Exposing Trump’s “high crimes and misdemeanors”
Then-candidate Donald Trump is silhouetted against his plane as he speaks during a rally Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Bentonville, Ark. | John Bazemore / AP

Since assuming the office of president, Donald Trump and the cabal surrounding him have assaulted democratic norms, the U.S. Constitution, and democracy itself. They have engaged in a pattern of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as a special counsel is an important development. It comes in response to the surging movement of resistance, the demands of Democratic elected officials, and the widening investigation being carried out by the mass media.

It creates the possibility of an independent investigation revealing the true extent of Trump’s crimes. The FBI is no friend of the people of course and itself poses a danger to democratic rights. This investigation will succeed only with continued mass pressure and vigilance.

Such exposure could help erode support for Trump, laying the basis for an electoral rout of Republicans in 2018 and hasten Trump’s ouster either by impeachment, resignation, or defeat in 2020.

Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey and his sharing of classified intelligence with Russian officials have deepened the crisis within his administration, created disarray in the White House, rebellion in the intelligence community, and growing alarm in ruling circles and the GOP. It has stymied the right-wing legislative agenda.

The Trump presidency is one of the most politically vile, corrupt, and incompetent administrations in history. Its ties to the fascist ‘alt-right’ make it a unique danger and continuous threat to democracy.

Trump’s authoritarian, hateful, and erratic actions have brought white supremacists and neo-Nazis from the political fringes into the mainstream. They have unleashed a wave of hate crimes and assaults on U.S. democratic institutions from both within and without.

American-style fascism or authoritarianism won’t happen overnight. It occurs in steps via the continuous erosion of democratic rights, institutions, and norms – and the truth. Each blow to democracy, each hate crime, each lie, becomes normalized and opens the door to new ones.

Trump and the cabal around him appear to be covering-up the extensive business and criminal ties that he and his shady network of associates have with U.S. and Russian mafia and wealthy Russian businessmen. Together, they have enriched themselves through massive looting of the Russian people, money laundering, tax evasion, real estate swindles, and other crimes.

The Russian mobsters, wealthy businessmen, and corrupt government officials –  including the authoritarian Putin government – are one and the same. It is asserted they colluded with the Trump campaign to tip the 2016 elections and enrich their circles, violating U.S. national sovereignty in the process.

If proven, collusion to interfere in the 2016 elections would be a treasonable offense, according to Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe.

Tribe believes it is not the firing of Comey for his refusal to terminate the investigation into collusion that is an impeachable offense. Rather it is “dangling the prospect of not firing him” if Comey would drop the investigation of collusion.

“It’s essentially the language of bribery. It’s the language of the underworld, of racketeering, not the language of a president who is supposed to be enforcing the rule of law,” he said.

Since day one, Trump has openly violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. Trump properties are illegally receiving payments from foreign governments, many seeking to curry favor. This is also grounds for impeachment.

Demanding a full account of Trump’s crimes, the defense of democracy and the U.S. Constitution, and the ultimate defeat of the entire extreme right agenda rest largely on the broadest political engagement of the American people.

Robert Mueller was head of the FBI from Sept. 2001 to Sept. 2013. He has now been named a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into links between Russia and the Trump campaign. | Don Knight / The Herald-Bulletin via AP

The Republican-dominated Senate and House will likely do nothing so long as Trump’s base sticks with him. But their inaction belies internal turmoil and growing alarm. A number of GOP elected officials in vulnerable districts are beginning to waver as public opinion shifts.

Some Republicans, eager to push off any responsibility for their own connections to Trump and to return to their right-wing legislative agenda, are already making moves to dial back Congress’ own inquiry in the wake of the Mueller announcement.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, the head of the Senate Judiciary sub-committee assigned to investigate possible Russian election interference, now says the Mueller probe will “really limit what Congress can do” and “limit what the public will know about this.”

Such efforts to end the public inquiry into Trump’s dealings must be resisted. While the appointment of a special counsel may be a positive development, the open and public investigation by Congress should not be cut off.

A defeat of the GOP majority in the 2018 elections is crucial to blocking the Trump/GOP agenda and launching a wider investigation of his crimes. Without substantial Democratic majorities, impeachment is impossible.

Some are concerned that were Trump impeached, religious fundamentalist Vice President Mike Pence would then become president. Pence would be worse and allow the GOP to pass its agenda, it is argued.

Yes, Pence is utterly reactionary. But Pence is entangled in the cover-up too. No matter what happens to Trump, Pence will have a cloud over his head.

Trump, with white supremacists in his inner circle and a finger on the nuclear trigger, is a singularly dangerous figure. He is capable of mobilizing a substantial base beyond the right-wing core, something Pence can’t do. His ouster – along with the entire alt-right cabal – is necessary to safeguard democracy.

Fully exposing Trump’s crimes will simultaneously hasten his ouster, bog down the entire right-wing legislative agenda, boost democratic and people’s forces, and propel us toward even bigger victories in 2018 and 2020.


John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People's World. He is active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, where he attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs. He currently lives in Chicago.