Editorial written by Ben Szioli
I’ve spent way too much time on this issue. It’s time to call a spade a spade.
Two years have gone by since the special counsel investigation into President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign began, and the facts are clear. Trump is a criminal.
In early 2017, faced with an investigation into Trump campaign officials’ interactions with agents of foreign nations, President Trump instructed White House Counsel Don McGahn to pressure the Department of Justice into firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller. McGahn, a competent lawyer, refused. But because Trump was aware of grand jury proceedings against his campaign officials and acted to try to halt them, this attempt satisfies every legal element of the crime of obstruction of justice. Representative Ted Lieu argued as much during his questioning of Special Counsel Mueller on July 24th.
Mueller, bound by Department of Justice guidelines preventing the indictment of a sitting president, predictably declined to indict President Trump. However, Mueller also declined to exonerate Trump, noting that there are other constitutional avenues for handling crimes by the president. What he was referring to is impeachment. As I said, the facts are clear: Trump committed a crime.
The confirmation of the president’s criminal behavior is the opposite of surprising – a moment of clarity in a post-fact world, or a peek from an alternate universe back into reality. Any reasonable observer should have known from 2015 on (or earlier) that President Trump has constantly broken the law in his business dealings. In Atlantic City, New Jersey (the resting place of the failed Trump Taj Mahal hotel and casino), anybody could have told you that. Everybody there seems to know somebody that Trump ripped off, mostly small contractors.
However, one final fact is clear: President Trump won’t be impeached. As they say, “iMpeACHmenT is a pOliTicaL PRocEss,” and the process has been halted. The Senate won’t vote to convict Trump, so the House won’t even begin impeachment proceedings. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been clear on this, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been clearer.
I have emphatically supported the effort to impeach President Trump thus far. At every turn, I thought that perhaps some revelation would turn the opinion of Congress, or there would be a public outpouring to demand impeachment.
Finally, however, the facts are all out, and nothing has changed. There is no real impeachment effort, and almost certainly, no such effort will ever exist. The reason for that is not that we haven’t heard enough about Russiagate. It’s not that we hadn’t heard enough about Russiagate from Robert Mueller. It certainly is not that we hadn’t heard enough about Russiagate from Robert de Niro. The reason is that Congress refuses to impeach, even though any reasonable observer would conclude that President Trump broke the law.
Trump has actually satisfied his constitutional duty in this matter, despite failing to cooperate with Special Counsel Mueller and providing what Mueller described as “generally” false written answers to Mueller’s questions. If Trump has committed a crime, he has the right to a fair trial, and now he stands awaiting one. He is no longer in violation of the Constitution on this issue.
Congress, on the other hand, is in dereliction of its duty of constitutional oversight. It is our representatives’ job to provide President Trump a trial in the form of impeachment proceedings, even if it leads to the Senate exonerating him. Congress is refusing to do so for various political reasons, but none of those reasons frees Congress of its duty to regulate the presidency. The constitutional crisis now falls squarely at our representatives’ feet.
Trump was a clunker of a president, but it’s not his job to provide Constitutional oversight of himself, as absurd a state of affairs as that may be. I struggle to fault him any longer, if Congress will not act to remove him according to its duty. The Constitution provides Trump broad powers to do lots of unsavory things like waging war and letting people starve and manipulating government agencies – all with a degree of impunity. The check on that power is Congress, which has yet to even acknowledge that Trump abused his authority.
As with a dog, you now have to blame the person holding the leash. At the end of the day, one dog can only be so bad. If there is an entity responsible for restraining the dog – uh, I mean, restraining the president – then when he runs wild, we should blame the entity responsible for him.
Whatever mockery President Trump makes of politics, Congress has implicitly sanctioned. Whatever Trump reveals about our system that is bad or broken, Congress has, by inaction, preserved. Trump is a manifestation of a deeply serious problem, and Congress has a duty to fix that underlying problem. It just isn’t doing so.
Therefore, if President Trump should have been removed from office, every representative who failed to impeach him also needs to be removed from office at the ballot box. If our representatives can’t do their job, we need to blame them. If we have any criticism of the Trump Administration that doesn’t simply revolve around the personality of The Orange Man™, we need to hold our representatives accountable for it.
If the corruption ever mattered at all, we need to replace Congress.