Earlier this week, members of the left broke out their tubs of popcorn and champagne glasses to watch and celebrate the announcement of indictments of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates brought down by Robert Mueller. There was also a gleeful twitterstorm in reaction to the revelation that George Papadopoulos had already plead guilty and more indictments could be on the way.
Personally, I can’t wait to see members of the Trump Administration go down in flames. I want to see the whole family be dragged down into the fiery abyss. Ivanka, Don, Jr., and Jared…all of them. Can you imagine Ivanka’s prison line? I do. The orange jumpers, the make-unless mug shots, the Barbara Walters interview. All of it. But I digress…
As much as I anxiously await (and actively work towards) an end to the Trump Administration and this apparent detour down the darkest timeline — Robert Mueller can’t stop Trump. He just can’t. He can’t unseat Trump, he can’t impeach Trump, he can’t arrest Trump, he can’t send Trump to prison. Robert Mueller III — with every last ounce of his effort, authority, and stoic fortitude — cannot stop Trump.
I repeat: Robert Mueller can’t stop Trump.
The simplest answer is: the law. It often comes as a shock to people when they learn that in the United States, not all people are treated equally under the law. This isn’t just an assertion based on data or observation or case studies or identity politics. It’s an open and transparent — if not commonly understood — part of how the criminal justice system works.
For example, there are many government employees, including police officers, that enjoy legal immunity from crimes they commit while they are on the clock. And this immunity from prosecution is formalized through both laws and legal precedence, as in the case of Harlow vs. Fitzgerald (1982). Harlow vs. Fitzgerald solidified the protected status of law enforcement ruling that “government officials performing discretionary functions generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
This legally impenetrable shield is one of the most devastating reasons why, even when there is undisputable evidence that a crime was committed — law enforcement officers rarely face court or conviction for their crimes.
Another little known characteristic of the criminal justice system in the United States is that certain crimes can only be prosecuted by certain people. If those people decide not to prosecute — no matter how much evidence is presented — there will be no consequences for the crime.
For example, if a person of color is murdered by a police officer, there may be evidence suggesting the officer violated federal legislation 18 USC 242: Deprivation of Rights Under the Color of Law. There can be witnesses. There can be video. There can be a confession of guilt. But this law can only be enforced by the US Attorney General. So, if a white supremacist like say, Jeff Sessions, decides not to press charges despite overwhelming evidence, then the officer will face no consequences for their crime. Legally.
There are numerous shields, protections and loopholes that allow government officials and employees to evade prosecution and general consequences for crimes they commit. And there is no one more shielded than the President of the United States.
In other words, there is no person in the United States more protected from prosecution for committing crimes than Donald J. Trump. Former reality talk show host, current white supremacist golfer, and largest threat to the free world, Donald J. Trump.
According to the law, the only entity that can initiate the removal of a sitting President is the House of Representatives. Not the people. Not the Democratic Party. Not Jesus or Allah. And not Robert Mueller.
I repeat: Robert Mueller cannot bring down Donald Trump.
But a special prosecutor took down Nixon, right? So, we can, too!
I hear this time and time again, but unfortunately, that’s not what happened. Richard Nixon resigned. He removed himself. No legal proceedings were implemented to force out an unwilling President. And in our current context, we cannot expect the President to voluntarily resign.
Only the House can initiate the impeachment of a sitting President. Only the Senate can approve it. And there is over 150 years of legal precedent set by the Supreme Court that reaffirms that the ultimate authority on criminal prosecutions is held within the executive branch.
I repeat: Only Congress can remove the President.
So, for those celebrating an impending arrest or impeachment of Donald Trump at the hands of a caped and airborne Robert Mueller, put the bubbly and the popcorn down and come on back to the struggle. We still need the Republican controlled, overwhelmingly loyal Congress to secure impeachment.
And loyal is the key word in that sentence. Complicit might be a better term.
A loosely connected but equally misleading trend is to compare Trump’s approval ratings with Nixon’s approval ratings. This comparison is used to suggest impending impeachment for those unfamiliar with the legal process behind removing the President — especially in the mainstream media. And that is also dangerously misleading.
Let’s be clear and honest: There is no legal relationship between approval ratings and impeachment. But we can imagine that even if there was — the left is missing a very important factor. Trump’s overall approval rating is abysmal. It’s currently hovering around 35%. But that is just an overall approval rating. It’s the approval rating of Republicans that’s worth looking at.
Among Republicans, Trump’s approval rating is close to 80%. He has an overwhelming amount of support coming from his constituency, and there is no indication the right-wing sector of the public is remotely beginning to turn on their President. There is also no indication that the formal authorities within the Republican party — no matter what information is revealed about about Donald Trump — have any intention of initiating or carrying out the impeachment process. No indication at all.
In fact, it is laughable to think that the Republican Party can be convinced to stop Donald Trump. Correction, it would be laughable if hundreds of millions of lives, our global security and the entire nation wasn’t on the line right now. Which it is. In this case, this assertion is strategically inappropriate and politically negligent. The Republicans will not impeach Trump.
There is no legal, non-violent way to remove Trump without Congress. Not one. As long as the Republicans control Congress, Trump will control the United States.
I repeat: As long as the Republicans control Congress, Trump will not be impeached.
So, despite the anger and frustration and urgency we all feel — the only way to stop Trump is to dig in and do the real work needed for the Democratic party to take Congress. And the only way to do that is to stop focusing on weekly “smoking gun” legal theories and start mobilizing for the 2018 Midterm Elections.
While the left has wasted a year of resistance on phone calls and marches to the moral high ground, the Republican Party has been legally and political advancing a very effective strategy to maintain their authority to advance their agenda. Elections are central to this strategy.
The Republicans are attacking special elections and mid-terms with full force — and they are winning. Meanwhile, the left is making phone calls and cardboard signs and missing almost every opportunity available to counter the Trump Administration and the Republican Party.
That is not to say protest isn’t necessary. When used properly, it is vital to reform. I write and speak on this topic often. But protest doesn’t win back elections. It doesn’t take back Congress. And it can’t impeach Trump.
If we want to impeach Trump, we have to take Congress. If we want to impeach Trump, we have to focus on elections. If we want to impeach Trump, we need to start mobilizing immediately. We’ve already lost a year. We don’t have any more time to waste. We have a Congress to overturn and an President to impeach. Then we can pop some bottles and plenty of corn kernels.
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