Chapter 184 of the Statute Law of The Bahamas establishes the purpose and power of Commissions of Inquiry. In the legislation, there is provision for the Governor General to appoint such a commission “whenever it shall appear to be for the public benefit to do so”. It is stipulated that, in general, Commission of Inquiry proceedings be held in public and that the commission’s summary report represent “a full, faithful and impartial inquiry into the matter specified in the commission”.
The concept of a group of respected individuals gathered under the aegis of the Head of State to impartially examine and report on a vexing public issue for the good of the nation is profoundly uplifting.
Reflecting on this does lead one to wonder if current political crises in the United States could be solved if an institution such as a Commission of Inquiry statute existed as part of the US constitution. There is not only no such provision in American law, but given the current chaotic state of US politics, it is hard to find an institution or agency remaining untainted by the stench of partisanship.
The American Supreme Court might serve such a purpose. But the relentless political encroachment on the high court’s impartiality, exacerbated by President George HW Bush’s appointment of Clarence Thomas in 1990 and continuing by both parties through the disgraceful hearings for Brett Kavanaugh this year, has eroded faith and trust in an institution that should provide the comfort of objectivity to American voters.
American law enforcement institutions, headed by the Department of Justice, represent another potential resource in the search for the truth. Many of Justice’s key components such as the FBI and the powerful US Attorney offices around the country should be dependably loyal to the nation and to the truth. It is fair to ask how many Americans retain much faith in any of Justice’s branches to find and reveal the truth.
It is tempting to omit the American Congress from any such discussion, since voters have revealed in multiple polls how little faith they retain in either the Senate or the House of Representatives. With approval percentage ratings often in the teens in recent years, America’s legislature as presently organised offers little hope for light in the current political darkness. The US congress has become little more than a diminishingly distracting sideshow as the nation careens toward comparative irrelevance.
And with the most compulsive and careless liar in American presidential history presiding in the White House, only the most astonishingly innocent observer or fixated ideologue would suggest the current chief executive would have the slightest respect for the truth.
But the United States must find a way to uncover the truth about its current president. While it still seems to be an exaggeration to suggest such a quest has become an existential issue for America, many can foresee a time when the effort will in fact be essential to the national security and future.
The best hope for now rests with the myriad current and forthcoming investigations of Donald Trump, his presidential campaign, business organisation and family. These investigations are indeed numerous. Special counsel Robert Mueller may be nearing the conclusion of his 19-month investigation of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign. Mueller has already secured the conviction of campaign manager Paul Manafort and co-operation plea deals from four others, including Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen.
Mueller is also looking at potential graft involving money raised for Trump’s many inaugural events. Trump’s private business is facing suits on its dealings with foreign governments and tax evasion efforts.
Trump’s charity is defending itself against charges of “persistently illegal conduct” brought by the State of New York, whose newly elected Attorney General, an African-American woman, has vowed to “use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and those of his family as well”.
Further inquiries can be expected from a newly empowered Democratic majority in the House, some of whose members have begun to speak out about impeachment proceedings.
Maybe after all the truth emerges and Trump is gone, some lasting benefits will come from all the craziness. We can still hope so.