It is a crystal clear fact that by now the question is no longer could or should Donald Trump be impeached. The only question is whether he will be impeached as the known facts give a sufficient basis for impeachment, even in this highly partisan political universe in which we live.
We have heard Trump supporters such as Senator Marco Rubio proclaim that Trump was just joking when he publicly asked the Chinese government to investigate Joe Biden and his son. And the only response that might even be remotely useful is to ask those supporters to turn back the hands of time to 2015 and to consider their response if President Barack Obama had publicly asked the Chinese government to investigate Mitt Romney and his many sons.
Not that logic has a place at the table these days, but it is simply impossible to imagine any president of the United States, from the hapless Warren G. Harding to the racist and hate-soaked Andrew Johnson to the venal Richard Nixon, who on their worst day would not have asked a foreign nation to assist them in their reelection efforts – much less to “find dirt” on them. And it is a sad but true commentary on the times in which we live that there is even a conversation as to whether Trump’s ham handed attempts at international electoral intrigue are objectionable and impeachable – of course they are.
The real question now is whether institutions established over two centuries ago will withstand the stress test of a President of the United States – and his enablers – who simply refuses to accept or respect the legitimacy of these institutions. The further test is whether norms and protocols of conduct not necessarily set forth in the Constitution will have any future meaning or value if Trump can simply wipe his considerable feet and tiny hands on them without any consequence.
It is clear that at this point in time that Trump feels that he need not treat Congress as a branch of government co-equal to that of the Executive branch. If he can ignore a valid subpoena from Congress without obtaining some kind of judicial approbation, then he is literally declaring the supremacy of the presidency over both the judicial and legislative branches of the federal government. And this, it should be pointed out, is exactly what the framers of the Constitution sought to avoid.
But we are now long past the time for debating how many so-called Founding Fathers can stand on the head of a pin. Now that Trump has defied Congress and will not cooperate with the impeachment inquiry, Congress really has no way to enforce any aspect of its impeachment inquiry except by going to the Supreme Court.
If the majority of the Supreme Court – including recent Trump appointees Gorsuch and Kavanaugh – stay true to their political DNA Congress and the people who elected its members will continue to be stonewalled by the Trump White House and any subsequent impeachment action will be diminished. If the Supreme Court supports Congress the question still stands – how will the Constitution and the norms and protocols of the American government be enforced when the president simply refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Constitution and those norms and protocols?
We are literally at the precipice of an unprecedented constitutional crisis that, if not resolved soon, can end very badly for this country.
The danger is clear and present.