Our ‘phony’ Constitution
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Presidential oath of office
“[N]o Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 9, Clause 8.
“You people with this phony emoluments clause.” President Donald Trump to reporters, Oct. 21, 2019
President Trump doesn’t seem to understand or like the U.S. Constitution very much. He’s currently being sued for receiving compensation, or “emoluments,” from foreign governments. His response? The Constitution is “phony.”
Trump waves the Second Amendment around when it suits him politically; otherwise, he’s pretty clueless. When asked by House Republicans on July 7, 2016, if he would protect Article I powers, the powers of Congress, Trump replied, “I want to protect Article I, Article II, Article XII — go down the list.” There are seven articles, not 12, as anyone with a passing acquaintance with the Constitution would know.
A Congressional impeachment inquiry into Trump’s actions is currently being held. Trump apparently believes the following sections of the Constitution are also phony, calling impeachment a “dirty word, a phony word” (Nov. 1, 2019).
“The House of Representatives shall … have the sole Power of Impeachment” (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 5).
“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” (U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 5).
Democrats are following the constitutional process. Trump called their vote to open an impeachment inquiry “an attack on Democracy itself.” Is he saying the Constitution is an attack on democracy?
Impeachment, as the Founders intended it, doesn’t require that an actual crime has occurred, but if one has occurred, that could be grounds for removal. So was there a crime?
The current impeachment inquiry is centered around Trump’s actions in withholding Congressionally-voted military aid from Ukraine, which Trump approved, while demanding that Ukraine investigate Vice-president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. By withholding this aid, Trump violated another section of the Constitution: Article I, Section 9, Clause 7. “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”
The power to appropriate and spend money belongs to Congress, not the president. Trump tried to usurp Congress’s authority by withholding legally appropriated money, another example of Trump’s contempt for the Constitution.
To recap, Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014 and seized sovereign Ukrainian territory in Crimea. Ukrainians are fighting back. This is a hot, shooting war; more than 14,000 Ukrainians have died since the Russian invasion.
By withholding military aid for 55 days, Trump signaled he’s okay with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He even said Crimea is Russian “because everyone who lives there speaks Russian.” Ukraine’s sovereignty is apparently irrelevant (Buzzfeed, June 14, 2018).
Trump claimed he was withholding aid because Europe isn’t doing its part. In fact, since 2014, Europe has contributed more than $16.4 billion in aid to Ukraine, far more than America has. Trump claimed he was fighting corruption, but he never mentioned corruption except for the debunked claims against the Bidens.
Republicans say no crime was committed because Trump’s attempted extortion of Ukraine was ultimately unsuccessful. Imagine you are walking down the street. I approach you, pull a gun and demand your money. You have no money, so I walk away emptyhanded. Has a crime been committed? Republican logic says “no.” The law says “yes.” An attempt is still a crime.
Congressional Republicans call the current hearings a “Soviet-style” inquiry even though Republicans adopted these hearing rules in 2015. What’s ironic is that many Trump supporters claim he is saving us from socialism while he hands over our elections and our foreign policy to a former Soviet KGB agent. How does that defeat socialism? As Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said to Trump on Oct. 17, “All roads with you lead to Putin.”
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, the day Americans traditionally give thanks for our blessings, including our Constitution. As we give thanks for our liberty and freedoms, we mustn’t forget that they will last only as long as we are willing to defend them. Undermining the Constitution won’t achieve that goal.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.