As a young reporter for a daily paper in Ventura County 30 some years ago, I got wind of alleged dumping of toxic chemicals by crews working for the local school district.
I remember being so excited about this information that a few days after running it through the authorities, I came into work on my day off not in a coat and tie but dressed in sneakers, sweat pants, my college letter jacket and a baseball cap. From the office, I had my source drive me to the spot where he said they did all the herbicide dumping.
We drove a short ways out of town, then turned up a winding road leading to an undeveloped portion of the otherwise undisturbed mountain. I had brought along a bag containing a gardening scoop, a number of Styrofoam cups, and along a notebook. I drew a rough map of the area, indicating where each sample originated, the depth of the extractions, along with the date and time.
The district all along had denied my source’s claim. But by then environmental authorities with the county had investigated, finding our person was wrong and that there had been no illegal dumping.
Yes, we had the dirt, so to speak. But county investigators had dutifully looked into it and said there was nothing wrong. With that, the publisher shut down the investigation and told me to get to work on other stories.
“We don’t have the money to have that dirt analyzed,” he said. “We did our job, they did theirs, and now that’s it. It’s over.”
National events of the past few days reminded me of that day.
With Robert Mueller’s report essentially finding President Trump innocent of colluding with Russian hackers to influence the 2016 elections, a great deal of steam was taken out of the drive to impeach Trump. But while it’s reassuring to know that our president is not a traitor, let’s remember he is still being targeted in several other ongoing investigations. In the House, for instance, one is headed by local Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee. But with Mueller’s criminal investigation over, there’s little hope of them going very far politically any time soon.
Mueller’s no collusion conclusion applies to most of the others already convicted or have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the 22-month-long special counsel’s probe; not election violations but obstruction, tax evasion, perjury, and lying to the FBI, are among their misdeeds.
MSNBC and CNN, which behave like the “opposition party” that Trump sometimes rightly calls them for their use of Justice Department and former National Security State leaders as sources, overplayed their hands. All this time they could have been covering all the other things that Trump should be questioned about — the disassembling of entire government agencies designed to protect children, seniors, consumers and the environment; the threats posed by Trump and Republicans to Medicare and Social Security; the president’s self-enrichment at taxpayer expense; his taxes — they covered the Mueller probe virtually 24 hours a day. Like the now-Democrat-controlled House, they also hung all their hopes to dump Trump on Mueller, himself a former FBI director and guardian of the status quo. But that did not happen.
For Democrat lawmakers, with Russian collusion and thus impeachment apparently off the table, and people clearly unconcerned about any other crimes Trump and his cohorts may have committed as long as the economy keeps booming, there’s not much of a chance for victory in two years. Not with the group of candidates currently in the race. In fact, Trump may well be on his way to a second term, and maybe even President for Life. “Wouldn’t that be nice?” he’s openly asked to roaring approval at some of his many campaign rallies.
Why does this remind me of illegal dumping? I didn’t want to quit, but did as I was told. Three years later, a condo project was built right in that area of the supposed illegal dumping, which, unbeknownst to me and many others at the time, was a toxic waste dump decades prior to my arrival there. As I was leaving there for Pasadena, we were learning of lawsuits being filed by condo owners, some of whom were suffering blistering, rashes and other effects of toxic chemical exposure.
Should we have continued covering that story after so-called environmental health experts from the county showed up and called off the dogs? Much like investigations against the president should continue — despite the monumental setbacks posed by Mueller’s report — the answer is yes.