Constitutional Quandry #1

Here’s a funny thing we don’t know from the Constitution:

Whether or not a president can be indicted before being impeached.

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The first thing you learn from a google search, though: This question has not be consistently asked since 1998. lol

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The second thing you learn: Many people erroneously claim that the question is settled and that the President holds absolute immunity until he has been impeached.

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The third thing you learn: A lot about whether you can sue a president. Turns out, the Supreme Court has held that you can never sue them personally in civil court for actions they took professionally during office (Nixon v. Fitzgerald); however, you can sue the president for civil actions taken before their term of office (Clinton v. Jones). I’m not sure whether there is any precedent regarding whether you can sue a president in civil court for personal actions taken during his term, however.

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Ambition Against Ambition

People have said and taken for granted that nothing can be done against Trump while Republicans hold both houses of Congress. And they may be right. But there comes a time when each and every individual Republican lawmaker has to ask themself, “Is this mess worth risking my reelection over?” Normally, there’s only one thing lawmakers risk their chances for reelection over: ideology. A lawmaker will sometimes vote “the wrong way” on a controversial bill, and risk losing their seat, if it’s something they truly believe in. (Or possibly if they’re secretly offered a deal that benefits them financially. We know less about that one because it’s kind of illegal.)

But increasingly, Donald Trump’s presidency hangs on the question of whether or not members of Congress believe in him. Some do, but many–likely most–we know do not. So inevitably, Trump’s political survival hangs on whether Republicans are willing to risk their chances at reelection to keep him in power. If he had delivered big on health care, or if he had made stronger moves on tax reform, or if he had any ability to get anything done, the question before them would be much harder. As things stand, however, it is hard to imagine the dozens of swing state and swing district lawmakers whose own careers hang by a thread ignoring the momentum against Trump.

And so, I fundamentally disagree with the notion that Trump is the hill the Republican Party is willing to die on. Or, rather, that he is the hill individual members of the Republican Party are willing to die for. I could be wrong, but the fire underneath Trump is intensifying, and it is becoming increasingly dangerous to support him. As we turn toward 2018, an election cycle originally written off for Democrats, the future looks increasingly promising for the left and damaging for the right. After all, then, if an investigation–or impeachment–is inevitably coming in 2019, once the Democrats retake the House, what do Republicans win by holding off? Especially Republicans facing tough reelections already, who now somehow have to somehow justify continuing their support for an historically unpopular president. This can’t continue much longer. And for Republican lawmakers, the stakes in 2018 are high.

In the end, it is worth remembering that Republicans turned on Nixon not just because Democrats held both houses, but because they would have been crucified had they done otherwise. As Trump’s actions seemingly become more and more illegal, it is inconceivable to me that Republicans will risk everything for a president they don’t generally like, who limits their policy agenda, and who spells political doom; in short, it is inconceivable that they will risk everything for someone who means nothing to and has done nothing for them.