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Impeach Immediately, Subpoena Liberally

Last night the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives, a shot in the arm for the rule of law in America, and a bulwark against what has — since 2016 — been an irrepressible wave of injustice, immorality, and illegality.

Those Americans who haven’t cast their lot with this iteration of fascism are horrified and furious; last night we tried to act on those emotions, doing just enough to regain control of the House and attempt to revive the rule of law, currently comatose.

All sorts of analyses and suggestions will be produced in the coming days and weeks, tracing a path forward for the new Democratic majority. How should they behave? What policy goals should they pursue? What will their relationship with the “president” be like? These are all important questions. They are also secondary considerations.

Because all that matters in the short term is saving democracy and reviving the rule of law, and to do that Democrats must take two steps immediately:

  1. Impeach Trump
  2. Subpoena all of his myriad cronies who have thus far been protected from the law by Trump, his stooges, and the GOP.

This may seem rash. It may seem like not worth the risk for the gains made last night. It may seem secondary to a focus on much-needed policy. Perhaps it is all or some of those things. But I think it imperative that the rule of law and its supporting institutions be immediately reinvigorated.

As much as we don’t know, Trump has already done more than enough to warrant impeachment if the president is not, in fact, above the law. There is already evidence that he is guilty of:

  1. Conspiring with agents of the Russian government to influence an American election (his own) and lying to cover the crime and obstruct justice.
  2. Violating the emoluments clause of the constitution by accepting money from foreign governments in the form of payments at his hotels and properties.
  3. Conspiring to commit federal campaign finance laws by silencing Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

Any of these, on its own, is worthy of impeachment and prosecution. That Trump is guilty of all three is beyond reason to impeach. I have two responses to claims that this is not politically expedient.

  1. Principles > politics. We would not accept, for example, that denying Merrick Garland a SCOTUS hearing as an application of this thinking. Trump is in violation of the law. Enforcing the law may not be politically expedient. The law should still be enforced.
  2. In fact taking a strong stance against Trump is politically expedient. It is what motivated millions of voters who delivered Democrats the House. Voters are justifiably angry about and want a response to: children in cages; bans on Muslims from countries with which Trump does no business; bragging about sexual assault and supporting sexual predators; unprecedented corruption; more unwise and economically insensible tax cuts for the rich; the attempted erasure of the transgender identity; more soldiers on the border to stop Hispanic children than in Syria to stop a slaughter; a trade war that will drive up consumer prices; the collapse of decades-old alliances; the unleashing of right-wing terrorism; and shall I go on and on and on. The voters — we — want accountability. The Senate’s refusal to remove Trump from office is not an excuse for the House to pass on holding him accountable.

These actions do not need to impede Democratic attempts to pursue policy goals — assuming of course that Democrats have a policy agenda. Holding Trump accountable and working to enact legislation that will improve wages, for example, are not mutually exclusive. In fact one might well argue that there is a substantial overlap in those respective battles.

Regardless, policy battles cannot be waged and won without the rule of law, and Donald Trump is an existential threat to the rule of law. Consider the offenses of which he is already guilty, consider what we don’t know yet but will learn soon once the flood of subpoenas begins. Consider that our Senate recently confirmed a Supreme Court Justice who perjured himself twice, once about receiving stolen emails and once about “boofing” and “devil’s triangles.” Consider that Jared Kushner lied on his security clearance form dozens of times or that a tax bill was passed with no debate in the middle of the night with changes scrawled in the margins or that Trump has suggested altering interpretation of the 14th Amendment by executive fiat. In such an environment, with such flagrant violations of laws and procedures, how does one create, pass, and enact policy? The only policy thusly passed is the aforementioned tax bill, rammed down the throats of the Senate and the American people before anyone could read the shorthand edits. Policy is important; we can’t have any without stopping Trump first.

In two years Donald Trump has done the nation harm from which it will take some time to recover. He has undermined our economy and global standing, he has abused the rights and dignities of numerous people and groups of people. He has shown contempt for the rule of law at every turn.

Impeaching Donald Trump and exposing the full extent of his crimes may not result in his immediate removal from office. But if we hope to save American from true Trump-i-fication we must begin by imposing transparency and accountability. Last night was the first step. This must be the next.