As 45 bumbles his way across the globe, flipping a double thumb greeting to the Saudi Arabians (who read it like we read the middle finger) and then going on to Israel, where he informed his hosts that he'd just come "from the Middle East," his domestic approval ratings continue to drop, as does his Republican support.
U.S. Representative Maxine Waters was the first to call for impeachment, months ago. The chorus is rising. On the floor of the House of Representatives, Republican Representative Al Green called for 45's impeachment on grounds of obstruction of justice for firing James Comey -- a path Green intends to pursue despite lynch threats on his voicemail. But calling for impeachment is only the first step in a complicated process.
Much as the public wants to remove crooks, it also wants somebody palatable to step into the job. And that is the dilemma. As a Facebook poster puts it:
Impeach Donald Trump, VP Mike Pence becomes President;
Impeach Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan becomes President;
Impeach Paul Ryan, Senate Finance Chair Orrin Hatch becomes President;
Impeach Orrin Hatch, ex-Exxon-Mobil Chair Rex Tillerson becomes President;
Impeach Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin becomes President;
Impeach Steve Mnuchin, former General James Mattis becomes President;
Impeach James Mattis, Attorney-General Jeff Sessions becomes President.
The constitutional chain of succession offers a crew of outwardly distinguished people whom I would not want to bring home to meet my family. Longtime Senator Orrin Hatch, at least, is among the growing number of Republicans who demurred at Trumpcare -- which Paul Ryan designed -- in recognition that 24 million people would be cut off from medical aid.
Meanwhile, Reuters says that seven reliable witnesses have described two 2016 Russian think-tank documents that outline two ways that Russia could influence the U.S. election: through official Russia TV propaganda presented as news reporting or opinion pieces, and through professionally-crafted wildly hateful and implausible false news. The second document reports on the effectiveness of the strategy and suggests tweaks.
Among bogus "news" reports, Reuters said, "Russia Today's most popular Clinton video -- "How 100 [per cent] of the 2015 Clintons' 'charity' went to...themselves" -- accumulated nine millions views on social media, according to the January report..." The slick, professional presentation sells some whopping misrepresentations. Check Charity Navigator's analysis of the Clinton Foundation.
In addition to that two-pronged media strategy, millions of Russian dollars were flowing to Team Trump through their own business dealings. Senate investigators are closing in on the "spiderweb of connections" between the Trump campaign and Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Politico's charts show a scant two or three degrees of separation between Trump staffers and either Putin or Russian Ambassdor Kyslak.
Consider Michael Flynn, appointed as National Security Adviser and then fired within a month for lying about his Russian connections. He's courting Contempt of Congress by refusing even to appear before the Senate to cite the Fifth Amendment. The Senate Intelligence panel has subpoenaed the records of two of his businesses. Apparently, he has been lobbying on Turkey's behalf too.
Meanwhile, former CIA director John Brennan testified before the Senate on Tuesday. Reuters reported that "He confirmed that the CIA had set up a special group with the NSA and FBI in late July to investigate the extent of Russian intervention in the presidential election..."
When Donald and Melania's excellent overseas adventure ends, turmoil awaits them at home. Even if 45 has the sense to resign before he faces impeachment, the Senate investigation seems determined to take down as much of his campaign team as possible. Of course, staying in office may be his only hope of escaping criminal charges of corruption and treason.
Does this mean Americans will end up with President Mike Pence or, gulp, President Jeff Sessions? Well, Republicans still control Congress, and partisan feelings have run high ever since President Obama's election in 2004. Republican Senators and Representatives might still support 45 even as his approval rating sinks.
Although the House of Representatives requires only a simple majority (on each count) in order to bring a bill of impeachment, that's just the indictment. The Senate has the responsibility of conducting the President's trial, and needs a supermajority vote (two-thirds) to return a conviction for a crime such as bribery or treason, or interfering with an election, like Richard Nixon.
On the other hand, the U.S. did learn something from John F. Kennedy's assassination, which left the U.S. without a Vice President for most of four years. In 1967, after federal and state governments' approval, Constitutional Amendment 25 came into effect.
Amendment 25 permits the Vice President "and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments [Cabinet] or of such other body as Congress may by law provide" to remove an unfit president from office. The Vice President steps up as President, and the new President appoints a new VP, whom Congress must approve.
Since Republicans currently control the House and the Senate, they would have to be directly involved with any action, whether impeachment or the 25th Amendment. Maybe they'll find their motivation in the Town Hall meetings where constituents have lambasted their Republican legislators over healthcare.
Like the lawsuits over new immigration policies, public opinion is shifting against the Republicans. On camera, 45 is starting to look like the presidency isn't fun any more.
Republican Representative Al Green is calling for impeachment. Republican Senators are pairing up with Democrats to lead investigations into, say, Michael Flynn's finances, or Trump's claim that President Obama wiretapped him.
Democrats have called for and won an independent special counsel to look into concerns about foreign influence on the election, in face of scandals that seem to be breaking -- not every day -- but every hour.
Although 45 firing his prosecutor reminded many of what Richard Nixon did, this situation is more drastic and alarming. Maybe Amendment 25 can't remove this president -- impeachment may be the only way -- but Amendment 25 offers a road map for what to do afterwards.
Image: Wikimedia Commons/Caleb Smith, Office of the Speaker of the House
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