Don McGahn, Trump, Congress, and the Constitution – not about the 2020 Election or the Democrats.
Today Don McGahn, who used to be White House Counsel in the Trump White House, did not answer a subpoena to appear before the Judicial Committee in the House of Representatives. The drumbeat for impeachment grew louder. Republican Senator Chris Collins gave an impassioned speech which basically accused the House Dems of playing politics. Well, he ought to know because that is exactly what Mr. Collins is doing. If Mr. Collins was upholding the oath he took to defend and protect the US Constitution he would not be backing Donald Trump, nor would he favor the defiance of any subpoena issued by Congress. He would be insisting that we all hear the testimony of Don McGahn.
We have laws. We have a Constitution. We have traditions. Congress has a long history of investigating government officials, both appointed and elected, even Presidents. The powers of Congress are listed in Article 1 of the Constitution, ahead of the powers of the Executive Branch. The people come first. The president serves at the will of the people. (A cynical ha-ha here is perfectly acceptable). Since the 2020 election began really early it is easy to make an argument that Democrats are just playing to their base whether that is actually the case or not. After all that is what the Republicans do every day.
Trump is doing two things at once, surprise, surprise. He definitely has political motives. But he also is making a constitutional argument based on some imaginary document that only exists in his mind, backed up by a legal opinion that was never voted into law, filed on an obscure piece of paper somewhere in the Justice Department. He is arguing that Congress should not have the powers that they have, that they should not have been able to investigate or impeach Nixon, and that the executive has absolute immunity from investigation and from indictment. He argues that Congress cannot impeach a President. This is a power grab.
These House investigations are not important because they might help Democrats get elected in 2020 and everyone who is paying attention knows that. These struggles between Democrats on one side and the President, the Department of Justice (not a branch of government) and the Republicans in Congress on the other side are about the distribution of power in our government, who has it, how much power each branch or agency has, and what that power allows, or requires, them to do. If Trump wins he will change the balance of powers in our government forever, and that will change the entire design of our constitutional government (rewritten by a man who doesn’t even like to read).
Trump, for his own personal reasons, wants an executive branch that consists of an all-powerful executive backed by a DOJ that makes a president basically above all the laws of the land, including those described in the Constitution or devolved through tradition. A president could not be checked by any other branch of government, or the DOJ, or any political action by voters – untouchable, defined in a whole new way.
Why does DT want all this power? Since we can’t see the evidence in the Mueller report, or even the many redacted sections of the Mueller report, and we can’t hear anyone testify in Congress for the most part we can only guess about the reasons. Perhaps the liar-in-chief who seems to have a lot of nearly criminal or actually criminal baggage has so much to hide that he doesn’t mind changing the whole balance of power so that he can operate unchecked by anyone.
He says he wants to make the Presidency more powerful because that will benefit future presidents. Donald Trump does not do things for others. He is not an altruistic type of guy. If he is fighting for an all-powerful executive branch he is doing it for himself. As long as he is president he cannot be indicted. Perhaps he actually does want to be president-for-life also, which would not only change the powers as defined in the Constitution, it would signal the end of our Democracy/Republic. Our Congress would exist then only for purposes of making a show of democracy. The grand experiment of our forefathers would be finished. Historical evidence suggests that democracies do not have a long shelf life, perhaps about 250 years (which is about where we are right now) but we all felt that our democracy would be able to beat the odds, which are based on only a few examples.
Why don’t the Republicans protect the documents they are sworn to protect and defend? The Republicans are playing their own game but since Trump will get them where they want to go they are along for the ride. The Republicans seems to be involved in their own rewrite of our United States government. They are possibly trying to resurrect the CSA, only this time it will be the Conservative States of American, rather than the Confederate States of America. But in their hearts it will finally be victory in a war that never ended, that just simmered along underground, like a fire that smolders for decades and then flares once again into a conflagration. America will live according to Conservative values or else. America will be a born-again Christian nation, or else. I don’t know if Trump is with the Republicans on this or just going along with them for the ride; two riders who both think they are driving. What could go wrong with that?
We the people have to think very carefully about what we want. Are we going to abandon the US Constitution written by our forefathers and follow the US Constitution as rewritten by Trump and the Republicans. You may be pretty cynical about our government already, but are these the changes you want to make? You may think that if the Republicans are so good for the economy and so tough on foreign leaders that perhaps we will like the changes they will make. Look it up, Republicans are not that great for the economy. They have run up huge deficits in this administration, and both the Great Depression and the recent Great Recession followed Republican administrations. And Republicans love war.
Do you really want an imperial presidency? Don McGahn not testifying before Congress may not sound like a big deal, but it is. The future of our American democracy depends on upholding the powers of Congress, including the House of Representatives.