John Colson: I would be in jail if I’d done what they did
Hit & Run
We now have indisputable proof that a number of Republican politicians, including the president and members of Congress, firmly believe that they do not have to obey the law of the land.
This belief has been playing out in prime time and real time as a sideshow to the ongoing impeachment inquiry looking into allegations of misconduct by President Donald Trump, and it represents a very real crisis in terms of how we run our country.
My own outrage hit a peak when a group of GOP congress members broke into a closed-door hearing several weeks ago, disrupting testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Committee by Defense Department official Laura Cooper, an expert on Russia, the Ukraine and Eurasia in general.
In doing so, these Republicans were ignoring rules that their party had put into effect previously, not to mention.
Caterwauling about not being “allowed” into the private hearing, the stormtroopers of the right wing also ignored the fact that members of their party were serving on the committee holding the hearing, as they had been all along.
The very presence of Republican committee members completely undermined any claim that their party had been shut out of the hearing process and were being improperly kept in the dark about what witnesses were saying in the impeachment inquiry aimed at President Trump. Unless, of course, their fellow Republicans were the ones keeping them in the dark.
In case you were not aware of it, the Democrat-controlled House is working to determine whether Trump should be tried for abusing the power of his office by exerting pressure on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to mount an investigation of Trump’s main political rival, former VP Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
I like to amuse myself sometimes by imagining what the Republican Party might have done if, say, evidence had emerged showing President Barack Obama had made similar overtures to a foreign leader, any foreign leader, to damage the candidacy of a political rival.
We already know that the Republican Party made no secret of its intention to block everything and anything Obama hoped to do as president, so we can only imagine the screams of hypocritical outrage emanating from the Republican caucus in such a circumstance.
What the minority members of the House were trying to do, and continue trying to do, is essentially that same thing they claim the Democrats are trying to do — overturn the results of a recent election. When the Democrats won control of the House in 2018, Republicans were apoplectic and, along with the president they so slavishly serve, have done everything they can think of to deny the legitimacy of that election.
Not that the Democrats have come anywhere close to the kind of anti-democratic antics and corrupt practices we have seen from Trump and his party, but he and they clearly feel that all’s fair in love, war and politics, even if it means doing something that might land an ordinary citizen in jail.
What I want to examine today is the determination by Trump and his crowd to upend our political system of checks and balances in a way that would eliminate any chance of reining in Trump’s bull-in-a-china-shop approach to destabilizing our entire government.
The New York Times put out an interesting story over the weekend, about what all this might look like if Trump continues to defy the oversight authority of Congress. Published in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, the story was accompanied by an image of the White House in full military defense mode, with cannon barrels sticking out of every window and a tank on the front lawn, ready to declare a hot war on Congress.
This is the attitude Trump has displayed for some time, refusing to cooperate in any way with the investigation and ordering government workers to ignore subpoenas and invitations from Congress seeking testimony on Trump’s out-of-control foreign policy machinations.
Like former President Richard Nixon, Trump has declared himself above the law. Nixon famously said that “when the president does it, that means it is not illegal,” and Trump’s attorneys have taken that same line of argument into court.
Our system of checks and balances has functioned effectively in the past when presidential overreach became a problem, based in part on a U.S. Supreme Court finding in 1821 that Congress has the power to enforce subpoenas aimed at the executive branch.
During the Teapot Dome scandal of the 1920s, Congress managed to convict a corrupt secretary of the Interior of accepting bribes in exchange for illegally issued oil leases. And, of course, during the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, Nixon resigned from office rather than be impeached over illegal acts committed on behalf of Nixon’s 1972 presidential campaign.
But never before in our nation’s history has a president so outrageously claimed to be immune to prosecution for illegal acts simply because he is the president. Nixon tried it, but quit once he realized no one was buying his arguments.
Such claims, if allowed to become the rule of law, would satisfy the very definition of a dictatorship, as described by the Encyclopedia Britannica as a “form of government in which one person or a small group possesses absolute power without effective constitutional limitations.”
My greatest fear, at this point, is that Trump’s ego and selfishness will run so far amok that, if impeached, he will call out the militia, declare martial law, and arm those fanatics in his “base” who have already announced that if Trump is ousted, whether by election or by Congressional actions, there will be war in the streets.
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