From the Continental Army to the Constitution
Merriam-Webster defines an oath as a “solemn attestation of the truth of one’s words or the sincerity of one’s intentions.” It is a promise (as to perform official duties faithfully) corroborated by an oath.
The Founding Fathers of the United States took the concept of an oath quite seriously. As early as 1775, when establishing the Continental Army, the Continental Congress required officers and enlisted men to sign an oath that they would conform to the rules and regulations of the government’s army. By 1776 the Continental Congress had revised the oath; it now required all military and civilian national officers to renounce any allegiance to King George III and promise to do their utmost to support, maintain and defend the United States.
Constitution, the Supreme Law of the United States
Drafters (Framers) of the Constitution recognized the importance of an oath of office. First, they established the Constitution as the “supreme Law of the Land.” Then they required all office holders in the United States to take an oath to uphold the United States Constitution. This included Senators, Representatives, Members of State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers of the United States and the States. These are enumerated in Article VI, Clause 3 of the Constitution. The President, too, is required to take a specific oath as he assumes that office [Article II Section 1].
Oath Taken When Assuming Office
Members of Congress take the following oath:
“I, (name of Member), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
The President takes a different oath:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Trump Proclaims His Kingship
President Trump has blatantly and willfully ignored this solemn, simple oath. His behavior, speeches and tweets are glaring evidence that he lacks any understanding of the Constitution. To put it bluntly, I doubt he’s ever read it, although someone gave him the erroneous idea that Article II gives him unlimited power. In his ignorance he crowed publicly, “Then, I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president. But I don’t even talk about that.”
Without doubt, he believes he is above the law. In fact, his attorneys bolster that idea by stating the President cannot be indicted, nor can he even be investigated. This “stable genius” is convinced he has the same power as the strongmen he admires. The fact that the Constitution of United States was specifically created with three equal branches of government as a check on each other is an inconvenience to be ignored. The Framers had no use for another king, but Donald Trump has no use for them.
Trump has established he has no interest in preserving, protecting or defending the Constitution. But being uninformed and—in the words of some Republicans—incompetent, is not a rationale for lowering the bar.
Trump’s Motivation for Betraying Our Kurdish Allies
My post a month ago dealt with Trump’s betrayal of our Kurdish allies and the countries that benefited from it. In my last post I outlined the impact of Trump’s major foreign policy actions. The facts I presented make it unmistakably clear that Trump’s decisions have greatly upset NATO and other allies and, most significantly, weakened the national security of the United States. I suggested that Trump’s dominant motivation for taking actions so detrimental to the United States was, and continues to be, his own self-interest. Information recently disclosed confirms that theory.
Former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, accused Trump of being motivated primarily by personal or financial interests in his dealings with Turkey. Bolton got it right. Trump has a significant licensing agreement related to Trump Towers in Istanbul where he’s in partnership with a Turkish billionaire, Aydın Doğan. Accordingly, with much at risk, he must maintain good relations with Turkey’s President, Erdogan. To assure those relations stay on course there is a back-channel network of sons-in law. Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner, Erdogan’s son-in law, Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s Finance Minister and Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, who is the son-in-law of Aydin Doğan. The latter is founder of Doğan Holding, the developer of Trump Towers in Istanbul and Trump’s business partner.
Trump’s Actions Against U.S. National Security
But Trump doesn’t need a back channel. He displays his personal conflicts of interest openly. In 2017 Trump pressed Rex Tillerson to get the Justice Department to drop the case of Reza Zarrab, a Turkish gold trader in a scheme to avoid sanctions on Iran. Tillerson refused, and Zarrab eventually agreed to cooperate with U.S prosecutors. At Erdogan’s request, Trump then tried to have Attorney General, William Barr, negotiate a settlement with the state-owned Turkish bank for evading American sanctions against Iran. Nonetheless in October, prosecutors in New York filed bank fraud and money laundering charges against the institution, Halkbank. Mr. Trump has also deferred legally mandated sanctions against Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, for installing Russian missile defense systems.
These are the actions of a self-promoting, arrogant President placing his personal image and financial interests above those of the country. And that is what the emolument clause in the Constitution (Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 8) is designed to prevent. It prohibits federal officeholders from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever from any King, Prince, or foreign state.” An emolument is defined broadly as a benefit of office and includes any gift, payment, or other thing of value such as salary, fees or as part of profit.
It couldn’t be any clearer. By violating the emolument clause of the Constitution, Trump is not honoring his oath of office. But even in this highly partisan environment, I don’t believe that constitutes an impeachable offense. It’s not treason—we’re not at war with Turkey nor can Turkey be considered an enemy—though at times it acts like one. It’s not bribery, and it’s dubious whether it can be considered a high crime or misdemeanor.
The Ukraine and Bribery
Ukraine is a different story. In brief, Trump put a hold on the congressionally approved delivery of vitally needed weapons to the Ukraine. In order to obtain that military aid and to have a meeting in the oval office to exhibit U.S. support, the new Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, would have to make a public statement that he was embarking on an investigation into Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine. He would also have to add that he would initiate an investigation of Ukraine’s supposed intervention in the 2016 U.S. election.
Zelensky agreed to make that statement, but before he could do so, a whistleblower’s complaint became public and the aid was released. The statement was never made. As more evidence has been presented in the open hearings on impeachment, it is clear that Trump has been directly involved in this scheme from the very beginning.
Last week, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, accused Trump of committing “bribery,” one of the specific crimes for which a president can be impeached. The non-profit Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School provides the following definition. “Bribery refers to the offering, giving, soliciting, or receiving of any item of value as a means of influencing the actions of an individual holding a public or legal duty. . . . Another element of proving bribery includes proving intent to influence the discharging of another’s official duties.”
This is Bribery
In specific terms: As cited above, Trump requested that the Ukrainian President Zelensky declare he was opening an investigation into Hunter Biden—in order for Trump to release the military aid he was withholding—which Zelensky otherwise would not do. Trump’s intent was to influence Zelensky’s official duties for his own personal and political benefit. That is bribery.
Trump’s Abuse of Power
Another approach is to prove Trump abused his presidential powers and can no longer be trusted in exercising them. Since the corruption charges against Biden have been proven groundless, Trump’s intent in making the request was done in bad faith, merely for his personal and political benefit.
While I’m not an attorney, I can read. And, as any normal adult reader, I can understand a law that is really not that complicated. Thus, I can conclude that Donald Trump broke the law and thereby betrayed his oath of office. That’s not surprising considering Trump’s loose relationship with the truth and compulsion to lie just about anything. His actions mandate impeachment and I believe he should be removed from office. His personal interests do not align with what is in the best interests of the United States. He poses a a real threat to our democracy, considering the potential interference from Russia and others in the next election. His brand of corruption is apparently contagious, and destroys any shred of honor.
The Republican Response
Which brings us to Republicans in the House and Senate. To date, they seem incapable of honoring their oath of office. Their public statements and performance during the opening phase of the impeachment inquiry—centered on attacking witnesses— has transformed them into members of a crime family. Consider their response thus far:
1.The process of initial closed-door hearings is unconstitutional. It is not. It is the same process established by Republicans when they controlled the House.
2. These are hearsay accusations. They are not. Trump’s released transcript notes document what he said, as did testimony of an NSA officer and others who listened in on the phone call.
3. There was no “quid pro quo,” (a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something.) There was. Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney publicly acknowledged it. Subsequent evidence also reveals the existence of a quid pro quo.
4. Other than the phone call, there is no direct line back to Trump as the initiator. There is. Subsequent evidence reveals the scheme went back earlier than the July phone call and Trump was overheard acknowledging his role. Additional testimony by Ambassador Gordon Sundland confirmed that Trump personally directed this action.
5. Trump may have tried to execute this bribery scheme, but it didn’t happen; therefore, no harm, no foul. Foul anyway. The law specifically speaks to the attempt as a crime, the same as an actual execution.)
6. Trump did it, but it’s not an impeachable defense. Yes, it is. Bribery is one of the specific impeachable acts identified in the Constitution. This is bribery.
Lindsay Graham Exposes His Disintegrated Backbone
As the evidence of Trump’s guilt continues to accumulate, the Republicans have had to change their defensive arguments and deny reality. Senator Lindsay Graham, whose backbone disintegrated after the death of his mentor, Senator John McCain, is an outstanding example. On September 29th he argued, “If you’re looking for a circumstance where the President of the United States was threatening the Ukraine with cutting off aid unless they investigated his political opponent, you’d be very disappointed. That does not exist.”
After Kurt Volker, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO, testified in a closed hearing, Graham apparently thought Volker’s testimony would clear the President and stressed his concern that the Democrats would not release a complete transcript of his testimony. On October 9th he said, “If House D’s refuse to release full transcript of Volker testimony as requested by Congressman Jordan, it will be an abuse of power.”
But once the transcript was released and other evidence of the crime revealed, he recognized that Trump actually made the threat to the Ukraine and its exposure was unavoidable. When asked whether he (Graham) would read the transcript he said, “No.’’ Nonetheless, he eventually read the transcript and his position changed dramatically. On November 6th he said, “What I can tell you about the Trump policy toward Ukraine: It was incoherent, it depends on who you talk to, they seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo, so no I find the whole process to be a sham and I’m not going to legitimize it.”
Seeking the Truth Fairy
That’s truly an amazing defense. Think about it. Graham said, essentially, the President of the United States is too incompetent to have formed a quid pro quo scheme. While other leading Republicans might arrive at a different justification, I suspect the end result will be the same. The act doesn’t warrant impeachment. But given the evidence that has already emerged and the expectation of more to come, no one will be able to deny the facts. Trump is guilty but Republicans are not going to impeach him.
So we must appeal to those Republicans who have at times demonstrated their independence, and hope they speak out and encourage their members to honor their oath. Any profiles in courage here? On the other hand, there are a few outspoken Republicans to watch as they demonstrate their profiles in cowardice: In the Senate, Graham, Rand Paul and Moscow Mitch McConnell; In the House, Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan, Elise Stefanik, Matt Gaetz and Mark Meadows.
Unless the “Truth Fairy” subsumes the Republican Party, we can safely say that, like Trump, its members will have betrayed their oath of office and trampled on the Constitution.