April 20, 2018
The Week in Impeachment: A president behind the curve — pushing us deeper into the abyss
by Barbara A. Radnofsky
This week brought presidential acts of war, attacks on all three branches of government, chaos, corruption, and evidence from James Comey, the former FBI Director fired by President Trump.
The media focused this week on several issues that appear to be Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s focus: Trump’s reasoning in firing Comey; the president’s role crafting a misleading public statement regarding the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son and Russians; his pardon-dangling to witnesses who could provide testimony damaging to him; and his pressuring of Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. In summary, the week brought new evidence the president’s willingness to abuse power in the interest of his exoneration.
The week brought new evidence of Executive Branch corruption, oppression, negligence, and incompetence. The President is directly and vicariously liable for all the harm this does — via impeachment.
And, to even further harm, the president continued to endanger our national security as, in the opinion of at least eighty-eight members of Congress, he violated the separation of powers as he ineffectively and illegally waged war against Syria with neither a plan nor Congressional authorization.
Consider the following examples from this week’s massive evidence of impeachable presidential misconduct that harms us.
First Charge: Interference with the administration of justice, vital processes, witnesses, and the rule of law
- The president undermined the work of Special Counsel Mueller, calling it “really a hoax created largely by the Democrats as a way of softening a loss.” (Source)
- Trump sent dog whistles to witnesses potentially tempted to cooperate with prosecutors. He used his power in pardoning Scooter Libby’s conviction for lying about outing of a CIA agent during the George W. Bush administration. California Representative Adam Schiff commented, “The president is sending a message, basically, ‘I will use the pardon power to pardon people even that have been convicted of leaking or obstruction of justice. If you’re with me I have your back.’” (Source)
- Trump deceived the public, denying the reasons he had earlier provided for his firing of Comey — the Russia investigation (which he again attacked as “phony”). (Source)
Second Charge: Presidential negligence, corruption, and breach of duty to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States
- The EPA violated multiple federal laws in paying for a soundproof booth connected to Adminstrator Scott Pruitt’s office, per the Government Accountability Office. (Source)
- After a visit to DC by a homebuilder group, Pruitt told EPA stuff to regard them as the Agency’s “customers.” The group had paid to put Pruitt up in a luxury hotel after the Trump administration began work on unwinding wetlands regulations, a major priority for the homebuilders. (Source)
- Reports indicated that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has overstated his qualifications—more than forty times—by claiming he is a “geologist.” He is not. As CNN’s Sara Ganim determined, “Someone with a 34-year-old degree who never worked in the field is not considered a geologist.” (Source)
Third Charge: Violating the separation of powers and endangering national security
- The president waged war without a Congressional authorization when he launched an attack on Syria. Lawmakers and Constitutional experts opined that the president’s actions—proceeding with no Congressional authorization—violated the Constitution, independent of the criticism that the president proceeded with no consistent or thoughtful plan. (Source, source, source)
- Senator Lindsey Graham stated after a Syria briefing from the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “Everything in that briefing made me more worried, not less. This makes no sense to me.” (Source)
- The president perpetuates chaos in foreign policy, preferring open and friendly relations with Russia, while his cabinet pushes through hawkish policies that go against his instincts and fuel remorse. Former White House official and current Georgetown professor Angela Stent explained, “The US essentially has three Russia policies: the president’s, the executive branch’s and Congress’s.” (Source)
- As G.W. Bush official David Frum wrote in the Atlantic, the Syria strike “sharply reversed Trump’s public statements only nine days before that the US would be ending its Syria role soon.” During critical times of decision-making on Syria, the president, distracted from foreign policy by his personal war against former FBI Director James Comey, congratulated himself for firing Comey, whom he labeled a “slime ball.” As Frum observed, “This president is not in command of himself…. Other and larger military decisions loom ahead: Iran, Korea, Afghanistan, and conceivably even confrontations with China. The person nominally in charge is in no psychic state for this office. His condition is deteriorating — and with that personal deterioration, there also deteriorates America’s security and standing in the world.” (Source)
- White House claims that the Syrian bombing was tailored to “avoid direct conflict with Russia” created confusion as to what warning Russia received in advance. The Pentagon said it had given no explicit warning, while the US ambassador to Russia said, “Before we took action, the United States communicated [with Russia] to reduce the danger of any Russian or civilian casualties.” (Source)
Fourth Charge: Personal profiting, corruption, and abuse of office for financial gain
- According to a McClatchy report, the president’s US businesses “have received at least $15.1 million in revenue from political groups and federal agencies since 2015…. It was Trump’s campaign itself that spent the biggest chunk by far — about ninety percent, or $13.4 million.” (Source)
Fifth Charge: Undermining and derogating the Legislative and Judicial Branches of government
- President Trump continued his derogation of Congress’s constitutional powers, as his top economist, National Economic Council head Larry Kudlow, criticized Congressional Budget Office projections that the Republican tax law would push the nation’s annual deficit over $1 trillion. “Never believe the CBO,” Kudlow said. “Very important: never believe them. They’re always wrong, especially with regard to tax cuts, which they never score properly.” The CBO’s projections are similar to others by organizations such as the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Tax Policy Center, Moody’s Analytics, and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. (Source)
- The Trump Administration is impairing the integrity of the judiciary via illegal queries as to political affiliation of potential judges. The Justice Department’s inspector general and internal ethics office reported that “both department policy and federal law prohibit discrimination in hiring for career positions on the basis of political affiliations.” (Source)
Sixth Charge: Oppression, neglect, and incompetence, violating the fundamental rights of US citizens in Puerto Rico
- The Executive Branch continued to oppressively ignore Puerto Rico, whose residents are full US citizens. On Wednesday, the territory, with a power grid that has remained unstable since Hurricane Maria last year, suffered an island-wide blackout. (Source)
- Democrats on the House’s Homeland Security Committee petitioned FEMA to have members of the US Army Corps of Engineers remain in Puerto Rico to rebuild the island’s electrical grid. They’re currently scheduled to leave on May 18th. House whip Steny Hoyer supported the call for the Army Corps to remain “until power is fully restored.” (Source, source)
James Comey’s evidence this week—that Trump, informed of the Russian attack on our electoral process, had no interest in protecting the US from future attacks—demonstrates the inability of our president to consider the interests of the United States; he cared only to spin his incorrect claim that the US intelligence community made some finding that Russian interference had not impacted the vote that put him into office. Trump asked only the question: “You found there was no impact in the result, right?” Despite being told there was no such analysis or finding, Trump tweeted the opposite.
His complete focus on his personal interests produces continued chaos, exemplified by withdrawn Russian sanctions, as well as in trade relations, with Trump giving mixed signals on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and economic policy, where the president has opined that both China and Russia “are playing the Currency Devaluation game as the U.S. keeps raising interest rates,” even while the Treasury Department declines to label China a currency manipulator.
This week’s tumultuous chaos—punctuated by the bewilderment of Senator Graham that a highest-level foreign policy briefing on the Syrian war “makes no sense to me”—gives hope that Congress recognizes its Constitutional duty to protect the country from further harm, and impeach.
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!