America’s Constitutional Crisis
For months the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, has insisted that she would not have ‘all the facts’ to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Trump until the Mueller Report was released.
When finally that happened, the man hand-picked by the president to be his Attorney General, the highest legal official in the land, (after he wrote a paper defending almost limitless Presidential powers), put out one sentence, stating that the report, two years in the making, five hundred witnesses interrogated and 25 million tax payer dollars spent, had found no grounds to charge the President with collusion, conspiracy, or even simple cooperation with an (inimical) foreign power.
In fact, it was rumored that Mueller had written that he could neither indict nor exonerate the president, and the American people expected him to refute Barr’s presentation, for weeks getting only rumblings from his staff. Testifying to the House Judicial Committee, Barre claimed that as Attorney General, he was Mueller’s superior, ‘he’ being ‘merely’ a prosecutor’, who wrote the report for him, giving him the responsibility for revealing its contents to the American people. This went down very badly, given that Mueller (unlike Barre or Trump) had served in combat as a Marine prior to a stellar legal career that included leading the FBI for ten years.
Finally, it became known that Mueller had written a strong letter to Barre. Called to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Barre declined to reveal its contents.. When told that on the following day he would be interrogated by the Committee’s staff lawyers, he announced that he would not present himself, and in fact he defied a summons to do so. Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, declared that this was ‘a crime’ for which he could be brought to court or impeached. (According to a former Obama official, political parties are empowered to imprison members of the government who refuse to testify when summoned by a court order.) Meanwhile, Mueller announced that he would appear ‘voluntarily’ on May 14th in front of the same committee that Barre had defied.
To understand the gravity of this moment in American history, it is important to know that the entire edifice rests on three ‘co-equal’ branches of government, the executive (presidency), the legislative, and the judiciary, which are supposed to counter-balance each other through a process known familiarly as ‘checks and balances’. Often mentioned is the fact that in a republic — as opposed to a monarchy — no one is above the law, including the president. The government prosecutes offenders through the judiciary’s law enforcement branch, headed by an Attorney General who, like judges, is appointed by the president. The fact that in the US Constitution, Congress is mentioned first, is often cited as proof that it is the ‘most’ co-equal of the three, which is why any official, no matter how senior, is expected to answer its questions. Denying this, the President has ordered certain high level officials such as White House lawyers not to testify in congressional hearings seeking to clarify the meaning of certain passages of the Mueller Report.
The United States has lived through more than two years of a Presidency which by all accounts (except for those provided by Trump surrogates) has been far from normal. From the uninterrupted barrage of tweets posted by the President, often insulting members of the government or the press, to a refusal to read written reports, the habit of choosing high-ranking personnel based on their image on television (for a long-time, he refused to appoint John Bolton because of his walrus mustache ) to the number of days and hours during which he is not involved in presidential duties, but playing golf or tweeting, Donald Trump is like nothing the White House has ever seen.
However, taking its cue from Nancy Pelosi’s reluctance, as Speaker of the House, to initiate impeachment proceedings against him because this would only increase divisiveness, currently there is no public majority for impeachment. However, the Democrats, like dogs with a bone, are not giving up on their main cause: a Muslim-American whose son was killed in action, and whom Trump had insulted during his campaign, reappeared on television to remind Americans that all this was Russia’s fault for interfering in the 2016 election.
Deena Stryker is an international expert, author and journalist that has been at the forefront of international politics for over thirty years. She can be reached at Otherjones. Especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.