Saturday, May 13, 2017

The President's Crash Dive Towards Removal from Office

Occupy Portland Launch Rally
October 6, 2011
© A. F. Litt 2011, All Rights Reserved
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich's video outlining four or five grounds to impeach the president is interesting, and even more now, more than a month after it was first released. And what a month it has been... But even at this point, most of these points are pretty weak tea.  

However, Reich's list keeps getting longer since he first suggested the possibility of impeachment based on the emoluments clause at the time of the inauguration, and his arguments supporting each point tend to be getting stronger as more and more evidence accumulates...

It really is starting to feel like it is just a matter of time before something happens to really put President Trump's job in jeopardy, especially as the president continues to flail, wilder and wilder, with each passing week.

If the administration is brought down, it is likely that it will not be for something that's already happened, for acts already committed, but for something that may happen very soon if the the president, his staff, and his cabinet continue on their current trajectory.

It is not the time right now, yet, to be discussing impeachment, but the current investigations need to be thorough.  The nation needs these concerns to be addressed and this is a very different situation than the calls for the impeachment of the last two presidents and the actual impeachment of President Clinton before that.

Since the impeachment of President Clinton, too much time has been spent dwelling on removing the opposing party's chief executive from office.  

The proceedings against President Clinton were far more motivated by politics than by any true harm he did to the office or the country.  This is not to say that he did no wrong, lying to Congress is a serious infraction, one that should still be taken very seriously, and a reprimand was clearly in order, but to move towards actual removal from office over lying about an extramarital affair is a bit like firing a RPG at a housefly.  It does more damage than good.

Under President Bush, when the Democrats took control of Congress, there was a lot of speculation that they would follow in the GOP's footsteps and that the House would vote on Articles of Impeachment.  Again, though, this would have been motivated by politics, and any charges against the president would have been pretty well trumped up to justify such an action.

Not liking the policies and practices of the president is not grounds for impeachment or removal.

In a way, that was a very scary moment for our democracy.  If the cooler heads did not prevail with the Democrats under President Bush, after what happened with President Clinton, a precedent and tradition could have been established where impeaching the president became a basic political move when power shifted in Congress.

Such a development would have been devastating for our nation.

It is almost certain that, if the House Democrats even held a vote on impeaching President Bush, the House Republicans would have voted on impeaching President Obama.  Large sections of the base of both parties cried out for such actions towards the other party's presidents through both administrations, and such moves would have been easy red meat to throw at these constituents, but the costs to our nation would have been terrible.

It would be simple to dismiss the current calls for the impeachment of President Trump as being little more than the latest incarnation of these misguided political urges, but this is a very different situation.  True, there has been politically motivated noise about impeachment since the election, but over the last few weeks, evidence is mounting that requires investigation.

This time, there may be true "high crimes and misdemeanors" in play.  

As I mentioned earlier, I really do feel that the focus of our nation, for the moment, needs to not be on the scandalous possibilities of a potential impeachment trial, but rather on ensuring that a very thorough investigation takes place into the concerns about the Trump campaign, transition, and current administration, and yes, this includes the president himself, if the evidence demands it. 

The White House needs to support these investigations.  To do otherwise would tarnish their administration, undermine foreign policy, and, in the worst case scenario, if a cover up or obstruction of justice occurs, their fight against the investigations might the very thing that brings down the president, not whatever may or may not have happened during the campaign and transition.

Unfortunately for our country, we have a president who, in the shaky leg days of his first time ever holding public office, seems too focused on ego and paranoia, and if he continues on the course he is on, it seems very likely that he will overreach at some point in a way that will transcend partisan party politics and lead to a bi-partisan vote on Articles of Impeachment.

The White House needs to bring in some experienced grown-ups to help them through this, someone needs to get the president off of Twitter, and the administration's political opponents need to calm down and focus on pushing for impartial investigations, including a Special Prosecutor, rather than getting lost in partisan hot flashes about throwing their nemesis out of office.

Politically, removing the president would accomplish very little for the Democrats and the Left. The next two men in succession are actually further to the right than President Trump is, and will be devastatingly more effective at pursuing their agendas than the current White House has been through the first 100-plus days of his term.

For the Democrats and the Left, the best result here they could ever dream of would be the president remaining in office after potentially burning almost all of the support from the rest of his party, support which was, at best, tenuous from the start.  It's the Lame Duck result. Even if the president was able to re-build his support over time, it would disable and disarm him for a significant chunk of his first term, and it would invite strong primary challenges against his nomination for a second term.

With the current polarity in our nation, the lack of trust towards the press, and the rise of "alternative facts," asking either side to set aside politics right now is probably an exercise in futility, but it is what is truly needed over the coming weeks. The Left needs to quit screaming for the president's head, the Right needs to quit screaming that it is all "fake news," and all sides, including the White House, need to work together to put these concerns behind us.

At this point, the need for a Special Prosecutor seems evident.  Before the firing of FBI Director Comey, maybe not, but after, it is probably the only way to start restoring trust.

When the results of these investigations are in, then it will be up to everyone to determine whether or not President Trump should remain in office.  Both the House and the Trump Cabinet will need to look at those results, because, depending on the president's behavior between now and then, it may fall upon his own administration to seek his removal from office through Section IV of the 25th Amendment