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COMMENTARY

Ready for President Pelosi? Trump and Pence Could Both Go Down in Unprecedented Impeachment

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So, now that we know that Donald Trump and Mike Pence reached the White House through at least two specific and separate criminal conspiracies, what do we do about it?

Can they be removed from office? Can the election be done over? Can the Trump/Pence administration’s actions over the past two years be reversed, particularly the appointments of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court and all the damage to our federal agencies?

According to federal court filings last week from the Southern District of New York, and from the Special Counsel’s office, Donald Trump and Michael Cohen criminally conspired to hide from the American people the fact that Trump had sexual relations immediately after the birth of his son Baron with both Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, and that his affair with McDougal lasted about a year.

Had Republican voters known about those affairs long before Trump gained the momentum he did during the period of the cover-up, Trump wouldn’t have become the GOP’s nominee and would now be back to playing the roles of a faux billionaire and a reality TV star.

Similarly, those same court filings tell us that even after Trump won the GOP’s nomination for president, he continued to negotiate with the Russian government to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Presumably construction would begin right after he lost the election of 2016, which is fully what he expected: he hadn’t even bothered to write an acceptance speech.

That Moscow property would have brought him, according to the court filings, “hundreds of millions of dollars” in net revenues, probably more than any other project he’d ever engaged in. It would finally make him financially secure.

And, because it was going to be financed by a Russian bank that’s under sanctions, and both Cohen and Manafort were expecting to get a cut of the action, they led his campaign to corruptly change the GOP’s platform to go soft on the Russians. The goal was to end the sanctions so they could move forward with the Moscow construction right after the elections.

In exchange for Trump Tower Moscow, it appears that either Russian oligarchs (who were presumably in on the Trump Tower Moscow deal) and/or the Russian government itself (which quite reasonably wanted the sanctions lifted) set out, at Trump’s explicit and public request, to help Trump.

They hacked the DNC and took down Hillary Clinton, both with the WikiLeaks revelations and a widespread social media campaign, which also constituted an illegal campaign contribution and further ensnared the Trump/Pence campaign in a campaign finance crime.

All of this adds up to Trump and Pence holding control of the Executive Branch of government fraudulently; the rightful claimant to the White House is Hillary Clinton, and the rightful claimant of Scalia’s SCOTUS seat is Merrick Garland.

Trump not only knew about these frauds but, according to the court filings, directed at least the sexual cover-up.  We’re still waiting to hear the details of Trump’s involvement in altering the GOP’s platform to benefit the Russians, but it strains credulity that Trump didn’t know about this, if not being the force behind it.

Meanwhile, Mike Pence – who ran the transition into the White House – either knew or, with even a small bit of competence and common sense, should have known but was looking the other way.  Thus, he’s complicit, legally and/or morally and politically.

We don’t yet know all the dirt that Mueller and company have on Trump, but just these two things that Trump successfully hid from the electorate – that he was porking porn stars and Playboy bunnies prior to the primaries, and that he was negotiating with the Russians right through the first half of the general election – mean that he committed two separate massive frauds to become president.

If he had not committed that fraud, he would never have become the GOP nominee and, even if he had won the nomination through some inexplicable miracle, he and Pence would not have squeaked through the Electoral College with about 70,000 votes spread over three or four states. Hillary Clinton would be president, but for Trump and Pence’s fraud.

So, what do we do?

The Framers of the Constitution had such confidence in the “wise elders” of the Electoral College that they didn’t even envision such a scenario, so there’s no mention of such a situation in the Constitution.  And, while courts have ordered that elections be done over on numerous occasions all over the country, I can’t find a single case of that happening years after the initial election. (If you know of one, please let me know!)

As to solutions, it’s remotely possible that the election of Trump and Pence could be challenged in federal court.

In the Federal District Court case of Donohue v Board of Elections (1976), Judge Mishler wrote in his decision that ordering a new election is within the purview of the courts, and that this has been done in the past.  He wrote:

“The point, however, is not that ordering a new Presidential election in New York State is beyond the equity jurisdiction of the federal courts. Protecting the integrity of elections, particularly Presidential contests, is essential to a free and democratic society. See United States v. Classic, supra.

“It is difficult to imagine a more damaging blow to public confidence in the electoral process than the election of a President whose margin of victory was provided by fraudulent registration or voting, ballot-stuffing or other illegal means. Indeed, entirely foreclosing injunctive relief in the federal courts would invite attempts to influence national elections by illegal means, particularly in those states where no statutory procedures are available for contesting general elections.

“Finally, federal courts in the past have not hesitated to take jurisdiction over constitutional challenges to the validity of local elections and, where necessary, order new elections. The fact that a national election might require judicial intervention, concomitantly implicating the interests of the entire nation, if anything, militates in favor of interpreting the equity jurisdiction of the federal courts to include challenges to Presidential elections.”

But this case from December 7, 1976 was a futile attempt by the GOP to prevent New York State from casting its electoral votes for Jimmy Carter (thus handing the presidency to George HW Bush) before the swearing in of Carter in January, 1977; it wasn’t an effort to reverse an election that had already been decided and the candidate had been sworn into office.

Additionally, such a case could take years and would certainly end up before the Supreme Court; given the current composition of the Supreme Court, it’s hard to imagine that they’d invalidate Trump’s “victory” and possibly remove two of their own from the Court.

But there is a constitutional route that can be taken by Congress, via impeachment.

In January, Nancy Pelosi will become the Speaker of the House.  As such, should the nation lose its president and vice-president to impeachment, we’d have President Pelosi.  It wouldn’t reverse the damage the GOP and Trump/Pence have done, but it would be a start.

The key is to illuminate Mike Pence’s role in Trump’s frauds, so both men succumb to impeachment in the House, and conviction and removal from office by the Senate.

The level of criminality engaged in by Donald Trump, his family, his campaign, and his “fixer/lawyer” is broad and sweeping, consistent with lifetime patterns of criminality on all of their parts (and we still have more to learn).

To imagine that Mike Pence didn’t know about this, or at least suspect it, is simply inconceivable, making him an accessory to those crimes – as well as being the principle secondary beneficiary of those crimes.

As evidence that Pence was complicit or knowledgeable, or should have been, comes to the fore, an impeachment effort must include both men.  The nation can no easier withstand the incompetence of a corrupt former right-wing talk show host (Pence) than a corrupt former reality TV star and real estate con man.

And that evidence must be strong enough that it’ll overcome the concerns of nearly a dozen Republican senators, so both Trump and Pence are removed from office.

Nothing less than the integrity of our nation and the survival of democracy are at stake.

Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr and a CC license

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COMMENTARY

Trump Mocked for Melting Down Over Gen. Colin Powell Endorsing Biden: ‘Cadet Bone Spurs Says What?’

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As might be expected, Donald Trump did not care for the comments made by former Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell on CNN Sunday morning — including his endorsement of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States, so the president lashed out on Twitter.

With Powell calling out the president for his treatment of Gold Star families and accusing the president of being a “liar,” Trump tweeted back, ”Colin Powell, a real stiff who was very responsible for getting us into the disastrous Middle East Wars, just announced he will be voting for another stiff, Sleepy Joe Biden. Didn’t Powell say that Iraq had ‘weapons of mass destruction?’ They didn’t, but off we went to WAR!

That received quite a bit of pushback from commenters with one bluntly stating, “You couldn’t shine Powell’s shoes.

You can see some other responses below:

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COMMENTARY

Trump Blames Obama for Iran Attack Then Takes Credit for Obama’s Accomplishments in Off-the-Rails Address to the Nation

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After three years there were likely few Americans hoping for some form of comfort from President Donald Trump’s address to the nation Wednesday in the wake of Tuesday night’s attack by Iran on air bases in Iraq that host thousands of U.S. Military troops. And President Trump, true to form, did not offer any.

The President descended as if from heaven (photo above) onto a stage filled with his military generals and advisors,

Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. A clear attempt to show strength which the administration apparently felt the Commander-in-Chief could not summon if he appeared on camera alone. A sad statement.

“As long as I’m president of the United States Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon,” Trump, out of breath, declared as he walked up to the podium, flanked by his men in uniform. He then said: “Good morning.”

President Trump was expected to give Americans hope and comfort, and a clear indication that they are safe from attack.

Instead, he tried to show strength through military might – with no suggestion diplomacy might be a better route.

And he lied.

A lot.

“The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration,” Trump claimed, blaming President Barack Obama in a speech watched around the world.

“Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013,” Trump claimed. (It was actually 2015.)

He added, “they were given $150 billion, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash.  Instead of saying ‘thank you’ to the United States, they chanted ‘death to America.’  In fact, they chanted ‘death to America’ the day the agreement was signed.”

Those billions belonged to Iran, and reportedly were less than the numbers Trump quoted. They were Iranian funds frozen which had been paid to the U.S. for arms never delivered. It is a frequent trump lie he tells at rallies over and over.

“Then, Iran went on a terror spree, funded by the money from the deal, and created hell in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq,” Trump claimed  in his address to the nation – and to the world. “The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.  The regime also greatly tightened the reins on their own country, even recently killing 1,500 people at the many protests that are taking place all throughout Iran.”

“The very defective JCPOA [the “Iran deal”] expires shortly anyway,” Trump said. That’s just false – another lie Trump often tells. Various parts expire between 2025 and 2030.

He claimed the JCPOA “gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout,” which again is false.

After falsely blaming Obama for Iran’s attack he went on to take credit for Obama paving to road to energy independence.

“Over the last three years, under my leadership, our economy is stronger than ever before and America has achieved energy independence.  These historic accomplishments changed our strategic priorities.  These are accomplishments that nobody thought were possible.”

Again, false.

Here’s CNN’s Keith Boykin with graphs showing just how false Trump’s energy independence remarks were:

 

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COMMENTARY

Legal Expert Makes the Case for Trump to Resign — but Why Have So Few Others Demanded He Step Down?

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In a new op-ed for CNN, constitutional law professor F. Michael Higginbotham argued Friday that President Donald Trump should resign from office.

Higginbotham argued in the op-ed that President Richard Nixon’s resignation in the face of his own impeachment could be seen to represent, despite his grave abuses, “an act of patriotism.”

Nixon “protected not only his own historical legacy but also the country he had taken an oath to serve,” Higginbotham wrote. “Donald Trump should follow suit.”

He continued:

Trump should resign so the country can begin the process of healing. The divisions in the country today are even more corrosive than they were in 1974. That’s why it’s even more important that Trump emulate the best of Richard Nixon, who, in a rare moment of grace, understood he could only weaken the nation he led by focusing solely on himself, and chose the better path.

In President Trump’s acceptance speech of the Republican nomination at the Republican National Convention in 2016, he told the nation, “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” While many mocked the hubris behind that claim, at this moment of national danger it is undoubtedly true: Trump alone can spare the nation the painful ordeal of an impeachment trial in the Senate.

While Trump is written about extensively every single day, such calls are relatively few. For all the tumult, investigation, and fierce partisanship Trump’s presidency has produced, it’s produced surprisingly sparse demands for his resignation. Even as Trump has been impeached by the House of Representatives, and top newspapershave called for the president’s removal, the other option — the only way a president has actually been ousted from office via the impeachment process — remains woefully under-discussed. And though Democrats have occasionally called for the resignation of administration officials such as Attorney General Bill Barr and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, they seem hesitant to take the same step for the president himself. Instead, they often call on him to stop creating division and “lead” the country.

But “leading the country” is exactly what Trump has repeatedly proven himself incapable of doing.

What’s odd about the relative dearth of calls for is that Trump’s conduct clearly merits it. I’ve argued that calling for Trump’s resignation was the Democrats’ best move since they took the House of Representatives. And if, as many do, you think it’s appropriate for Trump to be impeached or removed, you should probably also think that it would be best if he just stepped down without all the conflict. In fact, it would be reasonable to argue that Trump should resign, but that an ultimately doomed impeachment process is too disruptive for the country. So in theory, there should be more support for Trump’s resignation than there is for his removal.

So why aren’t we deluged with calls for Trump’s resignation? CNN host Chris Cuomo’s response to the Higginbotham piece probably sums up the explanation:

Everyone assumes — almost certainly correctly — that Trump will never agree to resign the presidency. He hates admitting failure, he loves the adulation the office provides, and he fears the potential legal consequences of no longer being protected from prosecution. Nixon was a monster with a devoted base of support, but he realized eventually that it was time to throw in the towel. It’s nearly impossible to imagine a plausible scenario in which Trump does the same — and not just because the Republican Party seems even more devoted to the current president than it was to Nixon. He won’t even admit that his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was far from “perfect,” even though this admission could have helped him.

But the fact that Trump would almost never agree to resign doesn’t mean we should ignore the obvious fact that he should. Ignoring this option lets Trump off the hook for his own responsibilities, and it lowers the bar for the presidential standard of behavior.

Many Republicans have spoken out against impeachment by citing the fact that it will be divisive for the country and create more animosity or tension. By calling for resignation as a potential alternative to impeachment, Trump’s critics could point out that any resulting division from impeachment proceedings is at least as much the fault of the president. Democrats could argue that Trump’s behavior forced them to pursue impeachment, but if he were gracious and cared about the country, he could bring it to a peaceful end.

This reframes the discourse around Trump’s impeachment in a useful way, especially when pressed against Republicans who can’t bring themselves to defend the president’s conduct on the merits. And it exposes and dispenses with the implicit idea that Democrats are the only actors responsible for preserving constitutional government; that obligation falls just as heavily on the shoulders of Trump and the Republicans.

 

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