So What’s the Real Hazard…? (I Thought You’d Never Ask!)
by Jane Edwards
A2A: In reference to the question posted on Facebook, about whether Trump could be impeached for his hiring/appointing practices – K.R.writes: Appointing UNFIT SUBORDINATES …seems like Betsy DeVos may have been appointed because she gave much money and her brother was brokering a deal for the administration with the Russians also undermining the Constitution and subverting the government by appointing people to destroy agencies??/? any thoughts –
Why, yes, I have many thoughts:
1) In Desert Shield, soldiers (exhibiting the kind of insanity that soldiers, bored senseless in the monotonous wait for a war to start,) devised a game. They would put two scorpions in a “ring,” agitate them until they were primed for a fight and then take wagers as to which scorpion would survive. This, essentially, is Trump’s method of deciding which “advisor” (Bannon or Kushner) will have his imperfect attention for at least a day or so.
2) Steve Bannon and his young lackey, Steve Miller (author of Executive Order 13769, aka, the Muslim ban,) are bomb-throwing, alt-right, white-supremacist, nationalists committed to the “deconstruction” of our democracy as we know it. It seems “appointing unfit subordinates” is the very least of it. I believe the Trump Team has a basket of traitors among them.
3) Michael Flynn, Trump’s erstwhile national security adviser, had to resign his post for lying. AG Jefferson Sessions was forced to recuse himself from some of his responsibilities for lying. And, as you suggest, at least two people Trump appointed to his Cabinet actively support the dismantling of the very departments they are entrusted to lead.
4) Ezra Cohen-Watnick is a 30-year-old protege of the ousted M. Flynn, tasked by Trump to find evidence that Obama illegally tapped Trump’s phones. He is one of the “White House Staff” that gave Rep. David Nunes the big nothing-burger “bombshell” about “unmasking” last week. Cohen-Watnick stumbled on this “bombshell” while “reviewing highly classified reports detailing the intercepted communications of foreign officials that consisted primarily of ambassadors and other foreign officials talking about how they were trying to curry favor with Trump’s family and inner circle in advance of his inauguration,” which explains why Nunes refused to show the information to his House Intelligence Committee colleagues (read more: http://www.haaretz.com/us-news/1.780795). This may be seen as “withholding evidence” from the investigating committee, which is “obstruction of justice”- another impeachable offense.
5) The Trump White House “palace intrigue” is a weird hybrid of Kabuki theater-stylized formality and a “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” contest. Trump’s hiring technique appears predicated on a rigorous extreme vetting of the most inexperienced and most incompetent of only those individuals included on a list provided by the Heritage Foundation. Add to this the fact that Trump’s policy metamorphoses rank just below those of caterpillars, and you have a barely functional presidency.
6) Finally. We come to Jared and Ivanka Kushner. Nepotism is not mentioned in the constitution. It only became prohibited in 1967 under 5 U.S. Code § 3110 – Employment of relatives. And the Kushners have skirted the anti-nepotism law by asserting they will not receive a salary (that does not in any way mean that their global and real estate-focused empire, from which they have not divested – and which are not exactly hobbled by the Kushner’s unique positioning in the White House – will not accrue millions.) Trump is unabashed by his nepotism and is taking full advantage of conflicts of interest laws — which, for most people, carries federal criminal penalties. These laws exempt the President and Vice President from its provisions. It also leaves out members of Congress. Big surprise, there. I, however, as a retired Army officer, cannot accept a post as a visiting professor at a foreign university, without jumping through multiple bureaucratic hoops, seeking permission from both the Army and the State Department.
7) The 25th Amendment, Section 4, Article 2 of the United States Constitution, was designed to be a fail-safe, used when, for example, a person with Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD) is elected to the presidency of the United States. It includes “high crimes and misdemeanors” as justification to remove from office The amendment states that if, for whatever reason, the vice president and a majority of sitting Cabinet secretaries decide that the president is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” they can simply put that down in writing and send it to the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, and the Senate’s president pro tempore, Orin Hatch. Then, Vice-President Pence becomes “Acting President.” If the president wants to dispute this move, he can take it up with Congress. I simply cannot see this happening considering the people that currently make up the “sitting Cabinet secretaries.”
8) So, are we stuck? Not necessarily. There is, again in the U.S. Constitution, two emoluments clauses in the U.S. Constitution. The Foreign Emoluments Clause, contained in Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8, says no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state (See https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/gs_121616_emoluments-clause1.pdf)
We have emoluments clauses because we do not want a president who’s serving his or her own personal financial interests while carrying out the duties of the presidency.
Example: China granted approval for Trump trademarks, after decades of rejecting them, after Trump became president. These include a Trump brand for hotels, insurance, massage parlors, bars, bodyguard services and escort services. Was this the reason Trump agreed to the “One China Policy”?
Donald Trump and his family are all benefiting financially from the power and influence they have accrued since Trump was elected to the office of President. While it is true the family can participate in corporate ventures and receive profits, by law, Trump cannot, especially when the money comes from foreign governments. This Constitutional law has never before been challenged because every prior president never openly violated this important statute. Until Trump.
Trump has had repeated warnings from day one of his presidency that, unless he divested from his businesses and put his assets in a blind trust, he would be in violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause. He has not. Instead, he’s come up with his own “plan” to address the issue. This involves his two sons running the company. The obvious problem with that, however, is Trump still owns the company. This is not a solution. What we have is a president who is treating the office of the presidency like a profit-making enterprise. The president is a public servant. Trump does not seem to understand this basic concept.
9) Back in January, two public interest nonprofits, Free Speech for People and RootsAction, launched a campaign to begin an impeachment investigation into President Trump. We can only hope that a member of Congress will have the courage to introduce a proposed resolution for an impeachment investigation.
That resolution will have to be approved by Congress. Republicans will have to come on board with such a resolution. But as time goes forward, and more and more evidence comes forward demonstrating the defiance that this president exhibits toward the Constitution, perhaps there will be Republicans who are willing to step forward.
At this point, Donald Trump can either resign the office of the presidency and resume his role as a businessman, or, if the gods are on our side, he can face impeachment.