March 30, 2018
A historic Week in Impeachment is not necessarily a good thing
by Barbara A. Radnofsky
The volume of impeachable conduct reported this week teaches how abnormal is the “new normal” of the Trump Administration; we are desensitized to overwhelming, harmful presidential maladministration that includes oppression, placing foreign interests above ours, violation of the Presidential Oath, and corruption, doing great harm to our country, society, and system of government.
First Charge: Oppression
- The president banned transgender soldiers from serving their country in the military. Representative Don Beyer called the move “cowardly.” Former secretary of defense Leon Panetta commented, “This is disgraceful. Trans troops are patriots, and deserve the right to serve this country. What a sad day for this nation’s history… They are there, serving their country and serving it well. It doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense to throw people of the service who are doing a good job.” (Source, source)
- The president appointed John Bolton national security advisor. Bolton is known for his direct involvement with “fake news powerhouse Gatestone Institute,” publishing false, defamatory reports concerning Muslim and immigrant communities. (Source)
- Bolton is also compromised by his Super PAC—whose largest donor is Robert Mercer—which has been named as an early client of the embattled data company Cambridge Analytica, having sought their services to manipulate voters and advance Bolton’s hardline agenda. (Source)
- The Trump Administration has proposed resurrecting a pre-Voting Rights Act census question as to respondents’ citizenship. The White House falsely claimed that the US Census has contained such a citizenship question (which experts consider both unconstitutional and harmful to proper redistricting, denying vital services by undercounting persons) for many preceding years. Senator Dianne Feinstein explained on Twitter, “The White House assertion that a question on citizenship has been asked on the census since 1965 is wrong. It hasn’t been included since 1950, and not once in the 53 years since the Voting Rights Act was passed.” (Source, source)
Second Charge: Placing foreign interests above those of the US, ignoring dangerous national security threats
- Despite revelations that DNC hacker Guccifer 2.0 appears to have been a Russian intelligence operative, the president continued his deference to Russia. Russian bots sowed massive discord during the hunt for the Austin bomber, creating content, including 1.4 million tweets, seen by hundreds of millions of social media users. (Source, source)
- Instead of truly penalizing Russia, the president put on a show, expelling diplomats “tit-for-tat,” an ineffective method that commentator Edward Luce has described as a “kabuki” approach. (Source)
- This week the President made known his contempt and criticism of Amazon, but had no words for Facebook, during a week bringing evidence that Facebook knew—since 2015—of Cambridge Analytica’s illegitimate data mining of 50 million US users, according to whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who came forward because “military-grade psychological operations have no place in democracies.” He described a shell corporation, majority owned by presidential supporter Robert Mercer, created to hide foreign actors and optics with the purpose of obscuring SCL Group, a military contractor with a tainted past. (Source, source)
- Media reported that Cambridge Analytica had, under the direction of Steve Bannon—who would go on to become Trump’s chief strategist—collected Facebook data on voter persuasion, with special focus on what would become Trump catchphrases, such as “drain the swamp” and “deep state.” (Source)
Third Charge: Breach of the president’s oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and to faithfully execute his office
- Speaking to Presidential desires for a line-item veto and told a line-item veto was ruled unconstitutional, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wrongly claimed, “Congress can pass a rule that allows them to do it,” then continued to insist that “there are different ways,” despite clear constitutional caselaw otherwise. (Source, source)
- Citing the gaffe, the Washington Post questioned whether a current cabinet level official could handle a crisis in a White House with continuing, record-setting turnover, mining “new levels of incompetence. Mnuchin would play a critical role in the next economic crisis. If he can’t get something so basic right, what chance does the country have when things get tough?” (Source)
Fourth Charge: Corruption, security breaches, incompetence, and chaos that endanger national security
- Ethics expert Norm Eisen neatly encapsulated a massive scandal of White House influence-peddling involving Saudia Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, writing on Twitter, “This is out and out corruption: a top Trump fundraiser whose giving buys him access to and influence over the administration and the President on behalf of a foreign government. Amazing too that both the donor and his conduit to the foreign leaders are convicted criminals.” (Source, source)
- Journalists reported that the president’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner, visiting Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman last October, had shared secret information from the Presidential Daily Brief, discussing by name specific people whom Kushner described as “disloyal” to the prince and “agitating against his succession.” The prince subsquently bragged that he had Kushner “in his pocket.” (Source)
- Shortly after Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, conceded he had met with the Qatari finance minister in April 2017 to discuss an investment deal, evidence emerged that Jared Kushner’s younger brother, Joshua Kushner, had met with the same minister the same week. Joshua Kushner was unsuccessfully pitching his tech fund — a failure attributed to the insignificance of Kushner’s initiative, since the Qatari fund in question typically makes no deals smaller than $300 million. (Source)
- The Wall Street Journal published a letter from David J. Apol, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, to Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) regarding White House attorneys examining whether two loans totaling more than $500 million to Jared Kushner’s family business may have violated any criminal laws or federal ethics regulations. The White House denied that Kushner was in trouble, with Press Secretary Sanders saying that lawyers are “not probing whether Jared Kushner violated the law.” Kushner’s private attorney said, “White House counsel concluded there was were no issues involving Jared.” (Source, source)
This week, NBC reported that the House committee charged with investigating Russian involvement in the 2016 election obtained either no or incomplete information about eighty-one percent of the known contacts between Trump officials and Russians, or groups and individuals with strong Russia ties like Wikileaks.
The House majority ignores numerous impeachable acts, any one of which would prompt recognition in headlines for harm to our country and cries for impeachment in presidencies past.
Barbara Ann Radnofsky is a mother, wife, teacher, mediator and arbitrator. A lawyer since 1979, she was the first woman Texas Democratic U.S. Senate nominee and later the first woman Texas Democratic Attorney General nominee. A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Houston and the University of Texas School of Law, she was honored as the Outstanding Young Lawyer of Texas in 1988 and has been listed for more than 25 years in “Best Lawyers in America" in multiple areas. She lives in Houston, where she is one of many co-owners of the Brazos Bookstore, and is the author of A Citizen’s Guide to Impeachment, available now. Follow her at @TXBarbaraAnn!