The New Year’s Resolutions For President Trump, Congress, and The Media

Postcards2CardsNewYearsResolution1915Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on New Year’s resolutions that would bring a welcomed change in Washington for President Donald Trump, the Congress, and the media.  While I have little illusions over the chances of either such resolutions being made or kept, it is worth noting that all of the major players could do well with a modicum of self-reflection with the New Year.

For most of us, the New Year is not just a look forward but a look back at all of the things we did (and ate) that we regret. While New Year’s resolutions often have a half-life of mere hours, even the pretense of self-evaluation has a redemptive role in our lives. So here are a few suggestions for Washington.

President Trump

The resolution that most White House staff would dearly love President Trump to consider is as simple as it is fruitless: Stop tweeting. Trump’s tweets are the single most damaging element to his administration. In multiple court cases, Trump effectively became a witness against his own policies. This was made worse by former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who declared that all of the president’s tweets were presidential statements like those contained in executive orders. The result is that opinion after opinion cited Trump’s tweets as a basis to enjoin major policies and dismiss the arguments of the Justice Department.

In a perfect world, Trump could further resolve not to speak about pending litigation. The special counsel investigation would not have occurred absent Trump’s firing of former FBI director James Comey and his later comments about the investigation and underlying facts and personalities. While the tweets maintain Trump’s base, he cannot succeed as president with 30 percent of the voters energized by morning missives. It is said that generals fail because they always prepare to fight the last war. Twitter may have helped Trump as a candidate in 2016, but it could guarantee that he fails as a president by 2020.


The most obvious resolution for Congress could be hard for many to actually proclaim with a straight face: Stop the hypocrisy over investigations. Democratic members have been energized by the investigations of the Trump administration involving potential Russian influence and campaign improprieties. However, when asked about serious allegations against Hillary Clinton’s campaign and Democratic figures, they are entirely obstructionist. From the Russian dossier to political influence in the investigation of the Clinton campaign, members insist that “the presidential campaign is over,” except for the Trump campaign.

Republicans are no better. Members who want to reopen Clinton investigations are also calling for the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller as a way to end the Russian investigation, a move that would be stupefyingly dumb. Terminating Mueller as a logical way to end the Russian investigation is akin to viewing the Hindenburg explosion as a logical way to land a zeppelin.

Both sides could gain needed credibility by recognizing that the public is equally divided on these allegations. Recent polls show roughly the same percentages of people who believe and disbelieve the allegations against Trump and Clinton. Given the importance of these allegations, members should join together and resolve to fully investigate and disclose the facts on both sides, rather than work to manipulate the investigations to shield their party while attacking the other.


The media should not have to make a resolution of neutrality, that being the very definition of the journalistic profession. Journalists are trained to maintain objectivity as a professional touchstone. Most do, though we have seen a surprising erosion under President Trump. His continued attacks on the media have united journalists to an almost unprecedented degree. While I have criticized the media for some coverage that has become dangerously biased, I continue to view Trump’s attacks on the media as equally dangerous to our system. Nevertheless, many journalists have used Trump’s attacks as a license to openly oppose his policies and shade coverage against his administration.

The fact is that Trump is the menace that the media could not do without. Major newspapers and networks have had a reversal of fortunes under Trump. For them, after facing serious financial problems in 2016, Trump has been a bonanza for ratings and profits. The problem is that these ratings have prompted networks to become echo chambers for viewers who only want to hear attacks or accolades for Trump.


The greatest loss of objectivity has occurred with legal analysts. The past year has been most striking in how rage and ratings distorted legal analysis in continued announcements of “bombshells” and “smoking guns” that would all but guarantee the prosecution of Trump or his family. (Indeed, a search of mainstream media in the last 12 months shows almost 5,000 references to “smoking gun” discoveries in relation to Trump). For months, the public was told about the “crime of collusion” despite the fact that no such crime exists. By mid-year, commentators had switched to declaring clear existence of “conspiracy” or election violations despite the lack of any cases directly supporting these novel and virtually limitless definitions.

MSNBC legal analyst Paul Butler declared that the meeting in Trump Tower “is the smoking gun of evidence” of the crime of “soliciting a campaign contribution from a foreign national like a Russian government operative.” Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Ackerman declared the emails to be “almost a smoking cannon” and added that “there’s almost no question this is treason.” Others breathlessly described every new tweet or account to be the long-sought “bombshell” that effectively sealed the fate of the president or his family. It was as thrilling as it was misleading on the law for those desperately wanting to see an indictment.

To make matters worse, analysts have been twisting the criminal code in a virtual contest to find a way — any way — to indict Trump or his family. There has been no consideration given to how these interpretations could impact others in the future in criminalizing speech or associations. None of this means that new evidence cannot come out to support criminal charges, but the “bombshell” evidence cited in 2017 fell short of any compelling basis for an indictment. Thus, given the end of the year without a single indictment based on these legal theories, it might be time for a few additions to the standard resolutions of greater weight loss and family time in the new year.

First, I will analyze what I know to be the case as opposed to what I (or viewers) might desperately want to be the case against the president. Second, I will leave the criminal code alone and not twist or broaden crimes in a creative exercise of finding a way to “bag a Trump.” Third, I will look beyond this president at the implications of lowering the standards for impeachment or indictment for future generations. Fourth, I will consider not just potential charges but potential defenses in evaluating the significance of developments. Finally, I will not use the terms “smoking gun” or “bombshell” as an adjectival substitute for “potentially significant” changes.

The costs in 2018 could be immeasurable unless we can offer greater objectivity in the investigation and its coverage. Otherwise, we can toast to the ratings and continue to play to the rage, and as Mark Twain predicted, look to this new year as a new start on old habits.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

79 thoughts on “The New Year’s Resolutions For President Trump, Congress, and The Media”

  1. I do hope that President Trump learns to be more effective in his Tweets. He does connect directly with Twitter, but then he Tweets out a tack to step on from time to time. Or a bear trap.

    The White House Administrations usually have an enormous staff of speechwriters whose job is to not only write speeches, tirelessly fact checking them, but also to maintain the speaker’s true voice. They are supposed to work with the President to get his own opinions out, in his own idioms and manner of speaking, so that the message truly does come from him. It’s just well crafted and as accurate as humanly possible.

    There is no reason not to include Twitter, and other social media, in that staff. These messages can still come from him, but insert a layer of people allowed to do their jobs. They are supposed to prevent these missteps, while still allowing the authentic voice through.

    However, no one called me to ask my advice during the last administration, so I doubt anyone will seek out my 2 cents for this one, either.

    1. Karen S – maybe he could get his writer’s room to kick out 20 possibles by 2 am and then Donald can start in on them at 4 am.

    2. Right, Karen – or we could have just hired Jeb – who would simply continue the swamp lies to Americans in a nice polite well-crafted speech-writer kind of way while raping the country. What matters is that delicate Americans feel good and don’t have to do any hard work to effect real change…………..

    3. “I do hope..Trump….learns to be effective”, so much could be impugned to that comment but, at its 2 cent valuation, so little reason.

  2. “…when asked about serious allegations against Hillary Clinton’s campaign and Democratic figures, they are entirely obstructionist. From the Russian dossier to political influence in the investigation of the Clinton campaign, members insist that “the presidential campaign is over,” except for the Trump campaign.”

    The country has limited resources and time to perform the nation’s business. It is perplexing why Turley thinks that Clinton is ripe for more investigations considering she has already weathered a baker’s dozen of them. Extremely partisan endeavors built on shifting sands, smoke and mirrors.

    Meanwhile, we have an issue or two with a president whose personal history includes over 100 crimes of money laundering, 22 sexual assault allegations, multiple ties to Italian and Russian mafioso, serial dishonesty and a criminal enterprise of fraud and deception cloaked as a valid university. That is the president. The facts available about the Russian probe are consistent with a conman’s drive to win the presidency at any and all costs.

    Yet here is Turley voicing a ‘both sides’ justification for vilifying Clinton. That is weak. That is lazy. And that is beneath the dignity of a licensed attorney. Or it should be.

    Professor Turley, do you really see an equivalency between citizen Clinton and President Trump in allegations and culpability?

    I did not think so. Advice: a career is a career. Pointless careerism and its comfortable trappings have a short shelf life. I’d ask you how you sleep at night, but you’d likely respond, “On a big pile of money.”

    1. Trump’s “over 100 crimes of money laundering” probably should have been included in the impeachment resolution put forth by Rep. Al Green last month.
      Richard Painter and others advocating impeachment also seemed to have overlooked those “money laundering crimes”.
      Painter and Rep. Green could use the assistance of those who “know” that Trump is guilty of “over 100 crimes of money laundering”.
      Gotta be frustrating for those who “know” that Trump has committed these crimes, and find that those advocating impeachment aren’t even using this “knowledge” to impeach him.

      1. The 106 money laundering crimes from a single Trump Casino are handled differently by the authorities than a single instance of a poor man robbing a tyme machine to feed his family. The rich people / economic royalists pay a fine and move on to become president of the USA. Poor people go straight to jail ruining their life and the lives of their families. The difference in handling based on class is obvious as it is nauseating. (an aside, along with federalizing elections, we should federalize the legal profession where attorneys are assigned via a lottery….sort of knocks the elitism out of the system).

        Just as Trump bought his way out of criminal liability for money laundering, he bought his way out of criminal liability for Trump University….a criminal fraud enterprise if there ever was one.

        These are matters of public record. Just like Trump’s ties to Cuban drug cartels, the NY mafia and the Russian Mafia (Felix Sater).

        As for including settled criminal cases in an impeachment resolution, that is a no-go bc the cases are moot….they are settled. Granted, a high crime or misdemeanor is anything the Congress says it is, moot cases are closed and not subject to relitigation.

      2. Just a suggestion, simply putting a word or phrase in quotations denotes a quote, nothing more. If you have something to say, I’d suggest expressing it in meaningful language instead, Sort of clears up any questions.

        1. Darrin,…
          Fair enough.
          If you’re going to make an accusation that Trump has committed “over 100 money laundering crimes”, you should probably have evidence in the form of a criminal conviction, or at least a criminal charge, against Trump.
          If there was a criminal investigation targeting Trump and you think he “skated”, got the kid’s glove treatment, was not held accountable, etc.
          Then you might understand why some of the investigations of Hillary are considered suspect.
          If one is going to put forth an argument that “Hillary has been investigated enough, quit picking on her”, then that same kind of argument can be used in defense of Trump.

    2. The country has limited resources and time to perform the nation’s business.

      We are $20 trillion in debt arguably doing a lot of things that were none of the nation’s business. Instead of squandering our precious resources on pet projects that work against our national security, like funneling money to state sponsor’s of terrorism, redirect those funds to weed out the corruption in our government that actually thought those pet projects were a good idea in the first place.

    1. Bose,…
      The House and Senate Intelligence Committees had extensive negotiations with FushionGSP lawyers trying to schedule testimony from their top execs.
      They were “unavailable” to testify for a variety of reasons…..I think Simpon’s travel schedule was one reason his lawyers gave for his “inability” to appear.
      Sen. Grassley just invited the GPS executives back for PUBLIC testimony before his committee.
      He noted that the GPS execs. agreed to give their previous testimony only in closed session.
      Now that Simpson and Fritsch have overcome their reticence to “speak” publically via a self-serving editorial, I would think that they would be anxious to agree to testify publically.
      If they feel a need to set the record straight, to make their case, Grassley will welcome them back.
      But having agreed to their previous demands of closed testimony, I don’t expect Grassley to now jump at their demands to publish that testimony.

  3. Reagan’s famous 11th commandment, “thou shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican,” has been emphatically laid to rest with the current GOP and their loyal disciples.

  4. Phantom “smoking guns.”

    “Indeed, a search of mainstream media in the last 12 months shows almost 5,000 references to “smoking gun” discoveries in relation to Trump.”

    – Jonathan Turley

    Factual “smoking gun.”

    “…I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,…”

    – Peter Strzok

    On a potential Trump 2016 election victory:

    “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office – that there’s no way he gets elected – but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” Strzok texted on Aug. 15, 2016. “It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”

    – Peter Strzok to his paramour Lisa Page in the office of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

  5. This post should come with a trigger warning as many will dismiss this analysis based solely on the first paragraph. The question is the entire analysis fair?

    The most compelling and prudent argument for Donald Trump’s candidacy remains the best one that can be made for his presidency: that he was, on balance, a better option than the other side of the ballot.

  6. Trump’s tweets are projections, confessions, and reflections of his mental status so they are actually quite valuable and he should continue them. Spicer acknowledged they are official WH statements so they are on the record and it is easier to see behind the propaganda from the Press Secretary and his other toadys.

    No analysis of Trump is complete without recognizing his need for a complete neuropsychiatric evaluation and an updated treatment plan.

    1. Trumps tweets are intended to manipulate the media. And apparently a few of their followers.

  7. Turley’s comments are well designed. The essence revolves around the direction in which the various recipients of these comments should pursue rather than whether or not they are right or left or wrong or any of the illustrative positions given by the rabid on this blog. Direction is the key factor in analyzing the performance of the leaders given to us by the oligarchs in power. There is the direction promised and the direction taken. Trump stood for everything that pi**es off a reasonable person. He came out as someone who was the swamp and therefore could drain it. This was a convincing argument for all those who were simply pi**ed off and had little to no understanding why. Trump focused on the common complaints, created chaos by exaggerating them, and put himself forward as the only one who could deliver the nation from its failed democracy, its oligarchy; all the while being the quintessential oligarch.

    Thus far the direction Trump has taken is the same one he has followed all his life. He uses the system to amass fortunes, lose fortunes, and rub himself off. He creates the playing field under whatever rules he can come up with and makes and breaks the rules in order to win. ‘The Art of the Deal’ is his playbook. It has nothing to do with the best interests of the nation and its people. Unfortunately winning alone, regardless of morality, ethics, honesty, or any one of the cornerstones illustrated by the founding fathers, appeals to many Americans, enough to vote him into office. If Trump had lied almost two thousand times, tweeted his fat a** off 24/7, bad mouthed any and every one who displeased him or simply did not stand when he entered the room, and shamed America as he has done; but moved in a direction that improves the conditions for the majority, not kowtowed to the oligarchs, set America on a course to compete and win in this new and ever unfolding global economy, perhaps one could accept that he is merely a gargantuan a**hole and live with that. However, the result thus far can be understood in his address to the multi millionaires and billionaires who attended his gala New Year’s Eve event, “You’ve all become a little richer.”

    Americans don’t need to love their leaders to appreciate their accomplishments. Thus far with Trump we have a liar, charlatan, buffoon, and megalomaniac who has placed America in the direction from which it came, from which the more successful democracies have come. We are experiencing again, after Reagan and Bush, the short step forward followed by the long slide backwards. The surface of tweeting, blustering, lying, and general nonsensical blather hides a far more insidious animal.

    1. A good analysis, Isaac.

      Politico’s recent article addressing the subject, Americans voting against their own interests, provides an interesting examination of the topic.

      BTW- There’s a new entry in the WH billionaire air scandal. Reportedly, Zinke took money for a helicopter ride out of a “preparing for wildfire” account. After caught, it’s being called, “a mistake”.

    2. Issac:
      Yeah great analysis. More successful democracies??? Where? France, Belgium, UK, Canada, Japan or Mexico? Lol. We are the successful democracy there doofus and we did it by avoiding the radical nonsense demonstrated by the others. Trump gets lots of credit for that, your smug moralizing not withstanding.

      1. To be successful as a democracy a country must represent the people’s educated and informed opinions to the largest and broadest extent. The more successful democracies such as Canada, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, etc have multiple political parties that represent more shared opinions. This fosters cooperation and a reasonable degree of purpose. They do not allow private purchasing of representatives as is the foundation of the American system. The people are informed through non partisan media and generally better educated than Americans regarding issues and substance. Anyone who follows an election campaign in any of these countries and compares it to the woeful excuse for a circus that is an American election must be beyond obtuse to not see this. These are existing actualities or facts. America may hold more wealth, have a greater military, and appear to offer a route to the top for ‘everyman’; but as a democracy, America ranks at the bottom. The average citizen of the more successful democracies fares better than the average American when it comes to the basics in life and the quality of life. America is an oligarchy. If you are inclined to argue this, first review the recent tax restructuring, the two billion dollars recently used by oligarchs to run the candidates, and summed up by the head oligarch himself at his gala New Years Eve event to all the oligarchs present, “You have all been made richer.” Trump plays to win, at all costs, rarely if ever suffering for his mistakes and while using the frustrations of the people, in next to no way interested in addressing them.

            1. Daily Kos summarizes the mockery made of America by Trump and his posse (material from Bannon’s forthcoming book).

    1. Eric Trump elucidated the “deep state” for us. It includes Ellen Degeneres.

  8. T rump ain’t capable of reflection. He is a rage tweeter and can’t quit bein crazy cause he is crazy.

  9. It’s amazing how so many continue to wear blindfold.
    They will never see the truth
    They are blind to the successes of this great Administration.
    Happy New Year Mr.President.

    1. Somebody said T rump had already gone through a case of diet cokes by 7 am. Guess he did not read da T urley. Da Diet Coke is his crack and gets him a goin and a goin on his tweeter phone.

    2. Pat C.
      He won’t hear you unless you can afford one of his resorts/golf courses.

  10. We certainly have some weak-minded people here that apparently will only feel truly validated if JT shares their opinion. The humbling reality is Jonathan Turley is an expert on the law. Chances are very good his legal analysis is correct. If I find myself at odds with his opinion, I’ll doubt myself before I’ll doubt him.

    Dilly Dilly.

    1. There are no “experts on the law”, Olly , there are only “opinions” and tactical and strategic arguments. JT has opinions and theories – as does every lawyer I’ve ever met. It is what we “do” – all day every day…………

      1. Presumption of Innocence:

        “There are no “experts on the law”, Olly , there are only “opinions” and tactical and strategic arguments. JT has opinions and theories – as does every lawyer I’ve ever met. It is what we “do” – all day every day…………”


        Just an expansion on your thoughts: While all interpretations are valid (assuming intellectual honesty) they are not all prescient or well-grounded. JT’s are typically both. So there are experts and then there are musers. We lawyers are all musers but we’re not all experts.

      2. There are no “experts on the law”, Olly , there are only “opinions” and tactical and strategic arguments.

        I disagree. There is a measurable standard one must pass to qualify as an attorney in much the same way as someone qualifying to be an MD. Where it seems to go off the rails is how they use that expertise. When the law is weaponized by these experts to defeat its original purpose of securing rights equally among our citizens, that doesn’t make them any less experts on the law. It makes them a highly trained threat to our constitutional republic. I am a non-expert on the law. But I am a citizen of this country that believes in the first principles of our founding. They are the anchor around which this country swings. How far we swing away from that center is largely dependent on two things: the degree of enlightenment of the people, and the fidelity of the experts to tactically and strategically use the law for its original purpose.

      3. Just a reminder that Hillary Clinton failed the DC Bar Exam.

        And as she writes in her 2003 autobiography Living History she flunked it because she was lonely and missing Bill:

        “Despite the satisfaction of my work, I was lonely and missed Bill more than I could stand. I had taken both the Arkansas and Washington, D.C., bar exams during the summer, but my heart was pulling me toward Arkansas. When I learned that I passed in Arkansas but failed in D.C., I thought that maybe my test scores were telling me something. I spent a lot of my salary on my telephone bills and was so happy when Bill came to see me over Thanksgiving.”

        1. Geesh. Clintons don’t have a marriage; they have a business partnership. They’re only together for media spotlight.

          1. Of course. But see, Hillary flunked the DC Bar exam because she was lonely and missing Bill more than she could stand. That’s “What Happened” in 1973.

            And Hillary has another story of What Happened in 2008 and again in 2016. And of course none of it has to do with Hillary being an overrated, corrupt, inept, incompetent, unlikeable, inauthentic fraud. No, it was Russia. And, James Comey. And women voting against their own interests. And the unfair media. Etc. etc. etc.

    2. Rhetorically, how many lawyers ply their trade without regard to who writes the checks?

  11. Mr Trump is the distorted face of a failed political system. Political office should be based on merit, not on the popularity of ignorance and depravity.

  12. Turley is correct to point out the lack of objectivity of legal analysts. What he fails to recognize is, that he is part of they. His own determination to keep pronouncing that there is nothing to see puts him squarely in the camp of the disingenuous.

    1. Has JT told readers that Comey didn’t tell the press that Trump was also under investigation – when he, Comey announced that Hillary was under investigation.

    2. Agree completely. Turley has a blind spot on this and his bias is clear.

      From my perspective, there were two things that appeared to have a strong impact on the GOP position on Russia in the past few months. First, Ruth May’s articles in August and December in the Dallas News outlining campaign donations to the GOP from interesting sources. Second, realizing that Mike Flynn appeared to be a cooperating witness.

      They freaked out [exhibit A was Lindsey Graham’s overnight transformation from somewhat unbiased senator on subject of Russian investigation to full blown Trump toady].

      2018 will be a humdinger.

      1. They are almost all complicit and funding sources never before considered desirable have become the norm. 2018 will indeed be a humdinger including the levels of obstruction so-called patriots are willing to go to.

  13. The St. Louis Post Dispatch (see: Stltoday on the web) reports this morning that the State of Missouri has banned smoking of tobacco in all of its prisons. This is a great step forward. They should be given an efficient way to kill themselves so as to achieve what smoking does for them. Guns are quicker but you can’t give an inmate a gun. Let em climb a tower and jump off.

  14. The reference to smoking guns and smoking cannons points out the problem America and the World faces with people who smoke tobacco. Smoke is coming out of their ears and noses as the media dorks complain about guns and roses which issue smoke. Smoke kills more Americans than any other factor. I do not observe Trump smoking. He might live a long life. Longer than the complaining journalists who smoke tobacco.

    1. There is a column by George Will on Google where he complains and objects to government and donaters who criticize smoking of tobacco. What a dork George is. Does he smoke tobacco?

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