Tuesday, May 16, 2017

President Trump Must Step Down, Or Be Impeached

The firing of FBI director James Comey by president Trump on 9th May unleashed a cacophony of foul play claims redolent of the Watergate scandal that forced Richard Nixon to resign in 1974, almost 19 months after he was sworn in to his second term. The combination of possible obstruction of justice, hidden tapes and veiled threats in the Comey firing makes the comparison to Watergate compelling.

But all that has been overtaken by what has happened within a week of Comey’s firing. We learned from Washington Post on 15th May that Trump disclosed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak in the Oval Office a day after he let Comey go. 

Then, on 16th May (today), New York Times reported that during their February 14th meeting at the White House, Trump asked Comey to drop the Michael Flynn inquiry about possible Russian collusion in the presidential election last year. “He is a good guy,” Trump said of Flynn. "I hope you can let this go."

The president was alone with the FBI Director after he asked attorney General Sessions and VP Pence to leave the room.

John McCain, the senior Republican Senator from Arizona, said about the two latest bombshells: “Trump scandals are reaching Watergate size and scale.”

Talk of impeachment is in the air, along with the demand that Republican lawmakers show some spine and put country above party. America is at a crossroads because the 45th president, by all indications, has engaged in obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense. 

The moment of truth is here. There is no turning back.

A comparison with Watergate and the current Congress offers perspective.

In the 93rd Congress (1973-1975) during Nixon’s second term, Democrats held both the Houses, with 242 Democrats to 193 Republicans in Congress, and 56 Democrats to 44 Republicans in the Senate. The House Judiciary Committee consisted of 38 members, 21 Democrats to 17 Republicans. By law, a simple majority is required for each article of a resolution to pass, including impeachment.

Six Republican Congressmen switched sides to join all 21 Democrats in the judiciary committee to recommend that Nixon be impeached through a Senate trial. The article of impeachment was adopted 27 to 11 in that historic vote, although Nixon quit before suffering through the ignominy.

In the 115th Congress (2017-2018), the numbers have flipped. There are 238 Republicans to 193 Democrats (with 4 vacancies) in Congress and 52 Republicans to 46 Democrats, with 2 Independents, in the Senate. The current House Judiciary Committee comprises 23 Republicans and 17 Democrats.

What is the possibility that history will repeat itself in 2017 or 2018? 

The twin bombshells - Trump spilling secrets to the Russians and asking Comey to drop the Flynn investigation - have changed the equation for the president. The combination of arrogance and ignorance, the 'damn care' attitude that has endeared him to his blind supporters, the impunity with which he flouts decency and the Rule of Law, has exceeded all bounds. The 'i' word is being sued more and more, and not just by Democrats like Maxine Waters of California, for whom the case for impeachment is clear as daylight.

Will the democrats have to wait until the midterm elections in 2018 to gain seats in the House to turn the tide? 

Not after the twin shockers. The ancient saying, “The wheels of justice grind slowly but exceedingly fine,” needs updating. When the damn breaks, there is nothing slow about it.

A national character test is upon us.

We like to believe that in America no one is above the law. To underscore our faith in that guiding principle, we add, “including the president of the United States.” It implies that if or when the moment of truth arrives, our lawmakers will put country before party.

Is this still true 241 years after the founding of our nation?

Consider what made some Republicans switch party allegiance during the Watergate hearings.

Caldwell Butler of Virginia explained it this way: “If we fail to impeach, we will have condoned and left unpunished a course of conduct totally inconsistent with the reasonable expectations of the American people …”

Lawrence Hogan, from Maryland and a former FBI agent, reasoned thus: “Richard M. Nixon has, beyond a reasonable doubt, committed impeachable offenses in an extended and extensive conspiracy to obstruct justice … The evidence convinces me that my President has lied repeatedly, deceiving public officials and the American people. Instead of cooperating with prosecutors and investigators … he concealed and covered up evidence.”

But it was Peter Rodino, the Democratic New Jersey Congressman and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, who summed it up best for the nation: “I have been guided by the principle that the law must deal fairly with every man. For me this is the oldest principle of democracy. It is this simple but great principle which enables man to live justly and in decency in a free society … Our judgment is not concerned with an individual but with a system of constitutional government … Let us leave the constitution as unimpaired for our children as our predecessors left it to us.”

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