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Boardman writes: "Our current constitutional crisis began the moment Donald Trump was sworn in as president without resolving his unaddressed conflicts of interest around the globe. This failure put him into immediate, apparent violation of the Constitution's Article I, Section 9 'Emoluments Clause.'"

President Donald Trump celebrates after his speech during the presidential inauguration. (photo: Saul Loeb/AP)
President Donald Trump celebrates after his speech during the presidential inauguration. (photo: Saul Loeb/AP)

Trump Crashes on Take-Off

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

31 January 17


How long can the country survive in constitutional crisis?

es, we’re in a constitutional crisis. The crisis has many elements that arose during the first week of the Trump presidency. These include illegal enrichment, complicity in war crimes, and most spectacularly, the immigration attack on Muslims.

Our current constitutional crisis began the moment Donald Trump was sworn in as president without resolving his unaddressed conflicts of interest around the globe. This failure put him into immediate, apparent violation of the Constitution’s Article I, Section 9 “Emoluments Clause,” which states in part:

And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.

On January 23 at 9 a.m., the organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a 37-page complaint in the U.S. federal court for the Southern District of New York, asking the court to issue an injunction to prevent President Trump from further violation of the constitutional ban on receiving payments from foreign entities. This issue is new in constitutional jurisprudence, as no previous president has taken office with such extensive and unaddressed business dealings involving foreign interests. (Jimmy Carter divested and still Republicans investigated him.) Potentially, each of Trump’s foreign deals represents an impeachable offense. But the course of this or other litigation on the issue is unlikely to be swift, and the outcome is uncertain.

Our present US constitutional crisis expanded in the first days of the Trump presidency with the administration’s continuing to commit the war crimes of the Bush and Obama administrations, in particular the presidential use of drones to assassinate foreign nationals. Over the inaugural weekend of January 21-22, a pair of US drone strikes killed as many as ten people in Yemen, some of them alleged terrorists. Presidential assassination would appear, on its face, to be the kind of high crime the Constitution defines as an impeachable offense. President Trump follows two predecessors who assassinated foreigners without political consequence, so it’s unlikely he will face impeachment for assassination any time soon.

The third and so far most volatile element of our constitutional crisis is the president’s implementation of his executive order titled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” an Orwellian title for a presidential fiat that does no such thing and may well make the US less safe. The order is arguably a violation of the Constitution’s “Establishment Clause,” the First Amendment’s first clause:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...

The rest of the amendment enshrines free speech, a free press, the right peaceably to assemble, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances – all together in basic constitutional law that supports vital public response across the country to President Trump’s attempt to give religious bigotry the force of law.

On Friday, January 27, at 4:42 p.m., President Trump signed his executive order into law, an act of such utter executive incompetence that it took less than twenty-four hours to create chaos around the globe. The president had not even taken care that his own decree be faithfully executed, having failed to have it competently and objectively vetted, having failed to allow advance review by agencies expected to enforce it, and having failed to implement the order in a rational and orderly fashion. The effects of such incompetence are so easily predictable, in advance, that it’s conceivable that the resulting worldwide assault on innocent individuals was a deliberate political disruption.

There is no evidence of good faith in the execution of this law, and less evidence of good faith in designing it to be constitutional. Within 48 hours, federal judges across the country had issued rulings against the president and his Muslim ban. By 9 p.m. Saturday, responding to an emergency petition by the ACLU and others, Federal District Judge Ann M. Donnelly issued a stay that prevents the government from carrying out the order. In remarkable proceedings in court, the government lawyers were unable to offer a rational defense of the order and when the judge offered them a week to do so, they said that would not be enough time.

(Reinforcing this legal uncertainty on January 30, Acting US Attorney General Sally Yates ordered Justice Dept. attorneys not to defend Trump’s apparently unlawful executive order “unless and until I become convinced that it is appropriate to do so." The oath of office for Acting AG Yates, like the president’s oath, commits her to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” With the US Justice Dept. opposing the US president, presumably one of them is wrong, and we need to know which one to resolve our constitutional crisis. That was made harder hours later, when the president fired Yates and replaced her with US attorney Dana Bent who has promised “to enforce the immigration order” according to the Washington Post.)

In Virginia, another federal judge, Leonie M. Brinkema, issued a temporary restraining order against the president, the Dept. of Homeland Security, the Customs and Border Protection agency, and others, requiring them to allow detainees to see lawyers and forbidding them to remove detainees. When US senator Cory Booker, D-NJ, showed up Saturday night at Dulles International Airport with a copy of the court order, government officials refused to meet with him and communicated only through written notes. Booker was rare among senators in responding to the immediacy of government thuggishness, which has prompted thousands, perhaps millions of Americans to protest with a moral clarity that their national “leaders” seem not to comprehend.

Mayors across the country, from Boston to Seattle, have had no such timidity standing up for fundamental constitutional values. Some evangelical Christians have also objected to Trump’s order, even though one of his stated purposes was to promote Christians above other religions. Expressing basic Christian tolerance of all who are made in God’s image, these evangelicals pray “that God would continue to grant you wisdom and guidance.”

So far, at least seven judges (in New York, Virginia, Boston, Los Angeles, and Seattle) have ruled against Trump’s executive order, setting off a judicial process that could reach the Supreme Court. The Trump administration has already reversed the order as it applies to travellers with green cards. Whether the Trump administration will fully comply with court orders, and whether defiance of the law rises to the level of impeachable offenses remains to be seen.

For all the legal and political struggles, the grossest offense of Trump’s executive order is to reality and honesty. The order cites September 11, 2001, as part of its justification, which is pure demagoguery. Not only was that 15 years ago, but none of the attackers – NONE – came from ANY of the countries covered by the order. The 9/11 attackers came mostly from Saudi Arabia (15), as well as two from the United Arab Emirates and one each from Lebanon and Egypt. None of these countries are covered by the executive order. ALL of these countries are places where Trump has business interests.

Of the seven countries covered by the executive order – Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya – none are places where Trump has business interests. All but Iran are thought to be places where US combat troops are deployed. The US is engaged in an ongoing criminal war in at least one of the countries, Yemen. The number of terrorist attacks on the US attributed to people from any of the seven sanctioned countries is ZERO – there have been none.

The threat from “radical Islamic terrorism” remains lower than a lightning strike in the US. Far more dangerous are white nationalist terrorists or anti-abortion terrorists. (Who has assassinated more opponents than these people?) But the terror-mongering of government officials has gone on for decades, doing the work of the terrorists by making Americans afraid. Trump has amplified the fear-mongering even above Bush-presidency levels, which smoothed the way into wars that still haven’t ended. There is no reason to expect civilized leadership from the Trump administration or either the Republican of Democratic parties – they are all too morally and intellectually corrupt to escape their own alternate realities.

But what has happened in response to the Muslim ban has been amazing, unexpected, and a source of real hope. Across the country, Americans of all sorts have swarmed in public protest against the demonizing of Muslims, against the lies of the alternative fact crowd, against the indecency and cruelty of the decades of political callousnessness that have been fed by Reagan and Clinton and their successors till they delivered that rough beast slouching in the White House today.

President Trump’s approval rating has gone negative in just eight days in the White House, more than 550 days faster than ANY of his recent predecessors.

At last, perhaps, the people are ready to say no. At last, perhaps, the people are ready to reject the worst impulses of a culture designed to impoverish the many without enlightening the few. At last, perhaps, the people are ready to be their own leaders and embrace the possibility of equality even for the most demonized among us. To see so many people determined to protect Muslim travellers, people who are the other, and yet still deserving of the same protections the rest of us deserve – that is truly heartening in the face of a government inclined to achieving order by oppression and violence.

On January 20, Donald Trump took the oath of office as provided by the US Constitution:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Is it a violation of this oath to initiate chaos? Is it a violation of this oath to promulgate executive orders that plainly aim to abrogate current law or that attack basic constitutional rights? Has there been a moment since he took this oath that Donald Trump has not acted in bad faith while failing to preserve and protect the Constitution? Is his performance as president not fairly characterized as a complex of chronic, deliberate acts that form a nexus of impeachable acts?

At last, perhaps, the people in growing numbers are taking serious notice. The people are far, far ahead of their “leaders.” There is real resistance. There is a real constitutional crisis. And there is a real possibility that Americans can sustain the will to redeem their country.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner
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