WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to back her House Democratic foot soldiers’ effort to impeach Donald Trump has swelled their numbers. But it has also hardened his Republican defenders in and out of his administration, setting the stage for a battle royal between the executive and legislative branches.
It may well be decided by the judicial wing of our three-prong democracy. Federal courts may soon be called on to rule on Congress’ constitutional power to subpoena high Trump administration officials and allies, seeking testimony and documents on their roles in the president’s alleged malfeasance in office.
His secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, his attorney general, William Barr, and his private lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, are central to the drama and the Trump’s effort to thwart the impeachment drive in the House. All have served notice they will resist the subpoenas and back subordinates in doing the same.
Pompeo, in a letter to three House committee chairmen who are demanding their appearances, flatly informed them that neither he nor other State employees would comply in person or in depositions. He defiantly described the subpoenas as “an attempt to intimidate, bully and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State.”
He added he would “not tolerate such tactics, and I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts” to force them to cooperate. There could not have been any more defiant declaration, or one that federal jurists could easily brush off as themselves defenders of the letter of the constitutional separation of powers.
The showdown puts in focus the emerging tactics of the equivalent of a political mafia that is circling its own wagons, with Pompeo as the highest-ranking operative. He has signed on for the whole loaf of our jaw-jutting Benito Trumpolini’s gangland rule of a once-proud and cherished self-government.
Pompeo has been joined by Barr, who first joined the team by disputing and distorting the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian meddling in our 2016 election. Since then he has been globe-trotting in quest of more foreign collaboration, as in Trump’s verbal pitch to his Ukrainian counterpart to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
Never mind that Biden at the time was leading the U.S. effort in conjunction with our Western partners to assist Kiev in combating corruption in its own regime, as an ally trying to ward off further Russian intimidation and takeover. Son Hunter’s paid job on the board of a giant Ukrainian energy company was obviously an unwise embarrassment, but it was not subject of any official wrongdoing.
As for Giuliani, he has been a Trump hired gun turned loose in Ukraine and elsewhere, planning to free-lance in Kiev in search of more dirt on the Biden, until he canceled the trip when the optics went sour against him. But he apparently remains in Trump’s tolerance while seemingly at cross purposes with Pompeo at State.
Apparently not content with the trouble he’s made for himself in his dealings with Ukraine, and by using the full-fledged powers of the presidency to thwart the Democrats’ mission to impeach him, Trump on Thursday publicly called on another adversary to do him a favor. “China should start an investigation into the Bidens,” he said to a press gaggle outside the White House.
What are American allies and friends around the world to make of this insane abandonment of our own standards of self-government within the bounds of truth, justice and mutual respect for the rights of all everywhere?
The impeachment of Donald Trump is not merely a matter of cleaning out a morally infected national barn. It also cries out for loyal and patriotic Americans to recapture their woefully damaged democratic process from this reckless self-aggrandizing and incompetent political wrecking ball, and the sooner the better.
Waiting another year and more until the 2020 election invites more and more of Trump’s chaos and national self-destruction until our normal vehicle for changing our leadership arrives again at ballot boxes across the land. Our democratic way of life demands action now, as the Constitution provides and clearer thinking among all of us requires.