Viewpoint: After Mueller hearings, time to impeach Trump now

Viewpoint: After Mueller hearings, time to impeach Trump now
Karen Rubin

There were scores of headlines after the Mueller hearings that went like Dan Balz’s in the Washington Post: “Democrats are now left with one option to end Trump’s presidency: The 2020 Election”. Also, that the “Lack of electricity in Mueller testimony short-circuited impeachment.”

But there were many bombshells delivered by Special Counsel Robert Mueller albeit in his restrained way: Trump lied in his sworn written testimony to Mueller (after refusing to sit for an interview to avoid perjuring himself); told witnesses to lie and destroy documents; dangled pardons while intimidating others, amounting to witness tampering and obstruction of justice, even before you get to firing the FBI Director and ordering Don McGahn to fire the special counsel to end the investigation into his wrong-doing. Just one of these – lying – was enough for Republicans to impeach President Bill Clinton.

But for the Office of Legal Counsel’s policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted, anyone committing such offenses would be prosecuted.  As it is, Trump can be prosecuted once he leaves office, leaving the only remedy to hold a president accountable, impeachment by Congress as provided in the Constitution. Mueller refused to say the dreaded “I” word.

The bigger bombshell, though, came during the House Intelligence Committee, where Mueller stated clearly: Russia intervened in the 2016 election in a sweeping and systematic fashion and did so to help elect Donald Trump; Trump and his campaign welcomed and encouraged Russia’s “assistance” and despite being warned by the FBI, did not report the overtures. Instead, the Trump campaign encouraged a foreign adversary’s help, coordinated with it, built a campaign around it, then lied to cover it up.

Moreover, Russia (and others) are continuing to intervene, and without consequences, there is a danger of normalizing foreign intervention, which would otherwise be a crime.

“I hope this is not the new normal, but I fear it is,” Mueller said.

Not only does this jeopardize the most sacred franchise of a free people – the free and fair election or even trust in an election result – but such illicit activities become a national security threat by opening up an official to blackmail or extortion.

This is the greatest impeachable offense of all: violating the oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic.

Indeed, the day after Mueller gave his warning, the Senate Intelligence Committee released its own report documenting the massive attack on the U.S. election system in 2016, that they struck all 50 states and the election system remains vulnerable.

It isn’t just Russia, but China, North Korea, Israel, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Iran that are chomping at the bit to reshape America’s government to their own advantage. The New York Times just reported that Iran created 7,000 fictitious accounts to do a Russian-style disinformation campaign.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked four Election Protection bills that passed out of the Democratic-controlled House.

Other impeachable offenses: lying about business dealings with Russia (Trump Moscow Tower) – the knowledge of which could be used to extort, blackmail Trump and could explain his demonstrable eagerness to do Putin’s bidding. Mueller’s investigation was narrowly confined to Russia’s intervention into the 2016 Election and Trump’s subsequent cover-up.  There was a red line drawn around Trump and his family’s finances, shielding investigation into possible money-laundering, tax fraud, and other compromising situations (re: the Steele Dossier). While the Constitution gives Congress the responsibility of oversight, Trump has obstructed investigations, defied subpoenas, refused to provide his tax returns, filed suits against any agency, bank or firm that has his financial documents. Indeed, whatever happened to the FBI’s counter-intelligence investigation?

But that is only the tip of the iceberg of Trump’s impeachable “high crimes and misdemeanors.” These would include abuse of power in declaring a national emergency to overturn laws and treaties; shutting down government to circumvent Congress’ Article 1 power of the purse; human rights violations and policies that have resulted in the deaths of a dozen migrants, child abuse and kidnapping. Defying subpoenas, violating multiple laws including the Hatch Act, And then there are all the violations of the Emoluments Clause, the policies made for his own enrichment and ego.

Is there a threshold of impeachable offenses before Speaker Nancy Pelosi gives the OK to start impeachment hearings, and what might that threshold be?

Pelosi is still clinging to the fantasy of conducting investigations to gather as much evidence to persuade Americans that Trump should be removed – either by impeachment or election. That ain’t happening and certainly not in a timely way.

The latest ruling by the radical rightwing majority on the Supreme Court overturning Congress’ power of the purse shows it will rubber stamp his authoritarian tendencies.

Why impeach? Because Trump has 18 months left in this term, and he is only getting more emboldened to defy Congress, the courts and the Constitution, undermining trust in the institutions that bolster democracy (Supreme Court, fair elections). Impeach because he is destroying the check and balances, separation of powers, co-equal branches of government, undermining Congress’ oversight responsibility and power of the purse. Impeach because he is defying subpoenas, violating laws and treaties, paving the way for more corruption. Impeach because he is desperate to stay in office to avoid prosecution and will likely double-down on the tactics that enabled him to steal the 2016 election, publicly inviting foreign adversaries to intervene (I can just hear what he told Putin and Kim Jong-Un privately: “I can overturn sanctions if I have a second term”).

But most of all, impeach because of what he told the Turning Point Teens, the Hitler Youth of our time: “I have an Article 2, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”

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