Saturday, July 22, 2017

Is America on the Brink of a Constitutional Crisis?

In the first six months of his regime, Donald Trump and his Sergeant Schultz aping Vice President, Mike Pence (younger voters can Goggle "Hogan's Heroes" if they don't get the meaning), have more than lived up to my worse fears.  It is difficult to decide which is worse, the criminality, incompetence or corruption of this foul regime. Despite all of the frightening developments, evangelical Christians are standing by their f├╝hrer and confirming for all to see that they are morally bankrupt and place their racism, hatred of others, and desire for special rights under the smoke screen of "religious liberty" above the demands of the Gospels' social ministry message.  Now, they have delivered America where we are on the brink of a constitutional crisis which could well determine the fate of American democracy.  A piece in The New Republic looks at the danger point that we are rapidly reaching.  Here are highlights:
With President Donald Trump reportedly contemplating radical measures to defend his beleaguered administration from investigation, the United States stands on the brink of a constitutional crisis. According to The New York Times, Trump’s staff is trying to dredge up opposition research to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s legal team on the investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia in last election’s election interference. The Washington Post reports that Trump has inquired as to whether he can pardon associates, family members, and himself. And firing Mueller is a real possibility. As the New Republic’s Brian Beutler argued last night, there’s every indication that the Republican-controlled Congress will give a pass to these abuses of power, edging the American republic closer to authoritarianism. Bob Bauer, former White House Counsel to President Barack Obama, wrote Thursday on the blog Lawfare that Trump’s gambit would end the investigation and leave only impeachment as a remedy, with Trump counting on Republicans in the House and the Senate to support him no matter what. This could pay off if the Republicans stay in line ahead of the 2018 midterm elections: at worst, if the Democrats took back the House, Trump would be impeached, but would remain in power since Democrats won’t have the two-thirds votes necessary in the Senate to remove him. Last night, Emma Loop of BuzzFeed interviewed four Republican senators about whether firing Mueller would be a mistake. Only one, Marco Rubio of Florida, unequivocally said yes. All of this suggests that the constitutional crisis is also a political crisis. Democrats and the larger resistance needs to make Mueller the next big political battle. Defending the special counsel goes beyond defending one single investigation; it would be a proxy for a larger effort to guard the rule of law from a president with authoritarian aspirations. It would also be aimed at the Republican Party, letting them know that if they refuse to stand up to Trump’s thrashing of the rule of law, they will be held accountable at the election booth. It is time to make saving Mueller’s job the focus of a nationwide campaign. . . . If Trump fires Mueller before the Democrats can make it a national issue, then the public will be playing catch-up with the story. The better known Mueller is, the more costly his firing would be to Trump. Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is also thinking along these lines, suggesting that high-level Department of Justice officials be prepared to resign if Mueller is fired . . . Democratic representatives and senators can raise a fuss in the halls of Congress, forcing their Republican counterparts to defend Mueller’s job. If Republican lawmakers don’t take a stand, and Mueller is fired, they’ll be tainted as enablers in the next election.
Trump’s recklessness is raising the stakes, such that the only eventual remedy may be impeachment. The claims that Trump and his legal team are putting forward are already radical: that Trump can’t be charged with obstruction of justice because it’s in his power to terminate an investigation at any time.
Trump, if this account is accurate, is preparing to drive the political system over the cliff. Democrats must try to be the brakes, and they need to slam on them right now.

One historic parallel is the end of the Roman Republic when the Roman Senate allowed Octavian, who adopted the title Augustus Caesar, to  place himself above the law and become the first emperor. Frighteningly, most Congressional Republicans seem prepared to allow something similar to happen to America.  Yes, the trappings of the Congress and Senate would remain - just as they did under Augustus' take over of power - but true democracy will be dead.  

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