Let Slip the Dogs of Impeachment

In my last article, I warned that the impeachment clock was running out of time. House Democrats were divided on the issue of impeachment. However, over the past week, the support in the House for impeachment has made a quantum leap.

The news broke late last week that a whistleblower from within the intelligence community filed a formal complaint regarding nefarious behavior on the part of Trump and his minions. That complaint was sent to the inspector general of the intelligence community. The inspector general reviewed the complaint and deemed the whistleblower to be credible and his complaint to be of high national importance. The whistleblower described an “urgent matter” in which he or she disclosed that the Trump administration was soliciting the highest levels of the Ukrainian government, including its president, for damaging information against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Trump intended to use this information against Biden, who he views as his greatest threat in the 2020 presidential election. 

Trump and members of his administration withheld aid and military support to Ukraine in exchange for them producing damaging information against Biden and his son. Biden’s son was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company that was being investigated by the Ukrainian government while Biden was vice president. Biden threatened to withhold a billion dollars in U.S. loan guarantees if Ukrainian officials didn’t take action to reduce its rampant corruption. This also included Ukrainian’s top prosecutor who was affiliated with the investigation into the energy company. However, it wasn’t just Biden who was targeting Ukraine’s corruption —it was the position of the entire U.S. government, particularly the State Department. Therefore, Biden’s stance was well within the parameters of U.S. foreign policy. Moreover, as vice president, Biden did not have the authority to unilaterally withhold U.S. loan guarantees.

The whistleblower’s complaint alleges that Trump made a “promise” to the Ukrainian president. This all took place over a phone call in late July 2019. And yet a week before the phone call took place, the Trump administration withheld $400 million in aid to the Ukrainian government. The act of withholding the aid was intended to create leverage over Ukraine, pressuring them to comply. Trump, according to the whistleblower, also asked the Ukrainian president to open an investigation into the origins of the Russia election interference investigation.

Trump conspiring to use the power of his office to damage a political opponent is not merely unethical, it’s illegal. It appears members of Trump’s inner circle understood the gravity of the situation and as a result, sought to cover it up. White House officials reportedly instructed Trump’s lawyers to move all electronic evidence of the exchange(s) to a secure server that’s only used for “especially sensitive” information (e.g. top secret). By having the record of the exchange(s) stored in a server only used for classified information, it would make it much harder to ever see the light of day. 

As per regulation, the inspector general forwarded the whistleblower’s complaint to the Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire. The Director of National Intelligence is an appointed, cabinet-level position. Maguire was attempting to conceal the complaint. He didn’t send it to the congressional intelligence committees, as dictated by regulation, within seven days. The House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena for the complaint, which was disobeyed by Maguire. He claimed he reviewed the complaint and determined it was not an urgent matter. He also cited the fact that it involved classified material. And, as previously mentioned, it only contained “classified” material because Trump’s lawyer’s attempted to obscure it on the secure server. 

This past Thursday, Maguire finally testified before the House Intelligence Committee. If Trump was hoping for a William Barr or Steve Mnuchin’s performance of cabinet members obstructing a congressional hearing, he misjudged Maguire. During the hearing, Maguire did attempt to dodge questions, but his testimony was nonetheless damning. Trump, earlier in the week, attacked the motives of the whistleblower, calling him or her a “political hack.” Maguire contradicted Trump’s attack by saying he believed the whistleblower was “acting in good faith.” Maguire also said, “I am not familiar with any prior instances where a whistleblower complaint touched on such complicated and sensitive issues, including executive privilege. I believe that this matter is unprecedented.” 

The whistleblower seems to have known there would be an effort to conceal their complaint. They intentionally wrote the complaint so that the first nine pages did not include any classified information, which would make it much easier to release. And on Thursday, in a rare act of unity, both the House and the Senate voted unanimously to have the whistleblower complaint released to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. The unclassified portion of the complaint is available for the public to view for themselves.

As the events of the past week unfolded, Democratic members of the House who were reluctant to initiate impeachment proceedings were joining the rest of the Democrats in the House. The number of House members supporting an impeachment inquiry was growing by the hour. As of this moment, 223 House Democrats, an Independent (Justin Amash), and a single Republican (Mark Amodei) support an impeachment inquiry. 

With the revelations coming from the whistleblower’s complaint, coupled with all the other instances of misconduct by this president, on Tuesday, Nancy Pelosi formally announced the initiation of impeachment proceedings against Trump. Pelosi made her historic statement with a succession of American flags in the background:

“The actions of the Trump presidency have revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections. Therefore, today, I am announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.” 

While many, including myself, have argued in favor of impeachment well before the whistleblower complaint, the sheer magnitude of the allegations could very well be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back –at least in the House. It’s now up to the House to thoroughly –and without reservation– investigate this president and make an appeal to the public in support of impeachment. 

If the House sees fit to issue Articles of Impeachment, the case will be passed to the Senate for a trial. However, with Mitch McConnell as the Senate Majority Leader, it’s possible he may not even allow a trial to take place or drag it out, betting on a re-election in 2020. He would be violating the constitution, but that’s never stopped him from obstructing the legislative process before. This is why it’s critical the House does an effective and consistent job of unearthing all the bodies Trump has buried under the White House. It’s critical that the momentum of the past week is maintained throughout the proceedings. If the majority of the public supports impeachment, the Republican-controlled Senate will be pressured to act.

Nixon’s impeachment process steadily gained public support. It started out with most Americans being against impeachment, but after they heard the barrage of revelations of Nixon’s wrongdoings and coverups, public support swayed in favor of impeachment. Nixon, however, resigned before he could be convicted by the Senate. 

Trump is not Nixon. If Articles of Impeachment are passed and a trial is held in the Senate, it’s unlikely that Trump will go quietly into the night. Trump is going to do everything he can to hold onto power. It’s not merely a matter of ego –it could potentially be his very freedom that’s at stake. The substance of the whistleblower’s complaint is a clearly-defined act of criminality. Trump has used the power of the presidency for personal gain. There’s a Department of Justice guideline that says a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, but no such guideline exists for a former president. There’s no telling what an unhinged and amoral individual like Trump will do when he’s truly desperate.

The coming months will be tumultuous but necessary. Trump is the very incarnation of why the founders added the power of impeachment to the constitution. The integrity of our whole system of government is at stake. The presidency has already been tainted with immorality, deceit, and corruption. Yet the House now has the opportunity to show the world that the American republic can survive a rogue and lawless tyrant, “and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the Earth.”

Trump is a National Security Threat

Since becoming president, Donald Trump has never been mentally or morally fit to lead the country. The majority of Americans understood this, which is why he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. Most people saw him for what he was: a bully and malignant con man. 

Despite his recklessness and viciousness during the 2016 campaign, there were many Americans who presumed Trump would magically be humbled by the sheer weight of the responsibility that comes with being the leader of the free world. This, as we all know, never happened. 

This president has been unhinged, impulsive, and erratic from the day he took office. Month by month, week by week, and day by day, his strange and scornful behavior has progressively gotten worse and more frequent. This comes in the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, economists warning we may be on the cusp of a recession, as well as the turn of once-loyal supporters, such as Anthony Scaramucci. 

Trump’s rhetoric of bigotry, racism, and xenophobia have contributed to the deaths of the Americans who were killed in El Paso. This trickle-down hatred resulting in murder is not an isolated incident. El Paso wasn’t the first time a mass murderer cited Trump’s language in their social media content. There have been other mass shooters who have adopted his vile rhetoric and have acted on it. 

It hasn’t even been a year since a deranged Trump supporter sent mail bombs to Trump’s self-expressed enemies. Thankfully, the bombs sent to the thirteen prominent Democrats (e.g. Barack Obama) and media personalities (e.g. Chris Cuomo) didn’t detonate. 

There’s been a surge in hate crimes committed by white supremacists since he entered office. The problem’s been so significant that the House Judiciary Committee was compelled to investigate it. In April, the committee’s chairman, Jerry Nadler (D-NY), wrote a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, saying they intend to  “examine the causes of racial and religious violence, assess the adequacy of federal hate crimes statutes, and scrutinize targeted domestic surveillance of specific groups.” 

When he’s not spewing racist and xenophobic language from his mouth and Twitter account, he’s been ranting and raving like a lunatic. This past week he made anti-Semitic remarks, saying Jews who voted for Democrats show a “total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” A Trump-supporting author came to Trump’s defense by likening him to the “King of Israel” and “the second coming of God.” Trump, quoted the author and tweeted it out to the world. He’s not just expressing delusions of grandeur but delusions of divinity

Trump ranted about his intention to buy Greenland, an independent country in the Kingdom of Denmark. The Prime Minister of Denmark said the idea of buying Greenland was “absurd,” which it is, and resulted in Trump cancelling his planned trip to Denmark and estranging yet another American ally. Trump called the prime minister “nasty,” and ever the hypocrite, said, “you don’t talk to the United States that way, at least under me.” He mispronounced the word “absurd” multiple times, saying “you-surb,” showing his deteriorating mental acuity. And it only got stranger. He paused for a moment and said, “somebody had to do it,” then turned and looked up at the sky, saying, “I am the Chosen One.” Again, this is beyond a messiah complex, these are delusions of divinity. 

Trump’s erratic behavior, coupled with him being devoid of a moral compass, is a literal threat to national security. The day-to-day media saturation of the sheer lunacy being churned out of Trump’s mouth and Twitter account has desensitized Americans to this behavior. If you really sit back, reset your mind and think about it, it’s disturbing. 

The terrifying reality we now live in has a president who is clearly mentally unstable. Trump’s a raving lunatic clothed with immense power and it should disturb all Americans. He has access to the nuclear codes. This unstable individual has the potential and power to wipe out a majority of humanity with a single impulsive decision. 

The nuclear threat is real. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a group of scientists who gauge how close humanity is to annihilation, uses a clock as a metaphor to inform citizens of the world how close we are to the abyss. We’re two minutes to midnight; midnight being the destruction of the world. The clock has been at two minutes to midnight since 2018, and was two-and-a-half minutes to midnight in 2017. 

Moreover, the nuclear threat has gotten dramatically worse over the past few weeks. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which was signed by the U.S. and the former Soviet Union towards the end of the Cold War, has been dissolved.

Russia tested a nuclear-powered cruise missile a couple of weeks ago. The test failed and the missile blew up, which killed at least five Russians. The true death toll is unknown and some are reporting it may be the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. 

Just a week after Russia’s missile disaster, Trump’s military tested a modified Navy Tomahawk cruise missile off the coast of California. The range of the U.S. missile exceeded the range limit of the now-defunct INF treaty. Under the Trump presidency, a new nuclear-arms race has commenced. 

Most of us think there’s responsible, sane people behind the scenes making sure Trump doesn’t act on his worst impulses, but most of those people have left the administration. And as each person leaves, they’re replaced with unqualified and blindly loyal officials and advisors –a dangerous combination. 

As Trump’s house of cards appears to be falling, the potential for an authoritarian hostile takeover of the federal government increases. What will happen if he loses the 2020 election? Does anyone seriously think he’ll go quietly into the night? There’s a real possibility, for the first time in American history, that there won’t be a peaceful transfer of power —a hallmark of the American democratic process. 

He’s already made threats of the military, police, and “Bikers for Trump” being on his side. He’s threatened there’d be a bloody civil war if he loses in 2020. He’s thrown around the idea of cancelling the 2020 election. And just this week he made the bizarre claim that Google hacked the 2016 popular vote, giving “millions” of votes to Hillary Clinton (they didn’t). His intent is clear: if he doesn’t win the 2020 election, he will say the election was rigged. Aside from his fragile ego, there’s a myriad of on-going criminal investigations that cite him as an unnamed co-conspirator, which could subject him to criminal prosecution once he leaves office. Therefore, the question that should concern all of us is what will he do if he loses

The country’s in a strange and dark place, and as the 2020 election gets closer, it’s only going to get stranger and darker. Trump’s erratic behavior will continue to get worse. He’s the most powerful person in the country and a national security threat. The lives and well being of Americans are in the hands of a madman. The American people cannot lose touch with this reality. 

Socialism in America: Separating Fact from Fiction

The word “socialism” has increasingly been used as a way to discredit and vilify the Democratic Party. Trump has been using it as a way of inducing fear in the minds of his misinformed supporters. This misinformation campaign is being deployed on all fronts: Trump, the GOP, as well as the right-wing media. As a result, it’s important that people know what socialism actually is and why, in the context of America, it’s not the diabolical social theory that they make it out to be.   

What is socialism?


Socialism, as defined by Dictionary.com, is “a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.” 

Socialism, in its ideal form, is about fairness. The ideology was developed as a reaction to the lack of opportunity and resources in societies that had class systems, which made the prospect of improving one’s station in life virtually impossible.   

While the definition provides a solid description of the underlying idea behind socialism, the trouble is socialism takes on many forms; such as, economic and political socialism. As with most socioeconomic ideologies and systems, socialism doesn’t have to exist in an absolute –all or nothing– form. It exists on a spectrum. There are varying degrees of socialism in every developed country in the modern world. 

Socialism’s most extreme form is communism. Dictionary.com defines it as, “a system of social organization in which all economic, political, and social activity is controlled by a totalitarian state dominated by a single and self-perpetuating political party.” This is an absolute form of socialism, which is applied to every aspect of a country. The government has complete control over the policies and legislation in a communist state. These states, in theory, have people working assigned jobs, which contribute to the society as a whole. The production of these jobs isn’t controlled by private companies or individuals, it’s controlled by the state. The distribution of artificial or natural resources are distributed equally amongst the people. 

It can be argued, however, that there has never been a true communist state. For example, in Soviet Russia, there was most certainly a class system. A small portion of the population benefited greatly, usually based on their political station, while the rest were subjected to harsh labor conditions with limited resources being distributed. 

Democracy, capitalism, and socialism in America


The United States isn’t a socialist state: it was founded as a democratic republic. When referring to our government, we rarely use the term “democratic republic,” it’s almost always referred to as a “democracy.” However, that term can be misleading, especially if taken literally. For example, a pure democracy is a system of government in which every political decision is made at the voting booth. This form of government isn’t practical, which is why the founders didn’t model our system of government on it. 

There are, however, aspects of a pure democracy in America at the state and local level. More than half of the states in the union have voting initiatives or veto referendums. This gives citizens in these states the power to vote for or against legislative propositions. There’s also the non-binding “popular vote” used in national elections. As we’ve seen, especially in modern-day America, winning the popular vote doesn’t result in an electoral win. It’s the Electoral College that’s binding. 

America’s system of economics is capitalism. The government doesn’t control the means of production, corporations and private businesses do. America became the greatest superpower the world has ever seen due in large part to capitalism. In a capitalist system, companies are competing against one another. This naturally drives innovation: creating a better product or service than a competitor, which will in turn attract more business and thus gain more profit, which is the motivating force behind any business. 

Though, just as we don’t live in a pure democracy, we don’t have a pure capitalist system of economics. A pure democracy is impractical and a pure capitalist system leads to various problems, which has a negative effect on the people. For example, if a company becomes too powerful and eliminates all other competitors you get a monopoly. If the consumers don’t have a choice, their only option is to do business with the monopolistic company. If there are no competitors, there’s no incentive to innovate and no need to keep their prices competitive. And it’s for this reason that we have federal regulations, which is essentially applying socialist principles to a capitalist system. 

There are countless examples in American history of unregulated industries causing harm to their employees, consumers, the environment, as well as the entire economy as a whole. While there were numerous causes for the Great Depression, the breaking point was due to banks making risky stock investments with the money deposited by their customers. Their deposits weren’t guaranteed, so when the stock market crashed in 1929 it caused widespread panic, leading people to rush to the bank to withdraw their money. This set off a chain of reactions, which led to years of economic depression for the entire country. So, having federal regulations in place are a safeguard for not only the individual, but for the economy, as well. 

America has numerous social programs designed to provide a social safety net, as well as opportunities for people who need them. Here’s some of the social programs hundreds of millions of Americans benefit from at one time or another in their life: Social Security Income (for “old-age” Americans, as well as the disabled), Medicaid, Medicare, unemployment benefits, numerous housing programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Family Medical Leave, the GI Bill, Veterans Affairs, financial aid for higher education, small business loans backed by federally-guaranteed loans, etc. On a non-federal level, there’s public schools, fire departments, police departments, among many other community services. 

All of these programs are paid for by American tax dollars. Americans pay their share of taxes and are eligible to benefit from these programs if or when they need them. They’re so ingrained into society that most of them are rarely thought of as being a form of socialism. America is still a capitalist system, but has regulations and supplemental social programs to ensure that citizens are protected. 

Why they want to brand Democrats as socialists


Throughout American history, the word “socialist” has had a negative connotation. When people hear “socialism” they think of communism. America has had a long, cold, and bloody history with communism. There was a significant fear about communism. Proxy wars between America and the Soviet Union unfolded for decades. The world was on the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which at its core, was based on the conflicting political ideologies of America and the Soviet Union.

When other people hear “socialist,” they think of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (i.e. the Nazi Party). Nazi Germany wasn’t a socialist nation, it was a totalitarian dictatorship. They used “socialist” and “worker” in the name of their party as propaganda. 

In modern-day America, there’s rampant economic inequality. This is an economic indicator that’s never discussed by the Trump Administration. When the stock market has a good day, he promotes it. When a positive jobs report is published, he promotes it. Trump, however, never mentions the 10,000-pound elephant in the room: economic inequality. It’s the economic indicator that has the greatest effect on most Americans and reflects how the country is doing as a whole. 

This is a country where the richest 1% percent of American households own 40% of the country’s wealth, and the richest 20% of American households own 90% of the country’s wealth. Therefore, the bottom 80% of American households own only 10% of the country’s wealth. It needs to be repeated: the bottom 80% of American households own only 10% of the country’s wealth. (Household Wealth Trends in the United States)

Whether his supporters are aware of it or not, it’s the economic inequality in this country that’s significantly oppressing the economic prosperity of most Americans. The American Dream is an antiquated concept. It’s based on social mobility, which the United States is near the bottom of the list for developed countries. 

So, as Congressional Democrats and Democratic Presidential Candidates talk about solutions to put an end to economic inequality and seek to form better social programs (e.g. more affordable healthcare), they are smeared as socialists. 

The only people in this country who have anything to lose from such programs are the ultra-wealthy. By attacking these policy initiatives, the vast majority of Trump supporters are acting against their own self-interest without even realizing it. This is a phenomenon known as “false consciousness,” which is defined as “a way of thinking that prevents a person from perceiving the true nature of their social or economic situation” (New Oxford American Dictionary). 

This false consciousness is being drilled into the minds of people who watch Fox News and other right-wing media outlets. Fox propaganda hosts are millionaires paid by billionaires to misinform, rile up, and instill manufactured fear into the minds of their viewers. They use distraction, deflection, and divisiveness as tools of their trade. If their viewers are misinformed and sidetracked, they’re incapable of making informed decisions. And those decisions not only affect their lives, but the lives of all Americans. 

Socialism in America has become a new dog whistle used by the Trump-GOP-Fox propaganda machine with the goal of making Americans vote against their best interests. The swamp isn’t being drained, it’s overflowing and slowly drowning all of us. 

Declaration of Distress

On July 4th, Americans celebrate their independence and liberty. The Declaration of Independence asserted the colonist’s independence from the tyrannical rule of the British Empire. The declaration created the platform for the Constitution of the United States, which formed three co-equal branches of government. Today, the constitution is in a state of perpetual crisis. Donald Trump has repeatedly betrayed his oath of office: to defend and protect the constitution. And as a result, we’re now on the brink of tyranny.

A brief history of America’s origins


It’s been 243 years since the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. At the time of the signing, the American Revolutionary War was well under way. Thirteen separate colonies banded together in a state of rebellion against the British Empire. 

The colonists viewed King George III as a tyrannical monarch. They didn’t have control over their own affairs, so they rebelled against the greatest empire the world had ever seen. The colonies were united by war, but they weren’t yet an independent, sovereign power. 

The Declaration of Independence was their formal assertion of self-government, breaking their political bands with Great Britain. A significant portion of the document cited specific grievances against King George III. Through history, the grievances have been eclipsed by the powerful prose written by Thomas Jefferson, which made the document a mission statement for what would become the United States of America. Jefferson, with some mild editing by Benjamin Franklin, created the American creed:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

Some years later, against all odds, the war was won and America became an independent player on the world stage. They created a system of self-governance by framing and adopting the Constitution of the United States. The constitution formed three co-equal branches of government, as well as a Bill of Rights to ensure its citizens would have guaranteed civil liberties. 

While the declaration spoke of liberty and equality, and the constitution implemented those ideals, the reality was different. These rights didn’t apply to everyone. There were millions of African-Americans enslaved, a sinful hypocrisy the founders were well aware of, but didn’t do anything about. America’s original sin of slavery continued for nearly a century. Abraham Lincoln initially put an end to slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War, though it wasn’t until the passage of the 13th Amendment to the constitution that slavery was banished. During Reconstruction, the 15th Amendment was passed, giving black men the right to vote. A half-century later, women were granted the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment. 

The constitution is an imperfect document, which is why amendments are needed. It’s survived as long as it has due to its separation of powers, checks and balances, and its ability to adapt. If the branches of government cease to be equal, we’re no longer living in a system of self-governance, as described in the Declaration of Independence –we’re living in a state of tyranny wearing the mask of a democracy.   

Where we are now


Donald Trump has unilaterally decided to throw a “Salute to America” parade on this July 4th. This isn’t an innocent parade to celebrate our independence, it’s a military parade –the likes of which we’ve never seen before in peacetime. The only thing familiar about a military parade to Americans is from the images of foreign dictators exerting their power and displaying their military prowess. 

Trump is parading the military to assert his authority. It’s not a “salute to America,” it’s a salute to himself. Millions of taxpayer dollars will be spent by Trump to stroke his ego and put non-MAGA citizens on notice: attempting to instill fear in those who oppose his authority and question his legitimacy.

This is yet another step away from a democracy and a step toward tyranny. Trump is a false president reigning over a false democracy. He’s being aided and abetted by a defunct Republican Party. Republican members of Congress are unwilling to hold Trump accountable out of their own political self-interest. Some members piggyback on Trump out of opportunism, while others fear losing their congressional seats from a MAGA backlash. One way or the other, they’ve broken their oath of office to protect and defend the constitution.

MAGA supporters call themselves the “silent majority,” but the numbers shows they’re truly just a loud minority. As of July 3, Gallup’s polling data shows Trump’s approval rating at 41%. The majority of Americans (54%) disapprove of Trump’s job as president.

So, on this Independence Day, rational-minded Americans need to meditate on the fact we’re being led by a man who thinks the constitution –the law– doesn’t apply to him. We need to accept the fact there are millions of MAGA supporters who not only find no fault in Trump’s vile and malicious behavior, they relish it. And we need to understand that the right-wing media apparatus is spreading propaganda to millions of MAGA supporters who accept it as fact. 

This is not the system of government the founders framed. If Trump is going to defy the other co-equal branches of government without consequence, then we’ve already checked out of our democratic republic and checked into the early stages of a dictatorship. 

The future of America’s system of self-governance rests on the shoulders of true patriots who choose liberty over tyranny. Remaining silent, not voting, and not voicing your concern to your elected representatives is the same as casting a vote for Trump. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” 

A Tragedy on the Rio Grande

This past week, a father and his daughter were found dead on the banks of the Rio Grande River. The photo, while disturbing and heartbreaking, is important for all Americans to see for themselves. 

The crisis at the border isn’t the “invasion” purported by the Trump administration, it’s a humanitarian crisis. The vast majority of migrants trying to seek entry to America aren’t gang members, drug dealers, or rapists. They’re human refugees seeking asylum from the danger, corruption, and poor economic opportunities of their native countries. 

Oscar Martínez, his wife Tania, and their barely 2-year-old daughter, Valeria, began their 1000+ mile journey from El Salvador. Before leaving El Salvador, the mother and father sold off what belongings they could to help facilitate their journey and build a small nest egg. They borrowed money from loved ones with the hope of one day buying a home in America. 

After making their way through Central America and Mexico, they eventually were within site of a U.S. port of entry. When they arrived, they saw that the bridge leading to the port of entry was packed with hundreds of other migrants. The human gridlock is due to a Trump administration policy known as “metering,” which took effect in May 2018. This policy essentially blocks a significant number of asylum seekers from entering the U.S. The administration claims they don’t have the resources to process asylum seekers, which then delays, prevents, or deters them from entering the U.S.  

In an act of desperation –having travelled so far and having what they envisioned as the promised land in sight– the father decided to circumvent the metering blockade. He and his daughter began wading in the waters of the Rio Grande, making their way to the Texas-side of the river. 

They initially made it safely across, but the father needed to go back for the mother who was waiting on the Mexican side. He left his daughter on American soil and began making his way to his wife. When his daughter saw him go back in the water, she instinctively went in after him. The father was able to get a hold of his daughter, but the current was too strong for him to make it back to safety. The river took their lives. Their bodies washed up on the banks of the Rio Grande. A photographer from the Associated Press was able to capture the tragic image.

This heartbreaking story is a microcosm for what’s happening at our southern border. The family was so desperate to make it to America, they literally died trying. And the mother is now a widow and childless. They were searching for safety, basic human rights, and opportunity, but it ended in tragedy. 

This family didn’t fit the derogatory and dehumanizing language often used by Trump. They weren’t gang members, drug traffickers, or rapists. They were a family who happened to be born and raised in a country that lacks the ability of ensuring the most basic and universal of human rights. They didn’t want to live like that anymore; they didn’t want their daughter to live and come of age in a place like that. 

We used to be a country that welcomed immigrants. The founding fathers were descended from immigrants. The very first migrants came to America in search of religious freedom. 

The European immigration boom of the 19th and early-20th centuries was triggered by oppressive governments and the lack of economic opportunity, among other tribulations –the very same reasons that motivated Oscar and Tania to come to America with their daughter. 

Donald Trump didn’t kill Oscar and Valeria, but his rhetoric and policies undoubtedly contributed to their fate. He uses dehumanizing rhetoric to refer to “illegal aliens.” His administration separates parents from their children. Once separated, the innocent children are treated with no care or compassion.

The photograph of Oscar and Valeria is disturbing to look at, but it’s important for Americans to see the consequences of their government’s actions. If the people don’t speak out about the atrocities, they will continue to happen. We’ve seen through modern history how impactful photographs can be. Hopefully, the photo of Oscar and Valeria will have that effect and their deaths won’t be in vain.


Trump: A Racist Then and Now (Part I)

Donald Trump has a long, documented history of being a racist. His racism, prejudice, and discrimination against minorities started long before his presidency, his 2016 presidential campaign, and before he was a household name.

The following instances are based on documented examples of Trump’s vile regard toward minorities. He’s used his power in real estate, his power of notoriety, and the power of the presidency to disenfranchise, vilify, and scapegoat minorities.

This article, however, will focus on Trump’s racist transgressions prior to his 2016 presidential campaign.

Racially-motivated housing discrimination


In 1973, the federal government sued Trump for racial discrimination against black New Yorkers who were seeking residence in his New York properties. Community groups were the first to raise flags on the discriminatory practices of the Trump Management Corporation. The federal investigation found evidence of a culture of discrimination at the corporation.

The feds discovered that black applicants had a “C” written on their applications, indicating they were a person of color. This was used as an internal indicator to turn down the applicant. However, most of the time, there wasn’t even an opportunity to fill out an application. Trump’s company would lie to black New Yorkers inquiring about properties, telling them their were units were unavailable.

Trump received a slap on the wrist for his amoral business practices. He was told to no longer discriminate against minorities seeking housing at his properties. He was also never required to admit to his discrimination.

Trump and his notorious lawyer Roy Cohn –infamous for working with Senator Joseph McCarthy during his communist inquisition and representing mobsters–  turned around and sued the federal government for $100M, claiming he was unjustly being investigated. Trump’s attempt at a countersuit failed. He eventually settled for not having to accept people who were on welfare as tenants.

However, while on a break from one of the countersuit depositions, Trump in private unabashedly told one of the federal lawyers, Elyse Goldweber, “You know, you don’t want to live with them either.”

Trump’s treatment of black casino employees


When Trump was involved in the casino business, he made racist comments about, and even segregate, black casino employees.

Based on reporting from The Guardian, John O’Donnell, a former president of Trump’s Plaza Casino, shed some light on Trump’s views of black people. Trump told O’Donnell, “Black people counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys who wear yamakas every day.”

We also have the word of Kip Brown, a black man who worked at one of Trump’s casinos. Brown told a journalist from The New Yorker, “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor.” Brown and the other black employees were confined to “the back” when Trump visited.

The Central Park Five


In April 1989, five teenagers –four black and one latino– were accused and charged with raping a white female jogger in Central Park. This ignited a social firestorm in New York City. Trump threw gasoline on the fire by publicly attacking the teenagers. He took out a full-page ad in The New York Times, with the heading “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE.” The teenagers hadn’t even stood trial at the time the ad was published, but Trump used the incident to promote his public profile at the expense of the accused. By taking out such an ad, he was promoting the public execution of the teenagers before they even stood trial.

As depicted in Ken Burns’ 2012 documentary, The Central Park Five, the young teenagers were coerced into submitting false confessions. There was no physical evidence, no DNA linking any of them to the crime, and they repeatedly maintained their innocence after the initial false confessions.

Years later in 2001, the actual attacker, a serial rapist, confessed to the crime. His DNA matched the DNA found at the scene and confirmed he acted alone.

In 2002, the New York Supreme Court ruled to have their convictions vacated. As a result of their false imprisonment and the injustice they endured, they were awarded a record settlement of $41M.

To this day, Trump refuses to apologize for his public attacks against the then teenagers and the ad he took out calling for their execution. With the June 2019 release of the Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us, a Netflix miniseries about the case, Trump was asked as recently as June 18, 2019, about whether he regrets going after the teenagers. Trump said, “You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt.”

This from the same man whose publicly supported convicted felons from his 2016 presidential campaign, such as Paul Manafort, who essentially engaged in treason against the United States. Manafort refused to cooperate in the Mueller investigation, so Trump floated the possibility of pardoning Manafort of his federal crimes. When Manafort was going to be moved to Rikers Island –the same abominable jail one of the Central Park Five teenagers was sent to– Trump’s Department of Justice, in an unprecedented act, intervened to ensure Manafort wasn’t sent to one of the country’s most notorious jails.

Birtherism


After President Barack Obama was elected to office in 2008, a racist conspiracy theory started to surface from the deplorable underbelly of American society. It purported that Obama wasn’t born in the United States, and therefore had a false claim to the presidency [Article II, Section III of the United States Constitution states only a “natural born Citizen” is eligible for the presidency].

Trump was the most vocal supporter of birtherism. He’d constantly call for Obama to submit his birth certificate. He also spread misinformation on Twitter, claiming he had an “extremely credible source” telling him Obama wasn’t a natural-born U.S. citizen. He made the rounds on right-wing media programs, reinforcing the racially-motivated conspiracy theory. He even called on hackers to check his “place of birth.”

The truth is Obama released his short-form birth certificate in 2008, but it didn’t stop Trump from relentlessly pursuing Obama’s origin of birth. Before Obama, no other president was ever accused of being born in a foreign country. The only thing that separates Obama from the previous 43 presidents is the color of his skin.

There’s no doubt that birtherism was born out of racism, and Trump was the public figure leading the movement. Birtherism was the seed that grew into Trump’s campaign for the 2016 presidential election.

The hypocrisy of Trump calling for Obama to release his [already released] birth certificate surfaced during his 2016 presidential campaign. While there’s no tradition for president’s releasing their birth certificate, there is a long-standing tradition of presidential candidates releasing their tax returns. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump refused to release his tax returns –something presidential candidates have been doing since Richard Nixon. Trump claimed he was under an IRS audit and therefore was unable to release them. However, there’s no way of knowing if he was actually under audit at the time. Moreover, there’s no law stating a presidential candidate cannot release their tax returns while under audit.

To this day, Trump hasn’t released his tax returns. In April 2019, the House Ways and Means Committee formally asked the Treasury Department to turn over the last decade’s worth of Trump’s tax returns. Congress, by law, has the right to request the tax returns of any U.S. taxpayer. However, after stalling for a month, Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, refused to turn them over, saying it “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose,” which is one of a myriad of examples of the Trump administration actively obstructing justice by defying Congress.

Conclusions


These are just a few documented examples of Trump’s pre-2016 history of racism toward minorities. While there are those who try to underplay Trump’s race-baiting behavior as him simply blowing the proverbial dog whistle to American bigots, it’s simply not true. Trump doesn’t just appeal to the racist sensibilities of bigots, he is and has been a bigot all along.  

An American Crisis

The federal government of the United States is in the midst of a constitutional crisis. Some would have you believe the crisis was instigated by angry Democrats, seeking revenge for their loss in the 2016 presidential election. This is disinformation being perpetrated by the Trump-GOP-Fox propaganda machine. Despite what they want the country to believe, the truth is out there for anyone willing to seek it.

The Essence of the Constitution


Our system of government, as well as our highest ideals, are prescribed in the the United States Constitution. It’s the supreme law of the land; it supersedes all other laws within our country, states, and territories.

The constitution laid out a framework for governing by installing three co-equal branches of government: the legislative branch (i.e. Congress), the executive branch (i.e. the Presidency), and the judicial branch (i.e. the Supreme Court).

Article I of the constitution assigns the powers and responsibility for the legislative branch. Article II assigns the powers and responsibility for the executive branch. Article III formed the Supreme Court, which is responsible for interpreting and ruling over contestations to the constitution.

These branches are equal by law, so one may not overpower the other. The founders were wary of a single president becoming too powerful, so they ensured the Congress and Supreme Court had the authority to check and balance the Presidency.

Every government official, both elected and appointed, swear an oath before entering their respective office. The protection and defense of the constitution is the basis for the oath. The act of taking an oath gives weight to the priority and importance of the constitution.

The President’s oath is to “…preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Members of congress swear a similarly-worded oath, “… [to] support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”

The Road to the Constitutional Crisis


After Donald Trump took the presidential oath of office, there were many who thought his bullying and brash campaign antics would dissipate and he would –as all presidents have done before– rise to the occasion, putting aside pettiness and vindictive behavior for the good of the country. There were many who thought he would temper the furor of his base and become a leader for all Americans. As we’ve seen, this has not happened.

One of Trump’s first attacks was against the free press. He despised any news coverage that wasn’t favorable to him. He’s attacked the press consistently throughout his presidency, going as far as calling them “the enemy of the people” on numerous occasions. The press is protected under the First Amendment of the constitution. This wasn’t a constitutional crisis yet because he wasn’t actively trying to censor them. He has, however, done his best to discredit the press with the intention of manipulating the public’s trust in the greatest democratic institution outside of the federal government. The press is referred to as the “fourth estate,” as a way of symbolizing its critical role to our democracy; acting as an unofficial fourth branch.

The Russian government’s attack on our democracy is a fact. Before there was a special counsel investigation, 17 of our intelligence agencies (e.g. FBI, CIA, NSA, etc.) confirmed Russia had interfered in our election. When sources began reporting contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, the FBI initiated an investigation.

It wasn’t long before Trump fired James Comey, the Director of the FBI. Comey was the top law enforcement official investigating the Russian interference, as well as the potential that the Trump campaign had a role in it. Soon after Comey’s firing came the firing of the Acting Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe. With the federal government in a state of crisis due to the firings of the heads of the agency tasked with investigating the president, the questioning of the rule of law had to be answered to maintain the public’s trust in the federal government.

Jeff Sessions, Trump’s original attorney general, was compelled to recuse himself from the FBI investigation since he was a member of the Trump campaign. Therefore, the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, took control of overseeing the investigation from the Department of Justice. He appointed Robert Mueller as the special counsel, tasked with taking over the FBI’s investigation.

After nearly two years, the Mueller team completed their investigation. A 448-page report was submitted to the current attorney general, Bill Barr. Two years of round-the-clock investigating by a team of some of the country’s best lawyers, investigators, and analysts was summed up in a 4-page summary in merely two days.

We would later learn that the Barr summary was a misleading document intended to obscure and minimize Mueller’s findings. Barr held the report for a month, claiming he needed time to make redactions. This gave the Trump administration time to use the Barr summary as a way of swaying public opinion. Trump boasted he had been “exonerated” and most of the country was either confused or misled to believe the investigation was a “witch hunt” as Trump has often described it.

After the redacted report was submitted to the public, it became evident that Barr’s farce was beginning to crumble, along with Trump’s claims of exoneration. In congressional committees, the public saw firsthand that Barr was not forthcoming in his testimony. He told the Congress that he didn’t know how Mueller felt about his summary. This was a lie. The New York Times and Washington Post obtained letters Mueller had written to Barr in the days following the release of the Barr summary. In those letters, Mueller did express his feelings about the memo. He wrote that the summary didn’t “…fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s works and conclusions.”

The Constitutional Crisis


With the revelations in the redacted Mueller Report, there was real concern among congressional Democrats that Trump was abusing his presidential powers. Mueller found 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice in his report.

Barr was called to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. If anyone wasn’t sure of Barr’s intent before the hearing, they were after. In his testimony, he contradicted the report’s findings. He was evasive and unforthcoming with his carefully-worded, though sometimes tongue-tied, testimony. It was clear he was supporting and defending Trump’s interests, rather than impartially serving as the country’s attorney general. Barr was scheduled to testify before a House congressional panel the following day. He refused to appear. He hasn’t appeared before Congress since.

For the past 40 years, every president has voluntarily made their tax returns public –every president until Donald Trump. Presidential candidates voluntarily release their tax returns as an act of good faith, showing the public exactly where their money is coming from and to whom they may be indebted to. It’s meant to expose, and therefore prevent, any conflicts of interest.

Trump has been using the excuse for years now that he can’t release his tax returns because he’s under audit. Regardless of whether or not that’s true, which it likely isn’t, federal law states that the Congress can obtain the tax returns of any American –including the president. So, in the middle of the Barr controversy, when a House committee –exercising their constitutional duty of oversight over the executive branch– requested Trump’s tax returns from the Department of the Treasury. Steve Mncuchin, Trump’s Treasury secretary, missed the deadline for turning over the tax returns and has since said he will refuse to turn them over, saying it “lacks any legitimate legislative purposes.” This excuse has no merit since it’s the purpose of the Oversight Committee to perform oversight.

The House Oversight Committee also sent out subpoenas to Capital One and Deutsche Bank for Trump’s financial records. This was done in order to get more information on Trump’s business ties, particularly with foreign entities, which is again to ensure Trump isn’t compromised due to conflicts of interest. Since Trump can’t order a corporation to refuse the subpoenas, he resorted to suing Elijah Cummings, the Chairman of the Oversight Committee. This will tie the matter up in the courts –a tactic Trump is infamous for.

The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena to testify to Don McGahn, Trump’s former White House Counsel. McGahn was a key witness to many of the obstruction of justice instances in the Mueller Report. On May 2, 2019, Trump declared he wouldn’t allow McGahn to testify before the committee.

The Judiciary Committees also issued subpoenas to obtain the full, unredacted Mueller Report, along with all of the report’s underlying evidence, but that subpoena has also been ignored by Barr. Trump has claimed executive privilege over the entire Mueller Report and all of its underlying evidence. The power of executive privilege is used by presidents to keep sensitive information from being made public so the government can function without being impaired. This is a nonsensical argument since the information has already been uncovered and made its way into the report. It’s akin to trying to put the proverbial toothpaste back in the tube.

In response to Barr’s refusal to appear before the House Judiciary Committee and his disregard for congressional subpoenas, on May 8, 2019, the committee voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress. The contempt charge will soon be brought to the floor for the entire House to vote on.

On that same day, May 8th, the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena to Donald Trump, Jr. in reference to the now infamous Trump Tower meeting he had with Russians during the campaign. Donald Trump, Jr. has since remarked that he may ignore the subpoena or exercise his Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself.

After the vote to hold Barr in contempt of Congress, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee declared, “We are now in a constitutional crisis.”

Why a Constitutional Crisis is Serious


If the Congress is consistently and blatantly being defied by the Trump administration, then the sanctity of the constitution is at risk –our whole system of government is at risk. If the power of the Congress is being nullified by the Trump administration, and it’s permitted to stand, we’re no longer a democratic republic. Chairman Nadler touched on this after the contempt vote, “Now is the time of testing whether we can keep a republic, or whether this republic is destined to change into a different, more tyrannical form of government.”

This should be a grave concern to all Americans, regardless of political ideology. The Senators and Representatives in Congress are our elected officials. They’re there to represent the People. Therefore, an attack on the Congress is an attack on the People. If the Congress is reduced to a non-binding body and is losing power, the Trump administration is absorbing those powers.

We cannot permit these tyrannical acts to go unchecked. Democracies aren’t made of steel; they’re made of glass. All it takes is a few cracks until the whole system of government comes shattering down. A millennia ago, Plato warned that democracies are a prelude to tyranny. Our founders understood this, and designed the constitution accordingly, but if the constitution isn’t protected, defended, and ultimately enforced, Plato’s warning will become a realized prophecy.

The founders and revolutionaries used both the pen and the sword to fight for their independence, breaking the monarchical bonds of the British Empire. Blood has been shed by millions of Americans fighting for values like freedom and justice. If our elected representatives have little or no power, then our freedom is slipping away. If our system of justice is being used to protect and defend the president, there’s no longer justice for all. If this constitutional crisis becomes a constitutional calamity, we’ll be living in a very different country, as will the untold millions who come after us.