The Case for Impeachment
Trump is a danger to the country. Is it finally too much?
VIA LEARN NC
When we look back at the Trump presidency from the vantage point of history – a decade or more after it is over, if the planet survives it – there will be few heroes and many collaborators. There will be many who were silent and many more whose refusal to take action when they could have done so – notably Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster – will overshadow anything of import they had previously achieved.
In one week President Trump has fired the FBI director who was investigating his team’s ties to Russia exactly 24 hours after the Acting Attorney General Sally Yates who he’d fired had testified before Congress. He has given two damning interviews in which he contradicted every member of his communications staff as well as the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General. He has met with several Russians, including the one at the center of the FBI investigation. He banned the American press from the meeting with the Russians but did not ban the Russian press. He shared classified information from an ally with the Russians. He met with a Turkish dictator. He has given two disturbingly off-kilter and narcissistic commencement speeches (one at the anti-gay Liberty University). And Trump sent out a flurry of tweets – some threatening, assigning blame for the controversies grinding Washington to a halt to everyone but himself, including an insistence that he had given classified information to the Russians, putting the lives of our intelligence agents and those of our allies at risk – for "humanitarian" reasons.
That was just one week in the nascent presidency that is a mere four months old–a presidency that began with the first firing of an attorney general since Watergate. A presidency which now hovers on the edge of a full-blown constitutional crisis that many who either reported on or prosecuted Watergate have said has already reached Watergate proportions.
As Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) noted on the night of May 17 when asked to comment by news media, it’s hard to keep up and it’s moving fast.
"It's just another scandal but, unfortunately, it continues [...] Only now it's accelerated." McCain went on to say, "Watergate took many months. This thing seems to be taking hours."
On May 17 Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced he was appointing a special counsel to broaden the investigation into what role the Trump team and possibly the president himself played in Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election. It was stunning news, though welcome among Democrats and some Republicans who have been calling for an independent arbiter of the president’s recent actions.
Rosenstein chose former FBI director Robert Mueller for special counsel. Mueller served in both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations and took office one week before 9/11, so has had to navigate the most dramatic events in America’s recent history. Mueller is well-liked by Democrats and Republicans and so the appointment is considered a win for America.
Not so much for President Trump.
Ironically, if Trump hadn’t fired Comey, the nation might be moving forward instead of being fixated on the spiraling scandals and Trump’s inability to navigate his own presidency. That wouldn’t have gotten Americans any closer to answers on the Russia probe, but it would have allowed some outward semblance of normalcy to be maintained.
Trump believed the Comey firing would end the Russia probe. Concomitantly Trump actually believed the firing would appease Democrats who hold Comey partially responsible for Hillary Clinton losing the presidency.
Trump even dragged his former nemesis, lesbian comedian and activist Rosie O’Donnell, into his outrage by resurrecting a tweet of hers from 2016 in an attempt to justify his actions.
A mere four months in, obfuscation and diversion are no longer working. Trump has tried that ruse so many times in such a short period of time, we are hip to that Charlie Brown, Lucy and the football reprise.
After the story broke about Mueller – CNN reported Rosenstein gave AG Sessions and the White House less than an hour’s notice that he was making the appointment – another news bombshell came via the New York Times.
Fired National Security Advisor and Trump confidant Gen. Michael Flynn had told Trump and his transition team he was under FBI investigation as a foreign agent before Trump hired him for NSA.
Before former President Obama – who had fired then-Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Flynn – warned Trump not to hire Flynn. Before Acting Attorney General Sally Yates – asked by Trump to stay on until Jeff Sessions was confirmed – twice warned the White House that Flynn was compromised. Before Trump kept Flynn on for 18 more days after Yates’ warning to sit in on phone calls with Vladimir Putin and have dinner and discourse with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago "Winter White House" in Florida.
Trump deliberately hired a man who the previous president had warned him about and who he knew was under FBI investigation for being an agent for a foreign government.
Flynn was working for a foreign government. Obama knew it and warned Trump. Yates knew it and warned Trump. Trump knew it and hired Flynn anyway, and the crux of the Comey scandal is that Comey asserts Trump wanted him to end the investigation into Flynn. Which is obstruction of justice. Which was the first article of impeachment against Richard Nixon during Watergate.
It all seems a little much, May 17 being only day 117 of the Trump presidency and those being only some of the events of a single week and each more disturbing than the next. Members of the resistance ask on a daily basis, how much longer? How much longer until Trump is removed from office? Some Republicans have mentioned the 25th Amendment, which is reserved for presidents who are unfit for office. On May 17, they began to call for impeachment.
During the primary Trump repeatedly called opponent Hillary Clinton "crooked" and insisted she should be imprisoned for having a private email server like the two most recent previous secretaries of state, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. Trump asserted this made her "unfit" to lead.
Speaker Ryan said Hillary Clinton should not get security briefings or clearance because she could not be trusted. The House tried to pass a bill denying her clearance. It failed to gain traction, but now, when Trump has been proven to have shared classified information – something Clinton never did – and with an established foe of the U.S., Ryan has only said there must be restraint and no rush to judgment. His Twitter feed reflects his frustration with the turmoil surrounding the various Trump scandals: a half dozen tweets in 24 hours about reforming the tax code and one grudging tweet about Mueller.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was equally terse in his statement about special counsel and he too had tweets about the tax code.
Where once there was mere gridlock in the Capitol, now there is a parallel universe. On one side of the portal is Trump and his malfeasance and mendacity. On the other is literally everyone else. The two leaders of the Congress want to re-write the tax code. The Democrats want to save the Affordable Care Act. Yet there is Trump, laughing with the Russian foreign minister and the ambassador known for seeking out would-be foreign agents like several members of Trump’s transition team.
Since January 20 a mantra of the resistance has been "This is not normal." This is not normal.
In January 2016 right before the primaries began Trump asserted he could "shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue" and not lose voters. That assessment now seems to apply to the majority of GOP Congresspersons. Trump could fire an FBI director after asking him to end an investigation, then meet with key figures in that investigation, then give classified information so sensitive that even Congress wasn’t read in on it to a foreign country and still – still – there would be no heroism.
Richard Nixon was not impeached for trying to subvert the Constitution because Republicans walked from the Capitol to the White House and demanded his resignation. But 48 members of his administration were tried and went to prison.
It was nearly six years into the Nixon presidency and ten months after a special prosecutor was appointed that Nixon formally resigned his office – the only president to date to do so. But Nixon was never incompetent. He was one of our more brilliant presidents, which made his fall from grace and his move away from democracy and into authoritarianism all the more disturbing. Trump is not smart, nor is he even basically competent. News reports surfaced in the past 48 hours that his name must be inserted every few paragraphs into briefings to ensure that he reads them. Allies have been informed to keep speeches short as his mind wanders and he doesn’t focus.
On top of this is all of Nixon’s paranoia and megalomania as well as a cadre of loyalists putting the man before the nation. May 19 Trump leaves for his first foreign tour. No one knows what will happen when he is away from home on the world stage, but even his allies in Congress have expressed concern.
That is not enough. There is no "presumption of regularity" here, that is the foundation of all presidencies. There is no even keel, no smooth sailing, no mooring. One day Trump says Rosenstein demanded Comey’s firing. Literally 24 hours later he is telling Lester Holt of NBC that it was all his idea and that the whole Russia probe is fake news. This is not a leader. This is not a man we can trust with the nuclear codes. This is not a man who should be making law or signing executive orders or talking to foreign leaders. His rapacious need to be right, to been applauded, to have the spotlight on himself at all times has created drama and tension and fear in his own staff, let alone in Americans who are paying attention.
Trump never actually wanted to be president. He wanted to campaign and be cheered and throw red hats into the crowds and then he wanted to go back to New York and his business and leave the hard work of governing to Hillary Clinton.
Alas for the nation, Trump’s wrong choices caught the whole country by surprise. And now it is time for his party to take that walk from the Capitol to the White House and demand an end to this dangerous charade of a presidency while there is still time.
While there is still a nation to save.