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A Gathering Impeachment Storm

Terry H. Schwadron

Aug. 30, 2019

For those of us who’ve been wondering what’s happened to the muted calls for impeachment of Donald Trump, the winds of a coming storm are forming anew.

Even as a real hurricane bears down on Florida, a virtual storm is building over a variety of new Trump developments, amid an increasing number of calls that Trump is unfit for office:

— The Washington Post reported this week that in his zeal for a Wall on the southern border in time for the 2020 elections, Trump has ordered subordinates to break U.S. lawson eminent domain proceedings and laws governing contract bidding to simply confiscate millions of acres needed for the Wall, promising ahead of time to pardon anyone caught up in the law-breaking. That’s called criminal conspiracy in any jurisdiction in this country.

New York StateAtty. Gen. Leticia James has filed more lawsuits against Trump and his company. This week’s effort to halt an immigration ruling drew a Trump tweet attack. In the meantime, NY State has said it is looking into Trump state tax filings, and a variety of issues involving the Trump Organization operations.

— The wildly disparate comments and explanations of U.S. policy this week towards its allies and towards Russia at the recent G-7 meetingscontinue to ripple suggestions that Trump is less than stable. There is nothing illegal here, of course, but a sense of presidential instability is not good for Trump or the country.

— Deutsche Bankhas acknowledged to a U.S. appeals court it holds Trump tax documents. Based on that news and a single source, shamefully, Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC jumped the gun reported and then retracted a report that the tax documents confirm that Trump paid little or no income tax in some years, and that loan documents reflect that loans were given only after being co-signed by Russian billionaires tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Look, there will be documents here on these filings that will provide information to investigators eventually, this report notwithstanding. In any event, congressional committees are in a position to obtain at least the taxes.

— Democrats on the House Judiciary Committeehave asked for speeded consideration of their lawsuit to force testimonyfrom former White House Counsel Don McGahn and others who, on Trump’s orders based on a made-up blanket indemnity power, have refused House subpoenas to testify about attempts to fire former Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, as outlined in the Mueller Report.

Stir in all the findings of the Mueller Report itself, with at least 10 identified areas of prosecutable obstruction of justice charges for anyone not the president of the United States, an arms’ length litany of ethics violations, Trump’s actions on Russia’s behalf before the G-7 leaders, his status as an unindicted co-conspirator in campaign finance law-breaking, an array of women who say he abused them, and general abuse of his office to go after individuals who say unflattering things about him and you just may have the stew that now is at a boiling point.

The rising number of House Democrats favoring a declaration of examining impeachment as a practical matter is now over half, and as Congress reconvenes next week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be facing increased pressures to move ahead with formal declarations of what is already a going impeachment undertaking. Indeed, in their lawsuit appeals in court, Democrats have identified the current questioning of witnesses as part of an impeachment exercise.

Whether Pelosi calls the question next week is almost besides the point. What everyone is seeking is a reason to move ahead swiftly. Clearly, if the Deutsche Bank loan documents do indeed reflect co-signings by Putin associates, that will prove a match that will not be easily doused.

For my taste, there is way too much concern about the politics of a possible impeachment trial that will certainly lose in the Senate, and not enough concern about what Trump is doing right now, every day, to destroy American institutions and values in the pursuit of personal glory. And there is not enough guilt or guts or statesmanship among Senate Republicans to take a nonpartisan look at what is going wrong.

This is not a matter of bad personal style — though we have plenty of that in Trump — it is a matter of upholding our laws, and the principle that no one is above the law.

The bank made its acknowledgements in letters to the U.S. Appeals Court hearing the House Democratic lawsuit seeking financial for Trump; his children, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump; immediate family members; the Trump Organization, trust and other Trump-controlled business entities. Lawmakers also requested the tax returns of two people or entities whose names are kept under seal. The bank at first declined, then acknowledged the tax documents, saying the names were blocked in some cases. A second bank, Capital One, said it did not have such documents. A lower court had ruled that Democratic lawmakers could have access to these documents.

Clearly, Trump’s tax returns have been a matter of public curiosity since he declined to release them during the 2016 campaign, breaking with decades of candidate tradition. Law week Douglas Letter, a lawyer for the House financial services committee, told the court there good reason to seek the documents. That committee has been looking at Trump’s finances to determine whether he helped Russians and other foreign buyers launder money through his properties, said Letter. He said the intelligence committee was trying to determine whether Trump’s financial dealings made him subject to foreign influence.

In the matter of the Wall, the Post said that Trump has held regular White House meetings for progress updates and to hasten the pace, according to several people involved in the discussions. And when aides have suggested that some orders are illegal or unworkable, Trump has said he would pardon the officials if they would just go ahead, aides said. He has waved off worries about contracting procedures and the use of eminent domain, saying “take the land,” according to officials who attended the meetings. Despite promises to complete 500 miles of Wall by 2020, the Army Corps of Engineers has completed about 60 miles of “replacement” barrier in areas that previously had border infrastructure.

Just to make things complete as the hurricane nears, Trump has ordered funds from emergency coffers to go to Wall construction.

Those approaching clouds suggest time is nearing for an actual impeachment decision.


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