We are not making this up.
In case you were somehow off the grid for the last two weeks, let’s briefly recap just a few of the more salient and perfidious events of the past fortnight before we take a look at how the dominoes may fall in the near future.
On May 9, 2017, United States President Donald John Trump fired F.B.I. Director James Comey, who was also leading the F.B.I.’s investigation into Russian tampering in the 2016 US presidential election as well as the possibility of collusion between Russia and members of Trump’s campaign and administration. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, reportedly urged Trump to take this action.
Then the following morning of May 10, 2017, Trump met in the White House Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. In addition to being Russia’s ambassador, Kislyak is widely recognized as Russia’s #1 spy in the US. No US media photographers were allowed at the meeting, but thanks to the Russians taking and publishing them, we have photos of what appears to be a gleeful celebratory atmosphere at that meeting. We can’t recall ever seeing photos of Trump appearing to be as happy as he was to receive these two visitors.
During this meeting, Trump gave ISIS-related code level Top Secret information to the Russians that Israel had reportedly provided to the US on the strict condition that it not be shared with our allies, much less with our adversaries. Such disclosure may well cost the life of an Israeli intelligence source, or terminate the ability of that intelligence source to continue to provide the US with extraordinarily valuable intelligence information. It could also terminate Israel’s willingness to share intelligence information with the US. These factors could in turn cause the loss of American lives around the world.
But President Trump wasn’t finished betraying America at that meeting. Based on contemporaneous notes that were taken and then verbally relayed to the New York Times (and which have not been denied by the White House), Trump also told the Russians “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
So, in the space of one morning meeting, Trump apparently divulged Top Secret information he had no permission from Israel to divulge (quite possibly an act of treason), and he admitted to the obstruction of justice. He did this in the presence of one of the United States’ greatest adversaries, who had just engaged in tampering with our electoral process, very possibly giving Trump a victory he would not have otherwise have had. He also derided the reputation of a lifelong American patriot and public servant, and in the process besmirched the image of the United States, in an apparent act of celebration in front of these same Russian agents.
Whether Trump meets the grounds for criminal conviction for any or all of these offenses remains subject for debate… his position as President gives him some protections not available to the rest of us. But it is already abundantly clear that from a moral and ethical standpoint the President has betrayed America and his oath of office in a most profound and spectacular manner. And that alone provides clear and convincing evidence of the kind of “high crimes” needed to justify impeachment. (See: For Impeachment, It Doesn’t Matter Whether Trump Broke The Law and If You Want to Prosecute a President, Impeach Him First.)
There is still more… It was also revealed on May 16, 2017 that Trump had reportedly asked Comey to drop his investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and his ties with Russia. On May 17, 2017, in a move that surprised the White House, Justice Department deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein appointed Robert S. Mueller III, a former F.B.I. director, as special counsel to oversee the investigation into ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russian officials, thereby removing direct oversight of such an investigation from the purview of the F.B.I.’s chain of command. Finally, on May 19, 2017, the Washington Post broke a story that the F.B.I. had identified “a significant person of interest” within the current Trump administration with regard to its ties to Russia. Subsequent rumors have indicated the likelihood that this person is no other than… Jared Kushner, and that White House lawyers had begun research in preparation for the possibility that Trump could face impeachment procedures.
(This is just the short and highly abridged version of what has transpired over the past two weeks. If you don’t mind a bit of profanity, be sure to watch John Oliver’s review of Stupid Watergate: the shocking magnitude and potential impact of the latest revelations surrounding the Russia investigation.)
Does this mean Trump will be impeached and then removed from office? Not necessarily. Just because there is overwhelming good and sound reason for impeachment doesn’t mean there will be one. Impeachment by the House requires a simple majority vote, but the Republicans hold a clear majority in the House over Democrats. Even if Trump is impeached in the House, his removal from office would then require conviction by a 2/3 majority of the Senate. And again, the Republican’s hold a majority in the Senate.
House and Senate Democrats will surely vote in favor of impeachment and conviction. What could cause enough Republicans to vote in favor impeachment and conviction to sway the decision? Well, there are two possible reasons.
Republicans could make a decision to fulfill their duty to the constitution and the American people, and remove Trump from office because he has committed “high crimes” and his actions make him a true danger to our country and our democracy. That’s how the system is supposed to work. But, unfortunately, it only rarely works that way in the current political climate.
The other possible reason is that Republicans might decide that their ability to further a Republican conservative agenda, and their ability to be reelected, would be better enabled by a Mike Pence presidency than by a Donald Trump presidency. This is by far the more likely reason that Republicans might vote for impeachment and then conviction. And this will only happen if the American people continue to put strong pressure on their Republican representatives to let them know that this is what they demand, and that there will be extreme repercussions come election time if they don’t follow through with impeachment and conviction.
The Democratic Response
Key members of the Democratic congressional leadership responded to all of this in a manner that was, at least at first, rather muted. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Adam Schiff, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner were among many who called for restraint and a full investigation to take place before considering impeachment. By Friday, Pelosi had changed her message a bit, noting “I’m not feeding the flame of any impeachment talk, but members are going to do what they’re going to do, and their constituents think that the behavior of the president is appalling.”
The restraint behind Pelosi and Schumer’s messages was odd because all of what is written above is already publicly known, it provides more than sufficient grounds for impeachment, and the steps necessary to confirm the news reports conclusively should be relatively simple and straightforward. So the question is…. why isn’t the Democratic leadership being more active in “feeding the flame of impeachment?” Wouldn’t all of America, on both sides of the political aisle, be better served by removing a clearly corrupt and disturbed president from office and letting America get on with business?
Part of the reason may be simple “shell shock”… this presidency has unravelled so quickly and in such an astounding and unbelievable way that it is hard to come to grips with the magnitude and implications of what has transpired.
Part of the reason may also be recognizing the value of understatement. In this case, the President’s actions were so horrifically obvious in nature that they spoke for themselves without the need for party leadership to elaborate. Better to let the drive for impeachment come from a groundswell of public outcry than from proclamations from politicians.
But another reason might be more subtle, and this is where the Democrat’s game of dominoes comes into play. It is very possible that the Democratic leadership sees that an impeachment process is likely, but that they want it to play out relatively slowly. They might prefer more investigation, and more damaging revelations about the Trump administration to come to light in a lengthy process before the impeachment process begins. They might want Congress and the administration to be distracted by that process as much as possible and for as long as possible, thereby limiting the administration’s ability to further a conservative legislative agenda. Democrats might enjoy the fact that President Trump has likely lost virtually all of his political leverage over members of Congress at this point, with Republicans realizing that working with Trump is now going to be a far greater liability than in the past. Additionally, if Mike Pence assumes the presidency rather quickly and has time to “calm the political waters” before future elections, the damage Trump has done might be less damaging to the Republican Party in the longer term.
The logic in this is impeccable. There is only one problem, however, and it is a huge one… It puts the needs of the Democratic Party ahead of the needs of the American people. As long as Trump remains President, his ability to potentially involve the United States in an unnecessary war or conflict remains unabated. And, as we have already noted in earlier articles (See: The Trump Administration’s Next 1353 Days — What to Expect & How to Resist), it is not unlikely that Trump will try to leverage or manufacture a crisis to divert attention from his domestic troubles and to attempt to extend the unilateral powers of the presidency in ways that are unconstitutional. The less opportunity he has to do this, the better. (See this recent article in The Nation: Trump Is a Cornered Megalomaniac—and That’s a Grave Danger to the Country.)
If Americans want to see Trump out of office quickly, it is incumbent upon them to keep the pressure up on their representatives, from both parties, to move towards impeachment as expeditiously as possible. Regardless of how one feels about Mike Pence from a partisan perspective, he does not seem to be beholden to Russia, he does not seem to be mentally unwell, and he does not seem likely to use the office of the presidency to enrich himself. And most importantly, he doesn’t not seem likely to start a nuclear war to try to divert attention from the Russia investigation.
While the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel is a positive development to finding the truth, one must remember that the only obligation of Mueller’s investigation is to deliver to the Justice Department a “yes” or “no” determination as to whether there is clear probable cause for any potential criminal prosecution. If the American people are to learn the truth behind Russia’s meddling into the US election and any possible ties between the Trump administration and Russia, what is still needed is for Congress to appoint an independent congressional commission to address that topic. Americans need to continue to let their representatives of both political parties know that this is still strongly warranted and needed.
Finally, as this article goes to press, there appears to be a serious possibility that Trump will nominate Joe Leiberman to be the next F.B.I. Director, subject to confirmation by the US Senate. Leiberman has completely inappropriate ties to Trump that would make his independence problematic. It would also be an unprecedented move to put a politician in charge of the F.B.I. If Trump should make this nomination, be sure to read this article in The Nation: Joe Lieberman Is a Civil Libertarian’s Nightmare and then speak out and advise your Senators how you feel about his nomination.
We are not making this up. This is not normal. This is pure crazy. And this crazy will only continue to get worse unless you, dear reader, use your voice to bring it to an end. If you can’t be bothered to resist tyranny, then you don’t deserve to be saved from it. Democracy is not a spectator sport.
Then write a note to Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and your own Senators and Congressional Representative (use this link to the National Priorities Project to see how to easily contact them). Mention the importance of beginning the impeachment process quickly and having Congress immediately appoint an independent congressional commission to investigate Trump/Russia. Feel free to print a copy of this article out (use the link below) and include it with your letters to your representatives, highlighting key passages.
Please consider supporting the March for Truth taking place in cities around the world on June 3, 2017.
Finally, also check out the Indivisible Guide for more ideas on how to #Resist.
Note added post publication: as we prominently mentioned in a previous column, the final two sentences in this column (now in italics) were previously used in a Twitter posting by @RoguePOTUSstaff. Similar statements have been used elsewhere by others.