The tragicomedy of Donald Trump is all about aggrandizement and annihilation. Now, as the president sinks deeper into mental incoherence, his aggrandizement is annihilating his own political defenses.
Bereft of wise advisers and surrounded by a mercenary family, the president seems lost in a wilderness of social media mirrors. Mental health professionals are concerned, to put it mildly. The president of the United States apparently cannot comprehend the consequences of his actions.
Trump’s admission that he fired FBI director James Comey because of the Russian investigation is a frank admission of intent to obstruct justice. Just as his 2016 campaign statements that he intended to ban Muslims are now defeating his travel ban, Trump’s candor about Comey today will have legal consequences tomorrow.
“Regardless of the investigation I was going to fire Comey, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story,” Trump said.
There is ample evidence in that single sentence to support a bill of impeachment, buttressed by the gangsterly tweet that followed. Call it Exhibit A in the congressional prosecutors’ case:
The man is obstructing justice in real time to 29.2 million people. He is building the case against himself.
In the last few days, Trump has done a great favor to those who support ending his presidency by the constitutional remedy of impeachment.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA.) called for Trump’s impeachment on Thursday, saying ongoing federal investigations into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Moscow would prove collusion between the two.
“If we do the investigation, the information is there. We’re fiddling while Rome is burning,” she said. “This president needs to be impeached. I believe that. I believe there was collusion.”
Waters—Auntie Maxine to legions of young fans—did not bite her Twitter tongue.
As usual, Waters is slightly ahead of the progressive political curve. For the purposes of impeachment, the collusion issue is separate from the obstruction of justice issue.
Like him or not, Trump is entitled to the presumption of innocence until the FBI investigation is complete. If conclusive evidence emerges that Trump and/or some of his associates collaborated with Russian officials, that would constitute grounds for a second bill of impeachment.
Just because the collusion case is unproven does not mean the obstruction of justice is unwarranted.
In his NBC interview, Trump voiced and demonstrated intent to obstruct justice. That is a potential violation of the law, regardless of what Jeff Sessions told Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during their furtive conversations in the heat of the 2016 campaign.
Thanks to Trump’s self-destructive temperament, advocates of impeachment can now top their bill of charges with a provable allegation of criminal conduct. And “obstruction of justice” is a much stronger and more resonant charge than “violation of the Emoluments Clause,” a mouthful of marbles if there ever was one.
Obstruction of justice is also more likely to attract Republican support. While the Republican leadership has held firm in defending Trump, senators and congress members running for reelection are sensing the need to distance themselves from an erratic and impulsive president who is losing control of the narrative of his presidency by the day.
This is not to say that the Trump family is not violating the Emoluments Clause, which forbids presidents from benefiting from the largesse of strangers. The case is strong that the Trumps are doing just that. But the violation of this obscure but important provision serves better as a supporting charge in a bill of impeachment, not as the main charge.
And President Trump is supplying more evidence. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can reject calls for an independent prosecutor, but he can’t prevent Trump from prosecuting himself.