Elliott Abrams

(Photos: Trump: Ty Wright—Getty Images; Tillerson: Alexei Nikolsky—Tass/Getty Images)

Adopt the character of the twisting octopus, which takes on the appearance of the nearby rock. Now follow in this direction, now turn a different hue. —Therognis, Elegies

Here’s the score: DJT 1, Rex Tillerson 0. It would, of course, have been consistent with the calibre of other DJT appointees to have the flawed Elliott Abrams back in government. He would have fit in beautifully. But for those who hoped for at least a few people of moral character to be appointed to the DJT administration, it was, at first blush, reassuring that in the DJT-Tillerson contest, DJT won. It seemed that at long last (insofar as 4 weeks can be considered “long”) the integrity of a candidate that was selected to join the DJT administration mattered. And the rejection of a candidate like Elliott who, the casual observer might rightfully have thought, was rejected because of his flawed character, would have been welcome news coming just as Mike Flynn, another man of deeply flawed character, was being expelled. And Mike was an example of a REALLY bad appointment.

According to Politico, in the three months preceding the election, Mike had forwarded Twitter posts that, among other things, accused Hillary Clinton of being involved in money laundering, sex crimes involving children, and of having “secretly waged war on the Catholic Church.” Mike’s use of the internet to propagate lies about DJT’s opponent was, so far as DJT was concerned, no reason to not appoint him National Security Advisor. It never occurred to DJT that someone he appointed of such infirm moral character might, Judas-like, turn on the very man who appointed him within a matter of days after being appointed. That, of course, is exactly what Mike did when he caused the vice president of the United States to lie to the American people because Mike had lied to the vice president. As a result, when the lies became public knowledge, which was several days after DJT had learned of them, DJT got rid of Mike. Those who wondered why a chronic liar had been appointed in the first place, thought that that experience might have been a wake up moment for DJT, and that he would try, in the future, to avoid appointing those with known character flaws to high positions in his muddled administration. Enter Rex Tillerson and Elliott Abrams.

Rex Tillerson is the Secretary of State and a man uniquely unqualified to serve in that position because of his lack of experience. Recognizing his own limitations, he recommended to DJT that Elliott Abrams, a man with considerable state department experience, be made his Deputy Secretary of State. Mr. Tillerson believed that having a seasoned foreign policy professional beside him, even one lacking in moral character, would serve him in good stead. And Elliott had plenty in his background to demonstrate a lack of moral fiber.

In 1991 Elliott entered a plea of guilty to two criminal charges in connection with the criminal enterprise known as the Iran-Contra affair that took place under the Reagan administration. He pled guilty to the charge of withholding evidence from Congress and was sentenced to probation for two years and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service. In 1997, Elliott was publicly censured by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals for having given false testimony before congressional committees on three different occasions relating to his activities in connection with the Iran Contra affair.

One might have thought that in considering Mr. Tillerson’s request that Elliott be appointed, DJT would have concluded that with those kinds of blemishes, DJT did not need to add to the stable of incompetents and moral cripples that he had already appointed to high positions in his administration, by selecting a flawed Elliott Abrams to be Deputy Secretary of State. Had he refused to appoint him and cited those reasons in support of his decision, the people would have understood and applauded him for at long last applying strict moral standards in determining whether a proposed appointee had the qualification one might hope for in an appointee to a high governmental post. It was an exciting prospect.

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

The interviews with Tillerson, DJT, and Abrams, reportedly went smoothly. Then a funny thing happened, and Elliott was not appointed. The failure to appoint him had nothing to do with Elliott’s ethical infirmities as one might have hoped. It happened because it was brought to DJT’s attention that Elliott had written unfavorably about DJT prior to the election. In one piece he wrote: “Do not allow the Republican convention to be a coronation wherein Trump and Trumpisms are unchallenged. The party needs to be reminded that there are deep divisions, and Trump needs to be reminded of how many in the party oppose and even fear his nomination.” In a column for the Weekly Standard” Elliott described DJT as “someone who cannot win and should not be president of the United States.” When DJT was informed of Elliott’s published comments, those comments reportedly caused DJT to reject Mr. Tillerson’s request that Elliott be named the Deputy Secretary of State. The rejection had nothing to do with Abrams’ character. It was all about DJT’s ego. A good result for the wrong reason. Sort of sad.

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli is a columnist and lawyer known nationally for his work. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Colorado School of Law where he served on the Board of Editors of the Rocky Mountain Law Review. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com

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