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Trump & That Damn Constitution

March 3, 2018

    Hey look, in the meantime, I guess, I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not. 

    President Donald Trump, Time Magazine, March 2017 

***This piece was written nearly a year ago. Unfortunately, what is written still holds with the addition of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is responsible for leading the federal government's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. In an interview with Fox News five months into his term, President Trump called the constitution "a really bad thing for the country"...but of course. 

 

   

 

     President or not, Donald Trump’s preference for self-truths is evident in his response to the country’s concern for his credibility. Article II, Section IV of the United States constitution impeachment clause states that a president can only be impeached for “Treason, Bribery and other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” By accepting Trump’s indifference to truth in post-fact America, the American people normalize Trump’s impeachable violations of the constitution. Two grounds for impeachment unique to Trump’s administration include treason and violation of the emoluments clause. Members of Trump’s administration, and potentially Mr. Trump himself whether by extension through knowledge or by actual act, appear to have committed treason by colluding with a foreign country to win an election. President Trump and his business organization have violated the bribery law by accepting payments from foreign governments for services. For example, Trump International Hotel in Washington DC in the Old Post Office building has been the destination for many foreign diplomats. 

 

    Weeks after taking office, allegations of repeated contact between Trump’s campaign staff and Russian intelligence began to rapidly emerge to the public. Ten weeks prior to the election, then CIA director, John Brennan, stated his concern for Russian cyber hacking interference and suggested unnamed Trump associates were working to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Days before the election - FBI director, James Comey, wrote a letter to congress to reopen investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. After the FBI re-opened the investigation into Clinton, the concern over collusion between Russia and Trump publicly abated. In a letter to Comey, Nevada Senator Harry Reid stated, “Your highly selective approach to publicizing information, along with your timing, was intended for the success or failure of a partisan candidate or political group.” Evidence continued to pour out following Trump’s eventual victory- indicating Russian propaganda outlets planted ideas into the American consciousness, and that DNC emails had been hacked and deliberately released to the public via WikiLeaks ultimately damaging Clinton whilst improving the image of Republican nominee, Donald Trump. Two months into office, four Trump administration officials have either recused themselves or resigned because of contacts with Russia reportedly before Trump taking office. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself after revealing he had met with Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, on more than one occasion. Former National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn and Foreign Policy Advisor, Carter Page, both resigned due to communications with Russia. As well as Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, who resigned from his position months prior to the election due to business dealings with Russia-aligned leaders in the Ukraine. Consequently, the FBI continues to investigate relations with Russia and the scope of its influence in the 2016 Presidential Election. 

 

     Building brands is not a part of the executive branch; however, Trump’s political agenda has suggested otherwise. In April 2017, Georgian Ambassador, Kaha Imnadze tweeted out “@TrumpDC Great #hotel and so far the best advice I’ve seen in the United States. Keep it up!” Not only is Imnadze’s tweet representative of emolument – a profit from a foreign government to the President -but the idea that private financial interests can pose a threat to the federal procurement policy and potentially divide loyalties the clause was meant to prohibit. Like the framers of the constitution, ethics and regulation lawyers seek to protect against the temptations of business exchange to influence an office holder’s thinking and political action. These experts have expressed that by having Trump’s children run his businesses, of which Trump refused to divest control, there is great risk because they will maintain their father’s uppermost financial interest. Thereby, allowing foreign dignitaries to invest in his businesses or stay in his hotel, Trump and his children benefit from foreign payments which violates the emoluments clause. Many argue that if Trump releases his tax returns and the FBI counterintelligence offers hard evidence of collusion through their investigation, the American people would be able to discern fact from fiction; but the potential for hiding the facts under layers of diversified ownership and sub-holdings, and circular legal explanations remains. 

 

    Despite Mr. Trump’s and those in his inner circle’s penchant for “alternative facts”, there are two strong possibilities for impeachment of Mr. Trump. If Trump knew his staff interfaced with Russians, potentially altering the outcome of the election, and allows his businesses to accept payments from foreign governments then he has violated the constitution and should be impeached. Conflict of interest paired with treasonous behavior sets the tone for an authoritarian leadership, which has no place in a democratic government. While evidence remains circumstantial, information suggesting violation of this clause should be taken seriously and evaluated thoroughly not because of public opinion, but because the framers of the Constitution took the potential for undue influence by a foreign country very seriously and viewed protection from that as central to our country’s sovereignty. Likewise, the growing evidence of connections and untoward relationships (financial and political) between members of the Trump campaign team, many of whom now are members of the White House inner circle, raises the frightening specter of collusion in interference in our election and, perhaps, in the future direction of our foreign policy. Indeed, it is imperative that the truth be uncovered, as the sanctity of our democratic process may have been violated. 

 

 

 

 

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