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In January, 2016, Donald Trump was seeking the Republican nomination for the presidency. He claimed that his principal rival, Ted Cruz, might be barred from election to the White House due to his having been born in Canada, albeit of American citizens.
In support of his view, Trump noted that the renowned Harvard Constitutional law professor, Laurence Tribe had asserted that Cruz might be vulnerable to a legal challenge on this matter, Specifically, Tribe stated that this issue had not yet been legally resolved and was not “settled law.”
Trump attempted to enhance Tribe’s credibility by referring to him as “…a constitutional expert, one of the best in the country,”.
Last week, these words of ultimate obsequious approbation came back to haunt Trump. Tribe issued a Tweet asserting that Trump’s recent actions in having Mike Pence stay at his Doonberg, Ireland golf resort and in planning to host next year’s G-7 summit conference at his Doral golf resort in Miami were violations of the Constitutional Domestic Emoluments Clause and the Foreign Emoluments Clause, respectively. Specifically, Tribe tweeted the following:
“Memo to POTUS: There are TWO Emoluments Clauses. The one you’re violating when you line your pocket by having Pence stay at your resort & commute is the Domestic EC. The one you’re planning to violate by having the G7 stay at the Doral w/out Congress’s consent is the Foreign EC.”
Now there is already more than sufficient credible evidence for the House of Representatives to vote to impeach Trump. The Tribe Tweet takes the House impeachment inquiry, however, to an entirely higher level.
The present impeachment case consists of the ten acts of obstruction of justice outlined in the Mueller Report, plus Trump’s conspiracy with his former fixer, Michael Cohen, to violate Federal Election law in the Stormy Daniels case. These matters constitute a solid case, meriting Trump’s removal from office, a case even more compelling than the Articles of. Impeachment against Richard Nixon.
To many voters, however, both the obstruction and the Cohen-Trump election law violations are heavily nuanced and not easily comprehensible. This accounts for the understandable reluctance of even voters disapproving of Trump to support an impeachment proceeding against him.
The Tribe legal assertions are a different matter altogether. They involve the president “lining his pockets.” This is not a matter of nuance – this is plain and simple Donald Trump behaving as a cheap, common crook, in the fashion of former Vice President Spiro T. Agnew. He is without question America’s Grifter-in-Chief.
It is not clear whether the Tribe assertions will increase support for impeachment. I have little doubt, however, that they will result in a decreasing likelihood of blowback against Democratic House members representing swing districts who support impeachment.
The Democrat House members have a clear Constitutional responsibility to attempt to hold Trump accountable for his high crimes and misdemeanors. They must conduct an Impeachment proceeding, despite the virtual certainty that after the House passes Articles of Impeachment, the Republican Senate will never vote to remove him.
The Impeachment hearings will bring home to the American electorate the extreme degree to which Trump has abused power and violated his oath of office. Yet even more, they will establish beyond any reasonable doubt Trump’s status as Grifter-in-Chief. While the hearings will not result in Trump’s removal from office, they will make his reelection impossible if he faces any credible center-left Democratic opponent.
Virtually all recent polls have shown Trump with an approval rating of less than 40 percent, the lowest of any president since Jimmy Carter. They also establish that with the exception of the economy, the electorate disapproves of his handling of every significant issue, including immigration, the issue that was the core of his 2016 election campaign. And now, more recent polls show an increasing percentage of the electorate disapproving of Trump’s economic policies, particularly his foolhardy trade war with China. When you combine this political landscape with an indisputably established case of Trump as Grifter-in-Chief, his defeat by a Democratic opponent winning more than 400 electoral votes is all but certain.
Yet there is an even greater specter haunting Donald Trump. It has been reported that Michael Cohen is now fully cooperating with the Office of Manhattan State District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. on the issue of whether Trump falsified business records in order to commit tax fraud. The Federal Justice Department bar against indicting a sitting president does not apply to state prosecutions. While Trump’s shamelessly sycophantic Attorney General Bill Barr has effectively barred any federal indictment of Trump in the Federal Southern District of New York, he will be powerless to prevent any indictments of the president presented by either Vance or New York State Attorney General Letitia James.
If Trump is indicted in New York State, even Republican U.S. Senators will start to defect. Doubtless, Trump, the most mendacious president in American history, will claim all this to be “fake news.” He once said that he could publicly shoot somebody and that his supporters would continue to stand by him. That is the one truthful statement that Trump has made: his hardcore base supporters are out-of-touch and self-deluding to an unbelievable extent. The overwhelming majority of Americans, however, will be most relieved when Trump leaves office on January 20, 2021 – or maybe sooner.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.