The president of the United States is a “racist,” a “conman” and a “cheat” involved in multiple criminal conspiracies and coverups, according to testimony from one of his closest former associates, disgraced attorney Michael Cohen.

Allegations are not convictions, but these are some explosive charges. If any of it bears out under investigation, the country is headed for a constitutional crisis that will take all three branches of government to untangle.

The implications of that were not lost on Maine’s congressional delegation, whose members made sober comments last week, which showed their appreciation for the seriousness of the charges while trying not to prejudge the case.

Except one. Freshman Rep. Jared Golden, the Democrat from Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, seemed to dismiss the whole thing as a sideshow.

“Congressman Golden is focused on getting results for working Mainers, not the latest partisan political games,” said spokesman Nick Zeller. “He supports the Special Counsel’s investigation into the Trump campaign and will do everything in his power to allow the Counsel to complete the investigation so the American people can learn the truth.”

No one expects Golden to forget about hardworking Mainers, but “partisan political games”? Donald Trump had just been accused of tax fraud, insurance fraud and illegal campaign contributions and of committing other acts of dishonesty to cover them up. If proven, these are the kinds of “games” that end with the players in jail.

It read like a rookie mistake from a congressman who had decided to make his mark by showing his independence. But on this move to the center, Golden overshot the middle and ended up on the other team, saying the same things as Trump’s partisan enablers.

Golden said Friday that he didn’t mean to dismiss the seriousness of the charges, but to criticize the way some members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, had seized the moment. “This is such a serious issue, and there’s a lot of people in Congress who just want to be in the headlines,” Golden said. “Believe me, I’m going to be ready to do what’s right for this country if we reach that very serious discussion of impeachment.”

Golden said this work is better done behind closed doors by prosecutors like special counsel Robert Mueller. But that doesn’t take into account a key gap in our criminal justice system.

According to Department of Justice policy, which Mueller follows, you cannot indict a sitting president. It’s also against the department’s rules to discuss subjects of investigations who have not been charged with crimes. So, public examination of witnesses like Cohen may be the only way the public can find out about the man in the White House.

Golden’s desire to distance himself from Democratic leadership might play well in his district, which Trump carried by double digits in 2016.

Golden distanced himself from party leadership when he voted against Nancy Pelosi for House speaker (keeping a campaign promise) and again last week when he voted against House Democrats’ gun-control measure, which would close some of the loopholes that permit gun transfers without background checks.

His vote against the bill was no surprise. It passed anyway, and it hardly matters because the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to even let it come up for a vote.

But Golden again issued a statement that made it sound as if he didn’t understand what was at stake.

“Maine isn’t Chicago, Washington or New York,” he said in his press release. “For many of my constituents, access to firearms is a necessary part of daily life and we have a tradition of responsible gun ownership.”

All that may be true, but so what? Is he saying that people in Maine don’t care about kids who are dying from gun violence as long as they are dying in Chicago?

It’s one thing to say that you disagree with the policy prescription, but another to say that the disease it’s trying to cure is not our problem. God forbid there is a disaster in Maine and Golden hears from a parade of colleagues who tell him that “Maine isn’t Chicago, Washington or New York.”

Golden said that this, too, was an unfair reading of his position, and this statement was meant to be critical of his party’s leaders and not the people suffering from gun violence.

The bill had been written without consulting representatives from rural districts, he said, and was designed to please advocacy groups, not to improve people’s lives. Rather than pass bills just to send a message, he wished that the House would advance legislation that had a chance of passing the Senate or even of becoming law. “I don’t think we should do anything just for messaging,” he said.

Maybe, but messaging is important. And Golden needs to improve his if he wants to be understood.

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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