The System Can’t Deal With Trump Piecemeal

Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, it really shouldn’t be too much to ask that the president of the United States not commit felonies. It’d be nice if they didn’t perjure themselves or obstruct justice. No one wants to defend that kind of behavior, and I still harbor a lot of resentment toward Bill Clinton for what he put Democrats through, despite the fact that nothing he did rose to the level of a high crime or misdemeanor–and he definitely should have been defended against the attempt to remove him from office.

Despite this, I don’t really share John Podhoretz’s level of outrage about Donald Trump’s felonious violations of campaign finance law. Taken in complete isolation (which is impossible in this case, I know), I don’t think it’s a removable offense to pay off mistresses to keep silent about your affairs and then lie about it incessantly. If I thought that, I probably would not have defended Bill Clinton. Congress should have censured Clinton and been done with it, and if there weren’t a hundred other concerns about Trump’s fitness for office, that’s what Congress should do with this latest revelation.

I know it can be argued that the election was so close that Trump would have lost if not for his successful effort to cover up affairs with a porn star and Playboy bunny. That does make it significantly more serious than lying under oath and hiding gifts related to a dalliance with a White House intern. Still, I’d let the voters handle this one and have Trump pay some fines and restitution once he’s out of office.

In truth, the proper way to deal with this is not to call for impeachment hearings or bray to the hilltops about how the president is a felon. The proper way to deal with it is to make it part of an eventual argument for Trump’s removal based on the entire Mueller report. We’re really stuck in a bad limbo until that report is released, because the Republicans aren’t going to stand up to their base unless or until they’re armed with the really damning stuff. We can’t deal with Trump piecemeal, but that’s the way these revelations and developments have been playing out.

The Republicans in Congress could move to censure the president since he’s now implicated in committing felonies, and it’s a problem if they do nothing. But they really need more.

Obviously, Mueller is moving as fast as he can. Yesterday showed how much progress he is making, but our system is so jangled at the moment, we can’t wait much longer.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.