With a new poll of U.S. voters on Sunday showing that less than one-third support his abrupt ouster of FBI Director James Comey last week, the talk of impeaching President Donald Trump and demands for a special prosecutor to investigate possible ties between his campaign and alleged Russian interference in last year’s election have reached their highest levels to date.
The new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday shows that only 29% of all respondents approved of Comey’s firing while over 50% percent of those who said they knew “a lot” about how those events unfolded said they disapprove of the president’s behavior.
With Comey’s controversial dismissal coinciding with a new round of opinion polls that show Trump’s approval ratings stuck at historically low levels, a survey from Quinnipiac last week showed that the top three words that popped into respondents’ heads when asked to describe President Trump were: ‘idiot’; ‘incompetent’; and ‘liar’—in that order.
In the wake of Comey’s firing and Trump’s subsequent explanation last week, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) said Trump’s firing of Comey reminded him of the so-called “Doomsday Clock,” a project run by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists which seeks to warn the world about the encroaching threat of nuclear and other forms of human annihilation. “Maybe we should start an impeachment [clock],” Pocan tweeted. “This moved us an hour closer to midnight.”
Trump firing Comey reminds me of the doomsday clock, but maybe we should start an impeachment one. This moved us an hour closer to midnight. pic.twitter.com/3hJlVONHoM
— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) May 10, 2017
In a widely-circulated op-ed written by Laurence Tribe on Saturday, the Harvard constitutional law professor explained why the prospect of impeachment proceedings should now be front and center. According to Tribe, though Trump’s firing of Comey is itself troubling, the case against Trump goes well beyond that.
“Even without getting to the bottom of what Trump dismissed as ‘this Russia thing,'” writes Tribe, “impeachable offenses could theoretically have been charged from the outset of this presidency. One important example is Trump’s brazen defiance of the foreign emoluments clause, which is designed to prevent foreign powers from pressuring U.S. officials to stray from undivided loyalty to the United States. Political reality made impeachment and removal on that and other grounds seem premature.” But, he adds, “No longer. To wait for the results of the multiple investigations underway is to risk tying our nation’s fate to the whims of an authoritarian leader.”
On Friday, Allan Lichtman, a professor of history at American University who correctly predicted Trump’s presidential victory, similarly told Newsweek magazine that there is no longer reason to hold off talk of impeachment.
“[Trump] arguably could be impeached now,” said Lichtman. “Arguably he’s already obstructed justice and already violated the emoluments clause. I’m not saying we should impeach him now, I’m calling for an impeachment investigation.”
But in addition, last week’s dismissal of Comey, including the president’s own version of events and how they conflicted with several versions put out by his senior communications staff and Vice President Mike Pence, add an entirely new level of potential misconduct that many argue constitute obstruction of justice.
“We see credible reporting that he may well be guilty of obstructing justice in the FBI investigation, first by demanding loyalty to him personally from the man investigating him,” Lichtman said. “That’s pretty blatant obstruction of justice. And then by firing director Comey and then in effect lying initially, or having his team lie in his direction, about the reasons for the firing.”
Writing on his own blog, University of Berkeley professor and former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich said that is will now be up to Democrats in the House, and any Republicans possibly brave enough to join them, to initiate serious inquiries into whether or not the president should face impeachment proceedings. The key issues, argues Reich are these:
(1) The illegality of a President of the United States seeking to intimidate a potential witness in a congressional investigation.
(2) The illegality of a President potentially intimidating current FBI personnel who are investigating that president or his aides, by firing the former FBI head who was leading such an investigation and now threatening retaliation against him.
“These illegal acts cannot be ignored,” argued Reich. “We are facing a constitutional crisis potentially larger and more significant than Richard Nixon’s ‘Watergate.’ As long as Donald Trump remains president, our governing institutions are threatened.”
In a separate post on Sunday, Reich added, “The question is no longer whether there are grounds to impeach Donald Trump. It is when enough Republicans will put their loyalty to America ahead of their loyalty to their party.”
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