Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Profiles In Cowardice: "It Is What It Is"

Sen. Howard Baker (R-Tenn): "What did the president know and when did he know it?"
"Nixon’s tactics backfired because the system of checks and balances clicked into place; the public demanded that the president be held accountable for his actions, and Republicans stopped defending him at every turn, putting country above party.  But will that happen again now?"  -- Elizabeth Holtzman, former U.S. representative from New York and member of the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate
There is already a prima facie case for obstruction of justice.  The allegations include (1) Trump fired FBI Director Comey as he was  ramping up an investigation into what Trump himself referred to as "this Russia thing with Trump and Russia," and (2) he did so after Comey refused to pledge his loyalty to the president; (3) Trump asked Comey three times whether he was under investigation; and (4) Trump requested that Comey "let [the investigation regarding Michael Flynn] go" in the wake of Flynn's resignation as National Security Advisor after lying about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.  If these allegations alone are proven true -- and who knows what else will be revealed -- there is a compelling case Trump  “corruptly” or by “any threatening letter or communication” tries “to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice.”

There is also already a prima facie case that Trump violated the oath he took when he was inaugurated to “faithfully execute the office of president of the United States” and to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” to the best of his ability (putting aside the paltry limits of his 'ability').  These allegations include disclosing highly classified information to the Russian government regarding "sources and methods" that jeopardized intelligence operations, endangered U.S. and Israeli intelligence sources, undermined the trust of a critical ally, and potentially hampered cooperation from otherwise friendly governments who would be justifiably concerned about sharing their secrets with us.  Again, if only, these allegations are true, there is a compelling case that Trump's conduct falls under "high crimes and misdemeanors."

(And let's not forget the prima facie case that Trump has violated Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, i.e., the “Emoluments Clause,” based on allegations that he is profiting from the Trump Organizations business dealings with foreign government )

The tepid responses from Republican leadership is -- to use their language -- "troubling" (Susan Collins) and "disturbing" (John McCain).  Marco Rubio tweeted that Trump's handling of the issues "certainly it’s less than ideal, but it is what it is." And Paul Ryan is mostly concerned that “there are some people out there who want to harm the President.” 

Richard Burr, who is chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and armed with subpoena power said in response to the New York Times report that Comey has memos of his discussions with Trump:  "I think the burden is on the New York Times—if they're reporting it and they've got somebody who's got the document—they need to get the document and get it released."

Perhaps the most honest and cynical response came from Mitch McConnell, who unwittingly admitted what Republican recalcitrance is all about:  "“I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things so that we can focus on our agenda, which is deregulations, tax reform, [and] repealing and replacing Obamacare.”

So, do Republicans believe that these allegations aren't true or that even if true they don't matter?  If it is the former, then they have an obligation to agree to an independent bipartisan commission and call for a special prosecutor to determine whether they are true.  And, to be fair, it does seem that after stonewalling Democratic demands, there has been some movement from some Republicans towards at least seeking to obtain the Comey memos and learn more about what Trump spilled to the Russians.  Whether they will agree to an independent commission remains to be seen.

But what about those Republicans -- still the vast majority of them -- who don't really care about Trump's abuse of power and its implications for national security and the rule of law, but simply don't want any more "drama" to impede the success of their political agenda?  They have no business being in government.  They must be shamed, run out of office and removed from polite society.  At minimum, they need to get out of the way and allow Congress to do its job.


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