Opposing Trump is patriotic, not partisan
Donald Trump is dangerously unqualified, unprepared and unprincipled to be President of the United States. But my feeling about him as a person isn’t partisan. I know Trump tries to deflect the Russia investigations by claiming it’s just a witch hunt by progressives angry that Hillary Clinton lost an election she should have won. No, if John Kasich, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or some other mainstream conservative Republican won the presidency I might not like many of their policies but none are dangerously unqualified. None of them have such an unparalleled ability to tell untruths. All are familiar with the Constitution and the separation of powers. And none of their campaigns have been implicated in contacting Russians while that country attacked our election.
Now almost every day we’re presented with more evidence that Donald Trump has been using his office to try to shut down the investigation into his campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia. Why would an innocent person be engaged in trying to stop an investigation? There is far more evidence that Donald Trump’s campaign engaged in illegal or suspect behavior with Russians and that Trump is trying to obstruct justice than the laughable and outrageous assertion that President Obama was Kenyan-born. Yet an embarrassing number of Republicans believed it.
On Feb. 24, the Washington Post reported that Trump enlisted Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Devin Nunes and Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen. Raymond Burr to call journalists and counter the Trump-Russia stories, while their committees were investigating the links between Trump and Russia! They both did it and should have recused themselves the minute it was made public. Nunes subsequently embarrassed himself getting caught up in a scheme to help the White House and did have to recuse himself. But Burr is still afforded credibility even though he made calls on Trumps’ behalf. In the same article, it’s reported that the White House turned to the chairmen after attempts to get senior FBI officials to call the press on their behalf were rebuffed.
In Trump’s May 10 interview with Lester Holt, he flat out admits that the Russia probe was why he fired FBI Director James Comey. Then the New York Times reported in notes of Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak the day after Comey’s firing, that Trump bragged that by firing that “nut job” Comey, the pressure was off on the Russian investigation. How is that not obstruction?
The Times also broke the story that James Comey kept “memcons,” memorandum of conversations, he’d had with Donald Trump in which Trump had tried to get him to back off and let fired former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn go. Trump acknowledges having Comey over for dinner and asking about whether he was under investigation.
Now the Washington Post is reporting that in late March, Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers to publicly deny any connections between Trump’s campaign staff and Russians. They declined.
Think about this: The commander-in-chief allegedly asked two heads of intelligence agencies to publicly lie on his behalf.
The fact that there has been contacts between Trump officials and Russia isn’t open to debate. Flynn had multiple contacts before and after the election. Trump officials Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn, Jeff Sessions and Carter Page all met multiple times with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the same man Trump was shown in Russian propaganda photos laughing it up with in the Oval Office. What’s more, Flynn and Kushner failed to disclose their meetings with Kislyak. Why? If it was innocent, why hide it?
And we haven’t even mentioned former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his connection to Russian criminals and leaders.
This isn’t partisan. It isn’t about right or left. It’s about right and wrong.
A thought experiment for Trump supporters : Think back to how you felt when you learned last June that former President Bill Clinton met with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on a tarmac in Phoenix. Sen. John Cornyn called for a special counsel. Conservative watchdog groups were outraged. That outrage was warranted. It was an idiotic move. But hold those thoughts and feelings in your mind.
Now imagine if President Barack Obama picked up the phone and called FBI Director James Comey and told him to let the Clinton email thing go. What if he called the congressional heads of committees investigating Hillary on the emails or Benghazi and told them they should go to the press and say there was nothing to the stories? What would conservatives’ response to that have been? What would you have thought?
If this reporting is true, it’s clear to anyone not blinded by partisanship that Donald Trump has been trying to obstruct justice and end the Russian investigation. There’s already a report by Reuters that the White House is looking into ways to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Once again, why would an innocent man want to undermine or stop an investigation that could clear him of wrongdoing?
The evidence of obstruction of justice is strong as it is but will only grow as Trump grows more desperate. Obstruction of justice or collusion aren’t the only areas that could leave Trump vulnerable. Investigations into whether Trump has accepted money, gifts or investments from foreign powers could find him running afoul of the emoluments clause in the Constitution. The end game, of course, is impeachment and removal of Donald Trump from office. That’s what would happen if we lived in a country ruled by statesman, by people willing to put country before party. But we don’t. A Republican House will not impeach Donald Trump even if video emerges of Trump taking a suitcase full of money from Vladimir Putin.
Many political commentators and even some politicians are making this harder than it has to be. They talk about needing evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. No, we don’t need that. That’s a criminal standard and the scholarship right now says sitting presidents cannot be criminally indicted. And beyond that, I’m sorry to break anyone’s bubble, but Donald Trump, even if he’s apparently guilty of felonies, will never be criminally prosecuted in federal court. I’m sure he would pardon himself and thrust the nation into a constitutional crisis like we’ve never seen with a Supreme Court having to rule if such a move is constitutional. And even if he loses that case, the next president, Mike Pence, would make it all moot by pardoning him. It sucks but that’s where we are.
(On a side note, if Trump were impeached and removed and states brought charges, Pence could not pardon him, as the president can’t issue pardons for state charges.)
Impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors is our constitutional remedy for a president who runs afoul of the public trust. It requires no actual crime. In 1970, Rep. Gerald Ford said that what’s impeachable is whatever the House of Representatives decides at the time. Impeachment wasn’t included in the constitution just for crimes. It’s for abuses of the office, when an executive uses the powers of his office for his own gain, not the nation’s. Benjamin Franklin argued that it was an important check on an “obnoxious” chief executive because the only other remedy traditionally was assassination. Republicans need to reflect on Franklin’s wisdom for the health of the republic.
There are multiple investigations into just what happened during our election last year and what role, if any, Trump officials played in it. And Robert Mueller will lead an investigation into whether Trump has obstructed justice. The investigations could run their course and exonerate Donald Trump. It could clear him completely and we would have to accept those results if rendered by fair, bipartisan and complete investigations.
But it’s Trump himself who is demonstrating that he doesn’t believe that will be the outcome. And if the investigations confirm Trump’s fears and expose wrongdoing, the House of Representatives needs to set partisanship aside and do their constitutional duty. If Hillary Clinton were president, they wouldn’t hesitate to do the right thing, so they must employ the same standard.
There’s no question that a lot of opposition to Trump is partisan. But the real energy behind the resistance is about holding a dangerous, reckless, feckless and possibly criminal commander-in-chief accountable. He has a distorted view of executive power and every day it seems we’re learning more about how he improperly wields that power. If he’s guilty of abusing the office, he must be removed. That’s not partisanship. That’s patriotism.