Trump impeachment talk grows, especially on social media
Five close associates of President Donald Trump have pleaded or been found guilty of criminal wrongdoing since he took office. They include, from left, foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos; National Security Advisor Michael Flynn including his former national security adviser, his deputy campaign chairman and a former campaign policy adviser; deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates; campaign chairman Paul Manafort; and personal attorney Michael Cohen. | All photos credit: AP / Illustration by PW

WASHINGTON—Once a far-out cause pushed by Trump-haters and disappointed Democrats, impeachment talk against Republican President Donald Trump is growing, especially on social media.

In a move that has destroyed President Trump’s defenses his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty in court yesterday to violating federal election law in coordination with and at the direction of the president. He said the aim of the president’s illegal maneuvering was to influence the outcome of the 2018 presidential election.

Cohen said Trump’s company repaid him for the $420,000 in hush money he had shelled out to silence Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, two women with whom Trump had had affairs before the 2016 election.

The naming of President Trump in a criminal conspiracy by his own lawyer demands, of course, an immediate investigation by Congress. While Democratic Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, has demanded the opening of an inquiry, Republican leaders remain silent thus far. The fact that the House is not in session gave Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin the excuse this morning to say he has time to study the matter further.

The demand for congressional hearings is expected to grow as the realization grows that Trump obtained the highest office in the land as a result of criminal activity that he himself directed. Conspiracy and collusion with Michael Cohen to rob the American people of a fair election by criminally manipulating the election constitute, even before you consider Russian interference, impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors.

Even as the Cohen bombshell was exploding in the New York court yesterday, another federal district court jury in Alexandria, Va., convicted Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, on eight counts of tax evasion and campaign finance violations.

Yesterday’s legal landslide, by itself enormous enough to bury Trump and end his presidency, comes on top of guilty pleas Special Counsel Robert Mueller has already gotten from Trump’s erstwhile National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, and campaign officials Rick Gates – Manafort’s deputy – and George Papadopoulos, a Trump advisor. The problem for Trump was made worse yesterday because the convictions of two of his top people for 16 different felonies were sought and won by district attorneys, not by Robert Mueller against whom the president has been fulminating constantly.

The Manafort conviction was the first jury conviction of a close Trump associate for filing false returns on multi-million-dollar deals connected with Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs.

Even with everything that went down yesterday, most observers believe that the public has thus far seen only the tip of the iceberg.

Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, said on morning news shows that his client “has something of interest to Mueller in the Russia investigation,” without saying what. But the obvious conclusion is that Cohen is preparing to sing – leading Trump to sarcastically tweet, gangland style, that if anyone needed a good lawyer they should avoid hiring Cohen.

The hush money and the payments from the oligarchs to Trump’s minions are reminiscent of the corrupt capitalism exposed in the campaign finance abuses of Watergate 44 years ago.

Then, GOP President Richard Nixon and his campaign used corporate campaign contributions to buy silence from the Watergate burglars. And Nixon’s bagman, campaign finance chairman – and former Cabinet officer – Maurice Stans collected the cash from firms in return for federal favors.

Now, Trump’s lawyer paid hush money to the two women with whom he had affairs, and it came from Trump’s corporation.

All this has produced an explosion on social media if not among Congress’ ruling Republicans.

A check of change.org produced 200 “Impeach Trump” petitions, with the largest one at 290,221 signatures, and the second-largest adding seven signatures in one minute on the morning of August 22 to the 46,197 it had before. The other petitions pushed the combined signature total to close to 400,000.

Moveon.org plans instant rallies in 900 cities if Trump tries to short-circuit the investigation by firing Mueller or his boss, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, pardoning Manafort, or all of the above. The website, www.trumpisnotabovethelaw.org has already received 350,000 positive replies.

A map of all the cities where “Nobody is Above the Law” rallies are set to take place. | trumpisnotabovethelaw.org

The group is preparing for anything, up to and including an illegal seizure of power by the president.

“Donald Trump could be preparing to put himself above the law. We won’t allow it,” said the group’s Washington coordinator, Adam Winkler. Firing Rosenstein or Mueller or attempting “to compromise the investigation by other means” will create “a constitutional crisis,” Winkler said.

“Our response in the hours following a potential power grab will dictate what happens next—whether Congress will stand up to Trump or allow him to move our democracy toward authoritarianism.” All this has fueled more talk of impeaching Trump, even among a few former Republican officeholders, though not GOP Capitol Hill lawmakers.

And Democratic multimillionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, who launched a $20 million “Impeach Trump” ad blitz late last year, announced on August 22 that he plans another one.

Some petition signers said the Senate should not hold hearings on Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee, right-wing federal appellate judge Brett Kavanaugh. If put on the court, Kavanaugh could wind up ruling on cases involving Trump. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., unleashed the same anti-hearings demand, but Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, is ignoring Schumer and the petitions. The hearings are scheduled to start on Sept. 4.

Months before the convictions and guilty pleas, Reps. Al Green, D-Texas, and Brad Sherman, D-Calif., filed impeachment resolutions against Trump. Green cited Trump’s racist statements. Sherman called for impeaching Trump on obstruction of justice in the Mueller investigation.  The GOP-run House defeated Green’s move in 2017. Sherman’s impeachment resolution, HJRes 438, is marooned but still technically alive.

“Former FBI Director James Comey testified that in February the president threatened him in order to get him to curtail the investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn,” Sherman explained when he introduced it. “Threatening an FBI director in order to curtail an ongoing FBI investigation constitutes a felony.

“In May, President Trump fired Director Comey and indicated his purpose was to thwart the Russian collusion investigation. A president is free to fire an FBI director if he feels it is in the national interest, but firing the FBI director for the purpose of thwarting an ongoing FBI investigation involving the president himself, constitutes a second violation of” the ban on obstruction of justice.

“As to this second felony, there are no questions. The critical evidence is the president’s own voice on videotape in an interview by Lester Holt.

“In July, President Trump made comments to the New York Times, on the record and on audio tape, that were interpreted by many as threatening Special Counsel Robert Mueller for the purpose of preventing him from looking at Trump’s financial dealings. This may well be a third violation of” the obstruction of justice ban.

“There are some differences between Watergate and the present case,” Sherman conceded in an op-ed last month. “Nixon faced a Democratic majority in the House while Trump enjoys a Republican majority. So a higher level of public concern will be necessary to initiate impeachment hearings.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is editor in chief at Peoplesworld.org. He started as labor editor of the People's World in May, 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

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