April 27, 2018
The Week in Impeachment: This president serves two groups of people. Who stands up for the rest?
by Barbara A. Radnofsky
President Trump’s incompetence was inadvertently captured this week by White House advisor Kellyanne Conway, who explained to CNN that President Trump stands up for two categories of people:
• His inner circle;
• People he knows.
It’s “completely not true” that Trump is only loyal to himself, Conway said. “He stands up for people in his inner circle and people he knows when he thinks they are being treated unfairly.”
What about the rest of our country — and the world in which we play a crucial part? Who stands up for people Mr. Trump doesn’t know, affected by his impeachable conduct, which this week included violations of the separation of powers, corruption, interfering with witnesses and other aspects of the administration of justice, oppression, incompetence, and endangerment of our national security? There’s a constitutional clause for that.
First Charge: Violation of the separation of powers
- Trump’s punitive policy on sanctuary cities was blocked by the judiciary, accompanied by a classic explanation of how our government should work. A Republican judge wrote, “The founders of our country well understood that the concentration of power threatens individual liberty and established a bulwark against such tyranny by creating a separation of powers among the branches of government. If the Executive Branch can determine policy, and then use the power of the purse to mandate compliance with that policy by the state and local governments, all without the authorization or even acquiescence of elected legislators, that check against tyranny is forsaken… Congress repeatedly refused to approve of measures that would tie funding to state and local immigration policies. Nor … did Congress authorize the Attorney General to impose such conditions. It falls to us, the judiciary, as the remaining branch of the government, to act as a check on such usurpation of power. We are a country that jealously guards the separation of powers, and we must be ever‐vigilant in that endeavor.” (Source)
Second Charge: Corruption through personal profiteering
- Former director of the US Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub analyzed a tweet by Trump in which he refers to his exclusive Florida club as the “Southern White House.” Shaub observed this was “part of the campaign to monetize the presidency. Unlikes the Mid-Atlantic White House, you can purchase unlimited access to the Southern White House and its chief occupant if you are willing to pay him $200,000 per year.” (Source)
Third Charge: Corruption reflected in the president’s responsibility for the appointment and retention of corrupt officers
- Former congressman, acting head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney told the American Bankers Association conference in Washington, “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.” As the New York Times wrote, he “implored the financial services industry to help support the legislative changes he has requested to diminish the bureau’s power by increasing campaign donations… Mr. Mulvaney said that trying to sway legislators that way was one of the ‘fundamental underpinnings of our representative democracy. And you have to continue to do it.’” (Source, source)
- Evidence emerged to contradict EPA head Scott Pruitt’s claims that his lobbyist landlord’s spouse had no clients with business before the EPA. In fact, the landlord’s husband was a registered lobbyist for Smithfield Foods in the first quarter of 2018. According to emails obtained by CBS News, Smithfield Foods executive Dennis Treacy met with Pruitt in July 2017. Former Obama official Norm Eisen stated that this misconduct was “not only a serious ethics violation by Pruitt — it raises serious questions about possible 18 USC 201 quid pro quo criminal liability. It must be investigated by DOJ.” (Source, source, source, source, source, source)
- The media reported on corruption and Hatch Act violations involving Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (Source)
Fourth Charge: Interference with the administration of justice, witnessing tampering, deceiving the public
- The president again attacked the legitimacy of the Robert Mueller investigation and key witness James Comey’s handling of contemporaneous notes concerning the Russia investigation. Trump, accusing Comey of “illegal leaking,” said the Special Counsel had been established by “illegal act,” and claimed the Comey memos “show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?” (Source)
- Representative Adam Schiff responded, “The memos do not discuss collusion, Mr. President, but they do show you clearing the room and asking Director Comey to drop the Flynn case. Along with your repeated requests for loyalty and to ‘lift the cloud,’ this is all evidence of potential obstruction.” (Source)
- Writer Greg Sargent opined in the Washington Post that the Comey memos, reflecting that Trump repeatedly demanded Comey’s loyalty and pressured him to drop the investigation into NSA director Mike Flynn, “confirm that Trump did, in fact, try to exert a level of control over his FBI director, and over an ongoing investigation into his and his cronies’ conduct, that is wildly at odds with norms dictating that law enforcement should be free of political and/or presidential interference.” He also observes the unusual “level of acquiescence that Trump wanted but did not get from Comey before firing him. These memos go further than before in supplying Trump’s likely motive for the firing.” (Source)
- This week brought evidence of the president placing the protection of his personal interest in exoneration above the administration of justice, when Trump told advisers it’s not the right time to remove either Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or Special Counsel Mueller, since he’s not a target of the probes. (Source)
- On Thursday, the president attacked the Justice Department, going further in his overt attempts to interfere with the administration of justice: “You look at the corruption at the top of the FBI, it’s a disgrace. And our Justice Department — which I try and stay away from, but at some point I won’t…” (Source)
Fifth Charge: Oppression of the free press, racial groups, and immigrants
- The president attacked respected New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman with falsehoods. (Source)
- He also referred to Meet the Press host Chuck Todd as “sleepy eyes,” which has been described as “an anti Semitic term that was and is still used by neo-nazis groups relating to ‘how to spot a Jew.’” Todd is Jewish. (Source)
- Trump used racist and other hate-mongering language this week, resorting to the racial insults used by white supremacists in accusing immigrants of “infesting” and “breeding in” US cities. (Source)
Sixth Charge: Presidential incompetence and oppression around DACA
- A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that the Trump Administration’s inadequate rationale for ending DACA—that states might sue, with chaos possibly ensuing—was “egregious,” particularly “because it didn’t mention that many of the hundreds of thousands covered by the program had obtained jobs and pursued education based on the assumption that they would be allowed to renew.” Ongoing harm was highlighted — in the words of National Immigration Forum executive director Ali Noorani, ending the program would have made it “likely that many will lose their work authorization, get fired from their jobs and be at risk for deportation.” (Source, source)
Seventh Charge: Presidential incompetence and lying, endangering national security
- The Comey memos report Trump’s denial that he stayed overnight in Russia for the Miss Universe pageant. Witnesses and plane records show Mr. Trump did spend the night in Russia. (Trump’s claim he did not stay overnight, if true, would have bolstered his argument that Russia could have no compromising surveillance photos.) Late this week, President Trump claimed Mr. Comey had falsified the reports of his denials he’d spent the night; “of course,” the President now claims, he spent the night. (Source, source)
- The president has been using a personal cell phone with increasing frequency, evading oversight by law enforcement and endangering national security, in addition to robbing future historians of important materials. (Source)
Conclusion: Who stands up for the people Trump doesn’t know?
This week, the Judiciary stepped up to assert its role in our constitutional system of checks and balances — to speak out against oppressive executive conduct against US cities and the people living in them.
On the other hand, the president remains unchecked in his continued embrace of corrupt appointees and as he interferes with the work—and the witnesses—of the special prosecutor, whose job includes investigating and reporting for possible future action, including possible actions in the criminal justice system and in Congress (which has powers to check the president that include the use of hearings, legislation, and impeachment). The president continues his campaign of oppression against a variety of targets, including the media reporting stories he hates and racial and religious groups he cannot tolerate. The president’s lying and incompetence further endanger our republic.
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!