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Sunday, May 28, 2017

You don’t have to be a foreign agent to work for Donald Trump.

You don’t need decades of association with a Nazi-allied group.

You don’t even need to be a liar, though that is necessary if you’re going to say that Trump “has given more financial disclosure than anybody else” when he hasn’t even released one tax return, after promising to release them dozens of times, becoming the first president not to make this bare minimum of disclosure in more than 45 years.

The only absolutely necessary qualification to work for or with Trump is a willingness to abet his potentially impeachable crimes. And the good news for Trump is that nearly his entire party is proving that their prime concern is covering up his potential wrongdoing — even from themselves.

Last week, only one Republican in the House voted for a measure that would have required Trump disclose his tax returns and the official visitor logs to the White House. The Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into Russia’s interference with our elections is still being run by Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), a member of Trump’s transition team, who is reportedly slow-walking the entire process, ideally into irrelevance.

But despite their best efforts, the weight of the evidence demanding scrutiny of Trump’s campaign and presidency hasn’t been squelched.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who led the House investigation until it became obvious even to Republicans that he was more interested in abetting Trump’s abuses of power than examining anything Russia or Trump did, had to recuse himself. As did Attorney General Jeff Sessions. And Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), whose sudden decision to retire from the House and his roost as chairman of the House Oversight Committee this term suggests that his imagined job of inventing Hillary Clinton scandals is nowhere near as much fun as concealing Donald Trump scandals.

Since Chaffetz made that announcement, he is suddenly doing some oversight into Trump’s possible violations of the Emoluments Clause and General Michael Flynn’s lack of disclosures of foreign payments in his background checks. But he’s still echoing the White House’s ridiculous accusation that Flynn’s background check can all be blamed on the Obama administration.

Trump is arguing that he didn’t trust Obama to vet refugees or his own birth certificate, but relied on his earlier endorsement of a general whom Obama later fired?

Abetting this nonsense is one thing. But when Trump repeatedly rejects the consensus opinion that Russia interfered in our elections after parroting Russia propaganda and celebrating the disclosures of Wikileaks, an organization his CIA director now calls “a hostile intelligence agency” — and his party fails to rebuke him en masse — then the choice made by that party is clear.

The GOP as a whole may not have been a part of the (alleged) crimes, but it’s all in on the coverup.

The question isn’t whether there is a case to be made for the impeachment of Donald Trump, but which case is the most compelling.

On Slate’s Trumpcast, Harvard law professor Noah Feldman convincingly argued that there are actually three cases for impeachment: corruption, abuse of power, and the violation of democratic norms, all potentially impeachable crimes.

Corruption is pretty obvious. You’re not supposed to use the presidency as a pop-up ad for the hundreds of businesses you still own and from which you directly benefit.

“In this constitutional sense, using the perks and tools of government to enrich the president personally is an impeachable offense, an offense that would grow out of a pattern of such acts of corruption,” Feldman wrote, noting that the odd advertisement for the president’s Mar-A-Lago resort that showed up on a State Department site this week could fit this pattern.

Is there an honest person alive who doesn’t believe Trump is using this office to enrich himself right now?

Abuse of power comes when you, say, accuse a former president of impeachable crimes with no proof or understanding of the law you suggest he broke. Or it could be from targeting the press as enemies of the people.

The Russia stuff, which has convinced many on the left that treason occurred in the Trump campaign, is the most complicated case to make, given that the alleged wrongdoing took place before the president took office. But the White House’s refusal to participate, for instance, in disclosing Mike Flynn’s entanglements or communication as National Security Advisor suggest that there could be a case for potential high crimes in office. Likewise, any attempt to reward a foreign interest for interfering in the 2016 election would be impeachable, Feldman suggests.

Democrats in Congress will be reluctant to mention the “I” word for fear of turning off “moderates.” This clinging to past propriety lingers on the left, despite America electing a birther who called Mexican immigrants rapists and couldn’t identify his own health care bill with the help of Google.

Yet it’s clear the GOP is rotting from the head. So the “I” word Democrats need to stress is independent investigation.

Two out of three Americans want such to see a commission that seeks the facts about Russia’s involvement in the Trump campaign, without the skew of partisanship. Conceivably, such a process could end in full absolution for Trump, but the public senses that something is amiss and is being hidden from them. And that alone is an indictment of the entire Republican Party.

 

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