“No man is above the law and no man is below it: nor do we ask any man’s permission when we ask him to obey it.” President Theodore Roosevelt, 1903
For decades, people have asked, “Is the president above the law?” It’s a simple “Yes” or “No” question. Republican President Roosevelt knew the answer, but today’s Republicans are having a difficult time. They seem to want to give President Donald Trump a free pass, saying he shouldn’t be investigated for possible violations of the law.
If Republicans believe the president is above the law, then they need to quit bringing up President Bill Clinton. Every time a claim is made against Trump, Republicans scream, “But what about Clinton?” They also need to stop all the spurious claims against President Barack Obama. He didn’t do anything illegal, but they keep inventing crimes anyway. If the president is above the law, what’s the problem?
However, if Republicans agree with Roosevelt, they need to let the current processes continue. They must stop Trump from obstructing the Mueller investigation or any other investigations into possible illegalities.
Trump insists vehemently that there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians. He ignores the parts about conspiracy and obstruction of justice. He’s undermining the Justice Department and the FBI, not because of any massive corruption or illegalities, but because they aren’t doing what he wants them to do.
When he claims these agencies are acting in a partisan way, he’s lying, just as he lies about so many things. He tells stupid lies, claiming Trump Tower New York is 68 stories high when it’s 58 stories. He tells policy lies, claiming America is the only country with birthright citizenship when there are 33 countries with this policy. He lies constantly.
Trump lies about the activities of the Justice Department, the FBI, the courts, and the Mueller investigation because he doesn’t want to be accountable for his actions. He thinks he, his family, and anyone else he favors should be above the law.
Even before Trump was inaugurated, he was already undermining America’s 17 intelligence agencies. He refused to believe that Russia had hacked the 2016 election despite the evidence the agencies presented. He’d rather believe Russian President Putin.
Now Trump is undermining the election process itself. A basic American principle is “One person, one vote,” even though we haven’t always followed that ideal. But most Americans believe all citizens should have a voice, no matter their socioeconomic status, their political leanings, their color, etc. When Trump and Republicans try to undercut that principle by suppressing votes and delegitimizing elections, they’re working to block the will of the American people.
All of this interference by Trump into the Justice Department, the FBI, the intelligence agencies, the judiciary and the election process is undermining the rule of law. Even his recent appointment of Matthew Whitaker as Acting Attorney General of the U.S., is illegal, according to Fox News contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano.
In a Nov. 8 interview on “Fox and Friends,” Napolitano said, “[Trump] has chosen someone who does not qualify under the law to be the acting attorney general of the United States.” When Fox criticizes Trump, you know it’s bad.
The net result of all this illegal interference is the undermining of our whole democratic process. When Republicans refuse to curb Trump’s obstructive actions, they are as good as telling the world that our remarkable American experiment is a failure.
In a Nov. 7 interview with CNN, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D- Md., said, “I want to look at all the things the president has done that go against the mandates of our Founding Fathers in the Constitution. We need accountability, transparency, integrity, and honesty from this Administration. Right now, we have a president who is accountable to no one.”
I’ll close with a wonderful quote from the 2015 movie, “Bridge of Spies.” James Donovan is the lawyer for an accused spy. He’s being questioned by a CIA agent who wants to ride roughshod over the accused spy’s rights. Donovan explains that his ancestry is Irish while the agent’s is German. Then he says, “But what makes us both Americans? Just one thing. One. Only one. The rule book. We call it the Constitution, and we agree to the rules, and that’s what makes us Americans. That’s all that makes us Americans.”
If we ignore and dismiss the Constitution and the rule of law when it’s inconvenient, we’ll destroy this country we love. It’s that simple.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at email@example.com.