Trump is likely to meet the 25th amendment

The Thinker by Rodin

Like most of America, it’s hard for me to turn my eyes away from the disastrous Donald Trump presidency. On May 19 I noted that every day of his presidency was worse and more unbelievable than the day before. Here it is June 7, and it’s still if not more the case. Tomorrow the excessively sober former FBI Director James Comey gets his turn to openly add to the huge pile of evidence that Trump obstructed justice. Comey’s initial statement is already online. My wife plans to pop some popcorn and watch it live.

Trump is everywhere and most lately has been infecting my dreams. As a classic narcissist, Trump is probably happy about this. The details of the dream are a little sketchy, but somehow I’m in a room with Donald Trump. Like Trump with Angela Merkel (who in his trip the other week told Trump eleven times he can’t negotiate a trade pact with Germany, but only the European Union) I find myself keep saying the same stuff to him and it just does not register.

How does this end? On May 29, I said it wasn’t going to end well, and that’s truer now than ever. I am more convinced than ever that he won’t see out his term, but I am less convinced that he will resign hastily and testily. While that has been his pattern, Trump seems to be going into full bunker mode. Nothing is more precious than his insatiable ego and his conviction that he can never do wrong. You can see it in fine display with his weird tweet the other night where typoed a new word: covfefe. Any other human being would follow it up with a tweet that, oops, he mistyped. Trump misspells all the time, but simply can’t admit this baffling typo so he tried to make a joke out of it. He can’t admit that he has any human frailties. Darn it, he meant to use covfefe and it’s your problem if you don’t understand it.

Trump has already passed Nixon’s “smoking gun” test. This was the evidence that ended in his resignation. Trump has admitted that he fired Comey in part because of “this Russian thing”, which clearly meant Comey investigating potential links between the Russians and his campaign. By all reasonable and lawyerly standards, Trump has obstructed justice, which independent special counsel Robert Mueller will doubtless charge Trump with in time. Trump wanted Comey to drop any investigations into his short-lived National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. He pressed others in positions of power to do the same thing.

Why did he do it? Here’s the scary part. Nixon did it because he was mendacious. Nixon knew better but assumed it would remain a little Oval Office secret. But Nixon went to law school. Trump’s education consists of a bachelor’s degree from Wharton. One hopes he had a civics class or two in school, but obviously not much of it took hold. Trump asked these inappropriate and illegal questions mostly because he didn’t know he shouldn’t. Of course this is the way you do things, was probably what amounted to his rationalization. I’m the president. I am in charge. What I say goes. The idea that the president is accountable to the law and the constitution seems to never entered his brain, even though he swore to do both when he took the oath of office. He doesn’t get this. Frankly, he doesn’t understand the job he signed up for.

Trump was qualified to be president only in the sense that he was native born, age 35 or older and got a majority of votes in the Electoral College. He is clearly not mentally qualified to hold the office though because he has shown no competence in faithfully serving the office.

Which is why I now think his most likely exit will be via the 25th amendment. Republicans will find it convenient not to impeach him as long as it is in their political interest not to do so. Considering that so many of their constituents voted for him there’s plenty of incentive to overlook his dangerous eccentricities via impeachment and conviction. Republicans are tribal in nature. More than ninety percent of them will vote for any Republican on the ticket, no matter how bad or unqualified they happen to be, which proved true in the last election despite Trump’s known problems and temperament. Nixon found out that things do change very quickly. If consensus develops that Republicans in Congress realize they (and their jobs) are better off with him gone, the will should be there. My brother is betting October 15, 2017 is that date. We’ll see.

Me, I’m now betting on the 25th amendment solution. The amendment, adopted in 1967 and amended in 1992 basically says the president can be temporarily removed from office if the vice president and at least half of the cabinet agree that he is unable to discharge his duties. There is plenty of evidence to this already. For example, he’s more than four months into his administration and his government is about 5% staffed. To my way of thinking you are certainly unable to discharge the duties of the presidency if you just don’t understand what they are. If you aren’t aware that your job is to enforce the law as it exists, you cannot faithfully discharge the duties of the presidency. If you aren’t smart enough to know that you can’t ask the FBI director to compromise his required independence from Executive Branch coercion, you can’t discharge your duties. These of course are but a few examples that show that Trump is unable to discharge the powers and duties of the presidency.

It’s also the way Republicans can get rid of his toxic presidency with the least political damage. Which is why I believe that there are already all sorts of backdoor conversations going on amongst Trump’s cabinet and Vice President Mike Pence on whether, but more likely how and when to take this unprecedented step. Trump can of course declare that no inability exists. Congress gets 21 days to decide if Trump is incapable of discharging the duties of presidency adequately. A vote of at least two thirds of both the House and the Senate would remove him from office and we’d have President Pence.

Mental health experts could certainly be called to testify. It would not be hard to make a case that Trump’s excessive narcissism is a mental illness, one probably that cannot be cured, and the illness affects his ability to discharge the duties of the presidency. They could even call Trump to testify in his own defense. Just ask him a few fundamental questions about the duties of the president. There is plenty of evidence already that makes an airtight case. Republicans could use this as the cover they need because it’s irrefutable.

For the sake of the nation we can only hope this happens sooner rather than later.

Do we have a constitutional crisis now?

The Thinker by Rodin

Last November before Donald Trump assumed office I opined that it wouldn’t be long before we had a constitutional crisis. It wasn’t a hard call to make and I was hardly alone is predicting how his administration was likely to unfold. Tuesday’s abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey though seemed to suggest to many that our constitutional crisis has at last arrived.

Since taking office, Trump has fired three prominent officials with Comey being the latest. All firings relate to potential collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. First up was Sally Yates, who Trump fired on January 30th. She was the acting Attorney General at the time, a holdover from the Obama administration but actually an acting Attorney General for a time during the Bush administration. She had the dubious job of running the department until Jeff Sessions was confirmed.

We learned from her testimony last week that less than a week into the Trump administration she urgently warned the White House counsel that Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, had lied to Vice President Pence and was vulnerable to Russian blackmail. She was fired supposedly for refusing to defend Trump’s executive order on immigration in court but that it came days after this warning to Trump’s counsel seems more than coincidental.

Next was Michael Flynn. He lasted until February 13; eighteen days after Yates first discreetly sounded the alarm. There were so many red flags around Flynn even before he joined the White House it’s amazing that Trump would be so clueless as to pick him. He had failed to register as a foreign agent even though he earned millions working with Russian interests in areas as sensitive as Russian infiltration into eastern Ukraine. President Obama fired him for bad judgment while director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Moreover Obama specifically warned Trump not to hire him. Now we also know that Sally Yates warned the White House as well. Interesting.

And now it’s FBI Director James Comey’s turn. He was fired allegedly because of his handling of the Clinton emails, handling that Trump specifically approved of and cheered on during the campaign. A long report by the Washington Post yesterday makes clear that Trump’s real motivation was that Comey was looking into connections between Trump and the Russian government. He wanted Comey to be looking into White House leaks instead. We also learned yesterday from the Post that Comey had petitioned the Justice Department for additional resources for the probe shortly before being fired.

So there have been three prominent firings by Trump so far and all were key actors involved in exposing potential Trump-Russian connections. It’s getting hard for anyone to credibly claim these actions don’t amount to obstruction of justice. This is why Democrats in particular want an independent special prosecutor to thoroughly investigate these allegations. Comey’s removal certainly slows any investigation. His replacement may stop the investigation altogether.

And who gets to nominate his replacement? Trump, of course, who will seek guidance from Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions was apparently instrumental in his firing, despite supposedly having recused himself from all matters related to Trump’s Russian connections.

What’s amazing is how brazen all of this is. Those of us with long memories will recall President Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre in 1973. Nixon first ordered his attorney general Elliot Richardson to fire Archibald Cox, an independent prosecutor tasked to investigate Watergate. Richardson resigned instead. Nixon then ordered deputy attorney general William Ruckelshaus to do it, who also resigned. Next in line was Robert Bork (who was later nominated to be a Supreme Court justice). Bork did the deed and it probably cost him a seat on the court. A federal judge eventually determined that Cox’s firing was illegal. Just two weeks after the “massacre” Nixon resigned. No doubt many Americans are hoping Trump will follow Nixon’s timeline.

Nixon was at least politically savvy. One thing that is abundantly clear about Trump is that he is not. Moreover, with a few exceptions he’s populated his administration with people of similar disqualifications. The few with qualifications (Pence and Priebus) don’t seem to have the courage or ability to get Trump to weigh the political costs of his actions. This of course exacerbates Trump’s problems, giving the impression that he is digging his own political grave. His naivety is pretty staggering and he doesn’t seem to learn from his mistakes. Then there is the optics. The day after firing Comey he invited the Russian foreign minister, Russian ambassador and Nixon’s controversial secretary of state Henry Kissinger to the White House!

Forty years ago we weathered a similar crisis. It’s unclear whether we will this time. It all depends on the strength of character of key Republicans in Congress. In the 1970s Republicans were capable of putting country above party. The way these things usually evolve gives me hope, because when the politics of defending and excusing Trump become untenable for Republicans own reelection, tables can turn quickly. There is no consensus yet but doubtless many Republicans are weighing their own political calculations on when to jump ship. Forty years ago though districts were not so heavily gerrymandered. This suggests that there are more than two weeks left in a Trump administration.

It’s clear to me that by trying to make his political problems go away through firing people, Trump only makes them worse. If there were nothing to Trump-Russia connections then he would have no reason to be concerned, as nothing would tie him to it. Clearly though there is, which suggests to me that Trump eventually will suffer Nixon’s fate. Given his stubbornness, it may take impeachment, conviction and bodily removal by the Secret Service. In a way I’m hoping for the latter. Watching his bloated form being tossed outside the front gate of the White House would be quite a site for the ages.

Trump is playing his supporters for fools

The Thinker by Rodin

Has anyone noticed that the people Trump is picking for his administration are pretty much doggedly determined to work against the interest of those who voted for him? Okay, there are plenty of people, but the inconsistencies are so galling you would think his supporters would be up in arms. But there are few complaints from supporters so far.

Trump infamously promised to “drain the swamp”, but he’s apparently set on picking the wallets of those who voted for him instead. In other words, they’ve been masterfully played.

Sadly, this is the Achilles Heel of the white working class, which Trump understood. Racial pride comes before everything for them. You just have to pull the right strings. Trump is hardly the first to do it, but the first to do it so brazenly and completely. You have to play into the lie that white people are somehow special and better than others. And you have to look to scapegoats they can project their anger onto: Hispanics, blacks, gays and Muslims. It also takes a heap of phony patriotism. The idea is to obscure who is really to blame for their decline: global forces largely beyond anyone’s control and moneyed capitalists who will ruthlessly take out rungs out of the ladder of opportunity to advantage themselves.

Those others are actually people a lot like Trump. Trump succeeded by stomping down pretty much everyone unwise enough to work for him: employees, contractors and partners. Trump has screwed plenty of working class whites, particularly independent contractors and investors. And somehow he’s not going to keep screwing these people? Puh-lease. The evidence:

  • Steve Mnuchin gets to be Secretary of Treasury. Trump railed against Wall Street insiders, but picked a partner at Goldman Sachs, one of the firms that gave us the Great Recession and stripped vast amounts of wealth from many of Trump’s supporters.
  • Wilbur Ross will be Commerce Secretary. Founder of the International Coal Group, he was in charge during the Sego Mine Disaster, which killed twelve. He knew all about the mine’s safety issues and did nothing. He was also Rudy Giuliani’s privatization adviser while he was New York mayor.
  • Andrew Puzder for Secretary of Labor. He’s managed two fast food companies (Carl’s Jr. and Hardees), doesn’t believe in a minimum wage and has talked excitedly about creating automated fast food restaurants.
  • Tom Price for Health and Human Services whose mission will be for the department to stop providing health and human services. Of course he is against the Affordable Care Act, wrote one of the few bills that completely overturns it and will work to repeal it. The principle people to be affected if the ACA is overturned will be Trump supporters, many of whom depend on the ACA’s Medicaid provisions for health care. Many Trump voters may give their lives or shorten them considerably by voting for Trump.
  • Ben Carson for Housing and Urban Development. Like the Arabian Horse Association president that ran FEMA for George W. Bush, Carson has zero experience in housing, unless you count the fact that his family depended on public housing to survive when he was a child. His mission will be to make sure that no others are as fortunate as he was.
  • Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. She hates public schools, loves charter schools (even though their record is worse than public schools) and basically wants to dismantle the public school system. You’ll get vouchers instead, which won’t come close to paying the tuition for your kids’ education. Free elementary and high school education will be a thing of the past if DeVos is successful. Bring back the glorious 19th century with a society full of illiterates and homeless urchins in the streets! Those were the good old days!
  • South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley for U.N. ambassador, who has zero experience in foreign policy.
  • Scott Pruitt to run the EPA. He wants to abolish all clean air laws. Who will be disproportionately impacted by dirtier air? The white working class for sure. All those particulates in their air are sure to spike asthma rates, emergency room visits and premature deaths. A lot of those factories will be spewing into nearby white working-class communities.
  • Linda McMahon for Small Business Administration. She has small businesses experience like the World Wrestling Federation, which she ran.

I doubt his supporters will notice any of this. What they will notice and cheer on are the red meat appointments he is throwing out instead:

  • Steve Bannon, an open racist for his chief advisor
  • Michael Flynn, a xenophobe and Russian lover for national security adviser
  • Lots of white faces, principally white men, running his administration. Yea team white!
  • Distractions that will probably be more smoke than mirrors, such as efforts to deport up to 11 million people living here

Trump’s real genius is not getting people to vote for him, but to get them to voluntarily bend over and claim “I like this” while he screws them in the ass.

Working class America, you are about to be fleeced, discounted and shown the door. Sadly, most likely you will say, “Thank you and may I have some more?” when you unwisely vote to reelect this man in 2020.