Tuesday, May 7, 2019

When Will This Nightmare End?

The other day I read a Letter to the Editor in The New York Times from Jay Markowitz. Commenting on a May 2 Op-Ed piece by former FBI director James Comey entitled, “How Trump Co-Opts Leaders Like Barr” (https://nyti.ms/2VDZsEX), he crisply wrote, “In William Barr, President Trump has found his Roy Cohn. When will this nightmare end?”

First, let me say that in the two-plus years that The Donald has been our fearful leader, this is the first time I wrote the consecutive words, “President Trump.” Oh, the downside of accurate reporting!

Now, to respond to Jay Markowitz’s obviously plaintive plea—Not until January 20, 2021, at the earliest, but only if the American people wake up from this nightmare, only if they have not become inured to Trump’s assault on the Constitution and its tricameral form of equal branches of government, only if they have not been lulled into submission or complacency by an economy that continues the remarkable rebound initiated by Barack Obama, only if they have not become complicit or accepting of his destruction of the rule of law, only if the American people believe again that their country’s values are the best export we can offer the world and the best import are people from all creeds, religions and regions who are dedicated to equal opportunity and freedom for all. 

It will be impossible to remove Trump from the White House through impeachment, unless he fulfills his wild 2016 campaign boast—that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes—and Senate Republicans defy all reason and excuse his assault as, in the words of Attorney General William Barr, that of someone “frustrated and angry.” 

It was just such reasoning that enabled me to co-win a friendly contest predicting the length of Trump’s presidency. All but two of the 15 contestants thought he would vacate the White House by April 6 of the second year of his term. Connie Goldberg and I chose his full term as the end date.

Of course, I previously opined that Trump might be emboldened to declare a national emergency and not recognize the 2020 election if he loses. He’s already started to lobby for a six year first term, retweeting a Jerry Falwell Jr. comment that he deserves a two year extension because the first two years of his tenure were “stolen” because of the Mueller investigation. 

The man’s chutzpah knows no bounds.

Trump’s defiance of constitutional norms goes beyond the actions of most presidents to minimize scrutiny of their administrations by Congress. James Reston Jr. argued in The Times that failure to comply with congressional subpeonas is an impeachable offense, as Richard Nixon found out during his impeachment proceedings 25 years ago (https://nyti.ms/2ZVizK5).

But Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is in no rush to impeach. “Trump is goading us to impeach him,” Ms. Pelosi said at a Cornell University event in Manhattan, according to The Times. “That’s what he is doing, every single day he is just, like, taunting, taunting, taunting. Because he knows that it would be very divisive in the country. But he doesn’t really care; he just wants to solidify his base.”

Her reticence or political savvy aside, the Democratically-controlled House might be more willing to act if it is able to secure testimony from former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II, both of whom Trump has said should not appear before Congress. Both are privy to information on alleged obstruction of Mueller’s probe into Russian interference with the 2016 election by Trump and his gang of family and aides. 

McGhan is a private citizen; Mueller attains that status at the end of the month. Thus, their willingness to testify would not be subject to Trump’s authority. 

Rather, it would position them as either patriots or more Trump dumpster detritus. 

Trump has repeatedly degraded the FBI, the Justice Department and members of the judiciary. Lately, he has cast the FBI investigation of his campaign as “spying,” a term repeated by Barr during Senate testimony last month. But the current FBI director, Christopher A. Wray, refuted the characterization during a Senate hearing Tuesday (https://nyti.ms/2Wz6isI).

And so, the nightmare continues. Trump’s handpicked FBI chief is staying independent as an officer of the law, even as Trump’s handpicked attorney general, ostensibly the people’s lawyer, has shifted the interpretation of his  role to be defender of the malevolent.