Sunday, May 14, 2017

Is Impeachment Realistic?


NBC News and the Wall Street Journal released a new poll this morning. If Trump really was angry at his team before, he must be ready to have them all lined up against a wall and shot now. With Trump's overall approval rating dipping further-- to 39%-- public backing for his firing of James Comey is at just 29%. And 52% of the country holds a negative view of Trump, while just 38% of the country-- his base-- has a positive view of how he's doing his job. Perhaps scariest of all for Señor Trumpanzee is that an overwhelming 78% of the country supports an independent commission or special prosecutor-- rather than Congress-- to get to the bottom of Putin-Gate. A special prosecutor, coupled with a Democratic takeover of the House in 2018, can only end in one way: impeachment.

This morning, Darren Samuelsohn, writing for Politico asked if it is time for Trump staffers to start lawyering up. Subpoenas are already being issued and there's a Grand Jury operating. "It’s an axiom of Washington scandals," he wrote, "that the cover-up tends to be worse than the crime-- and it’s lower- or mid-level people who wind up getting caught in the worst legal trouble, usually for tangential offenses like perjury or obstruction of justice. The ancillary stuff, like a forgotten meeting or a discarded document, can cause the most serious problems for staffers navigating the unfamiliar, expensive and high-stakes world of grand juries, subpoenas and congressional hearings, where the prospects of perjury or obstruction of justice charges can be filed for both unintended slip-ups or intentional attempts to cover up for a superior."
John Dean, the former Nixon White House counsel who went to prison for four months because of his role in Watergate, said he didn’t expect Trump’s staffers at this early stage of the investigative process to have already started hiring attorneys. But he said that can change quickly.

“It’s something that happens in every White House when the contagion has started spreading,” he said. He predicted the lower-level employees, including otherwise innocent secretaries and other aides who have gotten up-close interactions with the president and his senior aides, may not see the need to call for an attorney until they’ve been identified as potential witnesses. “They’re primarily driven by fear, fear of the unknown and not wanting to make a mistake,” he said.

...Outside observers say the signs are growing that Trump’s staff may want to start lining up legal advice, even if it’s only for preliminary discussions.

“If they have information that indicates contact with Russians or attempts to interfere they better damn well,” said former FBI agent Lewis Schiliro, who spent 25 years at the FBI before retiring in 2000 as head of the New York field office. “That’s a pretty serious thing.”
I suspect a lot of folks thinking about hiring lawyers read Nick Kristof's NY Times column this morning, Is Trump Obstructing Justice?, with a sense of foreboding, if not outright doom. Kristof sees Trump's firing of Comey as one more element in "a systematic campaign to undermine the rule of law and democratic norms."

The paradox is that Trump purports to be (like Richard Nixon) a law-and-order president. His administration has ordered a harsh crackdown on drug offenders, when we should be scaling up addiction treatment instead. Trump is focusing on chimerical fraud by noncitizen voters, even as he impinges on an investigation into what could be a monumental electoral fraud by Vladimir Putin. He favors tough law and order for the little guy.

Comey took the investigation into possible collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign seriously enough that for his last three weeks leading the F.B.I. he was getting daily updates, according to the Wall Street Journal. The new acting director of the F.B.I. confirms that the inquiry is “highly significant.”

For months, as I’ve reported on the multiple investigations into Trump-Russia connections, I’ve heard that the F.B.I. investigation is by far the most important one, incomparably ahead of the congressional inquiries. I then usually asked: So will Trump fire Comey? And the response would be: Hard to imagine. The uproar would be staggering. Even Republicans would never stand for that.

Alas, my contacts underestimated the myopic partisanship of too many Republicans. Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, spoke for many of his colleagues when he scoffed at the furor by saying, “Suck it up and move on.”

This goes way beyond Comey. When judges block presidential orders, Trump denounces the courts. When the opposition criticizes him, Trump savages individual Democrats. When journalists embarrass him, Trump threatens to tighten libel laws and describes the press as “the enemy of the people.”

Trump has also challenged and evaded the ethics rules that traditionally constrain administration officials. He has breached the four-decade norm that presidential candidates release their taxes. And-- how else to put this?-- he has waged war on truth. These days, any relationship between White House statements and accuracy seems coincidental.

Patterns emerge. Trump also ousted Preet Bharara, a U.S. attorney who infuriated Moscow and investigated Tom Price, Trump’s secretary of health and human services. Likewise, Trump fired Sally Yates, the acting attorney general, after she warned the White House that Michael Flynn could be blackmailed over his lies about Russian contacts.

In short, Trump challenges the legitimacy of checks on his governance, bullies critics and obfuscates everything. Trump reminds me less of past American presidents than of the “big men” rulers I covered in Asia and Africa, who saw laws simply as instruments with which to punish rivals.

It’s reported that Trump sought a pledge of loyalty from Comey. That is what kings seek; the failure to provide one got Thomas More beheaded. But in a nation of laws, we must be loyal to laws, norms and institutions, not to a passing autocrat.

Trump acknowledges that he was frustrated by the Russia investigation and that it was a factor in firing Comey. This may not meet the legal test for obstruction of justice, but step back and you see that Trump’s entire pattern of behavior is obstruction of the rule of law and democratic norms.

Earlier this year I quoted a presidential historian as saying that “there’s a smell of treason in the air,” and it’s essential that we have a thorough investigation to find out what happened. With Senate Republicans blocking an independent commission, that means that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein must choose an independent special counsel to probe Russian interference in our election.

George Washington warned that we need checks on leaders because of the “love of power and the proneness to abuse it.” This prophecy was tested during Watergate, and as a teenager then I watched Republicans like Howard Baker, Lowell Weicker, Elliot Richardson and William Ruckelshaus heroically stand up for their country rather than for a corrupt president of their own party. Partly because of them, our institutions triumphed.

The passion for truth over politics was then periodically expressed in a Latin phrase: fiat justitia, ruat caelum. Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.

Now that principle is tested again, and so are we, all of us-- politicians, journalists, judges and citizens.

In particular, this is the moment of truth for G.O.P. moderates like Senators Susan Collins, Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, who may hold decisive power. Will they align with George Washington’s vision of presidents as servants of the people or with Trump’s specter of His Sacred Majesty, the Big Man of America? Will they stand for justice, or for obstruction of it?
Goal Thermometer I look at these Republican politicians and I don't see the depth of character it would take to go up against Trump and their own corrupt political party-- not in McCain, Graham, Collins, Flake, Corker or any of them. Not the senators, not a single one. And that leaves it in the hands of midterm voters next year. Assuming the Democrats take back the House and hold onto their vulnerable Senate seats, defeating Flake (AZ), Heller (NV) and Cruz (TX) is probably the only plausible way Trump is going to be removed from office before 2020. Want to help? The Blue America Senate thermometer on the right is a place you can go to contribute to worthwhile progressives fighting to keep their seats in 2018 and to Beto O'Rourke's battle to oust Ted Cruz in the Lone Star State. Imagine Trump's fate coming down to the voters of Texas! That's pretty much the reality of it though.

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At 10:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are high to believe anything Politico says. Stephen Colbert's audience cheered Comey's firing and polls are not so reliable these days.

The only "systematic campaign to undermine the rule of law and democratic norms." is coming from the left and Deputy Director McCabe said Comey's dismissal would not affect any current investigations.

Carry on with your fanfiction.

At 1:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Worst case scenario: Trump refuses to surrender power and declares martial law. The military splits (like it did in Russia when Yeltsin emerged from the shadows), and the larger faction wins.

There is no way to predict how things go at that point, for unlike this new digital problem, there is no one yet evident in a position to act to stem the damage by redirecting the hostile energy into a much safer place. I can only hope that those who declared that the military won't follow Trump know what they are talking about.

I fear the worst and hope for the best.

At 6:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Delusion. The military infest all civilian mechanisms in government. The deep state (nexus of security, spying and war) are all run by military and ex military.

If martial law is declared, they'll do as they are told.. because he wants to be dick-tater, their interests are the same and they want to have a puppet/patsy to keep the docile citizenry mollified.

At 7:49 AM, Blogger Robert said...

The average Republican Senator votes with Trump 98% of the time.
The problem is Conservatives near the levers of governmental power.
When the time comes, they'll point the finger at Trump like he's the problem, and the corporate-owned media will let them get away with it. Just as they did when W's worshippers pout on tri-cornered hats and made believe they never heard of him.

At 11:24 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

According to Gallup, as of May 7 Trump's approval rating among Republicans was 88%, and the GOP owns the US government. It doesn't mean squat if Trump's average approval rating is 39% when the people he needs to keep him in power think he's doing just fine, thanks.

This is what comes of embodying one man as the target for everyone's attention, and from my observation it was done and continues to be done deliberately. Oh, it may come about that they eliminate him and replace him with Poster Boy Pence, but because Trump has been used as a stalking horse for the last six months, there are literally millions of people who think everything's going to be just fine and dandy once he's out. They refuse to believe that everything his done is exactly according to the GOP/Koch brothers/plutocratic playbook; and that once he's not there to provide a distraction the GOP will have basically carte blanche to proceed with the neoliberal/libertarian agenda of destroying the US government.

At 7:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After the orange-utang divulged sensitive top secret info to the Russians (the inferences from which may endanger the lives of some of our foreign intel sources), if he isn't impeached withing 48 hours, you have to assume the Rs will do their best "weekend at Bernie's" to keep that pos right where they want him. no. matter. what.

For him to be impeached, the world will have to cut off diplomatic ties and stop buying our paper. If they are smart... they'll start yesterday. After this latest clusterfuck, maybe they'll yank their heads outta their sphincters and do just that.

This guy is nero and Caligula crossed with Genghis khan. And the us congress is Caligula's horse... only one end. And the us voters are 330 million in a school for really slow kids.


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