The Impeachment Trial: Minutes to Midnight

As we await the impeachment trial in the Senate, the future of our democracy hangs in the balance. There were two articles of impeachment that were drafted and adopted by the House of Representatives. Once the articles of impeachment are formally sent to the Senate, Mitch McConnell will have control over how the trial is conducted. 

The problem now, which shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who’s aware of his foul tactics to obstruct congressional proceedings, is McConnell has already made his intent clear: he’s coordinating with the White House on the impeachment trial and intends to conduct it with futility. 

This is an affront to the constitution itself –the very reason Trump was impeached in the first place. McConnell declared he wouldn’t allow for witnesses to appear before the Senate. He also won’t allow for relevant documents –documents the Trump administration refused to turn over to the House– to be turned over into evidence for the trial in the Senate. 

Our judicial system is far from perfect, but if the core principles of a judicial proceeding aren’t being followed, how could justice ever be faithfully dispensed? The senators are literally the jury in this trial. They have the collective power to vote to remove Trump as president. If the senators are jurors, then McConnell is effectively the foreman of the jury. Anyone who’s reported for jury duty knows the justice system doesn’t want jurors who are overtly prejudice, bias, or who have the intention of being partial. And yet, McConnell has already publicly stated that he’ll be coordinating with the White House. Trump is the defendant in this trial. Just imagine how a criminal trial would unfold if the jury foreman was “coordinating” with the defense. Imagine how fair a trial would be if no witnesses were permitted to testify before the jurors. And imagine how fair that trial would be if the defense wasn’t obligated to turn over all relevant documents to the court. It wouldn’t be fair and that’s McConnell’s objective. 

Just a few days ago, McConnell’s home-state newspaper, the Courier-Journal, published an Op-Ed by law professor Kent Greenfield, saying McConnell is about to violate two of his oaths of office. The first oath being the oath every senator takes: to “support and defend the constitution.” The second oath is specific to the impeachment trial which all senators will have to swear or affirm to: “I solemnly swear (or affirm) that in all things appertaining to the trial of Donald J. Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.”

The framers of the constitution understood the seriousness and importance of an impeachment trial, so they included this oath to ensure senators would respect the gravity of the process, ensuring they would analyze the evidence objectively from a legal and moral perspective. 

Greenfield warned that “McConnell’s loyalty to Trump should not overwhelm his loyalty to the constitution… All senators should take their obligation of faithful impartiality seriously, especially McConnell.”  

Nancy Pelosi, in response to McConnell’s declaration to coordinate the impeachment trial with the White House, has made the decision to withhold the articles of impeachment from the Senate for the time being. Pelosi’s decision is strategic: she wants to ensure there’s a fair and impartial trial in the Senate before handing over control to McConnell. This is her last opportunity to have an effect on how the rules for the impeachment trial will be drafted. If a majority of the Senate votes against Trump and McConnell’s impeachment trial wishlist (no witnesses, no withheld documents), then McConnell will be pressured to hold an actual trial.

Trump and his enablers in Congress and the media have been fervently claiming that Trump has been unfairly targeted by the House impeachment proceedings. They say he hasn’t abused his power (Article I) and has not obstructed Congress (Article II). And yet the hypocrisy is crystal clear: if he was truly an innocent man, wouldn’t they want to present all relevant witnesses and documents to prove his innocence? After all, the Republicans have a majority in the Senate. Why would they possibly want to hold a sham trial when they could hold a legitimate one to show the country their president is innocent of the high crimes and misdemeanors he’s been charged with? The answer is simple: they know he’s guilty.

Congress, as decreed by the constitution, is a co-equal branch of government. They have an obligation to hold the president accountable, regardless of party affiliation. Trump’s congressional defiance is an attempt at not only covering up his crimes against the People, but is also, in effect, a hostile takeover of the federal government. If Congress yields their co-equal power, this is no longer a democratic republic as it has been since its foundation, it will mutate into a monarchy. It won’t be called that, of course, but it will undoubtedly be a government with power being wielded by one man. Congress and the Supreme Court will devolve into little more than non-binding accessories.

This is precisely what Benjamin Franklin forewarned after walking out of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. A citizen, eager to hear what kind of government the delegates had decided on, asked Franklin “Well, Doctor, what have we got –a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin cautiously replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” And we’ll soon find out if we can “keep it.” 

The Whistleblower’s Role is Now Irrelevant 

Trump and his shameless defenders have been fixated on the whistleblower since the story broke in September. In the beginning, there was just the whistleblower’s complaint: one source of information. However, once the proverbial rock was unearthed and the complaint was corroborated many times over, the whistleblower’s role in the impeachment inquiry became irrelevant. And as we hear witness after witness testify before the House Intelligence Committee, the greatest political scandal in American history continues to unfold before our eyes.

We’ve heard, and will continue to hear, testimony from members of the State Department and the military. This testimony has been been incredibly damaging to the Trump administration. The whistleblower’s initial complaint of wrongdoing has been corroborated by every testifying witness, as well as the White House’s own transcript of the now-infamous phone call.  

Despite the legitimacy and consistency of facts gathered by the House Intelligence Committee, Trump, the GOP, and the right-wing media continue to obsess over the whistleblower. The reason for this is simple: it’s a distraction. The identity of the whistleblower, by law, must remain anonymous. The whole point of having laws to protect whistleblowers is to make people feel comfortable about coming forward when they witness or suspect wrongdoing. 

The Republicans know the whistleblower’s identity must remain anonymous, but they will continue to harp on it because they have no reasonable defense. They can’t argue it didn’t happen because it did. They can’t argue that it did happen but it’s perfectly legal because it’s not. Therefore, the only thing they can do is cast doubt by conspiring to misinform the public. 

There’s an old legal saying: “If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table.” The whistleblower is part of the pounding on the table. They know the whistleblower’s identity is sealed, so they use it to conjure up a manufactured conspiracy. They put the whistleblower’s name on their witness list so they can claim the impeachment inquiry is rigged because the Democrats won’t allow them to question the whistleblower. They want uniformed Americans to believe the whistleblower is the villain in this story. It’s a red herring and an appeal to ignorance. 

The whistleblower’s role is akin to a neighbor calling 911 after hearing gunshots. The police come to the scene and find a dead body. They conduct their investigation, examining the evidence and questioning witnesses, which leads them to the murderer. The murderer is apprehended, indicted, and goes to trial. Just imagine how absurd it would be if the primary focus of the trial for the defense was finding out who called 911. The neighbor simply reported something suspicious. This doesn’t change the fact that a person was murdered. It’s completely irrelevant how the police initially found out about the murder. If the neighbor wanted to remain anonymous and not testify in the trial, would that suddenly make all the other evidence inadmissible? No

While the neighbor-calling-the-police analogy is extreme, the logic is no different than the whistleblower’s involvement in the Ukraine scandal. They became aware of wrongdoing and reported it to the appropriate party (i.e. the inspector general of national intelligence). This is why the police have anonymous tip lines and why institutions have whistleblower procedures and protections. 

Trump and his defenders will continue to pound the table, hoping the noise will be loud enough to distract enough Americans away from the facts. They will talk about the nefarious “deep state” trying to undermine an innocent president. The real deep state, however, is made up of American civil servants who dedicate their lives to protect this country –even if it means protecting it from itself.

Maintaining the Momentum of Impeachment

The Trump administration is infested with corruption and has demonstrated time after time that it’s incapable of governing. The administration is refusing to cooperate in any way with the House’s impeachment inquiry. For the Trump administration, this is business as usual.

The constitution makes it perfectly clear that the legislative branch has the authority and responsibility of holding the executive branch accountable. It’s our duly-elected representatives who are engaged in this important undertaking. Yet Trump doesn’t respect the authority of Congress –a co-equal branch of government– which means he doesn’t respect the constitution he swore to protect and defend. And if Trump doesn’t respect Congress, he doesn’t respect the American people. It’s the people who elected our representatives and therefore their power comes from us. 

Trump has thrown the delicate power balance in the Middle East off its axis by recklessly pulling American armed forces from Syria with no exit or diplomatic planning. This has put the Kurds, one of our strongest allies in combating ISIS and maintaining stability in the Middle East, in imminent danger. The House voted overwhelmingly (354-60) to condemn Trump’s decision. The majority of House Republicans even supported this rare act of condemnation. 

Trump’s capacity for corruption is boundless. In the midst of the Ukraine crisis, Trump was still intent on soliciting foreign powers to interfere in our electoral process by urging China to investigate the Biden family. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice’s Southern District of New York office. The news broke shortly after two of his Ukrainian associates who helped him with the Ukraine scandal were arrested at the airport with one-way tickets to Germany. They were charged with violating campaign finance laws. Giuliani had lunch with them just hours before their arrest.   

The Ukraine scandal hasn’t seemed to worry Trump enough to take a break from profiting off of the American taxpayer. He uses his power and influence to direct government business to his own properties. He’s been doing this since he was sworn in. During the past year’s G7 summit, Trump went out of his way to promote his Doral resort for the 2020 G7 summit. And, as of yesterday, it was announced Doral would be the location for the 2020 G7 economic summit. 

All of these events have only happened in the past couple of weeks, just as the impeachment inquiry is at a fever pitch. It’s obvious to any rationally-minded individual that this president believes he is above the law. While any other person in his situation would be on their best behavior, he’s becoming more unhinged and reckless by the day. This perpetual state of chaos is not normal and we cannot become desensitized to it. And this is why the impeachment inquiry is more important than ever. 

The process of impeachment must have a mandate by the American people: citizens deeply concerned about the affairs of the office that’s administered with by the consent of the people. Polls in the past few weeks have indicated the majority of Americans support impeachment. However, we cannot rely solely on polls. We need to apply significant pressure to our members of Congress, regardless of their party or position on impeachment. 

Impeachment is only half the battle since it’s effectively non-binding. Trump will need to be convicted by the Republican-controlled Senate, which is led by Mitch McConnell –the most notorious and powerful obstructor of the legislative process in Congress. If there’s not significant pressure coming from a majority of Americans, McConnell will do everything in his power to coerce the impeachment trial in the Senate. As the Majority Leader, McConnell has significant power in whipping Republican votes. However, if public opinion on impeachment and removal continues to gain momentum, they’ll be much more inclined to vote to convict. This will come out of self-preservation for their own political future. It’s unlikely most of these Republican senators will be voting their conscience. They’ll be voting whichever way the political winds are blowing. And it’s the American people who control those winds. 

The American people will need to play their part. We need to focus our attention on contacting our elected officials, imploring them to support impeachment and removal from office. Calls need to be made and letters need to be drafted. We also need to convince our otherwise apathetic friends and family to do the same. 

The opportunity to right the greatest wrong in modern American history is upon us. There’s never been a more important time to engage in civic action. If Trump isn’t impeached and convicted, it could very well be the final shot across the bow for American democracy.

When our constitution was created at the Constitutional Convention, it’s said that a woman approached Benjamin Franklin and asked what kind of government they had created. Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” 

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. 

Trump’s Trickle-Down Hatred

The United States is in a state of distress and turmoil. The country experienced two more mass shootings in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH within 24 hours of one another. The mass shooting in El Paso resulted in the deaths of 22 people and an additional 9 deaths in Dayton, among many more who’ve been injured. There have been 255 mass shootings in the United States in 2019. Mass shootings, in frequency and scope, are a uniquely American problem. As the number of radical hate groups rise, so have the mass shootings. The El Paso murderer was specifically targeting “hispanics.” 

These mass shootings have been happening long before Donald Trump became president, yet it’s now a grim reality that the President of the United States is culpable for at least some of them –provoking far-right extremists to commit mass murder based on his own rhetoric. He’s had a long, documented history of racism and discrimination. Trump’s rhetoric has been steeped in fear mongering, racism, and xenophobia since he announced his candidacy for president at Trump Tower in the summer of 2015. He generalized an entire group of people as “criminals” and “rapists,” then adding as if it was an afterthought, that he assumes “some” are good people. 

Since becoming president, his malice-filled tone hasn’t changed; in fact, it’s become more extreme. We’ve consistently witnessed the actions of a president who can rightfully be characterized as a white supremacist. One of his first actions as president was a Muslim ban by executive order. The courts were quick to dissolve the executive order, but the presidential tone had been set.

There was the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, NC, which resulted in the death of a young woman peacefully protesting against the anti-Semitic and racist ideologies being flaunted. Trump responded by saying there were “fine people on both sides” of the protest. There were white supremacists and then people protesting against them, yet he considered the white supremacists to be “fine people.” The white supremacists were thrilled with his response, while the rest of the country watched in shock.

As the 2018 midterm elections were approaching, Trump used his racist rhetoric and fear mongering to help Republican congressional candidates, as well as a ploy to get funds for his border wall. He started using the word “invasion” to describe the migrants attempting to enter the United States from the southern border. He manufactured a crisis by relentlessly spewing the word “invasion.” The word “invasion” was used with a militaristic spin, which therefore implied that the country was under attack. They spoke of caravans of tens of thousands of migrants coming to the border, with right-wing media personalities supplementing Trump’s propaganda by reporting these were violent, military-age men. Trump declared a national emergency and sent thousands of soldiers to the border to thwart off the so-called invasion. After the midterm elections were over, most of the troops were recalled. There was never an attempted invasion. It was propaganda used to instill fear in the public with the intent of influencing the midterm elections. 

The real crisis at the border started coming to light in the past few months. The Trump administration has intentionally been bottlenecking the asylum process at the border, which ensured to minimize the number of migrants being considered for asylum. This administration started an inhumane policy of separating children from their parents at the border. This was not being used as a child-protection measure, it was being used as a deterrent.

Then came reports of a humanitarian crisis: human beings were being treated worse than animals. Children were forced to sleep on concrete floors with aluminum blankets. These children were packed into caged-off areas that were originally designed to hold adults. And they were designed to hold a fraction of the number of people they were packing in. When the media and members of Congress started looking into the crisis, Trump became combative, saying it was fake news. He also lied and said it wasn’t him but President Obama who started separating families. 

Then there’s the wave of racist rhetoric coming from Trump’s mouth and Twitter account. He attacked four congresswomen of color. He told them to go back to their own countries. These are four American citizens, duly-elected to Congress. Three of them were born in America and one became a naturalized citizen decades ago. This kind of rhetoric, “go back to…” goes back to the Jim Crow south. When schools were being integrated, it was common for the racist white protestors to yell out “go back to Africa,” which like Trump’s racist remarks, doesn’t make logical sense since they were born in America. During a rally held shortly after the tweets, Trump targeted his attack on one of the four congresswomen, Ilhan Omar (D-MN). In response to the attack, the MAGA crowd disturbingly began chanting “Send her back!” repeatedly. Trump stood there with a smile on his face, basking in the hatred. Trump’s actions caused such an outrage that the House, for the first time in over 100 years, voted to formally condemn the president.  

Just before the massacre, Trump started targeting the chair of the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings (D-MD). He used racially-inflammatory language calling Cummings’ district a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human would want to live.” Based on logical reasoning, Trump is calling the people living in Cummings’ district subhuman. Since “no human would want to live there,” the people living there aren’t fully human. This is clearly a racist attack on not only a respected and distinguished member of Congress, but on an entire community. This further exemplifies his white supremacist ideology, as well as demonstrates the argument made in a previous article that Trump is not president for all Americans, he’s president for his supporters. Trump’s attack against Cummings came after Mueller’s testimony before two House committees. He didn’t choose to attack the white chairmen of the other committees investigating him, he targeted the black chairmen. 

This is the same racist pattern as the attack on the four congresswomen of color. Part of his reasoning for the attack was that they’re socialists. Yet Bernie Sanders, the only member of Congress who’s a self-declared socialist and a major critic of Trump, was never told to go back to his country. In fact, he’s never told any white member of Congress to go back to their own country.  

These are all just some of the examples of the racist, amoral, and hate-filled rhetoric Trump has been spewing out of his mouth and Twitter account for years now. As President of the United States, his perceived authority gives significant weight to his rhetoric. Amongst his supporters, he’s normalized hate speech. For example, just a few months ago during a campaign rally in Florida, he continuously used the word “invasion” when referring to immigrants. When he asked the crude MAGA crowd what he should do about it, someone yelled out “shoot them.” Trump smiled and joked, “only in the panhandle [can you get away with that].” Well, just last week, someone did “shoot them.”

The mass murderer in El Paso specifically targeted the city because he wanted to kill “hispanics.” We know this because he wrote it in his so-called manifesto. In the manifesto, the mass murderer used the word “invasion” numerous times to justify the massacre. The manifesto also featured some of the same talking points used by Trump and right-wing media personalities like Tucker Carlson. 

There’s a serious problem in this country when you can’t readily tell the difference between a mass murdering white supremacist’s manifesto and the Twitter account of the President of the United States. Trump didn’t physically pull the trigger, but his racist, hateful, and divisive rhetoric undoubtedly made pulling the trigger easier for the El Paso mass murderer. Any reasonably-minded person can conclude that Trump is culpable in this mass murder. The proverbial blood is on his hands.  

After the weekend of mass shootings, Trump addressed the country. He was in full Trump-teleprompter mode, coldly reading words off a screen with no emotion or sincerity. He did denounce white supremacy, but it was utterly unconvincing, which makes sense since he is a racist and a majority of Americans agree. He went on to blame “violent video games” and “mental illness” for the attack, which are lies. There’s no evidence that violent video games cause mass shootings. Moreover, statistically, people suffering from mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence than to commit it. 

When an Islamic terrorist commits a mass murder, the blame is quickly attributed to their extremist ideology of hate. However, when an American commits an act of domestic terrorism, excuses like “violent video games” and “mental health” are used. The only difference between foreign terrorists and domestic terrorists is their specific brand of extremist ideology. They’re two sides of the same sadistic coin. It’s time domestic terrorism is treated with the same attention and resolve as foreign terrorism. Americans are far more likely to be killed by a domestic terrorist than a foreign terrorist, so it’s an urgent matter of national security that laws are enacted to curtail the domestic threat.

On the Monday following the mass murders, Trump went to El Paso and Dayton to meet with and console the victims’ families. The mass shootings are a national tragedy. Trump himself ordered flags across the country to be flown at half mast. And yet, in a time of tragedy, he spent the day attacking political opponents and bragging about the reception he received on his visit. His administration produced a video, which was posted on social media, of Trump visiting the two cities. The video had the tone and production value of a campaign ad. It depicted people waving and smiling at Trump. To say the video was in poor taste would be a gross understatement. 

The most disturbing moment of his one-day “consolation” tour was a photo taken in El Paso, which is the photo featured in this article. A 2-month old baby was a victim of the El Paso mass shooting. The baby is now orphaned after both parents were killed shielding the child. The baby broke a few fingers and was discharged from the hospital by the time Trump showed up. However, the baby was brought back to the hospital to see Trump. In the photo, you can see Trump grinning and giving a thumbs-up. Melania Trump has a chilling smile on her face as well. The wildly inappropriate and disturbing photo was posted on one of Melania’s social media accounts the same day. An orphaned child being used as a prop while Trump and his wife’s faces are gleeful is not only aloof but dark. The essence of his consolation tour is summed up in that photo. 

This is one of the darkest and most volatile times this country has ever experienced on the domestic front. There’s been more mass shootings this year than there have been days in the year; we’re averaging more than one per day. The rise of white supremacy is directly correlated with the rise of Trump and the MAGA movement. This isn’t just about a president who engages in criminal conduct, it’s about a president who is himself a national security risk. It’s never been more apparent that having a president devoid of any sense of morality endangers not only American democracy and American values, but is literally endangering Americans. There is no moral relativism when it comes to supporting this president: if you support a racist then you’re part of the problem. The time for being on the sidelines has passed. It’s time to choose sides in this defining battle for the soul of America. 

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.