HANRATTY: The Perfect Storm Threatening Our Democracy is a Self-Inflicted Wound
The Russia Connection May Lead to a Constitutional Crisis and We Have Only Ourselves To Blame
The latest in what seems like a never-ending string of bombshell developments came Thursday evening. The Wall Street Journal reported that Former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn was seeking immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony to the FBI and congressional investigators looking into the connection between Russia and President Donald Trump’s campaign. It’s nearly impossible to overstate the significance of this information. It has been but seventy days since Trump was inaugurated. In these ten weeks, his NSA was not only forced to resign, but is willing to sing like a canary. Provided, of course, that he’s guaranteed not be charged with crimes that may border on treason.
Yet the blame lies with us.
The ever-expanding Trump-Russia probe has clearly impacted the President’s ability to govern. As this presidency moves along in what seems like dog years, it’s hard to fathom how the collapse of the American Healthcare Act was merely one week ago. The White House has continually tried to implement its Don’t Call It A Muslim Ban, But It’s Really A Muslim Ban measure. But “so-called” judges continue to rely on this pesky little thing we call the First Amendment.
Again, look in the mirror before you look at the Oval Office.
The potential constitutional crisis on the horizon is easy to see. Finding a solution is another story. With the billowing smoke emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that fire exists. Who gets engulfed in those flames may very well define the future of our Republic.
And that’s on us as well.
What If Trump is Found to be Directly Involved with Russia?
We can hypothesize about the possible conclusion to the three main investigations: The FBI, House, and Senate Intelligence Committees. The House, at the moment, is struggling with its own credibility. The Senate, however, appears to be independent and above board — for now. With Attorney General Jeff Sessions out of the picture, there are fewer reasons to doubt the intentions of the FBI. With three separate federal inquiries, SOMETHING is destined to be exposed.
The most ominous outcome would be an indisputable connection between candidate-Trump and the Russian government. This would be the biggest scandal in the history of the American presidency. It would make Watergate look like Umbrellagate. Donald Trump would not only be forced to resign from office, he could very well spend the rest of his life in prison. It’s important to state that at this point, there is absolutely no direct link between Trump and Russia that we know of. The optimist would assume that if impeccable evidence was in the hands of investigators, they would act swiftly and promptly on it.
The other possibility is that Trump surrogates were in collaboration with Russia. You can take your pick of who, or how many: Flynn, Paul Manifort, Jeffrey Lord, Sessions, Jared Kushner, Carter Page, Rex Tillerson, and so on and so forth. Would this not make Trump’s election any less illegitimate? If campaign operatives coordinated with a hostile foreign state with the stated goal of damaging one of two major presidential candidates, how could one possibly argue that the election results are genuine?
How would these outcomes lead to a constitutional crisis? That answer is rather simple. If a Trump presidency is not legit then neither is the Vice Presidency of Mike Pence, who would be next in line to succeed him. The same logic follows every cabinet appointment. Compounding the matter is the potential seating of Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch. And given the correlation between Presidential and Congressional results, the GOP majorities in both chambers would also come into question.
Simply put: our entire federal government would be cast under a cloud of suspicion.
And The American People Would Shoulder The Blame
Perhaps the saddest part of a possible constitutional crisis would be that it was so easily avoidable. And yes, I’m aware that over 10 Million more people voted against Trump than voted for him. But crisis or not, we have a Constitution, and Trump won the Electoral Vote. Still, there is not a single tentacle of the Trump scandals that wasn’t painfully obvious before the election.
The American voter KNEW that there were connections between the Trump campaign and Russia before November 8. It was revealed in October that the FBI had “explosive” evidence that the two forces were in collusion. Over the summer, Flynn gave an interview to The Washington Post where he gushed over Vladimir Putin, explained his visits to Russia and compared Russian state-run television to CNN. Following the convention that nominated Trump, his own campaign manager RESIGNED over his relationship with “pro-Russian Ukranian oligarchs“. Hillary Clinton went as far as stating Trump would be “Putin’s puppet” if elected.
No slightly-informed voter can feign ignorance over this relationship.
Likewise, we knew the candidate had no concrete plans or platform. Nor the basic knowledge of how to govern. Take the failed attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare. On the campaign trail, he said his plan would simply be “something tremendous“. If a flag was any redder the waiver would be at risk of death by bull-horn.
This is not to say that Hillary Clinton was an ideal choice by any stretch of the imagination. Clinton fatigue was legitimate and accurate. Like Trump, there were ample reasons to doubt her trustworthiness. But her floor was higher than Trump’s ceiling. She knew how government worked. It’s as clear now as it was then: she was the better of two flawed candidates. The American economy was on a steady roll this past election day. We weren’t, as a nation, facing a dire crisis. The smart play would have been to choose the lesser of two evils rather than roll the dice and risk catastrophe. Clinton would not have given us Betsy Devos. Nor would her first piece of legislation be destined to fail.
The smart play would have been to choose the lesser of two evils rather than roll the dice and risk catastrophe. Clinton would not have given us Betsy Devos. Nor would her first piece of legislation be destined to fail. And though she’s faced her fair share of investigations, none have bordered on treason.
I was born during the early days of Jimmy Carter’s presidency. My twenties were defined by President George W. Bush’s administration. I know what a bad president looks like. Hillary Clinton could have easily been a subpar president. But like I told anyone who would played the “both candidates suck” card:
At the very worst, Clinton is Carter or the second Bush. We survived them both. It wasn’t always pretty, but we’re still standing. At the very worst, Trump is the end of the Republic.
We are seeing the very worst and it’s not pretty.
We could have avoided this. All warning signs were hiding in plain view. We just chose not to take our constitutional right to vote seriously. We forgot just how important civic participation is. After decades of partisan bickering, we ignored the magnitude of our responsibility at the ballot box. Years of thinking that our vote doesn’t matter blew up in our collective face. And those of us who believed it would turn out this way clearly didn’t make the argument strong enough.
We did this, America.
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Ed Hanratty is a Reverb Press contributor and freelance political journalist. A lifelong New Jerseyan, he prides himself on having just enough Garden State sarcasm and skepticism to keep his bleeding heart in check. Keep up with Ed’s work and random ramblings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the links below…but not Snapchat — that’s where he’s decided to draw the social media line. (For Now)