It looks to me increasingly likely that the Trump presidency will end with his removal from office through impeachment (despite the effort of the Republicans to protect him.) The question is, when?
The other day, on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, the discussion of the Trump-Russia connection arrived at the point that the FBI investigation must of course take precedence over the investigations by Congress. That’s because congressional hearings and investigations could interfere with the ability of the FBI to build its cases and then to prosecute those who have committed criminal acts. Then it was said that the completion of the FBI investigation would likely take another year or two.
But this is no time to let the mills of justice grind slowly. The passage of time compounds the danger that the Trump presidency is posing to the nation.
The paramount danger here is the threat of war. Threatening clouds hang over the world at present, and the United States can ill afford to have Donald Trump’s hand on the helm.
It is hardly Trump’s fault that the problem with North Korea is gradually coming to a head: American presidents since the 1990s have been attempting to prevent North Korean weapons posing a nuclear threat to our Asian allies and to the United States. The agreements reached have not worked. The hope that the regime would collapse have not been fulfilled. And over the years, the North Korean stock of nuclear bombs has increased, and it has made great progress toward acquiring the means of atomic weapons to ever more distant targets.
Soon, the American mainland itself may be vulnerable to nuclear attack from a rogue regime and its psychologically unstable leader.
The question of how to deal with North Korea, and with the Chinese government that props up Kim’s evil regime, poses a challenge as difficult as anything American diplomacy – and the American military -- has faced in a very long time. Literally millions of lives are at stake. And if there were easy answers, Clinton or Bush or Obama would have come up with them.
In such a delicate situation, we cannot afford to have a man with such an attenuated connection with reality, animated by such primitive passions of dominance and vengeance, as our commander in chief.
Another potential flashpoint concerns the South China Sea. Here, too, Trump is not responsible for the problem: China, with its rising power, has been asserting sovereignty over waters to which other nations have legitimate claims, and the Chinese have brushed away the finding by an international tribunal in the Hague rejecting China’s claims.
History has shown that the most dangerous threats to world peace emerge out of the confrontation between an established hegemon (like the United States) and an ascendant power (like China). How to navigate toward a rebalancing of the international order that accommodates new realities in relative power is another major challenge for diplomacy—one that the world disastrously failed in 1914 and again in 1939.
Donald Trump is hardly the man on whom we can safely rely to find our way through this potential flashpoint for major-power confrontation.
And who knows what other areas of potential conflict may arise while the FBI takes another year or two to complete its investigation.
(There are a few clouds developing in the Middle East, where the Russians have reportedly told Israel that its “freedom to act” regarding Syria is over. Once before, at the end of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, a conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors led the U.S. and the Soviet Union to escalate their level of nuclear alert to a level hardly ever reached during the forty years of the Cold War.)
Every day that Donald Trump is president, America is spinning the chamber in a dangerous game of Russian roulette.
The question needs to be asked: How important is the successful prosecution of a few individuals in comparison with the successful navigation of potential international confrontations between nuclear powers?
This is not like the slow-moving process by which a 1972 break-in led to the 1974 resignation of Richard Nixon. Nixon, for all his faults, was an intelligent person with a sophisticated knowledge of international affairs. (And at his elbow was another adept diplomat – Henry Kissenger –and not a let’s-destroy-the-world nut-job like Stephen Bannon.) With Nixon, unlike with Trump – at least until his drunken ravings at the very end – we had a commander-in-chief who, for all his faults, knew what was real and what was fantasy, and knew what he was doing.
But if it is decided that the FBI’s investigation really should take precedence, even if that would delay Congress’s learning what Congress and the people should know about the possibly treasonous collusion of the Trump campaign in the attack on our elections by an adversary of the United States, then another route to a speedy conclusion of the Trump crisis should be taken.
Fortunately, there is such another route: although the most spectacular reason why this President should be removed likely lies in the collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign, that it is not the only impeachable offense we have every reason to believe that Trump has committed. There is also the issue of the “emoluments clause.”
Just from what is publicly known, it would appear clear enough that Trump has violated that clause of the Constitution. The Government Ethics Office gave Trump clear warning that his total divestiture was required, lest his conflicts of interest bring him into violation of the emoluments clause. But Trump disregarded that warning. And bit by bit, the news has added to a pile of evidence that these conflicts of interest are real, are many, and are corrupting the presidency.
So, if the Russia-Trump scandal does not provide the means to remove this unstable and incompetent commander-in-chief quickly – because of the FBI investigation, or for whatever other reason – the security of the nation requires us to proceed with all deliberate speed to avail ourselves of any other means available for getting that job.
And it would seem that the violation of the emoluments clause provides that means.