One of the most-read newspaper columnists in America has said President Donald Trump’s presidency “is code red”.
Thomas Friedman of the New York Times wrote that “the biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office”.
“Donald, if you are so innocent, why do you go to such extraordinary lengths to try to shut [special prosecutor Robert] Mueller down?” Mr Friedman asked.
The latest indictment brought charges against 13 Kremlin-linked Russian nationals and three groups from the country for interfering in the 2016 US election.
Mr Friedman said the country needed a real leader at this time, not a man who “moonlights” as President while continuing to be the head of the Trump Organisation.
He also wrote that “what we have instead is a president vulgarly tweeting that the Russians are “laughing their asses off in Moscow” for how we’ve been investigating their interventions”.
Mr Trump has routinely slammed the FBI for its “bias” against him, sacking former Director James Comey. But, he continued to openly criticise the bureau and Mr Comey’s replacement – a man the President nominated – Christopher Wray.
Mr Friedman called the President’s latest tweet about the bureau “demented”.
In the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting on 14 February when 14 students and 3 adults were gunned down, Mr Trump blamed the bureau for not following up on a tip they had received last year about the suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz.
“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign — there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud,” Mr Trump wrote just as funerals for the children were being held.
“To the contrary. Our FBI, CIA, and [National Security Agency], working with the special counsel, have done us amazingly proud. They’ve uncovered a Russian program to divide Americans and tilt our last election towards Trump — i.e., to undermine the very core of our democracy,” Mr Friedman wrote.
He seemed to imply that though the FBI did make “a mistake” their work on the Russia matter should outweigh not being able to stop the alleged school shooter.
The columnist said that either Mr Trump is in the pocket of Russian President Vladimir Putin or he has something to hide and is worried that the more Mr Mueller digs, the closer he will get to it.
Several politicians on the left and even stalwart conservatives like Bill Kristol and Richard Painter, who served in the administration of former President George W Bush, have made similar comments.
It has not been proven publicly that the Russian leader had knowledge of the alleged collusion or meddling during the election.
However, Mr Putin has been accused of several years of autocratic tendencies; jailing political opponents frequently.
“My guess is what Trump is hiding has to do with money,” Mr Friedman said.
Several critics have also pointed to namesake son Donald Trump Jr’s comment in 2008 that “a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of [the Trump Organisation’s] assets” are with Russian nationals and entities.
There is also the matter of the dossier compiled by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele, which alleged that there was a video of Mr Trump engaging in certain sexual activities with Russian sex workers on a 2013 trip to Moscow.
Mr Trump “is either trying so hard to hide it or is so naïve about Russia” that he would undermine American democracy, according to Mr Friedman.