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.”

Impeachment is Slipping Away

Trump has been engaged in impeachable offenses since taking office. His presidency has been plagued with corruption, chaos, and negligence. He’s been aided and abetted by those in his own administration, as well as the Republican Party as a whole. 

The Republicans controlled both houses of Congress for the first two years of the Trump presidency. However, after the 2018 midterm elections, the Democrats seized the majority. Nancy Pelosi was once again chosen to be the House Majority Leader. Since taking control of the House, Pelosi has continuously stated that she wanted to wait for solid evidence before bringing an impeachment inquiry to the floor. There’s been more than enough evidence to take action.

The Mueller investigation concluded many months ago. Mueller uncovered ten possible instances of obstruction of justice within the scope of his investigation. At the time, an impeachment inquiry seemed inevitable, but it’s continuously been pushed back. Most of the problems stemmed from the Trump administration being uncooperative with congressional requests and subpoenas. The administration has consistently obstructed Congress’s ability to check and balance the executive branch. As a result, Congress is no longer a co-equal branch of government.

The founders created checks and balances in the constitution to prevent this kind of situation from happening. Unfortunately, with a Republican Party that’s complicit and therefore unwilling to honor their oaths to protect and defend the constitution, the constitutional remedies are restrained. 

If the Democrat-controlled House passed Articles of Impeachment, it’s unlikely the Republican-controlled Senate would vote to convict. In fact, with Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader in the Senate, it’s unlikely an impeachment trial would even take place. McConnell is notorious for obstructing the legislative process in the Senate if it’s not in his own interest. 

Even if the Senate is unlikely to bring an impeachment trial to the floor, the House should still move to pass Articles of Impeachment. The Democrats in the House haven’t been united on this front. Some are eager to move the impeachment process along, while others are reluctant to act. Pelosi has notoriously been ambiguous about her position. Her ambiguity is intentional. While she certainly doesn’t support or condone Trump’s actions, she thinks an impeachment process would be divisive for the public to endure. However, there are times when politicking must be put aside for the greater good and that time is now.

The country has been waking up, every day, to a never-ending national nightmare. Trump has become more emboldened by the lack of any meaningful accountability or consequences. As more information comes out about the administration’s corruption, there’s been more pressure on the House to take action. Just in the past couple of weeks, it’s been reported –again– that Trump is profiting off his position. This is a violation of the emoluments clause in Article I of the constitution, which essentially states a public official cannot profit from their position of power. Trump’s unabashed corruption has forced the hand of the House to at least make it seem like something is being done, which has sent out mixed signals. This past week, the House Judiciary Committee approved definitions for an impeachment inquiry. These definitions are meant to create a set of parameters for an impeachment inquiry. Jerry Nadler, the committee’s chairman, said an impeachment inquiry was underway. However, shortly after making the statement, Pelosi said the committee isn’t engaged in an impeachment inquiry. She’s staying away from the word “impeachment.”

The closer we get to the 2020 presidential election, it becomes less and less likely the House will pass Articles of Impeachment. If the House Democrats continue to be disunited on initiating impeachment proceedings, it will forever be a stain on this House. Trump’s criminality, bigotry, and recklessness have severely damaged the integrity of the presidency. The House’s integrity will be jeopardized by not seizing the moment to counteract his trespasses.

There’s never been a president, or any elected official, who’s been more deserving of impeachment. If the Senate is unwilling to hold a trial, then so be it: let Mitch McConnell and the other Republicans in Congress forever bear weakness and subversion as their legacy. The world and future generations of Americans need to know our elected representatives in the House stood up and took action against the greatest internal threat this country has ever faced. The clock is ticking and it’s just minutes to midnight. 

Putin, Trump, and Moscow Mitch: An Unholy Alliance

The United States is and has been under attack by Putin’s Russian Federation. This isn’t news to informed citizens; it’s been in the public domain for years now. However, as time passes and more investigations unearth the vast scale and severity of Putin’s hostile acts against this nation, the national security apparatus has never been more sure of what the Russians did in 2016, what they’re doing now, and what they intend to do during the 2020 presidential election.

The Russian threat


Putin has plotted and deployed a cyberwar on two fronts against the United States. The first front involves infiltrating our electoral systems to gather intelligence on American voters, and probing for vulnerabilities in the technical infrastructure that facilitates electoral regulation and administration. If the Russians find just a single exploit in a single state, they’ll have the ability to sabotage the outcome of the 2020 election.    

The second front is an insidious and highly-targeted campaign to influence the election by infecting the very fabric of our society. This is dispensed mostly through social media. There’s literally an army of cyber soldiers –manifested by humans and artificial intelligence– whose task is to corrupt the hearts and minds of American voters. This is carried out by fake news campaigns: attacking candidates unfavorable to Russian interests while promoting candidates favorable to Russian interests. 

An example of this type of interference is the 2016 hack on the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) network. They stole tens of thousands of emails from the DNC. Some of these emails were released via DCLeaks in the summer of 2016. However, what’s most revealing about their intentions was the timing of their release. They saved nearly 20,000 emails mined from the personal gmail account of John Podesta, chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. These emails were systematically released in October 7, 2016, just 30 minutes after news outlets began running Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tape, which featured Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women. At the time, the Access Hollywood tape was widely thought –even from within the Trump campaign– to ruin Trump’s bid for the presidency. However, the release of Podesta’s emails served as a timely distraction which saved Trump’s candidacy. And for the rest of the month, to keep the attention on the emails and off the Access Hollywood tape, Wikileaks portioned out daily email releases until the end of October, nearly a week before Election Day. Wikileaks accomplished this feat by working with a hacker, at the time, only known as “Gucifer 2.0.” During the Mueller investigation, it was revealed that the Gucifer 2.0 persona was actually an operation carried out by Russia’s modern-day KGB, the Russian military intelligence agency GRU. 

The Russians manufacture propaganda and disperse it on social media platforms. Their propaganda is spread by unwitting Americans, thinking they’re viewing factual news based in reality. They also paid for advertisements on these platforms to ensure their propaganda reaches a wider audience. 

The Russians, as seen in 2016, are especially interested in targeting swing districts. These are districts that are especially unpredictable since the political party affiliations amongst the electorate are neck and neck. Flipping swing districts, one district at a time, would have the most significant overall impact on a state’s Electoral College votes. 

After the 2016 presidential election, every single one of our intelligence agencies investigated, concluded, and concurred that Russia interfered in the election. The Mueller investigation not only corroborated what the intelligence agencies found, but compounded on it. The Mueller team was able to convict 26 Russian nationals, as well as three Russian companies who conspired to influence the 2016 presidential election. Mueller dedicated an entire volume of his report –nearly 200 pages– to Russian Interference, and as the report concluded, “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” 

And over 2 ½ years later, investigators are still uncovering just how large a web the Russian’s managed to weave. The Senate Intelligence Committee, just a little over a week ago, released a bipartisan report that concluded the Russians targeted the electoral infrastructure, as well as voter registration databases, in every single state in America.

Why Trump and McConnell refuse to protect American elections


Putin attacked the lifeblood of American democracy –the electoral process– in 2016. The evidence is not only overwhelming, it’s indisputable. It was the first major cyberattack perpetrated against the United States during a presidential election, and it wasn’t a singular event. They are intent on striking again in 2020. However, the two most powerful men in the country, Trump and McConnell, are refusing to act, which is a clear and present threat to national security.

The problem starts with Trump. Despite the overwhelming body of evidence that proves Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, he still refuses to even acknowledge it. In fact, he’s continuously sided with Putin over the 2016 election interference. He’s literally taken the word of a brutal dictator over the word of the democratic institutions in his own country. It’s not only the disturbing fact of taking the word of a hostile foreign power over our entire national security apparatus, he values Putin’s word over some members of his own administration. 

Just this week, Trump had a phone conversation with Putin. On Thursday, a reporter posed the question to Trump, “Mueller said last week that Russia is interfering in U.S. elections right now. Did you raise that with Putin?” Trump responded, “You don’t really believe this, do you?” The reporter retorted, “He said it last week. Did you raise it?” Trump then said, “We didn’t talk about it.” Trump then went on to lie about Mueller’s testimony and made crude comments about Mueller’s acuity during his testimony. 

Trump’s unwillingness to acknowledge Russian interference isn’t out of ignorance. It’s due to two main reasons: pride and greed. His fragile ego can’t accept the fact he didn’t win solely based on his electability. Therefore, any inference of election interference implies he’s quite possibly an illegitimate president. 

Then there’s greed. He knows the Russian’s gave him, at the very least, an edge in an already tight election –an election in which he lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes. Since being elected, Trump’s highest approval rating was 46% and his average approval rating is 40% (Gallup). By all metrics, he’s an unpopular president amongst the majority of the American people. It’s reasonable to assume Trump doesn’t think he could be reelected without Russian interference. And therefore, he’s willing to betray the sanctity of American democracy in order to get himself reelected. There are other unconfirmed factors that may also be at play. He has a long, documented history of having financial and business ties to Russia. During the 2016 campaign, he was actively trying to close a deal with the Russian government (i.e. Putin) to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. There’s also the possibility of the Russian’s having compromising material against him.

Enter Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. He’s ruled over the Senate like a dictator –continuously blocking bills from reaching the Senate floor for a vote. This is especially true when it comes to the election security bills: he’s blocked nine over the past two years. On July 25th, he blocked two election security bills in a single day.

McConnell’s refusal to allow duly-elected members of the U.S. Senate to vote on an election security bill has branded him with a moniker that’s unlikely to fade away: Moscow Mitch. McConnell hasn’t been happy with his new nickname, which prompted him to justify his decision to block the bills by saying, “I’m not going to let Democrats and their water carriers in the media to use Russia’s attack on our democracy as a Trojan horse for a partisan wish list of items.” 

These so-called partisan “wish-list items” include making paper ballots a requirement, the protection to audit elections to ensure no indications of sabotage were present, ensuring states and local governments have the resources needed to update and maintain the integrity of electoral infrastructure, among other protections. These items aren’t ideological, they’re common-sense protections against the foreign interference that’s already happened. 

The only conclusion that can be made is McConnell understands Putin wants Trump and Trump-supporting members of Congress in power. Therefore, allowing these protections to be put to a vote and likely passed as law, has the real potential to damage GOP electoral prospects in 2020. There’s only one conclusion to be made: McConnell is open to Russian interference as long as it benefits his party.

After McConnell’s most recent election security bill block, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee said, “Russia’s biggest ally in its quest to infiltrate elections again is Mitch McConnell.” He also added, “I believe foreign, hostile actors are going to make what happened in 2016 look like small potatoes compared to 2016.” 

Justin Amash (I-MI), who was a lifelong Republican up until a little over a month ago when he began speaking out against Trump’s obstruction of justice as documented in the Mueller Report. Amash was the only Republican member of the House to speak out against Trump’s criminality. He was outcast for doing so, and feeling dissatisfied with the Republican Party’s complacency with Trump’s behavior, he left the GOP and became an Independent. Amash tweeted about the McConnell situation, “There was a time when the GOP establishment hated Donald Trump. They then realized they could use a man like this—unprincipled, transactional, shameless—to push their agenda. McConnell and McCarthy are giddy about Trump. Conservatives in Congress are the ones privately horrified.” 

The Washington Post columnist, Dana Milbank, called out McConnell’s obstructive conduct in a piece entitled, Mitch McConnell is a Russian Asset. In the piece, Milbank wrote, “[McConnell is] arguably more than any other American, doing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bidding.”

Conclusions


It’s a seriously dangerous prospect that the two most powerful men in the country are willing to look the other way while a hostile foreign power ramps up their election-interference machine. This is not being done for any misguided political ideology, it’s being done to maintain power. The promise of democracy is that power is vested in the people, and it’s the people who have the power to elect our leaders into positions of power, as granted by the constitution. 

This is beyond McConnell choosing party over country; he’s choosing power over the integrity of our democracy. Trump and McConnell are, in one way or the other, in bed with Putin, and our national security is at risk because of it. They can hug the flag and wear their American-flag lapel pins, but it’s merely a facade. These men aren’t patriots, they’re treacherous politicians willing to win at all costs –even if it means selling out their country to a foreign adversary.

As George Washington once warned, “Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence … the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”

Mueller’s Testimony: Substance Matters

On July 24, 2019, Robert Mueller gave his long-anticipated testimony before the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. It’s been nearly two months since Mueller resigned from his position as Special Counsel from the Department of Justice. During Mueller’s resignation statement, he said if he were called before congress, he would only testify to the content in the Mueller Report. Mueller wasn’t being fictitious –that’s exactly what he did. 

While some in the media were hyping up his testimony, others were more measured in their forecast. Mueller is not –and has never been– one for theatrics or hyperbole. He built his reputation on professionalism, integrity, and objectivity.

As some media analysts foretold, there were no new bombshells that erupted from the congressional hearings. Mueller generally didn’t testify to anything that wasn’t already documented in the Mueller Report. Mueller didn’t stray from the confines he had set for himself. His answers were carefully worded and concise, and his demeanor was unassuming and measured.

As a result of Mueller’s by-the-book and short-winded answers, many members of the media were quick to characterize the hearings as “devastating,” a “disaster,” and some even described his demeanor as “weary.” It’s irresponsible for the media to spin such an important event in this way. This is something to be expected from most right-wing media outlets. Frankly, they were going to attack his testimony, as they’ve attacked his report, one way or the other. However, a fair share of the irresponsible framing of the testimony came from some pundits and analysts from the left-to-center mainstream media. 

We’re living in a unique time in American history. Before becoming President of the United States, most Americans knew Donald Trump from watching him on reality TV. Unfortunately, the manufactured drama and sensationalism of Trump’s reality-TV persona has never gone away. The only thing that changed was the set location: the White House. This kind of hyper-drama has become part of the media’s coverage of this administration. With Trump being loud and bombastic, it’s as if Mueller was expected to put on an act reflective of Trump’s reality TV-esque performances. If Mueller’s testimony is being judged mostly on his performance instead of its substance, then the public is not being adequately informed. 

This was never going to be something out of an episode of a courtroom drama or a scene from A Few Good Men. This is real life and this is serious. The implications of the Mueller Report and Mueller’s testimony –which essentially reiterated and emphasized facts from the report– couldn’t be more serious for our national security, as well as the future of our system of government.

The United States was, and still is being, attacked by the Russian Federation. The Russians are still actively engaged in acts of cyber-warfare against the United States. This is 21st-century warfare: instead of using traditional weapons of war to cause damage, the Russians are attacking us with hackers and sophisticated cyber weapons and assets. These cyber weapons of war are being used to create public discord by amplifying an already polarized political climate. They want Americans to not only distrust the electoral process and democratic institutions, but want to make Americans distrust one another by infecting the hearts and minds of millions of Americans by infiltrating our social media environments. 

This is a national security threat that’s being ignored by the Trump administration, as well as the overwhelming majority of the Republican Party. The Republican-controlled Senate has continuously dismissed legislation aimed to safeguard us from future cyber attacks. 

During his testimony on Russian interference in our elections, Mueller said “[Russia is] doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it in the next campaign.” When he was asked about the Trump campaign accepting support from the Russains and the fact that contacts from a foreign adversary in a political campaign went unreported, he said: “I hope this is not the new normal, but I fear it is.”

There was only a single Republican congressman who even bothered to ask about Russian interference. A foreign adversary interfering in our elections and stoking division amongst Americans shouldn’t be a bipartisan issue. The fact that it is demonstrates that Republicans are putting their own self-interest over the country’s. 

Mueller also reiterated the evidence he uncovered on the part of his report that focused on obstruction of justice (Volume II) committed by Trump. In his report, Mueller found ten instances of possible obstruction of justice. Trump and his political supporters have spun the narrative that Mueller exonerated Trump of any wrongdoing. Trump has said repeatedly that he was “totally exonerated” by Mueller. While Mueller never had the power to hold Trump criminally accountable for the crime of obstructing justice, he did emphasize that he was unwilling to clear him of any wrongdoing. Mueller said, “The president was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed.” Mueller was also asked if Trump could be prosecuted for crimes when he leaves office, in which he replied “True.”

Mueller did answer a question that wasn’t in the report, such as Trump’s characterization of the Mueller investigation being a “witch hunt.” Trump has been calling the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt” from the beginning. He’s used the “witch hunt” phrase well over a hundred times, all in an attempt to corrupt the integrity of the investigation. When asked about this by a member of the House, Mueller said: “It is not a witch hunt.”

When the day’s long testimony concluded, Trump claimed a false victory. He lied and directly contradicted Mueller’s testimony. He said Mueller totally exonerated him, then later contradicting himself, said Mueller didn’t have the right to exonerate him. Trump was asked by a reporter about Mueller’s testimony pertaining to the fact Trump could be prosecuted for obstruction of justice when he leaves office, Trump lied and said Mueller corrected himself “…later on in the afternoon.” Trump then snapped at the reporter, saying “…you’re fake news. And you’re one of the most.” Trump’s political allies also engaged in this form of gaslighting. Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted, “Didn’t take long for Mueller to once again vindicate President [Trump]. No collusion. No obstruction. And now Mueller all but admits it was all along a total witch hunt.”

This is where we are as a country. The Mueller investigation concluded Russia did in fact interfere in our election, found at least 140 contacts between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and uncovered ten criminal acts of obstruction of justice by Trump. And Mueller reiterated and emphasized the details of his findings during his testimony. It was unfairly framed as a failure because some members of the media expected Mueller to turn into Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men. However, if you take a step back and really reflect on the substance of Mueller’s testimony, there were numerous bombshells worthy of a dystopian blockbuster movie.

Russia is a national security threat to the United States. In fact, investigators are finding that their interference in the 2016 presidential election was even worse than previously suspected. In a Senate Intelligence Committee report released just yesterday, investigators determined that Russia targeted election systems in every state in America. This includes hacking into voter registration systems, as well as state voting databases. 

Nonetheless, we have a president who refuses to even accept or acknowledge that the Russians interfered in the lifeblood of our democracy: the electoral process. He has taken the word of Vladimir Putin, a brutal dictator, over our own democratic institutions (intelligence agencies, Department of Justice, congressional investigators, etc). And the Republican Party continues to shamelessly support Trump’s position on Russian interference. They know it helped get him elected, and if the Russian’s want Trump in office, they also want Republicans in congress to support him. They’re allowing a foreign adversary to destroy us from within so they can preserve their own power. If an entire political party is unwilling to address, or even acknowledge, Russia’s interference and continued interference, then the party is rotten at the core. 

The House Democrats should be initiating impeachment proceedings. While it’s unlikely the Republican-controlled Senate will ever even hold a trial if the House passes Articles of Impeachment, that’s not an excuse for not holding Trump accountable for his criminality and accepting the assistance of a foreign adversary. Mueller provided an abundance of evidence –the House needs to put his words into action. There has to come a point where political maneuvering takes a back seat to carrying out their sacred oath of office: to protect and defend the constitution.  

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.” 

Mueller Translated: Start the Impeachment Hearings

On Wednesday, May 29, 2019, Robert Mueller broke his nearly two-year long vow of public silence. He announced the Special Counsel Office’s work is complete and tendered his resignation.

Since the release of his redacted report, there’s been infighting by Democrats on how to proceed, and spin from Republicans as to the report’s findings. Trump has attacked the Mueller Report on all fronts, yet still seems to promote the utterly false notion that the report exonerated him. And Bill Barr, Trump’s attorney general, misled the public on more than one occasion as to the report’s substance and overall conclusions.

Deciphering Mueller-Speak


Robert Mueller is a professional of the highest caliber. His reputation is steeped in qualities like integrity, honor, and fairness. He’s not a political player; he’s a professional. He doesn’t engage in hyperbole, and in his statement, never strayed from the carefully chosen words of his scripted remarks. Since we live in times of hyperbolic rhetoric, and Mueller has a strict code of conduct, we can’t mistake Mueller’s restrained statement as inconsequential. He’s never going to make an inflammatory statement, even if he may be thinking it. Therefore, we need to be able to read between the lines.

Mueller is the antithesis of Trump. While Trump will speak in an incoherent, impulsive, and stream-of-consciousness style, Mueller’s rhetoric is sensible and deliberate. Mueller speaks rarely; Trump speaks and tweets constantly. Mueller has morals and values; Trump is immoral and values only himself. Mueller speaks only on the facts; Trump lies so much the press can barely keep up with fact checking him.  

He hasn’t spoken publicly since he started his role as leading the Department of Justice’s Special Counsel’s Office. This naturally gives the times he does speak special meaning. He didn’t have to give a statement, but he did. This, in and of itself, should lead us to infer that he’s trying to communicate something important to the American people.

Mueller’s Statement Translated: Commence with the Impeachment Hearings


Mueller’s statement was brief, measured, and purposeful. There are two significant takeaways from his statement:

  • Mueller could not prosecute Trump even if he wanted to due to Department of Justice rules and guidelines. He was aware of this fact when he started, which influenced the way he conducted the investigation –knowing no matter what kind of crime was uncovered, he would never be able to indict a sitting president.
  • If Mueller had the evidence to clear Trump of criminal allegations, he had the power to do so –but he didn’t.

As counterintuitive as it may sound, it’s true that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime. If Trump, as he once bragged about, hypothetically shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, he technically couldn’t be charged with murder while he was a sitting president. This doesn’t mean he’s not culpable legally, however the criminal charges would have to wait until he left office.

Mueller, when speaking of the state of Trump’s criminality, said: “[if after completing the investigation] we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.” Mueller investigated 10 areas of possible obstruction of justice committed by Trump. Therefore, in those 10 areas, Mueller holds the opinion that there was undoubtedly wrongdoing committed by Trump, but due to the restriction of being unable to charge a sitting president, he couldn’t indict him. In reference to Trump’s wrongdoing, all Mueller could do was investigate it and write it down (i.e. the Mueller Report).

During his short statement, Mueller never used the word “impeachment,” yet in Mueller’s classically stark, subtle, and understated style of speaking, he said, “The constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing.”

Mueller’s referencing the constitution’s section on impeachment:

“The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

United States Constitution; Article II, Section IV

While Mueller didn’t use the word “impeachment” in his statement, he did cite the remedy in Volume II of the Mueller Report. Impeachment is a political process and not a criminal process. From the start, Mueller knew his hands were tied in investigating Trump’s obstruction of justice from a criminal vantage point. Therefore, the only recourse is the political process of impeachment.

The vast majority of the Mueller Report is essentially a referral for impeachment. And Mueller’s statement was an appeal to Congress to initiate impeachment hearings. Mueller investigated and documented Trump’s wrongdoing, and then turned his findings over to Congress and the American people. Barr infamously issued a misleading summary on Mueller’s findings and then dragged his feet for nearly a month before releasing it. He did this in an attempt to manipulate public opinion.

In his statement, Mueller emphasized the importance of reading the report. He said he and his team selected their words “carefully.” He’s signaling that the evidence needed to initiate impeachment hearings are right there in the report.

Mueller and his team conducted their task with excellence and integrity. Nearly two years and not a single leak came out of the Special Counsel’s Office. The Mueller team did their job. Mueller gave the House the ammunition they need, and it’s now up to the House to use it.

Conclusions


For any rationally-minded person who read the Mueller Report, or at least understands the gravity of the areas of obstruction of justice, it’s clear this president has engaged in numerous acts of wrongdoing.

The world needs to see that we won’t stand for an amoral president. Future generations will judge us on how we dealt with this threat. Impeachment may not result in a conviction in the GOP-controlled Senate, but we need to establish that we did everything we could to fight back against injustice and hold this president to account.

When future generations ask what we did during these tumultuous times, nothing short of “we did everything we could” will suffice. This generation has a date with destiny, and the House needs to schedule it.

Propagandist-in-Chief

Last week’s article, Weapons of Propaganda, laid out the differences between disinformation and misinformation and its negative consequences on our democratic society. This week, Donald Trump has put the ideas and words of last week’s article into action. This isn’t something new; Trump engages in propaganda on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. However, it’s important to take note of these deceptions as they’re happening.

The Winds of Impeachment


The winds of impeachment have been picking up in the Democratic Party, specifically in the House since it’s the House that must initiate the impeachment process. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, has been wary of starting the impeachment process. She hasn’t ruled it out, but has been reluctant to move too quickly. It’s not that she thinks Trump shouldn’t be subjected to the impeachment process, it’s the political calculus involved with an impeachment that she’s concerned about.

“If you come at the king, you best not miss,” is a quote from Omar Little, a character from David Simon’s masterpiece HBO series, The Wire. The substance of the quote is something that’s been at the forefront of Pelosi’s mind for awhile now. She’s aware that impeachment will be divisive for the country. She fears the possibility that impeachment hearings could garner public sympathy for Trump, as we’ve seen during the Bill Clinton impeachment process. This could have a negative effect on not only the 2020 presidential election, but also the 2020 congressional races.

However, the idea of Trump being viewed as a sympathetic figure by the American public has been disputed by many experts and analysts. Clinton’s Articles of Impeachment were founded on an inappropriate relationship with a White House intern. Most of the public viewed the Clinton impeachment as a political overreach. The case for Trump’s impeachment is much different both in substance and scope.

With the release of the redacted Mueller Report, which laid out nearly a dozen instances of possible obstruction of justice committed by Trump, there’s been an increase in congressional investigations in the House. The House has been trying to perform their oversight responsibilities, yet the Trump administration has been in a state of open rebellion against the legislative branch. They ignored attempts by House congressional committees to have access to pertinent persons and documents, and when they were left to resort to issuing subpoenas, the administration defied them.

All of these acts of defiance have put enormous pressure on Pelosi. She’s been lobbied by her own Democratic colleagues to initiate impeachment proceedings. In response to the lobbying efforts, on the morning of May 22, 2019, she met with the House Democratic Caucus to discuss their strategy for moving forward. It was ultimately decided they wouldn’t start impeachment hearings yet. She was able to convince her colleagues to be patient and wait for more facts to emerge from the many ongoing investigations.

After the meeting, Pelosi was asked by the press how they planned to proceed. She stuck with her stance on waiting for the investigations to churn up more facts, but made a weighty statement in three points, saying:

“We do believe that it’s important to follow the facts.”

“We believe that no one is above the law.”

“…and we believe the President of the United States is engaged in a coverup.”

The Democratic leadership from the House and Senate were scheduled to meet with the president later on that day. They’ve been engaged in back-channel discussions with Trump for the past few weeks in order to broker an infrastructure deal. The Democratic leaders said Trump implied he was open to working on the deal. He stipulated he wanted to see their infrastructure plan, so the Democrats prepared a document with a proposed strategy and budget.

When the Democratic leaders from the House and Senate arrived at the White House, it became clear they weren’t going to be discussing infrastructure. The curtains in the meeting room were drawn and there was no seat at the head of the table for the president, implying the meeting would be short and one-sided. When Trump entered the room he went off on a tirade, according to the Democrats who were present. Since he intentionally didn’t have a seat, he was in a literal position to speak down to the Democrats. The takeaway from the short meeting was Trump saying he would no longer be working with the Democrats while they were investigating him.

Meltdown in the Rose Garden


Directly after the meeting, Trump arranged for a press conference to be held in the Rose Garden. As the press waited for the president to walk out, it was clear to everyone there wasn’t going to be any announcement on an infrastructure deal. The pre-printed Mueller Report-related sign on the podium made his intentions clear: the sign, in part, read “No Collusion. No Obstruction.”

It’s obvious that the meeting with the Democratic leadership and the Rose Garden address that followed was never intended to be about infrastructure. Trump planned to go on the offensive all along (or on the defensive, depending on how you look at it). Why would there be a sign about the Mueller Report on the podium when the address was meant to be about infrastructure?

The Rose Garden address quickly turned into a tirade against all of Trump’s political opponents, both real and perceived. He went from one person and topic to the next, barely speaking a single sentence that wasn’t at least a partial lie.

Some Examples of the Disinformation Spread During the Rose Garden Address

  • “18 Angry Democrats,” as displayed on the the pre-printed podium sign. He made false claims about the Mueller team, saying they were all angry Democrats and were Hillary Clinton supporters. While it is true that a few members of the investigation had made financial contributions to the Clinton campaign, the claim that all members of the team were Democrats looking to take him down is disinformation. Robert Mueller himself is a lifelong Republican. The official who appointed Mueller as special counsel, Rod Rosenstein, another registered Republican. Moreover, the “No Obstruction” part of the sign on the podium is disinformation. Mueller uncovered nearly a dozen acts of possible obstruction of justice.
  • “I’m the most transparent president, probably in the history of the country,” Trump claimed. Trump is the least transparent president in the modern era, if not in history. He broke the decades-long tradition of presidential candidates releasing their tax returns in order to be transparent with the public, showing where their money comes from and whom they owe money to. Trump also declined to be interviewed by the Mueller team. Instead, he submitted carefully-prepared answers to Mueller’s questions, which were carefully constructed and combed through by his legal team. Trump’s Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, has reached a historic low when it comes to holding press conferences. Press briefings are the main apparatus for demonstrating transparency between the White House and the public. As of today, there hasn’t been a press briefing in 45 days. There’s literally dust covering the podium in the Press Briefing Room.
  • Trump claimed, “I respect the courts. I respect Congress…” Since we’re in the middle of a constitutional crisis that’s currently being sorted out in the courts, this is another lie. He even contradicted himself in the same address when he said he would no longer be working with Congress while he’s being investigated. Most presidents, to one degree or another, have been under investigation, and it’s never stopped them from governing. In modern history, both Nixon and Clinton still worked with Congress when they were being investigated and even when Articles of Impeachment were being drawn up.
  • “I don’t speak to Russia about campaigns… it’s a hoax,” Trump insisted. This is another blatant lie. When Trump was on the campaign trail, he called on Russia during a campaign speech, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton] emails that are missing.” Well, they were listening because on that same day, Russian operatives made their first attempt at hacking Clinton’s personal email server. Moreover, in the Mueller Report, it was uncovered that there were at least 140 contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian nationals.
  • “I don’t do coverups. You people probably know that better than anybody.” One coverup most of the country is aware of is Trump’s efforts to buy the silence of the adult film actress, Stormy Daniels, whom Trump had an affair with. When the Trump campaign received word that she intended to go public, Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, brokered a deal on behalf of Trump to pay her $130,000 to keep quiet. Cohen is currently in federal prison, in part, since he violated campaign finance law by making the hush money payments on behalf of Trump. Cohen initially told investigators he paid Daniels off with his own money, which is partly true. However, it was arranged from the start that Trump would reimburse Cohen in installments of $35,000. During Cohen’s last public testimony to the House Oversight Committee, Cohen produced copies of the $35,000 checks, signed by Trump, some of which when he was President of the United States.

Propagandist-in-Chief


Since the events of May 22, 2019, Trump has been publicly attacking Pelosi. He called her “Crazy Nancy,” but then said he didn’t want to share nicknames, since he calls Bernie Sanders, “Crazy Bernie.”

Trump tweeted out a doctored video of a segment of one of Pelosi’s addresses this week, which made Pelosi appear to sound intoxicated or unwell. Trump tweeted the video out to his millions of followers with the caption, “PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE.”

When fact checkers pulled up the original video from C-SPAN, it was obvious the video had been slowed down to make it appear as though there was something wrong with Pelosi. The video went viral, being sent out en masse amongst MAGA supporters and right-wing figures. Rudy Giuliani also tweeted out the video, but deleted it once it became apparent it was doctored. Trump, however, has not deleted his tweet.

The person who created the doctored video of Pelosi was engaging in disinformation. Trump engaged in misinformation by tweeting the video out. In this case, his intentions were nefarious either way since his intention was to discredit Pelosi. This fact was sealed when he chose not to delete it from his Twitter feed after learning the truth. Therefore, this is an act of propaganda against Pelosi. The President of the United States openly engaging in propaganda against the Speaker of the House, the second in the line of succession.

Using the word “propaganda” is not hyperbole. It’s literally a dictionary definition of the word, which Dictionary.com defines as, “information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.”

Trump uses a particular tactic in his dissemination of propaganda, using one-sided statements like “everybody knows,” “you people probably know better than anyone,” “you all agree.” He qualifies his lies with these false confirmations of consensus. In the example of the Rose Garden address, he’s largely speaking to members of the press –they don’t have the means to respond– it’s a one-way exchange of information, yet he creates the illusion that everyone is in agreement with him.

As the investigations continue and the possibility of impeachment hearings is becoming more and more likely, Trump will become more unhinged and more brazen. It’s critical that we don’t let these abuses of power to become normalized.

This week the courts have ruled to uphold both cases in which the congressional subpoenas were contested by the Trump administration. There are more subpoenas awaiting judicial review, as well as an appeal to one of the cases already ruled upon. This is how the system is supposed to work: checks and balances between the three branches of government. However, if the Trump administration defies the court rulings, then we’ll have entered uncharted territory. This constitutional crisis will turn into a constitutional calamity. Our form of government will no longer be a democratic republic; it’ll be a banana republic ruled by a tyrant.