As you read this the President of the United States might very well have said or tweeted out more intemperate things. It is pretty clear that Donald J. Trump plays fast and loose with the English language and diplomatic speak is not in his wheelhouse. He shoots from the lip and worries about cleaning up the mess his statements create later – if at all.
That said, a U.S. president cannot be impeached for simply saying imprudent things. I spent several years reporting from Washington and believe there is nearly no chance of President Trump being removed from office at this time. That’s about as likely as Hillary Clinton permanently stepping off the national political stage.
Nevertheless, there have been an overload of breathless media reports on the possibility. Cable news calls the current situation, “The White House in crisis.” The Washington Post declares, “The White House has every reason to panic.”
Yes, former FBI Director James Comey wrote himself a memo right after meeting with the president which, reportedly, chronicled Mr. Trump’s reaction to the bureau’s investigation of his one-time national security adviser Michael Flynn.
“I hope you can let this go,” the president is said to have remarked about the Russian collusion probe involving Flynn. Mr. Trump added that he thought Flynn was a “good guy.”
To my mind those quotes don’t completely square with the widespread conclusion from various media outlets, like CNN for example, that, “President Donald Trump asked James Comey to end the investigation…” But still, many maintain that since the president ordered the room cleared so he could speak privately with Comey it was proof of obstruction of justice. Enough for impeachment, Trump foes insist.
A president accused of obstruction of justice. Hmmm. That sounds familiar.
In December 1998, the republican led House of Representatives found President Bill Clinton guilty of both obstruction of justice and perjury. Contrary to what so many insisted back then Clinton was impeached not for his philandering ways but, rather, because a DNA stain left on a blue dress proved he lied to the nation when he emphatically said, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
Even after Clinton’s lies were exposed (he had also repeated his story, under oath, to a Grand Jury) he remained in office.
To actually remove a president from the White House the Senate must hold a public trial on the matter and 2/3rds of the 100 senators have to agree on a verdict. In Clinton’s day the republicans controlled the Senate but still they could not muster enough votes to convict the democratic president.
See how difficult it is to remove a sitting president from the White House?
Today republicans, once again, hold a majority in both the House and Senate and it is highly unlikely they would vote to impeach a republican president. Unless, of course, Mr. Trump really does stand in the middle of New York’s Fifth Avenue and shoots someone.
There is also the matter of how deeply Trump campaign officials may have worked with Russian operatives to sway the election. To my knowledge, no one has offered proof that Mr. Trump, himself, engaged in questionable contacts with the Russians. And top intelligence officials like Gen. Michael Hayden, former CIA and NSA Director; Jim Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence; and John Brennan, former CIA Director have all said they found no evidence of collusion, just overly aggressive Russian operatives trying to ingratiate themselves with the incoming administration and naïve Trump representatives who couldn’t see they were being played. At this juncture, trying to initiate impeachment proceedings on that issue would be foolhardy.
Still, democrats have insisted that only a special prosecutor can get to the bottom of any possible Trump-Russia conspiracy. Now one has been named. Robert Mueller, the widely respected former FBI Director is on the case. I say this marks a good time for everyone in Washington – and the country – to take a deep breath, concentrate on issues important to Americans (like health care and tax reform) and wait for the investigative process to play out.
Look, no matter what you think of President Trump he is not a stupid man. He did not amass his $3.5 billion fortune by miscalculating situations or losing focus. He must ultimately be a man who learns from his mistakes since he has managed to re-group after not one or two but six bankruptcies.
I’m not so bothered with the different way this president has decided to govern by consistently breaking protocol and putting America first. After all, wasn’t that the message from the electorate back in November? Americans clearly signaled that they wanted a new kind of politician in the White House, one that tackled the everyday problems affecting their family.
So let’s stop with all this talk about impeachment. Instead, let’s hope our real estate mogul-turned-president is learning on the job that words matter, tweets are not a responsible way to communicate and boardroom bully boy tactics do not a great statesman make.