Donald Trump and the Company He Keeps
WASHINGTON -- In the first half of January, Americans saw President Donald Trump at his best.
Trump ordered a Jan. 3 drone strike that killed Iranian terror leader Qassem Soleimani in response to Iranian proxies who rushed the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and killed a U.S. contractor serving in Iraq. It was an appropriate response.
While some critics charged Trump acted impulsively, later news reports presented the image of a disciplined operation ordered only after Iran crossed Trump's unannounced red line by killing an American in Iraq.
Some Democrats have tried to paint Trump as a cowboy itching to rush the United States into war with Iran. They forget the commander-in-chief who, in June, halted a retaliatory strike against Iran for its downing of an unmanned U.S. drone because he didn't want to create as many as 150 Iranian casualties.
Trump's explanations for his decision on Soleimani came up short. Was Tehran preparing an "imminent" attack on one or more embassies? Doubtful.
But the media's obsession with Trump's often unreliable accounts of why he did what he did serves only to remind voters that the White House press corps puts too much stock in what Trump says and gives too little scrutiny to Iran's butchery and Soleimani's role in the death of more than 600 U.S. troops.
In the second half of January, voters will get a look at the other Trump - the president who allowed his image to be tainted by grifters and kiss-ups who you wouldn't trust to park your car.
In the Ukraine story, the fish rots from the head, as was revealed in the transcript of Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, which the president released in September. It was far from a "perfect" conversation, as Trump maintains.
The loose transcript established that Trump suggested that a vulnerable national security ally in need of military aid (which Trump held up) do opposition research on Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter, who was on the payroll of a Ukraine energy company as the then-veep was supposed to be checking corruption in the Eastern European nation.
You can read that sentence again. It's complicated. But you don't need a chart and list of characters to understand that Trump opened the door to people who didn't belong in the room.