Saturday, December 17, 2016

Russiagate and Trump Impeachment

Article II, Section One, Clause 8:  the oath of office Donald Trump must take on January 20:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) 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."[1]
Note well this commentary on the oath: "This clause is one of several that employ the oath concept, but it is the only clause that actually specifies the language of an oath for a constitutional officer. While the Oaths Clause in Article VI simply requires the persons specified therein to "be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution," the Presidential Oath Clause requires much more than this general oath of allegiance and fidelity. This clause enjoins the President to swear or affirm that he "will to the best of [his] Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." "Essays on Article II: Oath of Office"

Keep in mind how strongly this oath charges the president as to his duty to defend our democracy as embodied in our Constitution.
Now let's look at the strange situation of Donald Trump and this oath he will take.

We begin with this photo of the fiing cabinet that GOP burglars jimmied open when they broke into the Democratic National headquarters in 1972. Next to the filing cabinet is the computer that the Russians hacked into in 2016. Does this picture foreshadow a soon-to-be end of  Donald Trump's presidency? Is Trump headed for impeachment even before he's sworn in?

That sounds comical. Impeachable before he's even president? Nevertheless he is indeed setting the stage for his impeachment even now and may tie the knot just by taking the oath. It is actually the oath that may entrap him because violating the oath is itself an impeachable offense. But first let's look at what you can call "Russiagate" or "Watergate 2", either being appropriate.

I'm not going to recount the details that the media has already covered.  According to both the CIA and the FBI, it's clear that Russia invaded our election with the intention of tipping the election to Donald Trump and did so under Putin's direction. This Putin-directed effort began with hacking the Democratic National Committee's computers just as the Nixon Watergate scandal and Nixon's subsequent impeachment also began with a break-in at the Democratic National headquarters prior to an election.

It doesn't matter whether the Russian break-in did in fact facilitate Trump's win. One can argue it didn't since he actually won the election in four nearly-adjoining Midwestern states that gave him the necessary electoral college majority. That's not the kind of win one would look for as a result of a nationwide smear campaign by the Russians against Hillary Clinton. In fact she beat Trump nationally by aterrific three milllion in the popular vote.

But none of that matters.

Because it doesn't matter whether the Russians succeed in helping Trump or not. What matters is the break-in and interference with our election. That is a hostile act equivalent to an armed attack on our nation. It's even worse than a violent attack, i.e. we recovered from 9-11 but an attack on our most basic component of democracy, our election process, could be an attack from which we never recover. Once people believe that foreigners are manipulating our elections, they may lose faith in our elections. If that happens, this country and its democracy are done for.

The Russians have to be called to account. They have to be punished for what they did. If they are not, they may try again or some other nation may try. Or some individual will try, as did a far-right Putin fan in England: How a Putin Fan Pushed Propaganda to Americans. If we don't fight to protect our institutions, we shall lose them.

The "we" who must fight to protect our institutions definitely includes Trump. As soon as he takes the oath of office, he is obliged to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution to the best of his ability. He can't shrug off the Russian attempt because he and his chief of staff believe it to be "ridiculous". Nor can he undercut or countermand any punishment the Congress or President Obama may now set in motion unless he replaces it with one as strong or stronger.

Nor can he relieve Russia of the sanctions already on it for its past bad acts now that we know of their present bad act.

Yet Trump's choice for Secretary of State is opposed to those existing sanctions.

And this may have been Putin's precise motive in trying to tip the scales to get Trump as president. He knew he would get the Exxon Oil president as Secretary of State, a man who has cut big-time oil deals with Putin. A man who is a big friend of Putin's. A man who who will take away nasty sanctions. And how could Putin know ahead of the election that Trump would give him Exxon Oil's Number One Man as Secretary of State? My guess is that he worked that out with Trump ahead of time.

This puts Trump into a very precarious position. At the very least he is in peril of impeachment if he doesn't punish Putin's current bad acts. Or will he follow the path that Putin and Exxon Oil have picked for him, one that would remove present sanctions and thus effectively reward an attack on our country instead of punish it? This smacks of giving aid and comfort to our enemy. And let's not kid ourselves. The Putin/Russian invasion of our election process was the equivalent of Pearl Harbor—a sneak attack most deadly. Russia has declared war on us. We have been dragged into the arena of cyberwar.

There really isn't time for President Obama to do somthing meaningful. His time of power is rapidly running out. He'd only be shaking his fist at Russia from the back of a train that's pulling out of the station.

This break-in will not just disappear in the next few weeks as a concern. (God help us, if it drops off our screen so quickly.) This is going to be on Trump's plate. And rightly so. He will be the one with the power to take action. Further—and by wonderful irony—these invaders are his chums. It's only fitting that he be the one to deal with them. What better way to send the world a message of "Hands off of U.S. elections" than by having the intended beneficiary of the wrong-doing have the humiliation of being the message bearer.

But to make things abundantly clear before our people and the world, there must be a proper investigation. Even the GOP leaders in Congress have called for an investigation. We need to know the extent of this hacking plot. If Trump or his team were in collusion with the Russians, that could be a treasonous criminal offence. A candidate from 2016 might be going to jail after all, and it won't be Hillary Clinton as Trump so outrageously threatened.

And if Trump was not involved in collusion but does not act to punish Russia? As I've said, that would be an impeachable offense, violating as it does the oath he will swear on January 20.

Meantime we have to keep this issue alive. We have to call (not email) our Congressional represenatives and Senators, urging them to investigate this hacking conscientiously. We must make it known that the American people are not about to tolerate an attack by Russia on the fundamentals of our democracy.

If Trump gets impeached over this, I shall rejoice. But what is important is that he be forced to make clear that he does not welcome outside help in elections from those who would gladly destroy us. He has to show the world that he can and will defend the Constitution and therefore they had better not mess with our fundamental institutions.

And now....It's all up to you. And your friends and your family. Make those phone calls. If you don't help save this country, who will?

"What kind of government have you given us, Doctor Franklin?" the woman asked as the founding fathers left the hall where they had promulgated the Constitution. Franklin replied," A republic, madam. If you can keep it."

Can you?

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