“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” –Presidential oath of office
Never mind the Mueller report and whether or not the President of the United States can be indicted for anything, including murder on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, as President Trump once proclaimed that he theoretically could get away with.
Evidently, he can get away with plenty—maybe even thumbing his nose at House of Representative subpoenas following up on the still-redacted Mueller report. Is that faithfully upholding and abiding by the Constitution, Mr. President? It’s clear from his impetuous, imperial behavior that Donald Trump possesses little knowledge of and even less regard for the Constitution, especially when its application thwarts his reckless agenda.
Consider, for instance, Trump’s various “border-crisis” remedies: abolish asylum, get rid of judges, reinstate separation of immigrant children from their parents, keep immigrants on the Mexican side of the border or detain them indefinitely in cages on the U.S. side. These policies apply only to brown immigrants. Crossing the border with Canada? No problem—unless you’re a Muslim from anywhere in the world.
Defiance of constitutional restraints on presidential power, handy tools in Trump’s playbook, are rife in Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Did he or his bumbling minions conspire with Russia to influence the election on his behalf. Is ignorance, incompetence and/or stupidity an excuse? Trump exhorted Russians on national TV to hack their way into Hillary Clinton’s email server. (They failed.) Trump subordinates, including his campaign chairman, attorney general, national security adviser, personal lawyer and assorted subordinates all lied about myriad contacts with Russian operatives.
On the second count of what would be a multi-count indictment under normal circumstances, the report cites 10 examples of apparent obstruction of justice. Most are familiar to us due to Trump’s overt acts, such as firing FBI director James Comey, or through stellar news reporting. “Fake news,” it turns out, emanates instead from the White House and Fox propaganda agents.
The lying and cover up continues in high places. The president says Congress has no right to subpoena his financial documents or the testimony of White House witnesses, when in fact it is the legislative branch’s constitutional duty. This presidential stonewalling is itself obstruction of justice.
Attorney General William Barr, previewing the release of Mueller’s redacted report, stated that it was evidence, not the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel policy, which led the special counsel to punt on recommending indictment of the president on obstruction of justice. Yet on page one of the obstruction volume, Mueller writes:
“The Office of Legal Counsel has issued an opinion finding that ‘the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting president would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions. . . .’ This office accepted OLC’s conclusion. . . .”
In other words, Mueller would have recommended prosecuting the president except for DOJ’s policy that no president can be indicted while in office.
The attorney general outright lied. Further, he repeatedly and incredibly stated there is no evidence—zero—of “collusion” with Russia, then offered the president an excuse on obstruction of justice. Trump, he said, was “frustrated and angry” when he committed acts that are classic definitions of obstruction. (Try that if you’re accused of, say, murder.) Suborning perjury, asking attorneys to place false statements in their files and firing a law-enforcement investigator, then trying to fire another are among Trump’s evident transgressions.
House Democrats rightfully demand the unredacted Mueller report and underlying evidence. But maybe they should consider impeaching Barr before he shuts down investigations Mueller spun off to New York and elsewhere. Impeaching Trump might elevate him as a political martyr after the Republican Senate predictably refuses to convict and remove him from office. By Tweet, Trump will proclaim “TOTAL EXONERATION!!!” all over again.
Meanwhile, besides the Trump presidency itself, what if we face a true national emergency? Trump owns the border crisis because he created it. Radio ads in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador cite the president’s rhetoric, warning prospective immigrants that it’s now or never to join a caravan. With the resources of the Department of Homeland Security wholly diverted to the southern border, who’s in charge of diverting a major terrorist attack, a la Sri Lanka, New Zealand or, God forbid, 9/11? How about the collapse of a denuclearization deal with North Korea that led Kim Jong-un to renew missile testing? And what if Vladimir Putin messes with the 2020 election? Have we learned nothing? Another term for our fake president might be fatal to democracy as we know it.
Steve Parks is a retired journalist now living in Easton.