Unfortunately, as long Donald Trump is still in office, he may end up being right about at least one thing:
I’m the only one that matters.
While our system of checks and balances largely prevents a president from unilaterally making domestic policy, Trump has close to unfettered powers in the realm of foreign policy and diplomacy, or in his case, non-diplomacy. Once more, simply by virtue of the title he holds, he is capable of landing the world in an intractable hostile mess with an errant tweet, or in this week’s case, three.
The right-wing extremist anti-Muslim videos Trump unleashed on the world Wednesday caused an immediate international incident that, frankly, could have been far worse and still may not be over. Not only did British Prime Minister Theresa May—who has been trying her best to maintain a cordial relationship with Trump—take the highly unusual step of rebuking the tweets, the few adults left at the barren U.S. State Department warned the White House that violent protests might break out at U.S. embassies across the Middle East.
Officials feared that the tweets, which appeared to depict Muslims engaged in different acts of violence, would spark a reprise of the violent protests at US embassies in the Middle East which are already on high security alert. Protests erupted in September 2012 following the publication of an anti-Muslim video on the internet.
That meant that our embassies in the region, staffed by U.S. diplomats, were on alert throughout the days that followed Trump’s misfires. Fortunately, no incidents arose—even inflamed protesters appear to realize we are dealing with a mad man here.
But the fact remains that Trump, whose chief responsibility is to ensure the safety of U.S. citizens throughout the world, was instead the genesis of danger. The more this notion settles in, the more it should both enrage and terrify us. Trump's whimsical rash of tweets literally imperiled the lives of Americans. He wasn't advised to do it. There was nothing strategic about it. He wasn't responding to an immediate threat to the homeland. It was an unprovoked error with potential deadly and disastrous consequences. Why isn't that cause for removal from office?
Why doesn't that meet either the standard for triggering the 25th Amendment or impeachment proceedings?
Section 4 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment allows the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to recommend the removal of the president in cases where he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
The Constitutional standard for impeachment is:
"The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
Trump, by virtue of putting American lives in danger for absolutely no justifiable reason, is clearly "unable" to properly execute his duties and his actions rise to the level of treason, which is defined in common language as "the crime of betraying one's country." More formally in U.S. Code, treason is committed by: "Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them..."
I am not a lawyer, but certainly a good one could make a compelling threshold argument in either case. Trump's intentions don't matter. His very way of being—his very presence as a sitting president—specifically did risk American lives this week. If he were not president and was instead just a nutty citizen, his tweets wouldn't have sparked State Department concerns, nor would he be violating a solemn oath to "faithfully execute" his duties.
What's so dazzlingly duplicitous about this is that Republicans spent several fruitless years and squandered $7 million investigating Hillary Clinton for negligence in the 2012 Benghazi attack on U.S. facilities that resulted in the deaths of four Americans. But now that they have a sitting Republican president who singlehandedly created the conditions for a similar or even worse event, they were too busy mounting a tax assault on most Americans to lift a finger in support of our safety.
In fact, instead, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch called Trump "one of the best" presidents he's served and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham fretted that Americans were starting to get the wrong idea about the orange dumpster fire.
“What concerns me about the American press is this endless, endless attempt to label the guy as some kind of kook not fit to be president,” Graham told CNN this week.
Good lord, talk about treason. Too bad Graham already gave up the ghost of Trump’s sanity last year when he called him a "kook" who was "unfit for office."
What's so frightening is that Trump is actually getting progressively more delusional and erratic by the week. He has recently taken again to questioning President Obama's birthplace and discounting the authenticity of the damning Access Hollywood tape that he apologized for during the election. In January, he actually suggested launching an investigation into the recording. The guy has literally lost any grip on reality.
Trump has asked others whether they think the voice sounds like him, suggesting that it does not, and has wondered aloud whether perhaps the tape was doctored or edited in an unfair way to villainize him. [...]
A second person who has discussed the tape with Trump recalled, “He says: ‘It’s really not me. I don’t talk like that.’ ”
Trump’s rupture with reality is indeed so concerning that Yale University forensic psychiatrist Bandy Lee penned a letter to the New York Times this week warning his behavior was placing "our country and the world at extreme risk of danger." If Trump were an angsty teen, we would be trying to get him help. Instead, he’s an ugly American president who’s been unleashed on the world, littering it with landmines.
We are currently witnessing more than his usual state of instability — in fact, a pattern of decompensation: increasing loss of touch with reality, marked signs of volatility and unpredictable behavior, and an attraction to violence as a means of coping. [...]
We urge the public and the lawmakers of this country to push for an urgent evaluation of the president, for which we are in the process of developing a separate but independent expert panel, capable of meeting and carrying out all medical standards of care.
Lee is editor of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” which claims to have a much broader following of mental health professionals. Too bad they can’t extend their work to Congressional Republicans.
In a meditation on impeachment, Ezra Klein at Vox wrote:
Sometimes I imagine this era going catastrophically wrong — a nuclear exchange with North Korea, perhaps, or a genuine crisis in American democracy — and historians writing about it in the future. They will go back and read Trump’s tweets and his words and read what we were saying, and they will wonder what the hell was wrong with us. You knew, they’ll say. You knew everything you needed to know to stop this. And what will we say in response?”
If our republic survives intact, we will say, Robert Mueller. Because Republican lawmakers—our supposed public servants—have demonstrated repeatedly that he is the only thing standing between us and destruction.