To the Editor: Donald Trump’s unpredictable and deranged behavior has gotten worse, but one thing has not changed. The President has probably committed a number of impeachable offenses.
These include obstruction of justice, abuse of power, contempt of Congress, violation of the Emoluments Clause and campaign-finance laws. Trump’s refusal to participate in the House’s impeachment inquiry may result in additional grounds for impeachment, such as failure to honor subpoenas and defiance of court orders.
When Speaker Pelosi finally announced “an official, independent [impeachment] inquiry,” it was narrowed to Trump pressuring President Zelensky of the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Any official impeachment inquiry, however, must investigate all impeachable offenses committed by the president.
The Speaker said, ”We are at a different level of lawlessness that is clear to the American people.” Yet, contrary to the political establishment and the media, what must also be made clear to the American people is who we are as a nation and what we have done and still do: all these well beyond the impeachment of Trump.
The following are a few examples.
First, there is some evidence that two presidential candidates tried to enlist the help of a foreign country in order to influence an American election. Neither candidate was investigated by the government or held accountable.
In 1968, the Nixon campaign told the South Vietnamese government to reject any deals until after the election, since it would get better terms if Nixon became president. In 1980, members of the Reagan team told the Iranian government not to release the hostages until after the election. On the day of Reagan’s inauguration, the hostages were released.
Second, for decades under both Democratic and Republican administrations and Congresses, the United States intervened in the domestic affairs of other nations. This included the overthrow of democratically-elected governments in Iran (1954), Chile (1973), and the decision in 2010 by Secretary of State Clinton and the State Department not to challenge a coup by the military that overthrew the elected government of Honduras.
Three, both Republican and Democratic administrations have harshly treated whistleblowers who exposed abuses by the national-security state. After the former diplomat Joseph Wilson wrote an Op-ed piece in The New York Times exposing the Bush Administration’s lies about Saddam Hussein reconstituting his nuclear program (Condoleeza Rice’s “mushroom cloud” was one reason given to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq), he was attacked in the press by the Bush administration and his wife Valerie Plame was outed as a CIA agent.
Both the Bush and Obama administrations prosecuted whistleblowers under the Espionage Act and attacked the press when it reported their revelations about government abuses. Whistleblowers who exposed possible crimes committed by the CIA and the NSA were harassed, fired and, as in the cases of Thomas Drake and Chelsea Manning, jailed.
A striking example is the case of Edward Snowden. While working as a private contractor for the NSA, he learned about an electronic surveillance program called “Xkeyscore.” In his memoir, Personal Recollections, he wrote .”..Whoever dialed a phone or touched a computer [including]…320 million of my fellow American citizens …were being surveilled…”
Snowden made a momentous decision to expose this abuse of power by giving classified documents to The Guardian. That newspaper and other publications such as The New York Times, after they determined it was in the public interest, decided to publish stories based on these documents. Forty years earlier, Daniel Ellsberg had done something similar when The Pentagon Papers, the secret study of the Vietnam War, was published by The New York Times and The Washington Post.
The Obama administration responded by charging Snowden under the Espionage Act and other laws, revoked his passport, prevented him from seeking asylum in Ecuador and forced him to be stranded in Russia. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress denounced Snowden as a traitor. Hillary Clinton suggested he might be a Russian spy.
Montesquieu, the French Enlightenment philosopher wrote, “The deterioration of every government begins with the decay of principles on which it was founded.” That decay of principles didn’t begin with Trump, and won’t end with his impeachment. There must be far-reaching structural changes in the permanent war economy.
Structural changes must also occur in our economic and political system that has failed to seriously address growing inequality, an unfair tax system and irresponsible corporate power. This perverse system could not operate without the complicity of both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.
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