Monday, September 23, 2019

Congress needs to act on Trump's high crimes. The latest, the Ukraine allegations, are 'over the top'.

Trump responded to the whistle blower scandal with some strange admissions. Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) taged those responses in Trump’s response to the whistleblower scandal comes up short (again).

… Donald Trump responded publicly for the first time to the scandal surrounding the intelligence community whistleblower, and the president’s first attempt at pushback was hardly persuasive.

In a pair of tweets, the Republican made the case that he’s simply too clever to “say something inappropriate” with foreign officials when people might be listening, which was a problematic response for a variety of reasons, including ample evidence that he’s already been caught saying inappropriate things to foreign officials.

[Trump’s] comments lead to some straightforward questions:

  • If Trump doesn’t who the whistleblower is, how does he know the person is “highly partisan”? From whom did he “hear” this?
  • If “everybody” has read the whistleblower’s complaint, and people “laugh” at it, why is the administration ignoring the law and hiding it from Congress? Why not just disclose it and move on?
  • If Trump’s conversation with Ukraine’s president was, as Trump put it this morning, “beautiful” and appropriate, why not release a transcript and resolve the scandal?

Finally, the American president may be of the opinion that “it doesn’t matter” what he discussed with Ukraine, but he’s mistaken. If Trump, for example, tried to pressure a foreign government to interfere in an American election in order to help keep Trump in power, that’s an outrageous abuse – and very likely the sort of act that falls under the rubric of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

But this is not the first of Trump’s misdeeds. George T. Conway III and Neal Katyal, writing in the Washington Post, assert that Trump has done plenty to warrant impeachment. But the Ukraine allegations are over the top.

… it appears that the president might have used his official powers — in particular, perhaps the threat of withholding a quarter-billion dollars in military aid — to leverage a foreign government into helping him defeat a potential political opponent in the United States.

If Trump did that, it would be the ultimate impeachable act. Trump has already done more than enough to warrant impeachment and removal with his relentless attempts, on multiple fronts, to sabotage the counterintelligence and criminal investigation by then-special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and to conceal evidence of those attempts. The president’s efforts were impeachable because, in committing those obstructive acts, he put his personal interests above the nation’s: He tried to stop an investigation into whether a hostile foreign power, Russia, tried to interfere with our democracy — simply because he seemed to find it personally embarrassing. Trump breached his duty of faithful execution to the nation not only because he likely broke the law but also because, through his disregard for the law, he put his self-interest first.

The current whistleblowing allegations, however, are even worse. Unlike the allegations of conspiracy with Russia before the 2016 election, these concern Trump’s actions as president, not as a private citizen, and his exercise of presidential powers over foreign policy with Ukraine. Moreover, with Russia, at least there was an attempt to get the facts through the Mueller investigation; here the White House is trying to shut down the entire inquiry from the start — depriving not just the American people, but even congressional intelligence committees, of necessary information.

It is high time for Congress to do its duty, in the manner the framers intended. Given how Trump seems ever bent on putting himself above the law, something like what might have happened between him and Ukraine — abusing presidential authority for personal benefit — was almost inevitable. Yet if that is what occurred, part of the responsibility lies with Congress, which has failed to act on the blatant obstruction that Mueller detailed months ago.

Congressional procrastination has probably emboldened Trump, and it risks emboldening future presidents who might turn out to be of his sorry ilk. To borrow John Dean’s haunting Watergate-era metaphor once again, there is a cancer on the presidency, and cancers, if not removed, only grow. Congress bears the duty to use the tools provided by the Constitution to remove that cancer now, before it’s too late. As Elbridge Gerry put it at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, “A good magistrate will not fear [impeachments]. A bad one ought to be kept in fear of them.” By now, Congress should know which one Trump is.

So why is Congress so inactive, so inept, in the face of Trump’s war on America. The answer, I fear, is that Trump has completely corrupted the GOP and its members of Congress. Rick Wilson’s view is correct: Everything Trump Touches Dies.

George T. Conway III is a lawyer in New York. Neal Katyal, a law professor at Georgetown University, previously served as the acting solicitor general of the United States.

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