The question is no longer whether there are grounds to impeach Donald Trump. It is when enough Republicans will put their loyalty to America ahead of their loyalty to their party.
Trump’s statements last week about his firing of former FBI director James Comey provide ample evidence that Trump engaged in an obstruction of justice – a major charge in impeachment proceedings brought against Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton.
It’s worth recalling that the illegality underlying Nixon’s impeachment was a burglary at the Watergate complex, while the illegality underlying Clinton’s was lying to a grand jury about sex with an intern in the White House.
Trump’s obstruction is potentially far more serious. It involves an investigation about whether Trump or his aides colluded with Russia in rigging a presidential election – the most direct assault on American democracy in history,
Last Thursday, in an interview with NBC News’s Lester Holt about his firing of Comey, Trump said: “I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.” Trump also said that he had pressed Comey during a private dinner to tell him if he was under investigation.
Trump conceded that the ongoing investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election, which includes a probe into the possibility that Moscow was coordinating with the Trump campaign, was one of the factors Trump considered before firing Comey.
“In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won,’ ” Trump said.
The law is reasonably clear. If Trump removed Comey to avoid being investigated, that’s an obstruction of justice – an impeachable offense.
On Friday, Trump tweeted that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
Here, the law is also clear. Seeking to silence, intimidate or even influence someone who is likely to offer evidence in a congressional or criminal proceeding is also an obstruction of justice – and an impeachable offense.
As a practical matter, though, nothing will happen until a majority of the House decides on bringing a bill of impeachment. Which means, under the present congress, twenty-two Republicans would have to join with House Democrats to put enough pressure on the Speaker of the House to allow such a bill to be considered.
The odds of this occurring in this Congress, under present circumstances, are approximately zero.
So – barring a “smoking gun” that shows Trump’s complicity with Russian operatives in interfering in the 2016 election – Trump’s fate seems to hinge on the midterm elections of 2018.
Those elections are less than eighteen months away. That’s a long time in American politics. Under a Trump presidency, that’s an eternity.
But there’s another possibility.
In my experience, most elected politicians have two goals – to do what they consider to be the right things for the American public, and to be reelected (not necessarily in that order).
If Trump’s poll numbers continue to plummet – particularly among Republicans and Independents – twenty-two House Republicans may well decide their chances for being reelected are better if they abandon him before the 2018 midterms.
Paul Ryan and the House Republican leadership might make a similar calculation, at least enough to put a bill of impeachment on the table.
Most House Republicans prefer Vice President Mike Pence to Donald Trump anyway. As one said to me several months ago, “Pence is a predictable conservative. Trump is an unpredictable egomaniac. Most of us are more comfortable with the former.”
There’s a good chance Trump’s polls will continue to fall. First, he’s shown to be his own worst enemy. Even when things are going reasonably well, he seems bizarrely intent on stirring controversy – and saying or tweeting things that get him into trouble.
There’s also a matter of the economy. The expansion that began in 2009 is getting long in the tooth. If history is any guide, we’re due for a slowdown or recession. And justified or not, presidents get blamed when Americans lose jobs.
Donald Trump doesn’t have the character or the temperament to be president of the United States. But this obvious fact isn’t enough to get him fired.
He’ll be fired when enough Americans decide they can’t abide him anymore.
Then, maybe in an impeachment proceeding, it will come out that Trump did something incredibly stupid – like give a nod of approval to one of his campaign bottom feeders like Roger Stone to tell a Russian operative to go ahead with their plan to interfere in the 2016 election.
The House impeaches. The Senate convicts. That’s the end of Trump.
Donald Trump is mad because he is failing as president, and he is considering firing his Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Steve Bannon, White House counsel Don McGahn, press secretary Sean Spicer and anyone else he can find. Trump is also angry at his own cabinet.
At the urging of longtime friends and outside advisers, most of whom he consults after dark, President Trump is considering a “huge reboot” that could take out everyone from Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon, to counsel Don McGahn and press secretary Sean Spicer, White House sources tell me.
Trump is also irritated with several Cabinet members, the sources said.
“He’s frustrated, and angry at everyone,” said one of the confidants.
Trump is also angry at his own cabinet because he thinks his cabinet secretaries are tooting their own horns too much and not praising him enough. Trump is mad at Jeff Sessions for stepping on son in law Jared Kushner’s toes on criminal justice reform. He blames HHS Secretary Tom Price for the slow pace of the health care bill, and Commerce Secretary Ross for taking victory laps.
As a historian, it is difficult if not impossible to teach American history, without at least one student each semester asking in wide-eyed incredulity, the same damning question. “How could slavery have existed and flourished in the Antebellum South, given that it was so inimical to the democratic values upon which American society was built?”
In attempting to answer that question, one finds clear parallels between Southern slaveholders who found nothing wrong with slavery, and, Donald Trump and today’s GOP.
But please don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that Trump’s bungling, his treasonous ties to Russia or brutal immigration policy might in any way add up to the unspeakable evils of slavery. But what I am suggesting is this. The people who make the biggest moral claims are invariably the ones who accept the most jaw-dropping moral compromises. It was the well-mannered, genteel Southern aristocracy, who examined naked slaves on the auction block like beef heifers, sold slave children from their mothers when money was tight, or worked the field hands until they dropped dead in the cotton fields. Their Confederate Christianity accepted the status quo, as did their confederate moral sense of right and wrong. Their confederate schools taught them to disparage reason in favor of pseudo-scientific theories about racial hierarchies, where the universe placed them at the top and their slaves at the bottom. These people lived in a confederate world so jerry-built on fakery and filled with lies that they truly believed the slaves loved their station in life, and would take the Confederate’s side when the Civil War erupted.
Trump’s presidency is an abomination of a different sort. But like the confederacy of old, it too is built on fakery and flim-flam. The man is a corrupt businessman, who has bankrupted every business he started. It appears that he became entangled in money laundering for the Russian mob when American banks would no longer lend to him. International intelligence reports claim that he has been compromised by Russian President Vladimir Putin. And yet the Republicans in Congress as well as his supporters have refused ever since Trump entered the presidential campaign to demand that he release his income tax returns. The daughter and son-in-law are selling their wares from the White House porch. This is the behavior of a crime family. The “First Lady” refuses to move in, knowing that her husband, who is on tape as a “pussy grabber” will probably be serving penitentiary time before she even has a chance to hang the gold-threaded curtains in the bathroom. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Speaker Mitch McConnell know that Trump is a pathological liar as do the other members of the GOP. They realize that he is precipitating a constitutional crisis by attempting to obstruct the FBI’s investigation of Trump’s collusion with the Kremlin. But they tiptoe around everything, the dishonesty, disrespecting the rule of law, compromising the government of the United States for the sake of the Russians.
My point here is that Trump’s supporters, the Republican controlled Senate and House of Representatives, didn’t just pop out of nowhere. They’ve merely been in the background, waiting for an opportunity to be heard. This is neo-confederate America. Anti-immigrant nativism, plays a role and police state racism. But the larger picture is one of authoritarianism, a yearning for fascism, a strong man dictatorship. That is the true legacy. It is a fake worldview, whose means of validating what is true are whatever lies are most comforting. Politically it could hardly be compared with slavery. But in all the ways that human beings are able to distinguish what is decent and good from what is dishonest and corrupt it is the same epistemological system, that is “way of knowing” that the Confederacy used to justify slavery. America’s mistake in fighting so valiantly to end slavery was in refusing to take the next step after winning the Civil War. That would have been dismantling the Confederacy’s deeply-ingrained but fake truth system.
New York (CNN) A major US investigation into Russian money laundering has come to an abrupt end.
The case aimed to expose how Russian mobsters allegedly stole $230 million and hid some of the cash in New York City real estate. Also sure to come up was the suspicious death of the Russian lawyer who exposed the alleged fraud, though US prosecutors weren’t alleging that the defendants were behind it.The trial was set to start on Monday, but late Friday night, federal prosecutors in New York announced they settled the case with Prevezon, the company accused of buying up “high-end commercial space and luxury apartments” with laundered money.The abrupt conclusion has some involved in the trial wondering why this Russian investigation had been cut short.“What most concerns me is: Has there been any political pressure applied in this?” asked Louise Shelley, an illicit finance expert who was set to testify in support of the US government on Tuesday.
Shelley — who founded George Mason University’s Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center — said the alleged money launderers got off easy.“I think they won something. There’s no recognition of wrongdoing,” she said.The US Attorney’s office did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.In the settlement, Prevezon and its business associates did not acknowledge any wrongdoing, and the government agreed to “release” them all from any future lawsuits in connection with this case.The case against Prevezon was a civil matter, so the federal government’s inherent goal was to recover money. That it did.The $5.9 million settlement is three times the value of the $1.9 million in supposedly laundered money tied to funds stolen from the Russian state coffers. But it’s far less than the value of Prevezon’s real estate in Manhattan — which Shelley estimates at $17 million — that had been partially acquired with those allegedly laundered funds.
Russia’s largest ever tax fraudThe alleged fraud behind the Prevezon case goes back a decade. According to US investigators, corrupt Russian government officials allegedly teamed up with a powerful Russian organized crime organization to pull off that country’s largest ever tax fraud.Russian crime rings often use identity theft to file fake tax refunds. In this case, the government says that the defendants essentially did that on a grand scale: allegedly stealing the corporate identity of Hermitage Capital Management, an investment firm in Russia. According to the complaints, the defendants then allegedly created fake losses, claimed fake tax refunds — and made off with the stolen rubles.Hermitage’s lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, exposed the alleged fraud — and was later jailed by the very investigators he fingered in the plot. He was tortured and killed in prison, according to Russia’s own Presidential Human Rights Commission. The Russian government insists that Magnitsky, age 37, died of a heart failure with no signs of violence.The conspirators allegedly laundered the illicit cash through shell companies, luxury cars, real estate around the world, and international bank accounts.But without a trial, the illicit money trail remains unproven to the public.The settlement allowed both sides to still claim a victory.Prevezon said this is proof it did nothing wrong. In a statement, the firm said: “From the outset, Prevezon and its owner Denis Katsyv have maintained their innocence and have repeatedly stated that they had no involvement in or knowledge of any fraudulent activities and never received any funds from any criminal activity.”Prevezon claimed prosecutors “brought this case without conducting any independent investigation, relying exclusively on the claims of William Browder,” the head of Hermitage.Meanwhile, American prosecutors claimed this served as a deterrent for future money launderers.“We will not allow the U.S. financial system to be used to launder the proceeds of crimes committed anywhere — here in the U.S., in Russia, or anywhere else,” acting Manhattan US Attorney Joon H. Kim said in a statement.The case had initially been brought by US Attorney Preet Bharara, but he was fired by President Donald Trump in March.Bharara congratulated the prosecutors on Twitter late Friday night: “Congrats to Joon & team in Russian money laundering case (underlying fraud uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky, died suspiciously in Moscow jail).”There was one witness set to testify at the trial who had a very personal connection to the case: Jamison Firestone, whose law firm partner was Magnitsky.On Saturday, Firestone lamented that details about the Russian government, mobsters and investors who allegedly received these funds won’t be aired at trial.“I wanted this all to come out,” he told CNN on Saturday. “The embarrassing stuff exposes the Russian government’s entire money laundering machine.”But Firestone said this settlement is one step closer to justice. Estonia, the UK, and the US have already adopted “Magnitsky laws” to sanction Russians connected to the fraud. This settlement is the first time a court in the West has forced someone allegedly involved in the money laundering to pay up.“We’re just going to keep doing this until we expose them all,” he told CNN. “These people may escape prosecution as long as the Putin government stands, but it won’t stand forever. Putin is going to die before they do, and hopefully they will die in tiny prison cells like Sergei Magnitsky did.”
A bombshell report from the Washington Post claims that even President Donald Trump’s most trusted aides and confidants are “bewildered and alarmed” by his recent behavior. One GOP insider fretted that the president appears to be “in the grip of some kind of paranoid delusion” as he thrashes around for someone to blame for the tsunami of criticism generated by his abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey.
“The aftermath” of Comey’s firing, wrote the Post‘s Philip Rucker, “is a presidency rocked by its most serious self-inflicted crisis yet, exposing dysfunction and distrust within his West Wing and imperiling his agenda. The momentum for the health-care bill that passed the House is gone, and a week scheduled to be devoted to Trump’s preparations for a high-stakes foreign trip was overtaken by distractions and fury.”
He continued, “Across Washington, Trump’s allies have been buzzing about the staff’s competence as well as the president’s state of mind. One GOP figure close to the White House mused privately about whether Trump was ‘in the grip of some kind of paranoid delusion.’”
Trump threw caution to the wind in his abrupt firing of Comey, counting on the enmity the former FBI director earned from Democrats in the 2016 election to pad the blow with regards to public opinion. Instead the firing has generated the largest firestorm the administration has faced thus far, a circumstance that Trump blames on the White House press shop, led by Communications Director Michael Dubke and Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
“This was the first major crisis or test they’ve had, and it looks like a lot of systems failed,” said Trump ally and CEO of the right-wing news site Newsmax.com Chris Ruddy. “My experience with the president is when he sees failure, he quickly adapts and tries new things. He’s not a guy that keeps the same ol’.”
“The system may be failing, but it is Trump who is picking which buttons to press,” countered Rucker. “The president takes pride in being the ultimate decision-maker, for matters large and small. And chaos has been a hallmark of Trump’s enterprises, from his family real estate empire to his presidential campaign, a 16-month venture during which he cycled through three leadership teams.”
“White House aides have felt bewildered and alarmed by how Trump arrives at his decisions — often on impulse and emotion and sometimes by rejecting the counsel of those around him — and how he then communicates those decisions to his personnel and the public,” the Post said. “Trump is in some ways like a pilot opting to fly a plane through heavy turbulence then blaming the flight attendants when the passengers get jittery.”
“The Comey firing is just the most dramatic example of a White House that is completely dysfunctional, the most chaotic in modern history,” said historian and author Chris Whipple. “Reince Priebus has made rookie mistake after rookie mistake. But, ultimately, it’s fundamentally on Donald Trump. A chief of staff can do very little to make the White House function if he’s not empowered by his president. That simply has not happened.”
The dysfunctional press shop is catching the blame for the fact that Democratic leader and fierce Trump critic Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) organized a press conference, handed out talking points and conducted a unified media assault on the Comey firing while the White House press shop was in complete disarray.
“They were running around like chickens with their heads cut off,” said a White House official who asked not to be named. “There was no leadership, no ‘get your troops in a room, and issue orders and execute.’”
“Some of Trump’s allies said they are worried that the president views the Comey episode entirely as a public-relations crisis — a branding problem — and has not been judicious about protecting himself from legal exposure as the FBI continues to investigate possible links between his campaign and Russia,” Rucker wrote.
“Trump is so unsophisticated about government, and he lacks even basic knowledge about how the government functions, of what the unwritten but very important rules and traditions are. His attitude toward all those things is they don’t matter: ‘I’m going to drain the swamp!’” said on Republican official.
In the growing chaos around Trump’s administration — and heightened demands for an independent counsel to examine Trump’s possibly criminal dealings with Russia — this dismissive attitude is unlikely to serve Trump or his administration well.
Early Friday morning, Donald Trump, the so-called President of the United States, tweeted out to the world, a public threat to former FBI Director James Comey. Like a thug from a gangster movie, Trump told Comey, whom he’d fired days before, that Comey had better keep quiet—or else.
As most of the country and the world know by now, James Comey was leading the FBI investigation into Trump’s ties to Vladimir Putin and Russia during the 2016 Election, which influenced and possibly hacked America’s vote and democracy. Here is Trump’s tweet threatening James Comey.
“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
So, what’s on the tapes Trump doesn’t want anyone to hear? Once again, he looks to be incriminating himself. More will be revealed (Hopefully, it will be what’s on those tapes).
Within the same hour, Trump threatened to withhold “press briefings” with our country’s media, that would keep the press from challenging/disputing him and his press agents live. Perhaps he thinks that would be the trick to keep him from being caught in a continuous sea of lies? It won’t work, but the dangerous audacity to suppress the press never fails to stun.
“…Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future “press briefings’ and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy?”
During the same hour, Trump implied, once again, that the investigation about his ties to Russia was a total hoax. He tweets this after a meeting with a Russian foreign minister, a meeting that was closed off to the American press, but open to the Russian press. I’ll write that again. It was closed to American press and open to Russian press.
This all follows a tweet from yesterday of Trump stating Russia must be laughing at America as we “tear ourselves apart over a lost election. The Leecher of the Free World tweets out to the world like someone having a couple beers with his buddies.
“Russian must be laughing up their sleeves as the U.S. tears itself apart over a Democratic excuse for losing the election.”
But perhaps one of the most frightening tweets Trump made within the last day was stating he had just signed an Executive Order to put “integrity” back into the election system—the same system he is being investigated for rigging. Who better to further corrupt our democracy?
“Presidential Executive Order on the Establishment of Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.”
The above are tweets of a man who still thinks he’s the host of a reality show, except the show is the United States. He continues to embarrass himself and America—while posing a grave danger to the world as being a deceitful, ego-driven, loose cannon.
It’s time for a People’s March of millions, 10-20 times the size or more of January’s Women’s March, to nonviolently demand his resignation and send a message out to Trump, his cronies and the world that this country belongs to the American people. We will not be held hostage by a man, an administration and a Republican leadership who have zero respect for the people, and who are destroying our democracy—right before our very eyes.
The madness must stop.