Donald Trump stood next to Vladimir Putin and stated that the Russian leader “was extremely strong and powerful in his denial” that his country had interfered in our 2016 election. The former KGB agent said that “it’s not Russia” and this was enough for the American President. Trump told the world: “I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
The Attorney General’s summary of the Mueller Report confirms that Trump’s assessment was incorrect. The Russian Government did, in fact, conduct a “computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the  election.” If the indictments and convictions that had already resulted from the Special Counsel’s investigation were not enough proof, this conclusion also disproves Trump’s assertion that this was a witch hunt. Crimes were, in fact, committed against our country.
Even though Mueller specifically states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Trump has claimed vindication. “No collusion, no obstruction” is the message conveyed to his supporters, a lie eagerly repeated by the Republican party. For some reason, none of them seem interested in holding Russia accountable for their actions against our county or in taking steps to ensure that our elections are not compromised in the future. This is what happens when the interests of a political party is put before the needs of the country.
Given that Attorney General Barr has yet to release Mueller’s actual report, no one outside of his office can claim to know what wrongdoing was uncovered by the investigation. However, as the two parties squabble over what will eventually be released and who will see it, the President has apparently been engaging in other behaviors that flaunt the rule of law. If these reports are confirmed, then the House has no other option than to proceed with impeachment.
Frustrated that he cannot force the Legislative and Judicial branches of government to bend to his will, Trump is instructing his subordinates to illegally deny asylum seekers entry into the country. On a trip to the border last week, he is reported to have told border agents that they should refuse court orders to comply with the law by giving the excuse that “we don’t have the room.” According to these same reports, supervisors of these agents had to remind them of their personal liability if they did not follow the law.
Apparently, it did not take the president long to figure out a way to make people more comfortable with the idea of breaking the law on his behalf. On the same trip, Trump reportedly told the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection (who has since been promoted) that he “would pardon him if he ever went to jail for denying US entry to migrants.” Giving someone the power to break the law without consequence would certainly be a use of the pardon power that was never intended by the Founding Fathers.
Trump has also sought to use the crisis that he has created at the border to retaliate against his political adversaries. According to reports, the administration has twice tried to initiate plans to release “detainees in…Democratic strongholds” including “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district in San Francisco”. Understandably, the White House tried to downplay these plans but Trump undermined their efforts by logging in to his Twitter account. If Democrats did not immediately change the immigration laws to his liking he would release “Gang Members, Drug Dealers, Human Traffickers, and Criminals of all shapes, sizes, and kinds” onto the streets of sanctuary cities.
With these Tweets, the president has crossed a line that cannot be ignored. Unlike Putin, Kim Jong-un, Rodrigo Duterte and the other despots that Trump admires, our executive branch is one of three co-equal branches of government. It is time for the Legislative branch to do its job and stop just talking about impeachment. The future of our democracy depends on their action.
In the 1990s, the Republican party felt that a president who lied about receiving oral sex met the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanors” and impeached Bill Clinton. While Trump likes to whine about “presidential harassment,” the impeachment of Clinton for actions unrelated to the office of President was clearly a power-grab by his political enemies. It is also a ploy that backfired on the Republicans as it cost them in the following election cycle.
In contrast, Trump’s contempt for the rule of law is directly related to the office he holds. Telling subordinates to break the law and offering pardons to those who follow his lead upsets the balance of power between the three co-equal branches of government, an action that has lasting implications. Openly threatening to use the powers of the Executive Branch to punish the constituents of political enemies sets a dangerous precedent that if left unchecked will forever change our country.
The Founding Fathers gave us impeachment as one of the checks and balances that keep the Executive Branch from becoming too powerful. Nancy Pelosi, do you have the courage to use this tool? History will judge you by how you react to the threats presented by a President who has no respect for the rule of law.
Carl Petersen is a parent and special education advocate, elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.