First published via Atlanta Black Star, May 2017
Just four months into his presidency, Donald Trump has managed to alienate over half of the country, his Gallup Poll rating currently hovering near 39 percent. And as we explored in April, he’s reneged on nearly every campaign promise. In short he’s continued to sabotage himself and, to a large extent, the entire GOP, which lowered the bar in order to accommodate the political novice, a legacy it’ll have to own.
Employing rhetoric laced with bigotry and xenophobic overtones, Trump showed exactly who he was, yet the Republican Party still accepted him as their nominee. It’s an irony not lost on former Access Hollywood host Billy Bush, who was promptly fired after an interview between the two became public.
Bush was reprimanded, and rightfully so, but even after admitting to “Grabbing them by the p—y,” Trump was allowed to continue his campaign, a very unexpected turn of events.
“The irony is glaring,” Bush told The Hollywood Reporter. “Trump has his process for his participation [in the tape] and I have mine.”
Breaking his silence about the infamous audio, Bush expressed regret during an interview on Good Morning America, explaining, “I should have known better, absolutely. There’s no question about that. … People also say, ‘You should have stopped it.’ I didn’t have the strength of character at the time to do that. I wish I did.”
Are we winning yet? It’s hard to tell, as the Trump administration continues to stumble from one political gaffe to another. From the poorly executed travel ban — struck down yet again by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — to health care legislation the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warns could leave over 24 million uninsured, so far his presidency is off to a rocky start.
But the White House has far more problems than policy issues, with calls for transparency growing louder as the Russian investigation intensifies. And with public support for impeachment rising to 48 percent, according to Fortune, it just may get worse.
But removing a president from office requires more than mere speculation, just as the founding fathers intended. It requires a vote from both the House and the Senate. According to the U.S. Constitution (Article II, Section 4), impeachable acts include “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
For Trump, an obstruction of justice charge may seem the most plausible road to impeachment. His unceremonious firing of former FBI director James Comey, who had been leading a possible criminal investigation into Trump and his administration’s ties to Russia, have brought accusations that Trump was attempting to halt the Russian investigation, a charge Trump denies.
Trump’s current version of why he fired Comey is that Comey was a “grandstander” and media “showboat” contradicting his own Department of Justice’s earlier statement that the firing was based on their recommendation because of his mishandling of the Clinton email investigation.
Those public versions may come back to hurt Trump after a subsequent leaked transcript of his recent meeting with Russian officials in the Oval Office reveal him telling the Russians that he thought Comey was a “nut-job” and that by firing Comey, he would be relieved of the ongoing “pressure” from the investigation. This “admission” by Trump may have unintentionally strengthened any future case for obstruction of justice against him.
“I think Trump’s situation is even more egregious than [Bill] Clinton’s, because his acts regarding Russia, if true, have served to undermine the very fabric of our nation. He has made blatant attempts to circumvent investigations, namely firing Comey. He can’t be trusted” Houston attorney Marcell Owens said.
Then, there’s the matter of the emoluments clause, which prohibits sitting presidents from accepting compensation outside of their annual salary. While Trump vowed not to take the $400,000 salary, he’s since faced backlash after failing to report income being made from his various properties, including his Mar-A-Lago resort.
After promising to donate all profits made from foreign governments that may frequent his hotels to the U.S. Treasury, the White House admitted it hasn’t actually been tracking financial transactions.
But, with Republicans currently in control of both chambers, the chances for impeachment appear unlikely — at least for now. To date, only two presidents have been impeached — Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998 — with both later being acquitted in the Senate. Then, there’s Richard Nixon, who resigned during the Watergate investigation before he could be impeached. It’s Nixon that Trump’s story arc resembles the most, since both faced accusations of obstruction of justice.
“In reality … impeachment is a long shot for many reasons” comedian John Oliver said. “Not the least of which is it would require a majority of the House to vote to impeach, and that is currently controlled by Republicans. And then it would need two-thirds of the Senate to vote to convict the president, and it is also controlled by Republicans right now.”
He added, “Trump has seemed to reach the end of the line on multiple occasions only for nothing to happen.”
Others are more optimistic, including Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who said, “We’re going to learn a lot about the connections between this president, his allies and the Kremlin. I believe it’s going to lead right to impeachment.”
Taking it a step further, Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) said, “We will move forward and, as a matter of fact, I am currently crafting — drafting if you will — articles of impeachment. These acts, when combined, amount to intimidation and obstruction. If the president is not above the law, he should be charged by way of impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives.”
With no clear examples of what impeachment could actually look like, other than Johnson and Clinton, America is now in uncharted territory. If true, Trump’s transgressions may run deeper than any of his predecessors.
Speaking about the constitutional requirements for impeachment, attorney Terence Finley explained just how difficult it really is.
“There are only two presidents to ever be impeached and both were eventually found not guilty and got to keep their jobs,” Finley said. “So, that just shows you how difficult it is to successfully impeach and remove a president.”
But Trump’s case may be unique, something Finley acknowledged.
“The chances seem much better than they were for Johnson and Clinton,” Finley said. “Johnson basically got impeached for throwing a temper tantrum in the Oval Office over a political appointment, and Clinton was impeached for lying about a very public sex scandal.
“Those things pale in comparison to literal treason. Nobody likes a traitor.”
As Trump tweeted in 2014, “Are you allowed to impeach a president for gross incompetence?” Those words may come back to haunt him.