Impeach Donald Trump, the malignant fraudster

Republicans in Congress must choose which side of patriotism will history record them?

US president Donald Trump  with vice-president Mike Pence in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Photograph: /Susan Walsh

US president Donald Trump with vice-president Mike Pence in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Photograph: /Susan Walsh

 

It is the clarity of Donald Trump’s transgression that is most remarkable. By his own admission, and backed up by the quasi-transcript released by the White House and by the whistleblower complaint, he abused the power of the presidency to enlist a foreign government to help him politically.

People don’t have to wade through the tome that Robert Mueller produced, through the murky parts and the fine legal points. This is as clear as a bell. Trump has confessed to the central allegation.

No matter how much his defenders squirm — and they certainly are squirming — to justify or diminish that fact, it is nevertheless a fact. He did it.

Now, they can squabble over whether or not this thing is impeachable, a process over which the founders fretted. That’s the job of congress. But, the brazen betrayal of his office, the constitution and the American people is undeniable.

Superman syndrome

The man developed a kind of Superman syndrome, in which the more crises he survived, the more he came to believe that he was invincible. He could get caught on tape boasting about sexually assaulting women, and he would survive. He could desperately want Russian help in his election, and obstruct the investigation into that entanglement, and he would survive. He could cosy up to dictators, and he would survive. He could lock children in cages, and he would survive. He could be an open white supremacist, and he would survive. He could lie incessantly, and he would survive.

It must have been an awesome feeling, to float above the rule made for the commoners, to be unbound by trust, virtue, morality and responsibility. But that positioning in the world was unsustainable. Eventually, the bill comes due, and it must be paid.

Trump’s bill has come due. Impeachment is in the offing. The Democrats must impeach this malignant fraudster. They don’t really have a choice. There is no off-ramp for them from this course, and neither should there be.

Now, the decision falls to the Republicans in congress, in the house, but particularly in the senate: On which side of patriotism will history record them? Will they stand for the constitution and the rule of law or will they stand for partisanship and political expediency?

I will not hold my breath for mass defections from Trump. He has a stranglehold on the Republican Party. And Republicans in Washington have not only been absolute cowards about standing up to Trump and holding him accountable, some have been completely unseemly in their obsequious kow-towing. I’m looking at you, Lindsey Graham.

But I refuse to believe that the totality of the Republican Party system is corrupt beyond the possibility of contrition, that every single Republican senator would turn their backs on the country. Call me naive. Or call me hopeful for the future of the country.

There must be some patriots, at least a handful, in the Republican Party. There must be some who have the courage — the guts! — to stand up for righteousness, to not look like hacks and hypocrites in the annals of history.

There must be, right?

The US Capitol Building at dawn in Washington. Photograph: Michael Reynolds
The US Capitol Building at dawn in Washington. Photograph: Michael Reynolds

Flaming sycophants

Or, will they all go down with Trump as flaming sycophants? I’m sure many will. Most may. But, some surely won’t.

The truth is that many will likely allow the polls to dictate their decision on impeachment. Their ethics are transactional. They’ll go whichever way the wind is blowing at the time, they’ll follow the easiest path for themselves to maintain power and position.

Others, though, will need to develop a language of penance and conciliation, a way of explaining to the world how they followed in lock step behind Trump and his corruption until that was no longer tenable. It was craven. It was immoral. It was unpatriotic.

But if these people emerge, they will likely be a lonely few. History teaches us that most Republicans are likely to rally around Trump rather than fall away from him. As Nicole Hemmer wrote on Vox in 2017: “Until the very end, Watergate gave Nixon a stature on the right that he had previously lacked. And even after Nixon’s resignation, the right never quite accepted the liberal narrative” of Watergate “as a heroic moment for investigative journalism and a cleansing moment for American politics.”

For many, this is simply read as a witchhunt, sour grapes, an attempt to annul an election. From it they will take bitterness. Trump will be the victim and Democrats will be the abusers. That is just the way politics play out on issues like this.

The senate has never voted to convict and remove a president, and that precedent is likely to stand. It’s not even clear that Mitch McConnell would hold a trial if the house votes to impeach. But, the exercise itself will reveal the true character of the people in Washington, even more than has been revealed already.

The impeachment of Trump offers an opportunity for redemption for Republicans. The only question is how many will seize it.

– Charles Blow is a columnist with the New York Times

New York Times service

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